In Australia, apprenticeships are a vital source of new talent for the trades sector, and the apprenticeship system serves as a work-driven pathway for students hoping to enter the industry.
In this article, we'll explore how to write great apprentice interview questions that lead to great hires for your business.
But first, let's get the groundwork laid for those who are completely new to hiring apprentices.
What is an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships are programs that allow students to get on-the-job training while they complete their education under the supervision of a licensed tradesperson.
Apprenticeships require an agreement between the apprentice and the employer to fulfil certain tasks: the apprentice works for a business, providing their time and labour, and the company provides the apprentice with a robust work environment and relevant training to be ready for their career.
Electrician apprentices are just one of many kinds of apprentices. They can become valuable team members while benefiting from learning skills and experiencing the trade with your help.
Hiring an apprentice has more steps and requirements than simply hiring a journeyman, as it requires your business to be checked for eligibility requirements to ensure you'll be a good fit for any new apprentices. Once your business is cleared to take on apprentices, you have to find someone who fits the bill!
This includes the interview process that you'd have for any potential hire, keeping in mind that your possible apprentice has a different level of education and may need additional formal (technical school or equivalent) training. A variety of interview questions can help you understand potential apprentices for your business.
Why hire an apprentice?
When you sit down to write your electrician apprenticeship interview questions, it's good to ask yourself why you want to hire an apprentice in the first place.
New hires act as both a cost and an opportunity. If you're running a business, you might be familiar with the time it takes to not only find a new hire but also train them and see how they fit in with your team.
Apprentices require your supervision and direct training, so taking on an electrician apprentice takes some consideration, but there are some great benefits for you and your business.
Hiring an apprentice can seem like a job in itself, as you'll be required to supervise and teach electrician apprentices your knowledge and how you do things. It can be a lot of work!
The great thing about apprentices is they are an investment in your business and your team. It is work, but so are all new hires. Everyone needs to learn about their workplace, understand the ins and outs and how things are done. It takes time for any new hire to fit in.
Apprentices grow your team, increasing your business's productivity and capacity, and the longer they train with you, the greater their contribution.
Electrician apprentices can also be staff in the future, as they will already know how your business works and what you specialise in. Once they graduate from apprentice to journeyman, you can keep them on staff with all the benefits of their experience in your business.
Savings and Support
As apprentices are in training and not fully licenced, their pay rate is a percentage of the regular rate rather than the full amount. This can be a cost-effective way of boosting your team and, as said above, investing in the future of your business.
The short-term cost of supervising and training can be offset by lower wages and incentives, such as wage subsidies from the Federal Government to encourage more businesses to hire apprentices.
Apprenticeship Network Providers can help you with this process to navigate incentives your business is eligible for, as well as assist with other aspects of the process.
There are lots of programs out there, as the Australian government and state governments are serious about getting more people into apprenticeships and the trades. If you're considering an electrician apprentice, there's plenty of support to take the step from considering to doing.
A Fresh Perspective
Electrician apprentices bring a lot to the table, too. You never know what kind of skills someone might have or what their education and training have equipped them with.
We're not saying a fresh-faced student is going to come into your business and tell you how to do things! But courses and training are constantly evolving, and new electrician apprentices can bring all sorts of ideas to your business. They'll likely have experience and other skills from different jobs as well as their ongoing education.
Electrician apprentices will be learning plenty from your guidance, and you have the opportunity to learn, too.
Types of Electrician Apprenticeship Interview Questions
Questions for job interviews can be general or highly specific, depending on the role. For electrician apprenticeship interview questions, you'll need to find a balance between both general attitude and skills and the interviewee's education and experience in the trade.
Some of the electrician interview questions might throw people off or get them thinking about the job and their career in the future. For instance, if you're running your own business, you know how important field service is and that effective communication can be the difference between a one-time client and a retained client.
An apprentice might not yet understand that, and electrician apprenticeship interview questions about face-to-face customer support and communication will get applicants thinking about the job as a whole, not just on-the-tools work.
We'll cover a list of general and electrician interview questions that you may want to use in an interview, as well as some info about each one and how it can help.
General Questions For An Electrician Apprentice Interview
These are the interview questions you want to ask to understand more about who the interviewee is. You want to get to know your potential apprentice as a person and worker, in general, to see how they might perform and grow.
What are you studying/What prior education do you have?
It's good to get an overview of what an interviewee has studied and what they're currently doing.
Everyone has their own path, and this electrician apprentice interview question can give you a basic idea of what your potential apprentice studied and where they currently are.
They can give you more information about their certificate or diploma and give a short rundown on the kind of topics they've covered.
Do you have previous experience in a trade?
A standard electrician apprentice interview question. Even with previous work experience listed on a resume, it's a good idea to hear what a potential hire has to say about their jobs in the past.
You never know what kind of skills someone might have that can benefit you and your business.
This is also an opportunity for an interviewee to display their work ethic and attitude. If they don't have work experience, they can talk about other commitments such as sports or study.
Have you worked with customers directly before?
If the above question didn't answer this, it's a necessary follow-up. Apprentices will need to be aware of the importance of strong customer service skills, and if this kind of question surprises them, you'll be aware that they haven't yet considered it or didn't regard it as important.
If you do take them on as an apprentice, this is important to know as you want your business to continue running smoothly.
Suppose an interviewee does have customer service experience. That's great! You can tell them they'll represent your business and reputation, so those skills will be beneficial.
H3 What's your greatest strength in the workplace?
This question lets your electrician apprentice describe what traits make them a good fit for your business.
