How I got my job: John Lewis Retail Management Placement

If you’re interested in securing an industrial placement in retail, then this blog post by University of Leeds student Kelly Wood, could give you an insight into the best way to go about it.


Hi, I’m Kelly Wood and I’m a second year undergraduate studying Management with Marketing at Leeds University Business School. I have recently secured an industrial placement with John Lewis’ Retail Management Scheme, commencing September 2014. In this blog I would like to provide you with an insight into the application process from my experience, to help you to secure a placement.

Beginning the Search

When it comes to choosing the sector that you want to work in, every person is different. Some people, like me, will know exactly what they want to do, whereas others will have a broader range of opportunities to consider. I have always loved the fast-paced retail environment and I have a keen interest in marketing and management. Because of this, I applied for placements in both areas to widen my opportunities. I found most vacancies on Rate My Placement and company’s own websites, but you could also use the Careers Centre vacancies database. The companies I applied for are as follows:

  1. John Lewis
  2. Marks and Spencer
  3. ALDI
  4. Dr Oetker
  5. Arla Foods

One tip to help you decide where exactly you want to work is to think of your interests and values and try and match these to an organisation. I got to the final stages of each of my applications, but I felt John Lewis’ partnership structure reflected my business morals. I was also drawn to their business model, which although initially constructed in the 19th century, stood the test of time.

You will also need to consider where you want to be located. For those of you that seek the buzzing life of London city, perhaps apply for those companies with Head Office roles based in London. For those of you like me who love Leeds, you may do what I did and apply for placements that would be based around the Yorkshire or North West region to be close to home.

Abseil the Application Process

There are multiple stages within the application process, but this will differ depending on the scheme and organisation for which you apply. For my John Lewis and Marks and Spencer applications there were several stages:

John Lewis

  1. Numerical, verbal reasoning and situational judgement tests
  2. Online application form
  3. Assessment Centre- partner buying and selling task, individual managerial task and presentation, individual interview and group task

Marks and Spencer

  1. Numerical, verbal reasoning and situational judgement tests
  2. Online application form with CV and Cover Letter
  3. Assessment Centre- group task, individual coaching simulation, individual task and presentation, individual presentation

Psychometric tests

Something that really helped me with the online testing was borrowing some of the psychometric test books from the Careers Centre and practicing the mock tests that the Careers Centre allows you to access online. I also found it helpful to purchase additional tests to practice. I used Assessment Day, but there are various organisations offering this service.These tests will require GCSE maths skills and I would advise setting one day aside a week to practice these tests rather than simply completing all of the tests in one day. It is also a good tip to complete one of these practice tests just before you do the real ones so that you are in the correct frame of mind!

Assessment centres 

In terms of assessment centres, there isn’t much preparation you can do apart from researching the company online, asking friends and going into store. When completing the tasks, you need to think of the key skills and values that the company is looking for and try and demonstrate these in the way that comes naturally to you. Everybody says it, but try not to be nervous about them; they are there to test whether you suit the role and most of the actions you take will be down to your intuition!

Using your current experience

A generic tip for all applications, whether in the retail sector or not, is to try to tailor your experiences to suit the role. In my case, I have had retail experience since 2008 and my most recent experience was a marketing summer internship with Marks and Spencer. This experience in particular has been extremely beneficial in helping me gain the skills I needed to secure my placement.

I wish you all the very best of luck with your future applications, try to gain as much experience as you can and if you happen to be unsuccessful, don’t let it knock you down – instead, simply think ‘that role just wasn’t right for me’.

If you would like help with applications, interviews or anything else career-related, then pop in to see us. Drop-in is 9am-4pm, Monday-Friday.

1 Comment

Filed under Advice, How I got my job, Work Experience

One response to “How I got my job: John Lewis Retail Management Placement

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