Apprentice Advice: The Application Process

Long gone are the days of being able to hand in a CV and get an interview not long after. As the number of jobseekers rise thorough application processes are being used to ensure companies get exactly the right person for the job. More common for apprentice and intern roles assessment centres they can be a great chance to highlight your skills without having large amounts of experience.

All application processes are different and the number of stages is often relative to the number of applicants, however the core stages are typically the same regardless of what role you are going for.

Application and CV

The first stage of an application process is the application itself, the ‘CV’ part of the process. This is the stage where generally employers cut down their amount of applicants by the highest number. As application process are often long, detailed processes it is always important to start as you mean to go on as you build your case to be offered a job at the end of the process. Like many things this means giving yourself time and not leaving it to the night before the deadline. Make sure your CV or application is tailored to the role you are going for and not generic so you can use it to apply to any job you go for. However, most importantly of all re-read through your application after writing it and get someone else to as well. Poor grammar and spelling mistakes don’t look good on an application, especially when there could be hundreds of people applying for the same role.

Psychometric Testing

If you have passed the application stage then you will most likely now be asked to take some kind of psychometric test, these are questions involving scenarios asking what you would do in a certain situation. It is important to know that there is often no right or wrong answer, so just be yourself. “Being yourself” is a phrase that is always used when applying for jobs however it is very important, especially in the test stage of the process. Not being yourself can end up with you contradicting yourself which can be picked up on and doesn’t look good for your application. Think carefully about each answer but in most cases your gut feeling is going to be the best answer.

Phone or Video Interview

The next stage will generally be a phone or video interview; this gives you a chance to reinforce anything you said in your application but also to put things across that you may not have had the chance to say in your application. The formality of the interview is dependent on the employer; however, it is always important to dress smart. Even if only on a phone interview, looking presentable can help change your state of mind and keep you focussed on the call. Try to avoid distractions, find a suitable room without distractions or background noise, this will make you look more professional and keep you focused. Finally have brief notes with you during the interview about yourself and your application. Having full sentences written out can make you sound forced and rehearsed, this can come across as you not being yourself and doesn’t allow for the conversation to flow.

Assessment Centre

If successful in your phone/video interview it is likely that the next stage will involve you being invited to an assessment centre held by the company that you are applying for. Similar to the application process as a whole, each assessment centre will be different depending on the role and the company itself. However, the basic elements are generally going to be the same.

Presentation

It is very unlikely that you will go to an assessment centre that doesn’t involve some sort of presentation. The most important thing to remember with presentations is that rehearsal is key. This seems obvious but is extremely important, rehearsing to family and friends before can not only help give you an idea of what they think but also helps you practice with giving eye contact and talking to an audience. Large amounts of rehearsal will mean you don’t have to do your presentation with a sheet of paper to read from which can look unprofessional. Try to limit the number of key points you make and summarise at the end of your presentation, this keeps it engaging and helps it stick with your audience. Finally, it is important to know that the presentation part of the assessment centre is not just about your presentation as other applicants will also be presenting. In order to be successful you should stay engaged with other candidate’s presentations and try to think of relevant questions to ask.

Group Activity

Another element of an assessment centre likely to feature in your day is a group activity. The best piece of advice I can give is don't feel like you have to take a leading role, forcing your authority does not look good to an employer, being a team member is just as important as being a team leader and can show how you can follow instructions. Another key point is to try and get others involved if they haven't had that much of a chance to say what they think. This will show you are being a good team worker but also shows how you are being observant which employers may be looking for.

Interview

The final part of an assessment centre is usually an individual one to one interview. The questions asked in interviews are dependent on the company, they can be generic questions about yourself and what you would bring to the role or sometimes scenario based similar to the psychometric tests. Before the assessment centre you may find it beneficial to think of examples and build up a bank of stories to use when answering interview questions, for example don’t say you are good at problem solving without having an example of when you solved a problem. Also think of what one of your weakness’ might be and make it something that you want to improve or even give examples of how you are trying to improve it. Researching the company is relevant to the whole process but especially the interview stage as you are likely to be asked your what you know about the company.

The best piece of advice however is to not fall into the trap of thinking it is bad to pause. Stopping to pause is better than using fillers like “erm” or “umm”, alternatively say something along the lines of “that is a great question” to fill the time and give yourself time to think.

I hope this information is helpful and that it helps you be successful through any application process you go through.

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