Getting onto a graduate scheme in logistics, transport and supply chain
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, DHL runs student internship programmes. The application process for DHL’s programme consists of a CV, online assessment, telephone interview and assessment centre. 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.
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. Companies in this sector differ in what they look for, for example, Sainsbury’s requires at least a 2.1 in any discipline for its logistics programme, but some employers want specific degrees such as civil engineering for some transport planning roles.
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, Morrisons says its logistics graduates need to be able to solve logistical problems and should be engaging managers. But for EDF Energy and Nestlé, the most attractive supply chain candidates are graduates who look to improve processes, anticipate and deal with problems effectively and go the extra mile to provide great customer service.
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.
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.
Prepare to succeed at interviews
Be sure to do some thorough research. This doesn’t just mean memorising three facts from the company’s website. Brush up on the organisation’s business plan to show that your commercial awareness and get clued up on industry trends to demonstrate a strategic understanding. You should also be aware of competitors.
Remember to talk up achievements and experience that display logical thinking, your ability to make quick and important decisions, organisational skills and your attention to detail.
Visit our employer hubs as a starting point for your research.