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The skills logistics and supply chain employers look for in their graduate hires.

Key skills for logistics and supply chain graduate jobs

TARGETjobs speaks to graduate recruiters at DHL and Associated British Foods to find out what they are really looking for from applicants to their logistics, supply chain and operations schemes.

We actively look for good communication and relationship-building skills. – Mari Pugh, Associated British Foods

Here are the skills graduates need to impress recruiters in the logistics and supply chain sector. You’ll probably have natural flair for some of these, while others will take more practice – that's why we’ve included our tips for developing them.

Logistics and supply chain skill #1: people skills

This is the skill that both recruiters brought up first, which may come as a surprise if logistics and supply chain sounds to you like a particularly mechanised sector (and indeed, labour-saving technology certainly has a crucial role to play). Chrissie Gray, graduate talent manager at DHL, says, ‘Logistics is about processes and being logical, but it’s also about people. Candidates need to demonstrate that they can interact well with other people during the application and at the assessment day.’

Mari Pugh, graduate talent officer at Associated British Foods, says, ‘We actively look for good communication and relationship-building skills. This is particularly important because graduates on our supply chain placements work in a variety of different environments with people who might be older than them or more experienced, or come from a different background or culture. They can look to our graduates for direction in their day-to-day role.’

TARGETjobs tip: At university don’t just mix with other students – get out into the wider community, whether through part-time work or volunteering, so that you gain experience of interacting with people from different stages and walks of life. You can use this experience to give you examples of your interpersonal skills for graduate job applications and interviews.

Logistics and supply chain skill #2: teamwork

Chrissie says, ‘Teamwork skills are important and being able to work with all kinds of different people. If you’re working in a warehouse you’ll be part of one team that works on one task, and your team needs to work effectively because what your team does will have a knock-on effect on the other teams in the warehouse.’

TARGETjobs tip: Take opportunities to work as part of a team; you might take a role in the committee of a university society. When doing so, consider everyone in the team, their skills and the best way to interact with them to help you achieve a common goal – and try to practise this. If someone is knowledgeable in an area that’s being discussed but hasn’t said anything, you could ask them what they think.

Logistics and supply chain skill #3: commercial awareness

Chrissie Gray, graduate talent manager at DHL, says, ‘You need to be aware of what good customer service is and to keep the end goal in mind. This is because we work in third-party logistics (doing logistics on behalf of our customers) so we have to be mindful of who our customer’s customer is. Our customers are supermarkets and airlines, while their customer is the consumer on the street.’

TARGETjobs tip: Commercial awareness is essentially having an understanding of a business' activities and the marketplace in which it operates. Part of this is being aware of who the customer is and what service they need. One of the best ways to become more commercially aware is to get some work experience in a business and think about how it changes its activities according to its clients’ needs. For example, if you work in a supermarket, what does the branch stock up on when there’s a sunny spell? How will this affect businesses in the earlier stages of the supply chain?

Logistics and supply chain skill #4: adaptability

Mari says, ‘Adaptability includes the ability to adjust to different environments easily, and might be demonstrated by living abroad or in a new city, or facing cultural challenges.’

Chrissie says, ‘I look for flexibility – in terms of the role an applicant is willing to do and in terms of the location they are willing to work in. In addition, they need resilience, whether that’s for going to a new, unfamiliar part of the country or for entering a new working environment.

TARGETjobs tip: Don’t apply for a scheme that requires you to relocate unless you are sure you are willing to. Recruiters tell us that a surprising number of graduates they hire show reluctance or are surprised to have to move location for different placements, even when it is very clearly stated on the job advert.

Logistics and supply chain skill #5: enthusiasm for logistics and/or supply chain

Mari has a request: ‘Particularly on application forms, we’d like to see more of why applicants have chosen supply chain and operations. Generally applicants haven’t done a supply chain degree, so they need to tell us what piqued their interest for doing this programme over another.’

Technically, enthusiasm isn’t a skill, but it will go a long way towards helping you perform well at work. For example, it is part of being able to ‘motivate and encourage others on your team’, which is one of the skills that recruiters at Associated British Foods have on their wishlists.

TARGETjobs tip: Think back to what originally made you look into careers in logistics or supply chain. Do some further research into the industry (about the latest innovations, collaborations between companies and any news related to the employer you’re applying to) to show you really are keen. Look further than the employer’s own website; industry-specific publications and websites, as well as employers’ pages on social media, are good places to do further research.

Logistics and supply chain skill #6: analysis, judgement and decision-making

Mari says that one of the things that Associate British Foods looks for is ‘the ability to make quick decisions based on good judgement and analysis of a situation’. As a graduate you might be on a manufacturing placement, and receive data that you have to analyse to see how you can make production more efficient, taking into account staff numbers, shift patterns and how long it takes ingredients or materials to reach the factory. Being able to interpret data and written information and consider the people involved is essential in effective decision-making.

TARGETjobs tip: Get involved in extracurricular activities at uni and don’t be scared to step up and take the lead. This is bound to give you opportunities to practise your problem solving skills and trust your judgement, as will part-time work and travel. For example, if you organise your sports team’s travel to an away game, you’ll have to take the lead if something doesn’t go according to plan.

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