The John Lewis Partnership (JLP) encapsulates both the John Lewis and the Waitrose brands. While applications for its graduate scheme are paused for now, applications are open for its industrial placement years, starting in 2019.
The recruitment process for industrial placements may include:
- a number of online tests, including a questionnaire, situational judgement tests and verbal and numerical reasoning tests
- an application form and CV upload
- an assessment centre, including group and individual activities, and an interview discussing your role and the skillset.
TARGETjobs spoke to top John Lewis Partnership recruiters Becky Vieites, resourcing strategy manager, and Michelle Goodin, resourcing consultant. They told us how you can turn your application and interview performance from good to great.
1. Stress your leadership skills
Whichever scheme you apply for, JLP recruiters are looking to gauge your future leadership potential. ‘We assess all candidates against a framework of defined leadership behaviours,’ says Becky.
It’s worth checking out the 'Partnership Spirit and Behaviours' page in the ‘About the Partnership’ section of the John Lewis Partnership careers website. You can use this information to inform your behaviour at the assessment centre and the answers you give to interview questions – whether they are competency based (eg if you're asked to describe a time when you demonstrated a particular skill) or hypothetical (‘What would you do if…?’).
For example, the website states as part of the ‘spirit’ that employees ‘take responsibility for our business success’. Whether you’re asked to talk about a time when you successfully overcame a problem or demonstrated your leadership skills (or any other competency-based question), emphasise the part you played. If you’re talking about something you did as part of a team, try to refer to ‘I’ rather than ‘we’: how did your own decision-making ability contribute to success? How did you make sure a quieter person in the team felt able to make a point (particularly if their contribution helped to bring about success)? You don't have to make yourself out to be the most important person in the team for every question, but just make sure you demonstrate how your leadership skills supported a move towards positive results/change when it's relevant to the question.
If asked directly for an example of your leadership, don’t think that you have to give a high-powered example. ‘We are aware that students are unlikely to have an example of where they’ve led a team of 25 people,’ says Becky. ‘However, we want to give them an opportunity to talk about how they have demonstrated other qualities of leadership. You might have mentored or supported a school pupil, for example.’
2. Show that you understand what a partnership means culturally
JLP positions itself as different from most retailers: it is not owned by external shareholders, but by members of the workforce themselves, who are ‘Partners’ in the business rather than employees. Think through the impact that this business model has on their performance in a competitive, retail environment – and how Partners are treated. ‘Applicants need to understand why we are a partnership and what being a Partner means,’ says Michelle. ‘It’s not only about demonstrating our partnership principles and spirit, but understanding the advantages that the partnership gives us in the marketplace.’
Explore the ‘About the Partnership’ section of the John Lewis website. Then, throughout the recruitment process, prove that you share the values and approaches reflected here. In your application and at interview, provide examples of times when you demonstrated them. Examples could be from your part-time jobs, a placement year, involvement in sports and social activities or any voluntary work. Epitomise those traits in your behaviour at the assessment centre.
For example, JLP puts a lot of emphasis on teams working together with mutual respect. It will therefore stand you in good stead at interview if you can talk about times when you maintained good relationships with team members, even when you disagreed about how to achieve an objective. Be respectful to others in assessment centre group exercises.
3. Show that you understand what a partnership means commercially
Show that you know about the Partnership’s business strategy and the advantages of the Partnership’s culture and ownership structure can give you over rivals. For example, it is possible to argue that, while the Partnership needs to return a dividend for its Partners, the ownership structure allows the management to focus on sustaining a long-term future for the group rather than chasing short-term profits for external shareholders.
‘Find out about our expansion plans,’ advises Becky. ‘It impresses in interview if you can say that you’ve read a news article on us, then talk us through the ramifications of the story and ask us further questions about it.’
4. Do some proper competitor analysis
Every Partner needs to be aware of what’s happening at the retailer’s rivals. That’s true whether you are in a customer-facing role or a more ‘back office’ role. You need to research what JLP’s competitors are doing and think through how the Partnership is responding to those actions and how successful that response is.
‘Candidates often identify like-for-like competitors, but think more widely about the type of competition we face,’ says Michelle. ‘For example, they might identify other department stores, but don’t consider online-only competitors.’
5. Know the scheme inside and out to demonstrate your motivation
JLP really wants to hire people who genuinely want to work for them. To prove this, you need to do your research on the scheme. Start by reading the information on its careers website.
If you can, talk to current Partners. You may meet them at university careers fairs or be able to connect with them via social media (in particular LinkedIn). Try to get a picture of what it’s really like to work in a particular role and the opportunities and the challenges it presents.
‘It’s important that you demonstrate that you genuinely know what being on the scheme and working in the role will be like,’ says Becky. ‘You should then be able to tell us why you are the best candidate for it.’