Application process

If you decide to apply for one of our apprenticeships, you'll go through an application process which helps us decide whether a) you're a good fit for us or b) if we're a good fit for you - it's just as important to know if you'd enjoy working with us. To do that, we use the application process to see whether your competencies and behaviours match ours.

Please be aware that even if you pass all of the stages of the application process we cannot guarantee that you will be invited to an interview or assessment centre due to the volume of applications received.

What are competencies?

Competencies are the basic skills and knowledge we look for in an employee: it could be great customer service skills, excellent organisational abilities or a natural flair for team leadership, whatever it is we have identified a number of competencies we think you need to do your job well and develop in our organisation.

Different apprenticeship roles demand different competencies, and we don't expect everyone who applies to have the perfect skillset, but finding out what your competencies are helps us to fit the right people to the right roles.

What are behaviours?

Making things happen, working well as part of a team, or just being able to take personal responsibility for your actions are some of the behaviours which drive what we do: from ensuring customer satisfaction, to delivering services and value for money. This application process looks for candidates who can really demonstrate the behaviours we expect from all our employees

Pre-application

You can only apply to one scheme, so please ensure you read all of the scheme descriptions carefully so that you fully understand what the role involves and that it is something you are genuinely interested in. Also check that you have the qualifications that the role requires.

Exams and certificates

If you can't find your GCSE certificates you will still be able to apply. You'll need to upload a copy of your exam certificates and your application, including UK NARIC translation of any qualifications gained overseas. We can't process your application without your certificates.

If you're in the process of sitting your exams you can still apply, but you'll need to contact us when you get your results. This is to confirm that you have achieved the minimum grade in the subjects required. Any offer made in these circumstances will be subject to meeting our minimum academic requirements.

You must show us the original certificates. We cannot accept the statement of results you received from your school or college on results day. If you need replacement certificates, please contact the relevant exam board as soon as possible as the process can take several weeks. You can apply for certificated duplicate certificates from the following examination awarding bodies:

  • AQA
  • Edexcel
  • OCR
  • WJEC

If you gained your qualifications outside the UK, you can verify with NARIC if your qualifications are the ones we require.

The first part of the application is to complete the online application form. To access this you'll need to register online first. After entering the required qualifications and answering any relevant questions you'll need to upload your application, along with a copy of your exams certificates (including UK NARIC translation of any qualifications gained overseas). We can't progress your application without your certificates, so please make sure you know where they beforehand. If you need replacement certificates, please contact the relevant exam board as soon as possible because the process can take several weeks.

If you have the required qualifications and have uploaded your certificates you'll be invited to take part in the next stage of the process:

Step 1: Situational Strengths Test (SST)

This test presents a number of different scenarios, the kind you might typically encounter on your apprenticeship programme. For each scenario, you'll be asked to think about what you might do and how you might feel in that situation. You'll have five options and we want you to arrange your options in order of what you'd be most likely to do (at the top), or least likely to do (at the bottom).

These questions are designed to show us how you respond to certain situations, give us a better idea about whether you'd enjoy working with us, and if you have the strengths to be successful here, they assess what you are naturally motivated towards doing, regardless of how much experience you have doing it. The traditional competency based method focuses more on what you can do, or have done, and actually nothing more than that; while the strength-based approach combines 'can do' with 'enjoys doing'.

Situational Strengths Test tips

  • Answer questions honestly - we're interested in what you'd do in these situations, not what you think is the correct answer
  • This isn't a knowledge test - the scenarios give you an insight into the kinds of situations you may encounter, you don't need to have worked here to answer them
  • Choose your answer based on the information provided
  • Take your time - although you won't be timed, it's important to find somewhere quiet where you won't be distracted
  • Try to do the test all in one go while it's fresh in your mind rather than stopping and returning to it another day

If your SST is successful, you'll be invited to the next stage of the process to do an ability test - ability tests may differ, depending on the scheme you've applied for.

Step 2: Ability testing

Ability tests assess specific skills, such as calculation or understanding written information. They consist of multiple choice questions and are strictly timed. A typical test might allow 30 minutes for 30 questions.
You'll either be asked to answer the questions online or be invited to one of our offices to complete them, depending on which scheme you have applied for.

