Before Apprentice life at Pall Mall Medical: Interviews

‘Jump off the page’

Working as a Pall Mall Medical apprentice is a great opportunity for those who wish to kick-start their careers. But before being offered this opportunity, one must get past the interview stage!
Interviewing non-apprentice candidates is arguably simpler, in that the interviewer will typically have a CV filled with work experience and employment from which to “grill” the candidate and delve into detail. Whether the interviewer asks for examples of competencies or occasions in which processes and systems have been adhered to – there is plenty of “ammunition”, or more politely “inspiration”, to base questions on.
Interviewing apprentices, therefore, is trickier. By very definition, an apprenticeship is designed to provide those without significant experiences with the opportunity to get on the career ladder and to continue to learn and develop.
What must an interviewer do in that case, when interviewing candidates for an apprenticeship?
At Pall Mall Medical, we turn a candidate’s interview on its head. Rather than asking about previous experiences and employment, we ask about their future. As employers, it is our job to understand the potential, capabilities and aspirations of each candidate. Of course, even non-apprentice candidates must be judged on their potential – but this is different.
So how does one go about this?
Well, we ask first and foremost about their reasons for doing an apprenticeship and why they are choosing this over college or direct employment. This is fairly standard; all apprentices should expect this route of questioning.
What comes next, therefore, at least at Pall Mall Medical, is a series of brain teasers and curveballs! Here are a few examples of our brain teasers that our current apprentices have cleverly answered to gain the apprenticeship:
• Describe the internet to an 8-year-old?
o Most candidates describe Google. Some have described social media. Many struggle to answer
• If I had 8 snooker balls, identical in size and shape but with one slightly heavier (though not noticeable by feel). Using only a traditional balance scale – how few moves do you need to find the heaviest ball?
o No one has yet given the correct answer. Most candidates struggle to answer. One person however impressed significantly and solved the problem in 0 moves.
• How many windows are there within the Manchester area?
o Several candidates state how they would use census information. Most have been unable to answer. One person, very cleverly, described a population sampling exercise that could be carried out. No one yet has simply said they’ll “Google the answer”
Typically – the better the candidate’s answers are, the more brain teasers they’re asked!
So what do the brain teasers tell us, as interviewers?
Well, we can analyse how the candidate can handle a tricky situation – a curveball. The candidates who are able to provide an answer without freezing, and are excited at the opportunity to take on the challenge, are immediately getting big green ticks. Those who are able to creatively and logically come to an answer get an even bigger green tick. They practically get the job there and then. They know they’ve done well – we’ll give them a huge smile and tell them.
Fellow interviewers have said that interviews for apprentice positions are much tougher than those for non-apprentice positions. I’d disagree. I’d simply say they are different.
Apprentices are highly valued and respected at Pall Mall Medical – with apprentice candidates, we’re not looking for someone with a wealth of experience and knowledge. We’re looking for someone who is hungry to accept a challenge, who is calm and dynamic under pressure, and who is unique when compared to everyone else. We want someone, who will simply jump off the page.
Written by Raja Pitalia, Business Manager, Pall Mall Medical. 

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