One of the goals of starting an apprenticeship program is to make hiring easier, but it also changes how you approach hiring. To get the most out of your program you need to rethink the way you recruit, interview, and select candidates.
When you start an apprenticeship program, your hiring process is no longer focused on finding candidates with the required experience or education. Your focus shifts to finding the right person that will be a good fit for your culture, has the potential to succeed, and is motivated to start their career. Rather than seeking job-specific skills, you’re looking for candidates with the soft skills that will help them succeed as an apprentice. In order to hire apprentices based on their potential, you need to find ways to evaluate and identify that potential during the interview process.
What Makes a Good Apprentice?
When evaluating candidates for your apprenticeship, you should look for the following traits:
Motivated to Learn and Succeed
First and foremost, good apprentices are motivated to learn. They are ready to be taught, and excited to take the knowledge they’ll gain and put it to use. An apprentice with a strong desire to learn will enter your apprenticeship excited to hit the ground running and learn new skills.
Apprentices with a strong desire to learn new skills will need less supervision, and will get the most out of their time spent learning from an experienced mentor. Apprentices need to be motivated to succeed. While their mentor will guide them through their training, they’ll need to be self-motivated to complete the work, absorb the training and instruction, and build their skills.
Even the best mentor can’t help an apprentice succeed if they don’t put in the effort. While it’s important that your mentor supervises their apprentice’s daily activities, they shouldn’t need to monitor their every move to make sure they are staying on task.
Self-confidence is an important attribute for a successful apprentice. Learning on the job requires trying, failing, and trying again until skills are mastered. Learning quickly on the job also requires that the apprentice is willing to ask questions, ask for help, and communicate their level of understanding and confidence clearly with their mentor.
Starting a new job is challenging for anyone; for an apprentice that is learning new skills and trying things for the first time, it can be especially difficult. Self-confidence will help your apprentice tackle the challenge and quickly adjust to a new environment and progress through their training at a good pace.
Mentors can build self-confidence in their apprentices by praising them when they succeed, reassuring and encouraging them when they fail, and coaching them on how to improve.
Paying attention to detail will help an apprentice succeed in their on-the-job training. Noticing the nuances of how tasks are performed and asking detailed and specific questions will help them pick things up quickly. Detail-oriented apprentices will learn a lot through observation in the early stages of their apprenticeship training and will need less direct instruction.
Candidates with a track record of dependability have a greater chance of succeeding in an apprenticeship program. Timeliness, punctuality, and showing up every day ready to learn and work are necessary for an apprentice’s success. A track record of dependability and hard work in school or in prior work experience is a good sign that an apprentice has what it takes to succeed.
Rethink Your Job Description
With an apprenticeship, unlike a normal job description, you will need to give specifics on how the apprenticeship program works. Include an estimated length for the program and what type of training it includes. Depending on how your program is structured, you may want to include an outline of how your apprentice progresses through the program.
You will also want to include any qualifications or skills that you do want the apprentice to have already. If you aren’t requiring prior experience, make sure to include this prominently in the description or add it to the job title to attract the right candidates. Consider what personality traits and characteristics like the ones above will be important for your apprentice’s success and include these in the job description as well.
Interview Questions That Help Identify Good Candidates
Because your interview is looking for candidates with specific soft skills, not specific work skills, it’s important to evaluate how you approach interview questions. Focus on uncovering candidates with the soft skills above, as well as identifying candidates that you believe would be a good fit for your company’s culture. Here are some of our favorite interview questions for evaluating soft skills:
- Tell us about a time you were asked to do something that you had never done before. How did you approach it? What did you learn?
- Can you tell us about a time that you were faced with a challenge that you had never experienced before?
- Describe a time when you had to work under pressure.
- Tell us about a time you had to work with somebody that was difficult. How did you handle it?
- Tell me about a time you were able to reverse a very difficult situation. How did you do it?
- What does constructive criticism mean to you?
- What is your favorite thing to learn about? How do you learn about it?
- What skills do you bring to this role? What are your main strengths that will help you succeed?
- Do you have any hobbies or interests that will help you succeed in this role?
- Why are you interested in an apprenticeship? What do you hope to achieve?
Hiring Your Apprentice
Once you have chosen a candidate, it’s a good idea to have an additional conversation with them prior to offering them the position. Make sure that they fully understand what the work and their training looks like and what kind of mentorship and support they will receive throughout the program. It should be clear to the apprentice that they are making a long term commitment to training with you, just as you are making a commitment to teaching them.