Thorough preparation “half the battle” in training place quest
Interview mit Caroline Göhmann und Carolin Vohla (HR)

Over the next few months, the available training places at Zapp will all be filled. The decisive phase in trainee recruitment for 2014 is about to begin. But in the “battle for the best brains”, the Zapp Group no longer relies solely on its excellent reputation. Carolin Vohla and Caroline Göhmann travel round trade and training fairs where they speak directly to the trainees of tomorrow.

Hotwire (HW): Over the years, you must have spoken to thousands of students looking for training places. When do you know that an encounter is actually leading somewhere?
Carolin Vohla (CV): We can usually tell within the first few minutes. It becomes obvious whether or not the candidate has done any preparation. Good applicants have an idea of what career they would like to train for and have done some research into the Zapp Group, by which I mean our products, our business divisions and our sites.
Caroline Göhmann (CG): In fact, for an initial chat it’s usually enough if they have spent half an hour on the Zapp website. Students who are really interested can find out all the information they need as the starting point for their first contact with us. We expect the question “Why are you interested in a training place at Zapp?” to be answered with more than just generalizations.
HW: What is the worst mistake a student can make at a trade or training fair?
CV: The worst mistake must certainly be failing to recognize the opportunities that such an event can offer. Often, students come up to our booth, make a couple of “cool” comments, ask for some promotional gifts and then disappear again. But in fact it is the perfect opportunity for students with weaker grades to compensate for that fact. A face-to-face conversation and a good first impression can improve their chances of securing a training place. And by the way, this also includes a careful choice of clothing on the day – ripped jeans, mini dresses and headphones are definitely not appropriate on this occasion. But of course, depending on their choice of career, good grades in English and mathematics are essential, regardless of how good an impression they make when they talk to us. And there is equally no getting away from the basic requirement of either a Realschulabschluss (Junior High School Diploma) or Abitur (Senior High School Diploma), depending on their choice of career.
HW: But isn’t it the case that school leavers can now take their pick of companies? Isn’t there currently a shortage of trainees?
CG: It’s true that the number of applicants has declined in recent years, but up to now, we have always been fortunate enough to fill all our training places with suitable candidates. I think that, even before the shortage of trainees and the demographic problems facing us today, the best students in a school year had no problems finding a training place with a reputable company. With its varied and future-oriented training programs, the Zapp Group has always held a strong hand in the “battle for the best brains”. But in any case, we believe that it is better to leave a training place unfilled than to give it to someone who is just not suitable.
HW: What are the dates of the next fairs you will be attending?
CV: On 19 September 2013 we’ll be at the training and further education fair Careers in MK in Hemer. The training fair is a joint event organized by all the towns in the northern Märkischer Kreis district. This is definitely an important event to which interested students should ideally bring along an application package. As a general rule, we would really like to encourage students to bring an application package with them to training fairs, as we are then happy to take the time to conduct a brief initial interview with them there and then, giving the applicant the opportunity to make their mark and create a positive impression. This also applies to students who want to apply for a year’s internship with us. We can already confirm that we will of course be at the training fair in Schwerte that takes place on 10 October 2013 at the Rohrmeisterei.
HW: What if visitors to training fairs have come prepared, but then discover Zapp for the first time as they are walking round and therefore have not come specifically prepared to talk to you?
CG: In that case, they should obviously still come and talk to us. Young people should feel free to speak frankly. If they already know what career they would like to train for, and if they know how to ask good questions and equally have good answers to hand, they can still make a positive impression. What matters more than anything else is showing genuine interest. We too use these training fairs to reach out to young people who have so far been unaware of our existence.
CV: Young people who are genuinely looking for a good training place usually go to training fairs on their own, or with a friend if they are feeling a little unsure of themselves. But trying to make serious contact with training companies when you are wandering round the fair as a group is doomed to failure.
HW: What are you looking for in terms of content and presentation in an application package?
CV: It must be neat and tidy. This means no dirty marks, no spelling errors and a complete set of all relevant documentation. If you’re unsure, you should get your parents to proofread it or ask your teachers. There is no obligation to provide a photograph with your application, but if one is attached then it should be a sensible photograph, taken by a professional photographer. All too often we get poor-quality amateurish photos or, in the case of young women, pictures that show too much flesh. The application should also contain a covering letter setting out why the applicant is interested in a particular career.
CG: By the way, attempts to create a stunningly original application often fail miserably. A traditional, error-free application is usually the best option. It should contain a CV, the last two school reports with grades, evidence of any relevant work experience and a personalized covering letter.
HW: How should young people apply?
CG: Either by post or e-mail. We accept both. But they shouldn’t wait too long. The selection process for the next training year always begins around twelve months before the induction date.