Associated British Foods products

Answering the Associated British Foods application question 'Why do you want to join this graduate scheme at ABF?'

Your answer needs to prove to the recruiter that you want to work for ABF over any other employer.

Associated British Foods’ application question ‘Why do you want to join this graduate scheme at ABF?’ is asking you two things: why this particular scheme and why ABF?

‘We want you to be really clear on why you’re applying to the scheme, have done your research into the function and understand why your behaviours and competencies are a good fit,’ says Mari Pugh, graduate talent officer for ABF UK Grocery.

This question can’t be answered on the spot: you have 500 words to play with so you need to think about what you want to write before diving in. ‘The biggest mistake a candidate can make is rushing the application and not spending enough time thinking through a quality response or doing some research,’ warns Mari.

How to tackle this question

  1. Split the question in two – why this particular scheme? and why ABF?
  2. Do your research – identify what makes ABF stand out to you
  3. Show how your personality and skills suit ABF/ the scheme you’re applying to

Do your research into Associated British Foods

If you’re applying to ABF’s grocery graduate scheme, you should be familiar with the brands they are behind. This includes big household names – Kingsmill, Ryvita and Twinings to name a few.

Being able to list all of ABF’s products, while demonstrating an impressive memory, isn’t enough to answer this question, though. You will need to dig deeper under the surface. Mari says: ‘Do your research: show us you’re passionate about our brands and products, our story and the work that we do. Try to get to know our values too.’

Remember that ABF is made up of five divisions: grocery, agriculture, retail, sugar and ingredients. It’s good to be aware of all the divisions (did you know that ABF owns Primark?) but the graduate scheme is specifically in the grocery division so make sure you’ve researched this in a lot more depth.

ABF research checklist

Start by looking at the ‘About us’ and ‘Responsibility’ sections of ABF’s corporate website. Then try a Google search to see what you can find or even pop to your local supermarket to see ABF’s products in action.

Familiarise yourself with:

  • the structure of ABF
  • the history of ABF
  • ABF’s values
  • ABF's approach to corporate responsibility
  • ABF's four pillars: environment, people, neighbour and health (look at how the grocery division approaches these four pillars particularly)
  • the brands ABF works on eg Silver Spoon and Blue Dragon
  • recent product launches
  • the scheme – its structure, the rotations you’ll experience, typical tasks and the training and mentoring on offer

Tip one: use your research to explain why ABF and why the scheme

Your answer needs to prove to the recruiter that you want to work for ABF over any other employer. For example, why did you decide to pursue a career as a scientist in the food industry rather than, say, the pharmaceutical industry?

While you’re doing your research into ABF, note down anything that you were impressed by. You can then use your research to articulate why you want to work for ABF and why specifically in the grocery division.

If your reason for applying to ABF is the opportunity to work on major grocery brands, mention the brands that particularly interest you. For example you may like that AB World Foods specialise in ethnic brands such as Patak’s and Tabasco. Explain why this interests you and why it fuels your ambition to work for ABF.

Alternatively, if your reason for wanting to work for ABF is that it’s committed to helping others, you could talk about the Garfield Weston Foundation, set up by the founder of ABF, or one of ABF’s charitable projects that you read about and admired, such as the Thailand Ovaltine Foundation. Go one step further and link back to yourself by talking about any previous volunteering or charity work that you have been involved in.

Tip two: match your personality with ABF’s values

It’s important to show that you are going to behave in line with ABF’s values. ABF’s grocery division encompasses seven businesses: AB World Foods, Allied Bakeries, Silver Spoon, Speedibake, Twinings, Westmill and Jordans, Dorset & Ryvita. These businesses all have their own set of values or behaviours so visit their separate websites to find out what these values are.

You’ll find that the different businesses often have similar values. For example, AB World Foods’ value of being pioneering, Westmill’s value of thinking differently and Twinings’ value of finding new ways are essentially all about daring to take calculated risks, challenging the status quo, pursuing opportunities and finding creative solutions.

Once you’ve identified the key values across ABF’s businesses, you can demonstrate that you share these values in your answer by including examples of times when you’ve behaved in ways that complement these values. If you want to show that you have an entrepreneurial spirit in common with ABF, give an example of an idea you came up with. What was your idea? How did you persuade other people to get on board? Did you encounter any obstacles? This also gives you an opportunity to talk about another value common across ABF’s businesses – collaborating with others.

Tip three: give evidence of times you’ve exhibited ABF’s competencies

Identify the key competencies required for:

  1. Working at ABF in general – think about what behaviours fit with ABF’s values. To collaborate effectively, for example, you need to be good at communicating and be a team player.
  2. Your specific scheme – think about what jobs you might be doing and what skills you’ll need. Again, use the job description and profiles of current graduates on ABF’s graduate website for guidance.

Once you’ve pinpointed the key competencies you want to write about, sprinkle them in your answer. Draw on your degree, work experience and extracurricular activities to back up your statements. Write about when you have demonstrated the skill and then explain how this is relevant to ABF. So rather than saying ‘I have strong communication skills’, say ‘I think the strong communication skills I developed when I…will help me on the customer development scheme at ABF because…'

Tip four: show that you’re one of ABF’s future leaders

One of the skills you should definitely mention is leadership. ABF is looking for graduates who will become its future leaders. ‘Show us that you’ve got experience of communicating with lots of different types of people and that you have taken the lead and produced outcomes on projects, sports teams or in previous work experience,’ says Mari.

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