An Apprenticeship Interview
As many of you would be aware by now, I do not have a Computer Science degree, or any degree for that matter. I became a developer through an apprenticeship - this article doesn't focus on my entire journey, however if you would like to know my journey, please consider reading my article on How I went from a Retail Assistant at 17 to Landing a Developer Role at 19.
Here, I will focus on some questions that may occur in your apprenticeship interview and offer some guidance on how to prepare your answers and deliver them confidently.
Before we begin, please note that my path was not through university. I am in no way devaluing going to university, but an apprenticeship was the better option for me. If you feel university is the better option for you, by all means, go for it and I wish you all the best! 💪
In the modern-day, there are lots of debates about whether you need a computer science degree to become a developer. The fact is, employers want to hire the best developers they can get - this may mean experience, skillset, passion to learn or anything. It is down to the individual to make themselves stand out. I.e. If you feel having a degree will help you become the best developer you can be, fantastic, do it, take your path. However, if you feel an apprenticeship or a non-university path will help you become the best developer you can be, also fantastic, take your path!
It's also important to note, you can go to university, then get an apprenticeship afterwards! There is no fixed path. This article primarily focuses, but not limited to, candidates who don't plan on a university path.
We've all been told "You never get another chance at a first impression", and it's true, completely true. The number one thing candidates get wrong is pretending to be someone they are not...
If you're applying for a developer role, chances are, you're not going to be wearing a suit and tie all day, so why wear one to the interview? If a suit and tie is your style then, by all means, go for it, no one will judge. But if a suit and tie is really not your thing, that's ok, wear a polo shirt, a hoodie, or anything. As long as what you're wearing is clean and decent (I.e. not revealing) you will be ok. On the other hand, there are job roles where you absolutely should wear a suit and tie, like a salesperson, because this is a customer-facing role, whereas a developer is not.
Your attitude is important. Remember, you're happy to be there and you're thankful they invited you in for an interview. With this in mind, remember to smile and use your manners. It's ok to be nervous, but they will look for how you handle your nerves - breathe, take your coat off, think about your answers, smile.
You're at an interview for an apprenticeship, they are not expecting 5+ years with Node.js, 3 years with TypeScript and 7 years managerial experience. They primarily look for someone with passion! Because remember, they're investing in your learning.
Be yourself... Seriously!
Too often you see candidates trying way too hard. Talk normally, smile normally and just be you. Don't think of it as an interview, think of it as a discussion about your future!
Yes, they are interviewing you, but you should also be there to interview them. Is this somewhere you really want to work? Apprenticeships can last anywhere between 1 and 3 years, are you willing to spend that chunk of your life learning at this company? Ask questions. Test them. Here are some great questions you can ask the interviewer:
- Where does the company plan to be in 5 years?
- After the completion of the apprenticeship, where can I progress to within the business?
- What's the plan for hiring future apprentices?
- How much time will I be given to do coursework?
- What's my team like?
Ask anything you want to know so you are absolutely certain, if you were offered the role, you want to accept. When they ask you your hobbies and interests, say something not-related to the job! E.g. I like skipping through meadows and sniffing flowers. OR I like to bake realistic cakes. OR I like to collect model trains. If they wanted to know about your interests related to the job (whether it be coding or whatever role you're applying for), they will ask that specifically.
Example Interview Questions
Below are some examples of typical apprenticeship interview questions. I'll give a brief answer about how I would answer them, but you should tailor them to suit you.
Before we start, my top tip is to not rehearse as many interview questions as you can. The answers that interest interviewers the most are the ones that aren't what they've already heard. Sure, rehearse common questions, but be sure you're ready to answer anything in an effective way.
Interviewer: Why are you wearing a hat? You (think): Oh no, I didn't rehearse this.... You: It helps me keep my cool.
My second top tip is to not repeat your CV/resume! They have already read through your CV/resume, they don't need you repeating it, maybe start an answer with, "Here's something that's not on my CV/resume..." They didn't invite you to an interview to tell them stuff they've already read.
Why are you choosing an apprenticeship?
I feel I progress better if I learn as I do. I found school quite difficult sitting in class listening to the teacher and writing it down without putting it straight into practice. I also like the fact of getting paid to learn and not accruing thousands of pounds of debt.
Why not university?
The university lifestyle and culture never appealed to me. I wanted to start my life and career earlier because I know what I want to do. In my opinion, university would hold me back for 3 or so years.
Where are you wanting to go in your career?
Up. Although, I can't say for certain, software and tech is such a forever changing industry. I'll take it one day at a time, but right now and for the immediate future, I feel I'm particularly interested in web development.
Why do you feel you would fit this role?
I'm passionate to learn.
What do you already know?
In school/college I studied the theory of databases, networks, binary, etc. I also did some practical programming with Python building scripts to perform a task or mimic and an algorithm. We also touched on HTML and CSS.
Why do you want to work for us?
I recently tweeted about this and got some wild feedback, which I thoroughly respect. My good friend Skay collected all the feedback and consolidated it into an article that I urge you to read on this question because it gets asked a lot!
The coding task
Like many other developer interviews, it is likely you will be asked to do some kind of coding task.
They are NOT looking for someone who can complete the task (although that would be a bonus), they are looking for how you approach and tackle the task in an effective way.
It's not the end of the world if you don't finish it!
They may or may not ask to see your portfolio, don't worry, I didn't know what git was, nevermind GitHub when I went to my apprenticeship interview.
Your portfolio can be anything, as long as you advertise it!
- Personal website (see mine at jackdomleo.dev)
- Blog articles
- Tech Twitter (list created by @NehemiahKiv)
- And more!
However, since you're going for an apprenticeship, it is a given you won't have that much, if any, experience and is therefore acceptable to have a very small or no portfolio.
Hopefully, this article gave you a nice insight about how you can prepare for an apprenticeship interview. It's important to take away from this that it's ok to not have a 50-page portfolio!
I wish you all the best!
Tweet me @jackdomleo7 about whether this article helped you. 😊