Interview questions – what to expect

Although interviews are usually tailored to the role, some standard questions are likely to come up. Giving them some thought and/or preparing short answers to these can really help build your confidence and potentially make you a bit less nervous on the day.

So don’t get caught out, below are some likely topics and how to prepare.

You should be able to give a brief explanation of what the organisation’s core business is and be able to describe what the person in the role you are applying for will be doing.

A good place to start is the organisation’s website. You don’t need to learn everything; just get a sense of what they do and how you will fit in. Also check out their social media feeds and read through recent news articles or blogs to get an idea of current business focuses and activities.

From that, you can work out why you’d be a good fit to work there and how your skills match up to the qualities needed in the job description.

If you don’t have much work experience, focus more on what inspires you and how the company fits with your aspirations.

Top tip: Avoid being generic and, instead, be specific – “It was really great to read about your current apprentices’ experiences on your website. This gave me a good sense of what I might be doing, [give examples], and I feel that this role will give me great start to my career.”

Saying that you couldn’t think what else to do or that your mum told you to do it won’t get you anywhere. If you’re not passionate about doing an apprenticeship then that’ll be clear and it may make you look like a less strong candidate.

Maybe continuing in full-time education is just not for you or you’d rather be earning and learning at the same time than paying thousands to go to university. Maybe you see this as an opportunity to work your way up the ladder and get the education you always wanted. You should be able to articulate why you chose this option and what it means to you.

This is also an opportunity to highlight what attracted you to the organisation for which you’re applying and how they can help you achieve your goals.

Top tip:  Employers want to know that you are committed to this opportunity. Don’t say, “I want to do a legal apprenticeships to start a career in law”, but instead say, “I have a real interest in law and in particular in this practice area [whichever one this role is in] so your organisation is a perfect fit for me”.

If you’re applying for a legal apprenticeship, it’s likely that you have an interest in the sector. Keep an eye on the news for big announcements and changes so that you can demonstrate that you are paying attention to what is happening in the field.

You should also give some thought to what area of law you want to practise in. You can find out more by visiting our practice areas page.

Top tip: If you’re not sure what practice area is right for you that’s fine as well. Just make sure that you are positive about it: “While I am not sure that this practice area is what I want to do in the long term and I don’t have much experience in it, I am really interested in finding out more.”

Everyone has weaknesses, so saying you don’t have any will make it look like you think too highly of yourself. Statements like “I work too hard” are not a good response, as this is effectively a strength dressed up as a weakness. Instead, think about what you do to address the weaknesses you know you have. For example: “I tend to lose focus at times a bit but I have found that keeping a to-do list or taking a break for a few minutes really helps me concentrate better on my tasks.”

However, you don’t want to be too hard on yourself either. The employer is looking for an objective assessment that will give them an idea about your suitability for the role and ability to thrive in their working environment.

Top tip: When you’re talking about your strengths, put them into context and talk about the results: “I am a real people person, and because of that in my current job I was promoted from working in the stockroom to dealing with customers.”

Employers will want to get a sense of how you tackle challenges and whether you understand how to achieve success. The best way to convey this is to use the STAR approach:

  1. Situation – briefly describe the situation you were in
  2. Task – explain what was expected of you
  3. Action – outline what action(s) you took and why
  4. Result – summarise the results of your action and what you learnt from process

Using the method above you should be able to give clear examples.

Top tip: Have a think about some big successes and challenges and practise how you would describe them using the STAR method with friends or family.

This isn’t a chance to talk about how you’ve got six rabbits, love baked beans and always go out on a Friday night. The employer is looking to see if you connect with them and get a sense of how you will work with their team.

You should focus on interests and skills that are relevant to the role. If you have little or no work experience, focus on the skills that your extracurricular activities have given you: “I play football every weekend and it’s been a great opportunity to meet new people outside my usual circle of family and friends. I used to be very shy and this has really helped me gain confidence.”

Top tip: The interviewer will be looking to get a sense of your personality so, while you should be professional, you should also relax and be yourself.

This is one that is likely to come up at various stages during the application process. Not having any questions can come across as either not being interested or not fully understanding the role or organisation to which you are applying.

Have a think about at least one clarification or follow-up question you can ask. These can relate to the company, which will show your interest. For example: “What current company projects might I be involved in as part of this role?” The question could also relate to the specific role: “How many people are there in the team I would be working in?” Or it could be an admin question: “What are the next steps in the recruitment process for this apprenticeship?”

Top tip: It’s always good to pay attention to the questions and explanations given during the interview. If you can, ask a question relating to what the interviewer has said to show that you were listening.