How The Apprentice Recruitment Process Works

If you’re looking to hire an apprentice but aren’t sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place. Government guidelines can be confusing (believe us, we know!) but we’re here to make it easy to add an apprentice to your team. Whether you decide to work with Digital Native or go the road alone, we hope this post makes the apprentice recruitment process as transparent as possible.

Step 1: Advertise Your Vacancy

In the traditional recruitment process, your first task would be to write a job description and get it agreed by both the hiring manager and HR. You might include a list of day-to-day responsibilities as well as required qualifications and a bit about your company culture. This stage is much the same for apprentices, with a few small tweaks. It’s worth asking your training provider if they can provide a template job description to help speed things up.

What can apprentices do?

Your new apprentice has a lot to learn and won’t be functioning at full capacity for the first few months. It’s a good idea to have some tasks for them to support with during this time so they’re adding value to the business from the beginning. It also helps the job description seem less daunting for applicants if they can see two or three tasks they could easily pick up. Good examples of initial tasks are:

  • Documenting requirements from clients within a set framework
  • Internal testing and QA of new software solutions
  • Scheduling social media posts and responding to comments
  • Pulling simple reports from analytics solutions

What skills should you look for in an apprentice?

Unlike other hires, your new apprentice won’t have industry qualifications or years of experience under their belt. Instead, look for the entry requirements set by the government:

  • Aged 16 or over
  • Not in full-time education (or won’t be by the time they start their apprenticeship)
  • If your business is based in England, your apprentice must also live in England

Once you’ve checked those boxes, focus on soft skills. These could be things like problem-solving, curiosity or ambition that give you a good indication of the applicant’s ability to learn independently. Also think about interests – having chosen computer science at GCSE or A-level can give a good indication of where passions lie, but make sure to ask applicants what they get up to in their spare time too.

How to make apprenticeship adverts inclusive

It’s important to ensure language is inclusive for applicants of all ages and genders. Over time, we’ve experimented with different words and phrases and found what works. For example, we’ve found that adverts asking for an “interest in tech” get overwhelmingly male applicants, whereas asking for an “interest in digital” gives a more balanced demographic. Ask your training provider whether they’ve gathered any insights and keep trialling.

Where should you advertise an apprenticeship?

For a traditional role, you might advertise on your company website, Indeed and LinkedIn. Apprenticeships are bit different, as applicants don’t use traditional job boards and often won’t have a LinkedIn account.

The most common platform for apprenticeship vacancies is the Find An Apprenticeship portal on Vacancies can be managed by employers or training providers via the Digital Apprenticeship Service. In addition to this, you might want to reach out to local schools and colleges and advertise the vacancy through your own website. For larger employers recruiting annual cohorts, Amazing Apprenticeships have a Vacancy Snapshot which is highly regarded by schools.

Step 2: Initial Screening & Telephone Interviews

Once you’ve got applications coming in, the next step is to screen applicants and arrange telephone interviews. If you’re working with a training provider, it’s common for them to manage this stage on your behalf.

For many applicants, this might be their first time applying for a job, so it’s worth forgiving any formatting issues and focusing on the facts. Check that the applicant meets the entry requirements set by the government and then look at why they want the role. Pick out those that have a genuine desire to work for your company and invite them for a telephone interview.

We’d recommend structuring the telephone interview as an informal discussion. Interviews can be daunting at the best of times, and this may be a first ever interview for some applicants. Get the interviewee talking and get to know them. Understand why they want to work for you and what their mid-long term career goals are. Try to ascertain how committed they are to this path and whether they’ll work well with your existing team.

Step 3: Work-related Challenges

We recommend employers set a work-related challenge to differentiate candidates. This takes the place of an assessment centre and can feel much less daunting for applicants. Some applicants will be put off by the idea of having to complete a task at all – these people probably won’t cope well with a full schedule of work and study.

It’s important that the task is closely related to the role on offer and gives applicants a fair idea of what day-to-day life will be like. It should take no more than a couple of hours so that it can fit around existing commitments and you should check that candidates have all the tools they need to complete it. Ideally, the task should be slightly out of reach for most candidates. This gives them the opportunity to show their problem-solving skills.

Step 4: Interviews

Now you’ve got your applications, telephone interviews and work-related challenges out of the way, it’s time to invite a selection of promising candidates to interview. If you’re working with a training provider, this is normally the stage where you’ll be brought in.

In the interview, ask the candidate about their work-related challenge. Find out what they enjoyed about it, what they found challenging and how they solved it. You might also ask them what they know about your company and what they think their role will be like – they may not get it spot on, but proactive candidates will have had a look at your website beforehand.

Step 5: Make Your Hire

Now it’s time to make a decision. As with any new hire, you’ll get it wrong sometimes. Try to choose a candidate that has potential, is motivated and genuinely wants to be a part of your team. If you do that, you can’t go too far wrong. Let your chosen apprentice(s) know they’ve got an offer and wait for their response.

Once you’ve got confirmation from your new hire, your training provider will guide you through the paperwork. You must have a signed apprenticeship agreement before the apprenticeship begins. This details the employment arrangements between yourself and the apprentice. You must also sign a commitment statement, which confirms you will offer full support to the apprentice in order for them to successfully complete their apprenticeship. Your training provider will also guide you through the financial support available to you, including claiming your government grant of up to £1,500 per apprentice.

From your side, your apprentice must have a contract of employment that runs for at least 1 year. This ensures the apprentice has enough time to gain the necessary skills and qualifications. You must pay your apprentice at least minimum wage and ensure they have access to the same benefits as other employees; including sick pay and holiday pay.

We hope you’ve found this post useful. We’d love to know if you have any other tips for the apprenticeship recruitment process. Feel free to tweet us @diginativeuk or get in touch.