‘We are opening 50 new stores a year or more (six a month on average), so there is a constant demand for skilled graduates to join the business,’ says Richard Holloway.
Aldi’s area management graduate scheme is not for those who lack confidence. Just 14 weeks into the year-long training programme, you could be managing your own store. Following the programme, you typically manage three to four stores. Those graduates who are natural leaders and thrive on challenge are probably best suited to the scheme, as it has an unusually high level of responsibility for graduate retail management schemes and a training programme that its own graduates have called ‘demanding’.
Applications for Aldi's graduate scheme are open all year round. However, its website states that positions are filled quickly, particularly in the autumn, so it's worth applying early.
There are five stages to Aldi's recruitment process – an online application and online tests including situational judgement tests; psychometric testing; a five-minute 'Who am I?' video; a group assessment and a final interview with a regional managing director. We asked Richard for his advice on excelling at the 'Who am I?' video, the group interview and the second, final interview.
Use the five-minute 'Who am I?' video to show off your skills
If successful in the situational judgement and psychometric testing, candidates are required to submit a five-minute video explaining why they have the skills and attributes necessary to be a successful area manager. You will be asked questions and given a limited amount of time to record your answers, indicated by an on-screen countdown. You can view the questions and practise your answers before you record them. Aldi recruiters consider the quality of your video important – to appear ‘competent and professional’ it is advised that you film in a brightly lit room with no background noise, use a plain backdrop, keep your webcam at eye-level, look directly into the camera and ensure that you are dressed smartly.
Aldi recommends that you treat this video like a first interview – it is your opportunity to pitch yourself to recruiters, showing them that you are a ‘determined, charismatic leader’ and the best candidate for the area manager role. Aldi recruiters look for more than just good academic results, so you need to draw on examples outside of your academic study to demonstrate this.
‘We look for qualities beyond academic qualifications – specifically organisation, teamworking and leadership skills,’ says Richard. What’s important to Aldi is that you have the skills and qualities to achieve what you’ve set out to – don’t forget that retail is a target-driven environment.
It is important that you fully understand the skills that Aldi recruiters are looking for. For example, in the past, they have asked candidates to give examples of times when they have demonstrated ‘impressive levels of dedication’. The recruiters also emphasise the level of commitment that this role demands and the resilience required to handle the responsibilities of being an area manager. What do dedication and resilience mean in a careers context? This is partly about having suffered personal inconvenience, done more than is expected of you or overcome unexpected difficulties to get something done. If you are resilient you will recover quickly from difficulties without letting them hinder your progress.
For a list of the core skills Aldi is looking for in its graduates, take a look at its advertisement in this year's UK 300. The skills in bold have been emphasised as especially important to Aldi.
Demonstrate you know what it takes to lead
Your ability to lead others is, obviously, essential to the role and is assessed throughout the selection process. You need an understanding of what it takes to be a successful leader in retail: ‘We are looking for candidates to motivate teams of 15–30 employees in each of the 3-4 stores they manage,’ says Richard. ‘They should be able to use their own distinct leadership personalities to get the best out of their store staff.’
So, among other things, candidates require an understanding of:
- the aims and constraints of working in retail – for example, the need to make a profit, an awareness of the competition in the local area
- motivational techniques – such as setting clear expectations, ensuring fairness and finding a range of ways to reward good performance
- circumstances that can affect motivation either positively or negatively
- when to empower others to make decisions and when to intervene.
Lack of research lets candidates down – at all stages of the application process
‘The candidates who impress are the ones who have attained a sound understanding of us as a business, the nature of our stores and the nature of the role,’ says Richard. Good research should start before careers fairs (where those who have done their research impress Richard’s team) and carry right through to the final interview. ‘At the end of our group assessment interviews we ask candidates to visit their local Aldi store to become familiar with the environment and our products,’ Richard adds. ‘Some candidates don’t do sufficient research and this becomes quite apparent during the final business interview.’
When looking around the store, it’s a good idea to think about how it differentiates itself from its competitors and who its consumer market is. How well does it serve their needs? Would you do anything differently?
The group assessments are tough – and you’ll need to make decisions with limited information
‘Our feedback from trainees suggests that the group interview sessions are the most challenging for candidates as they are only provided with a limited amount of information beforehand,’ says Richard. ‘This is deliberate to see whether candidates are able to think on their feet and respond to a variety of situations.’ You join several other graduates at the group interviews and will be put through a series of different activities designed to reveal your strengths, teamworking, problem-solving and leadership abilities. Richard advises candidates to approach scenarios from a practical point of view and with common sense.
At final interview, be prepared to talk about yourself and your motivations
You can expect to be asked about Aldi’s business strategy and products as part of your interview, but don’t be surprised by more personal questions: ‘I always ask candidates to talk through their upbringing and what motivates and interests them, as for me it gives an insight into their personality,’ says Richard. As always with interview questions, indicate how your motivations, interests, qualities and personality make you right for the job.