Applying for a business apprenticeship

Do you want to build business knowledge while gaining hands-on experience? Whether you're looking at a career in business administration, operations, or marketing, apprenticeships are the perfect way to get your foot in the door with some of the biggest players in the market today. Here, we walk you through applying for a business apprenticeship, with top tips from employers about what they look for in an apprentice.

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Experts in business are critical for the running of successful running of every company in the world - just one of the reasons why being a skilled businessperson can translate into almost any sector or future career. However, with different companies come different application processes.

With that in mind, we have surveyed a number of different businesses to find out what their typical application journey entarils, and here's what you can expect for your business apprenticeship application process. 

  1. CV, applications, and cover letters

    You'll need to submit your CV and either answer some application questions or write a cover letter. This is your chance to highlight your skills, experiences, and qualifications, making a strong case for why you're an ideal candidate for the business apprenticeship.
  2. Interviews

    You will have interviews with a panel from the employer's side, either face-to-face or virtually. This is where you can really let your personality shine, communicate effectively, and express your enthusiasm for the company. It's a crucial step to show how you would fit into the business environment.
  3. Assessment centres

    Finally, you'll participate in group activities alongside other candidates. This stage assesses your teamwork and problem-solving skills in a business-like scenario. It's an opportunity for you to demonstrate how you handle challenges, work collaboratively with others, and respond to different situations in a team setting.

Dos and don'ts when applying for an business apprenticeship

  • Include any relevant work experience, for example, a retail job you have at the weekend or any internships you’ve done. Remember, every experience you have of working will be for an established business. So, technically, there's no wrong answer here.
  • Show your wider knowledge of the industry, like podcasts you’ve listened to or relevant YouTube channels you follow that have been instrumental in your growing passion in the business sector.
  • Look at examples of the company’s previous projects to discuss in the interview. It shows your interest in that company specifically, the way they run, as well as the values and culture the business promotes.
  • Don't be generic. Tell the employer why you want to work for them specifically. E.g. – their values, projects they’ve worked on etc.
  • Try not to feel under pressure to know every detail about the company and the apprenticeship. You’re going in as an apprentice, so you won’t have all the skills. Try to exhibit your personality and passion, and more importantly, if you don't know the answer to a question, ask!
  • Steer clear of adding examples in where they don’t belong. If an example doesn’t fit with the question, you’ll need to think on the spot in an interview.

A day in the life of a Business Management Apprentice

A word from an existing business apprentice

Research into the apprenticeship role you're looking at for is the key to creating an effective application. Take a look at our Day in the Life of a Business Management Apprentice video and explore the day-to-day responsibilities of an apprentice in the engineering sector.

What are business apprenticeship employers looking for?

Applying for a business apprenticeship can be daunting, especially when you feel like you have nothing to relevant to shout about. But that's not the case at all. Remember, this is an apprenticeship, and an employer will not expect you to have CEO experience. Here are a few areas where you can start to build experience profile outside generic grades and qualifications.

  1. Relevant Skills

    Don’t underestimate the power of the skills you’ve picked up through your education and daily life. Whether it’s leadership in school or college projects, team building through recreational sports or hobbies, or communication skills through part-time work. 
  2. Work experience

    Business employers want to know about your experiences. Being enthusiastic and giving examples of difficult or rewarding situations you’ve managed through your part-time work  is a great way to demonstrate your problem-solving skills and ability work under pressure.
  3. Hobbies and Interests

    What better way to display transferable business skills than an insight into your hobbies and interests? For example, if you’re a keen photographer, lean on the attention to detail and creativity you can bring into the boardroom, or if you’re a sports player, the teamwork characteristics you’ve mastered that could work wonders during business projects.
  4. Extra-Curricular Activities

    It goes without saying that the work you put in outside the classroom is a great marker for your commitment to career success. Any volunteering, unpaid work experience, or even programmes you’ve worked on in the past, like Young Enterprise or the Duke of Edinburgh Award, will help bolster your business apprenticeship application. 

The top five skills that business employers are looking for

We spoke to a number of business apprenticeship employers to find out exactly what skills they were looking for from their ideal candidate. Here are the top five!

  1. Communication
  2. Sales
  3. Management
  4. Attention to detail
  5. Customer Service

Advice from an existing apprentice

Hannah Rashidi, BT
We develop a lot of skills through our day-to-day life, but we take those experiences for granted because they’re not directly related to work. Scheduling chores around school and work and hobbies shows an ability to adapt and prioritise; volunteering to take care of your sibling shows a team player who can take on responsibility; organising a day out with friends shows project management skills. You can, and should, sprinkle these throughout the application process.
Number of business apprenticeship employers who look for 'communication skills'.
4 - 6 months
The average time it takes from seeing a vacancy to getting a accepted on a business apprenticeship.

Common interview questions to expect for an business apprenticeship?

To give you a head start on your interview, here are some of the questions that an employer might ask you during the process:

  • "Reflecting on your past experiences, can you identify a situation where you had to make a significant decision under pressure? How did you approach this decision, and what was the outcome?"
  • "Can you provide an example of a time when you successfully communicated a complex idea or concept to a non-technical audience? How did you ensure that your message was understood?"
  • "Tell us about a time when you had to adapt to a significant change within a team or project. How did you handle this change, and what was the impact on the project or the team dynamics?"
  • "Can you discuss a time when you identified a gap in your knowledge or skills and took steps to address it? How did this learning process contribute to your professional development?"

Examples to wow an employer

An example of a cover letter section

For the last three years, I’ve been working in Tesco at the weekends and in the evenings around my academic studies. Juggling both work and studying has vastly improved my time management and organisational skills. Skills that I believe would be invaluable in a business operations role. Not only this, working in retail has given me a real appreciation for how a business works and my aim is to become a store manager where I can help make regular improvements to the business. I’ve demonstrated my interest in this by taking on extra shifts regularly and volunteering to help with other things, like community initiatives in the store and training of new store members.

My work experience isn't the only place I have picked up skills relevant to a business operations apprenticeship, however. I have been a commited team player in a local football team for the past ten years, rising from the youth into the adult team at aged 16. While this has established a natural team building skill through my time at the club, I have recently been recongised for my leadership skills too, taking on captaincy after just two years in the adult team. 

  • Matched work experience: The applicant has cherry picked skills that business apprenticeship employers will be interested in, like organisational and time management skills, while showing their commitment to both the continuing success of the business and professional development to a senior business position in the retail sector.
  • Demonstrated research: The applicant has offered an understanding of the skills that are applicable to the role, and given hard examples of how they have started to acquire these skills prior to applying for the role. What's more, the applicant has mentioned the specific area of business and the particular apprenticeship that they are applying for.
  • Shown relevant skills: While work experience is important for a business apprenticeship, the applicant has drawn on extra-curricular activities in order to provide examples of other skills, while showing a commitment that runs further than a short tenured part-time role.