This week Andrea, a MSc Global Supply Chain graduate tells us about how he got is graduate position at Pladis and gives some detailed advice on the application process.
My name is Andrea Scirè, I am 22 years old and, after having finished my course in September, I graduated in December 2016 from the Leeds University Business School with a 2:1 (68%) MSc in Global Supply Chain Management.
When I left my home town, Rome (Italy), in September 2015, I could never have imagined that, slightly more than a year later, I would be working in the UK as a graduate with pladis (the number one biscuit manufacturer in the UK and Turkey and worldwide, known for iconic brands such as McVitie’s, Godiva and Ulker). But, believe me or not, this is what happened.
In the next few paragraphs, I will explain how the Professional Development Hub of the University of Leeds Business School and the Careers Centre helped me in getting selected from over 200+ candidates applying for this graduate scheme.
Why did you decide to work in the UK?
Doing a Masters at the University of Leeds, recently elected by The Times as the University of the Year, is an exciting experience that requires a lot of passion and effort to complete in a successful way. For this reason, I considered that I should have at least try to exploit the opportunity to find a graduate position along the journey: among all of them, working in the UK was included. When I attended the Graduate Jobs Fair held in October 2015, I realized that graduate programs would be a great start to my working experience.
How did you start to look for jobs?
As you have probably guessed, I looked on the internet. There are various websites to look at: Indeed, LinkedIn, the website of the Career Centre and Google itself. I used to type “Supply Chain graduate programme UK” because I was interested in that field of the business. I am sure that this method works for most other courses you are undertaking. For example, if you are studying “Organizational Psychology”, then I would type “Human Resources graduate programme UK”. It was my very first time applying for a job so I wasted the initial applications simply because I did not know how to successfully apply. After many rejections, I thought about asking for the support of the Career Centre.
How did the Career Centre help you?
The Career Centre, and its branch the Professional Hub, in the shape of Careers Consultant, Marc Steward, played a crucial role in this story. When I arrived there, they saw a guy that was disillusioned by many rejections during the application process. But with calm and at the same time energy they were able to understand the mistakes that I was making and suggested the actions I needed to make to correct them.
In the rush of getting a job, panicking, I started to apply for 2-3 graduate programs per day. But almost never “quantity equals to quality”. From this very general sentence, I learnt a few lessons that I would like you to consider:
1) You must spend time before doing the application. Check the company website, look for their values and their culture, read the job description several times and inform yourself about any recent news, either internal or external, that affects the company.
2) You must spend time preparing the application. Each company requires different skills for their new employees. You cannot simply copy and paste your standard cover letter and curriculum vitae. You have to stand from the crowd!
3) You must spend time doing the application: applications are very time consuming and a success is defined by details. Provide as many details as possible and build a strong application that truly reflects yourself.
Do not let rejections get you down: I applied for around 30 graduate schemes in different industries (food, transportation, automobile, etc.). I was unsuccessful in the vast majority by having been discharged after the telephone interview (or video) and online tests. Companies want to employ the best people and it is more than likely that there will sometimes be better candidates than you. Take your time and look around for the role which suits you the most.
How do you like your job?
I like it very much! Being a graduate implies two sides of the same coin: people are willing to offer you as much help as you need to make you succeed; at the same time, they expect you to commit 100% in what you are doing. I am not talking about working 12 hours per day or on weekends: They expect you to “be in the room”, think critically but with a constructive approach, challenge views and so on.
What I also really enjoy are the graduate modules offered for your personal development. At the beginning, it seems as a waste of time because you are already very busy with the learning part of the job but with time you realize how helpful they are. I attended one module about improving your self-awareness: I was shocked by the perceptions that my colleagues had about me and what I thought about my image.
Moreover, I have been allocated a mentor (a person with great experience) who is always eager to help me and it is nice to be able to count on an independent opinion which looks at things from an external point of view.
The recruitment process for pladis is structured in various steps:
- Online application: This required me to upload my CV and fill some forms with basic information about myself. Eventually, you may be asked to prepare a cover letter or to answers some questions about yourself.
- Video interview or telephone interview: At this step, you will need to provide some evidence about the skills they are looking for. Whether is a video interview (in which you will record yourself with your smart phone) or a telephone interview, the format is the same.
- Online tests: typically, there are three tests to pass. The first one assesses your language ability (tip: if you are not English native speaker, there could be a chance to do it in your own language), the second one looks at your math knowledge while the third one is the logic test. Personally, I found the last two the most difficult due to time constraints. I would suggest you do them by yourself and without the help of anybody as you could be asked to repeat them at the assessment centre.
- Assessment Centre: it consists on different events throughout a day such group exercises, individual interviews and presentation. What is important is to be consistent on results as the assessors would prefer someone who is consistently on the average or above the average, rather than someone who performs very well in one activity but does not meet the expectations in other tasks.
First placement – Procurement
I started my career in Pladis within Procurement, which aims to procure all the raw materials to make the biscuits. The team I am in looks after the Value Adding Ingredients such Chocolate, Sugar, Dairy products and Flavours. At the beginning I started by helping out all the team members with their daily tasks: it is true that most of the work was administration but I had also a good exposure to a range of different ingredients which enriched my first three months. Due to my manager going on maternity leave, I was promoted and I took over one of her responsibilities, sugar. This is an exciting opportunity because it means many more things to do. One of the best parts of my job is meeting with suppliers at their sites because I love to see how things are made and I like to see how passionate they are about their job. One of the aspect of my current job I find less interesting is ensuring that the Contract Lifecycle Management is kept up to date; this means chasing internal stakeholders for approvals or signatures, suppliers to sign Terms and Conditions and so on! But on the whole I am really enjoying it.
One myth that I want to unmask is that Procurement is only involved at the early stages of the Supply Chain. Indeed, Procurement is also involved in many projects which affect the products you find on the shelves.
To search opportunities with pladis and apply, click here.
Don’t forget you can find out more about the application and interview process on our website, and talk to us for any additional help and support.