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getting onto a graduate scheme in logistics, transport and supply

Getting onto a graduate scheme in logistics, transport and supply chain

Not sure how to kick-start your career in logistics, transport or supply chain? Read our top tips to help you secure a place on a graduate scheme.
Talk up experience that displays logical thinking, decision-making ability, organisational skills and attention to detail.

Graduate training schemes are an advantageous way to enter the logistics, transport and supply chain sector. You could progress quickly from a logistics training scheme to managing a small warehouse, and in just a few years could be running a distribution centre with hundreds of staff.

Get logistics-related work experience

Before you launch into applying for graduate schemes, it’s a good idea to get some relevant experience. Not only will this help you decide whether it is the right career for you, it will also be a great opportunity to develop some of the key skills that logistics, transport and supply chain employers value most.

There aren’t as many formal internship schemes in this sector as, say, investment banking, but they’re not unheard of. For example, global pharmaceutical company GSK runs a supply chain industrial placement which lasts for one year. Supply chain company Gist offers 12-month industrial placements for university students in their operations department.

Don’t panic if you haven’t managed to get a formal placement though – there are tonnes of other ways to accrue experience. For instance, a manual job in a warehouse will give you an understanding of the process of getting goods from A to B and the challenges faced by teams you might manage or work alongside in a graduate role.

Know when to apply

Make sure you apply before the deadline. For many formal graduate schemes, you should apply during the first term of your penultimate year at university. Applications usually open in the autumn (August or September) and close in the winter (November or December). While some will remain open later than this and you can apply to some schemes all year long, you will have the best chance of securing a position if you stay organised and send out applications between August and October.

Tailor your application

The application process for graduate training schemes with large employers in logistics, transport and supply chain typically begins with an online application form. It’s important first and foremost to check that you meet the criteria for the scheme you’re applying for, and then make it obvious on your application that you do. The requirements differ across different companies and roles. Royal Mail's logistics programme for central and special events specifies a 2.1 in any discipline. To qualify for the logistics programme for network optimisation with Royal Mail, applicants can have a 2.2 but their degree must be in maths, geography, English or computer science.

While the skills required for a graduate career in this sector are similar across the board, employers tend to place emphasis on particular skills and attributes. For instance, Nestlé places emphasis on the ability to think both creatively and logically, while DHL and Tesco focus on teamworking skills and a positive attitude in their job specifications.

The core skills to emphasise when applying for logistics, transport or supply chain jobs are:

  • commercial awareness
  • organisational skills
  • problem solving and analytical skills
  • numerical ability
  • communication skills
  • people and project management skills
  • strategic thinking.

The key is to read the job description and person specification carefully before applying to see what skills the employer is looking for. For more advice, have a read of the graduate's guide to job application forms.

Show you have key logistics, supply chain and transport skills

This doesn’t mean simply stating that you have a particular skill. You need to prove it. Instead of saying: ‘I’m good at handling responsibility’, back up your claim with a concrete example. Write about a position of responsibility you’ve held to add credibility and make it as specific as you can to your chosen sector. For example, if you were president of the netball club at university and you planned the team’s route to away games, explain that you organised the transport.

Use the STAR technique to keep your answers to the point. Describe the Situation, the Tasks you had to complete, the Actions you took and the subsequent Results.

Assessment centres: showcase your logistics suitability

If your application makes it past the first stage, it is likely that you will be required to attend an assessment centre. They generally last one or two days and involve a series of tests, group exercises and interviews.

For logistics, transport and supply chain graduate schemes, it’s important to perform well in group tasks. As a trainee transport manager, distribution manager or supply chain manager you could find yourself leading a warehousing workforce or helping to run a centre for receiving perishable goods. So it’s vital that you can build and maintain positive working relationships. Don’t undermine other candidates in group exercises; be sure to listen to and praise other people’s good ideas and build on them if you can. Work collaboratively – don’t boss others around.

Find out more about acing your logistics or supply chain assessment centre.

Get set for interview success

Be sure to do your research. This doesn’t just mean memorising three facts from the company’s website. Brush up on the organisation’s business plan to show your commercial awareness and get clued up on industry trends to demonstrate a strategic understanding. You should also be aware of competitors.

It’s a good idea to use social media for research. Use LinkedIn to find out about the company you’re applying to and its competitors. On Twitter, DHL Express UK regularly posts industry-wide news updates; Rolls Royce UK provides followers with information about the company – often including links to stories by Rolls Royce employees (about their experiences with the company) and the posts by Unilever UK & Ire demonstrate the ethos and concerns of the company and its brands – including commitment to diversity, sustainability and the support of young people. On Facebook, pages such as Supply Chain Management Review and Advanced Supply Chain update followers on the key issues impacting the industry.

Use your research to find out more about the skills desired by the company and industry; talk about experiences in which you demonstrated these during your interview. As a starting point, remember to showcase your aptitude for logical thinking, decision-making, organisation and attention to detail.

Be prepared for psychometric tests

Particularly if you’re applying to one of the leading graduate employers, it’s likely that you will be required to carry out a psychometric test – either after you submit your application form, alongside an interview or at an assessment centre. Read our article on what to expect from psychometric tests for more information and follow the links to free practice online tests to make sure you’re as prepared as possible.

Visit our employer hubs as a starting point for your research.

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