How do I get a graduate job working in consumer goods?
Leading fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies accept applications from graduates of all degree backgrounds, though you will usually need at least a 2.1 and some technical programmes have specific degree requirements. FMCG employers that recruit large numbers of graduates typically offer a broad range of different training programmes, from research and development to marketing.
A 2016 membership survey carried out by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), which represents numerous big graduate employers, found that consumer goods was one of the most competitive industries for graduates to get into, with 119 applications per vacancy. Only retail and transport employers had more.
What are consumer goods (FMCG) companies?
You'll need to have a good understanding of what fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies do to apply successfully. FMCG businesses that recruit large numbers of graduates are often responsible for big, household-name brands. They typically sell large quantities of relatively low-cost products that customers buy on a regular basis, such as cleaning products, toiletries, cosmetics and confectionery.
Consumer goods tend to be manufactured in high volumes and transported to the shops via extensive distribution networks. FMCG businesses invest in marketing to create brand awareness and attract loyal customers, and carry out scientific research to develop new products and refine their current offering.
You might be interested in a supply chain role with a consumer goods company. The life cycle of a consumer product from the sourcing of raw materials to the point of sale is referred to as the supply chain, and this series of processes needs to be as efficient as possible in order to meet consumers’ needs and maximise profits. Minimising environmental impact is also a key consideration.
All consumer goods companies want to sharpen their competitive edge and ensure their future success by recruiting graduates with the right skills and attitudes. Their employees need to be able to respond quickly and decisively to both problems and opportunities in order to overcome difficulties and achieve commercial goals.
You’ll need good commercial awareness to land a place on a FMCG graduate scheme. This means researching the market and being aware of the competition, and knowing which brands belong to which company.
What graduate schemes do FMCG companies offer?
FMCG companies are involved in such a wide range of activities that they tend to offer a broad range of graduate schemes to match, usually covering some or all of the following areas:
- research and development
- supply chain
- sales and marketing
- IT, ICT, IS (information systems) or technological development
- engineering development
- quality assurance
- accounting and finance
- customer care
What qualifications and skills do I need to get hired?
Qualification requirements vary, and tend to be more specific for specialised technical roles in areas such as engineering and logistics. A 2.1 degree in any subject is the standard requirement for many, but not all, graduate schemes and programmes offered by the most popular graduate employers in this area.
- Unilever wants a 2.1 minimum from applicants to the Unilever Future Leaders Programme (UFLP). Any degree is accepted for most roles. However, for research and development you'll need a strong technical qualification in a chemical, biological, physical, food-related or materials science or a similar subject. For the research and development packaging graduate scheme you'll need a strong technical qualification in an engineering subject: mechanical engineering or manufacturing engineering are ideal. You don’t need a technological qualification for the technological development scheme.
- L’Oréal’s basic entry requirements for its year-long graduate scheme in the UK and Ireland are a 2.1 or above in any degree discipline, plus a minimum of 300 UCAS points.
- Mars wants candidates with either 280 or 300 UCAS points (not including general studies), depending on the programme, and a 2.1 or above. For some programmes you'll need a degree in a relevant subject: for example, for the engineering development programme you'll need a 2.1 in electrical, mechanical, manufacturing or chemical engineering.
- Danone requires at least a 2.1 degree and a minimum of 300 UCAS points, and like other consumer goods employers, has specific degree requirements in some areas. For example, you’ll need a degree in either nutrition or dietetics for its nutrition graduate programme.
- Kerry Group also has specific degree requirements for some, but not all, areas, and asks for a 2.1 in computer science, business information systems, engineering, digital marketing or graphic design for its ICT graduate programme.
- Procter & Gamble recruits candidates who are academically strong – you’ll need to check against the individual job description for details.
Like many other graduate employers, FMCG companies want to take on team players who have the potential to lead, and who are capable of innovation, adaptation and negotiation. They also tend to look for graduate recruits who have strong communication and problem solving skills, who are flexible and adaptable, and who have good commercial awareness.
For example, Kerry Group looks for flexible, mobile team players who are creative, forward-thinking, and driven. Language skills, a global outlook and a willingness to relocate could all help you get a place on a consumer goods graduate scheme, as FMCG companies seek to increase their presence in developing markets.
Internships and work experience in consumer goods
Consumer goods businesses offer many internship and work experience schemes, and these can give you a real advantage when it comes to applying for jobs and could even lead to you being fast-tracked onto the employer’s graduate scheme. However, if you put together a strong application and show the skills recruiters are looking for, you should still be in with a good chance even if you don’t have directly relevant work experience with a consumer goods business.
This is a career area where any experience you have of part-time retail work is potentially relevant, as you may well have worked in an outlet that sold consumer goods. Work experience or extracurricular activities can also provide you with examples of your teamworking and communication skills and the other competencies FMCG companies are looking for.
The application system for internships is often similar to that for graduate schemes, but slightly shorter. While the internship application process may seem demanding, it’s worth remembering that you could be fast-tracked onto the graduate scheme if you succeed.
For example, if you apply to Unilever’s summer programme you’ll need to fill out an application form, do a telephone interview and attend a half-day selection day. For the financial management option, there’s also an online assessment. If you apply to the graduate scheme, you’ll be invited to complete an online application and a profile assessment – a series of online games. The next stage is recording a digital interview, followed by a discovery centre day.
If you are interested in working for Procter & Gamble, consider applying for its student programme, a three-day workshop available to students in their final year and graduates. This is a good opportunity to familiarise yourself with the company.
You should also check to see if a consumer goods employer you are interested in is going to be visiting your university campus. These events usually take place in the autumn.
Some employers run online initiatives or competitions as a way of making contact with talented graduates. For example, L’Oréal’s Brandstorm is a well-established online business game that has now evolved into a way of enabling students to develop innovative projects, with regional finalists invited to pitch their projects at an innovation fair in Paris.
What is the recruitment process for a FMCG graduate scheme?
The recruitment process typically involves a combination of the following:
- Online application.
- Online assessment, which could include aptitude tests or online games. Danone asks candidates to complete SHL verbal and numerical reasoning tests. Procter & Gamble uses an online system that assesses your background, experiences, interests and work-related attitudes.
- Video interview. This is used by employers including Kerry Group and Unilever.
- Interview. Procter & Gamble asks candidates to take part in two interviews but does not run a traditional assessment centre.
- Assessment centre.
The busiest time for applications to FMCG graduate programmes is October to January, but some programmes open as early as August. Vacancies may also be advertised outside the traditional recruitment cycle. Procter & Gamble recruits graduates when there is a business need and undergraduates who have attended the student programme will have an advantage when applying for entry-level jobs.