You might get a one-word answer! But, it's better if an interviewee takes the initiative to describe themselves and what makes them the right fit. It means they're thinking about what they bring to the work and what kind of students they are.
This is also a good interview question if your potential apprentice doesn't have much previous work experience, as it allows them an opportunity to show their readiness!
Have you ever worked in a team environment?
This is a good electrician interview question if you have other staff members and want to gauge how an apprentice may mesh with the rest of the team and how they will perform in the field.
Apprentices have likely had some team experience during their education, and it never hurts to ask about it. Even if your business consists of just you, you and your apprentice will be a team!
What are your career goals?
This interview question can allow the interviewee to show their commitment to the trade or what they really want to get out of it.
Goals can tell you a lot about a person. For instance, if an interviewee says they want to run their own electrical business one day, you can ask them to describe why they want that. Money is as good a motivator as any, but everyone has their reasons.
If they say they're unsure about their future, you can ask what they hope to get from a career in the trade. Some might say they're keeping their options open after they learn more from on-the-job experience or have simpler goals like getting full-time employment after graduating.
If a problem arose during a job, what would you do?
Problems happen, and sticky situations can arise from any job. This open-ended electrician apprentice interview question allows the apprentice to describe their thought process and how they would manage a difficult situation.
You want to get an idea of how an apprentice might react to an angry customer, difficult coworker or unsafe situation.
What do you know about my/our business?
This question is a good bonus question if you'd like to see the kind of research an interviewee has done.
It's not entirely necessary to know about your business specifically, but if a potential apprentice can describe what your business does and display some knowledge, it's a good sign! It means they've gone the extra step to get familiar with your business and work area, which shows initiative and interest.
Electrician Apprentice-Specific Questions
These are specifically about the level of education, depth of experience and knowledge the interviewee has about the trade.
Why do you want to become an Electrical Apprentice?
If you get the answer 'money', then you know they're at least upfront about it. Money is a good motivator, but hopefully, this interview question will give you a more detailed answer.
Sure, the money will be good in the future, but you want apprentices on your team that are committed to learning about the ins and outs of the trade, expanding their skills and respecting your time and experience.
'I want to know what I'm doing and what it's like to be an electrician' is a simple but positive answer. The more invested an apprentice is in their training and work; the better it is for everyone.
What do you know about job/worksite safety?
This question needs to be included in any electrician apprentice interview.
You want to know that your interviewee knows about safety, with specific equipment and procedure references.
Electrical work can be a dangerous trade by nature, and you need to know that not only is a possible electrician apprentice aware of the danger but respects the safety procedures not only for themselves but for others such as coworkers and bystanders.
If the interviewee mentions that if they are unsure about the safety of a job or don't think they have the right equipment, they would report to a supervisor before commencing any work, that's a big tick. It's good to have staff that you can trust to use their heads around tricky situations.
Can you tell me the difference between fuses and circuit breakers?
This is a good question to test some of their knowledge and see what they've covered so far in their education. You need to see if they'll be the right fit, and part of that is finding out if they're ready for an apprenticeship.
It will be impossible to condense their studies into a few electrician apprentice interview questions, but you want to ensure you check some of the basics so you know their level of knowledge.
Being able to define the difference between something as staple as a fuse and a circuit breaker is a good starting point.
Can you give examples of the tools you'll need on the job?
This is another electrician apprentice interview question that will gauge their readiness.
It's good to have an open-ended question to see how the interviewee can respond on the spot. A potential apprentice could show how they think with responses like 'What kind of job?' or listing the essential tools.
You want to know that they have a grasp of the basics before hiring!
What kinds of electrical projects have you completed?
You already know that electrician apprentices will undertake all kinds of hands-on training as part of their study. This question allows the interviewee to describe in detail some of the projects they've completed.
If apprentices' experience doesn't align with your specification area, that's okay. Previous completion of projects means they're ready to tackle problems and learn new things.
Are you familiar with solar/lighting/generators/security systems?
You can shift this question to better match the area your business covers. It can be a bonus if an apprentice already has some experience, but as said above, it's fine if they don't.
It can leave the question open for the interviewee to talk about systems they are familiar with and display their knowledge and previous experience.
Are you familiar with mobile technology in the industry? / How do you think mobile technology can help in the industry?
This is a good electrician apprentice interview question to give you an idea of how an apprentice might perform in the field. As a business owner, you'll do everything to keep jobs moving smoothly and ensure your team has accurate info in the field. AroFlo's field staff guide covers how field staff solutions can improve your productivity.
If an interviewee is already familiar with some mobile tech or has done their own research on the topic, this is a big tick as they are already thinking about how they'll be contributing to your business and keeping up-to-date with trade technology.
In the electrician apprentice interview questions above, a lot of things have been covered. It's not just the knowledge of an apprentice you're looking for, but plenty of other skills and their overall attitude.
As you interview a potential apprentice, there are a few things you should keep in mind as they answer questions!
Work ethic, communication and experience will pop up in answers as you interview any potential hire. As they talk about their studies, previous work and general questions, you'll be able to get a sense of what they're like and how committed they are to their apprenticeship.
You'll be able to see their communication skills in a pressured environment and how they prepare. Very few people will interview 'perfectly', but you want to look for those certain qualities!
Interviewing is a skill in itself and tricky to get right. We've asked an AroFlo HR expert about their tips for the hiring process, what to look for and how to interview.
We also have a great guide here about managing subcontractors; it's not apprentices, but streamlining your process with other tradies can help manage your work and productivity. As a business, you'll be working with all kinds of people, not just your own team and employees.
We hope this helps in continuing the growth and future of your business!