Before you begin, you'll get the opportunity to familiarise yourself with the tests by looking at and completing some sample questions. Visit the SHL website where you can get more information on the tests, and complete a full length practice test. Please note that we may ask you to complete further tests at a later stage in the selection process.

Ability test tips

  • Have a go at completing the SHL practice test - this will help to relax you, make you feel more confident and perform better when it comes to doing the real test
  • Complete the test in a quiet place where you won't be disturbed - you only have one chance to finish it and any distraction can cost you seconds
  • If you're taking the test online you'll be given a completion deadline - if you can't complete the test in the time given, contact us as soon as possible and we might be able to give you an extension - our contact details are included in your invite email

Step 3: Face-to-face assessment

The final stage of our selection process is held in London. For this part of the process, you'll be required to have a competency-based interview with business managers from your chosen area.

The interview is designed to assess your potential across a range of key competencies and behaviours that are important to us.

Other final stage exercises may include:

  • A group exercise
  • An ability test
  • Presentation

Verification of previous online tests you have taken will be performed at the assessment. You'll be given further information about the exercises when we invite you to the final assessment.

Preparing for your interview

40 minutes
Please expect a variety of different questions. In some cases, we will ask you to provide real-life examples so it is important to focus on your role in each situation and your reasons for taking the actions you did. Your examples can come from education, work or outside interests. As well as questions about your past experience we may also ask what you would do in certain hypothetical situations. In these cases you should try to speak in detail about what you would specifically do. Please also expect some questions which ask you how you feel in relation to an activity or task. There may also be some specific questions related to the scheme you have applied for. Think about:

  • Examples of a time when you had to make a quick decision
  • Times when you've faced a problem at work, and tell us how you solved it
  • The most creative, work-related project you have completed

Assessors will be looking at your answers to see if you can demonstrate what is required for the position. Generally, they'll focus on your competencies, strengths and behaviours, although it's possible that they may also assess your technical skills, too. If technical skills are assessed these will be determined by the manager and based on the requirements of the job.

Useful tips to prepare for your interview:

  • Research the position - take time to understand the competencies and technical skills required
  • Think about a range of examples based on your accomplishments. Be aware of the specific skills/competencies each example illustrates and remember to include the positive outcome or lessons learned from each experience
  • Don't forget to use the STAR approach to structure your answers. STAR means:
    - SITUATION: Briefly describe the background to the situation
    - TASK: Describe what you had to achieve
    - ACTION: Explain how you achieved it
    - RESULT: Tell us know what the outcome was
  • Ensure your examples provide evidence of 'how' you went about things (i.e. the behaviours you demonstrated).
  • Don't assume that the interviewer knows how things are done where you work at the moment.
    Before your interview, we also suggest:
    - Re-reading the information about the role on our website
    - Researching other websites, too: stand-out candidates try to find out current information about us by looking at newspapers and blogs
  • Thinking about why you're interested in this apprenticeship and what you have to offer
  • Using what you know about the scheme to identify key elements that are important to the role: think about your relevant past experiences so that these examples are easy to recall when you are actually in the interview. Your examples may come from your school work, paid or voluntary work experience, Saturday jobs, outside interests and hobbies or other aspects of your life. We recognise that your work experience may be limited so do use examples from the list above

The assessors are interested in what you did, how you did it and the end result of your actions, so make sure you're specific and focus on your part rather than what the team did.

Group exercise

Depending on the scheme you apply for you maybe asked to participate in a group exercise on your assessment day. It is included because communication and team work are essential success in these areas.

This group exercise measures your ability to work in a team, contribute, delegate and solve problems. It's nothing to worry about, and these are things you do every day without even realising it.

You will also be given a topic to discuss which you'll have to find a solution for, along with the group you're working with.

Hints and tips

  • There is never a right or wrong solution - you are assessed on how you work with the group
  • Remember to listen - it's a very important skill
  • Don't rush in to say something too quickly because you feel you have to say something
  • Don't speak over people
  • Try to involve members of the group who are quiet

After the assessment day

We'll be in touch if you've been successful with your application. If unsuccessful, we will notify you by email.

Don't be disheartened if you haven't been successful: learn from your experience, request feedback and use the feedback received to better your performance at your next apprenticeship assessment day.

*One candidate, one application*

We can only accept one scheme application per candidate. Applying for more than one scheme could mean that you won't be considered for your preferred choice.
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