Application and interview tips for Motability operations graduate programme

A lot of candidates tell us what they think we want to hear rather than what they actually think.

There are two things that really matter to Motability Operations Ltd when it comes to recruitment: being passionate about the role and being commercially minded. It recruitment process focuses on this and, more specifically, on finding out more about what motivates you and where your interests lie.

We met with Eleanor East, project specialist in HR at Motability Operations Ltd and she explained the company to us in a little more detail. ’We provide access to affordable, worry-free mobility and are the UK’s largest car leasing company – this means we purchase around 10% of all the new cars sold in the UK and have over 600,000 customers.’

Motability Operations Ltd delivers the Motability Scheme under contract to Motability, a national charity that sets the strategic policies and oversee the scheme’s performance to ensure it meets the needs of disabled people.

Eleanor adds: 'We employ around 1,000 people across London and Bristol, who work in a variety of roles including customer services, marketing, pricing and asset management, dealer and manufacturer relations, vehicle remarketing and finance. To deliver extraordinary customer service, we need to employ highly motivated people who have a good combination of commercial sense and real enthusiasm for meeting our customers' needs. By commercial sense we mean demonstrating knowledge and understanding of what is going on in the business world.'

We asked Eleanor for her insights into working at Motability Operations and her tips on how to approach the recruitment process.

The recruitment process for Motability Operations is streamlined but thorough

'We have designed our graduate recruitment process to ensure we have sufficient opportunity to get to know candidates properly and, likewise, give candidates an opportunity to better understand the organisation,' says Eleanor. It involves:

  1. An application form, which includes submitting a CV and answering a series of application questions, which include ‘Why do you want to work for Motability Operations?’, ‘What are your career aspirations?’, ‘What motivates you?’ and ‘What is your greatest achievement?’
  2. A telephone interview
  3. An assessment day which includes a networking event, a presentation, an interview and a chance to meet current Motability Operations’ graduates
  4. A final interview with senior leaders.

Applications are welcome from any degree background, but candidates are required to have, or be predicted, a 2.1 classification. In addition, candidates need to have undertaken some work experience. As Eleanor explains, 'Candidates who have previous experience of working within a business environment tend to perform best during the application process but they also get more out of the programme. This doesn’t mean you have to have years of experience – just something that demonstrates your knowledge of working in a business environment.'

Throughout the application process, the main focus of the recruitment team will be to see if you possess, and can demonstrate, the company values: excellence, empathy, forward thinking, inclusion and empowerment. If you can align yourself to these values and demonstrate them, you will do well. 'All employees are expected to demonstrate the company values throughout their employment with Motability Operations,' Eleanor explains. 'Once you understand our values, you will better understand who we are as an organisation.'

'Our value of “inclusion” is an important one that we reflect throughout our recruitment practices,’ she continues. ‘We recognise that everyone has differences in capabilities, needs and aspirations, and we aim for a culture where people are free to flourish and their contribution is equally rewarded, regardless of race, national or ethnic origin, disability, or gender. This approach is reflected in our recruitment processes.'

Check that the Motability graduate programme is for you

The Motability Operations graduate programme is a generalist scheme, with three six-month rotations across the business. These rotations are designed to provide you with the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills and will also better equip you to make an educated choice about your career with the company once the programme has finished. In addition, Motability finds that graduates with a broader understanding of the whole organisation are more able to add value in their end roles.

'We are looking for graduates who want to work for a commercial organisation and are business minded,’ says Eleanor. ’However, you don’t need to know the exact career path that you want to have when you first join the business – and, even if you do, this often changes once you have been through the programme.'

Be yourself during the recruitment process

'A lot of candidates tell us what they think we want to hear rather than what they actually think,’ says Eleanor. ’We want people who are comfortable being themselves and who are aware of their development areas. We do not expect the finished article; we are looking for people who show great potential.'

Make sure you have researched the company thoroughly before applying

Throughout the recruitment process, Motability Operations will look for you to demonstrate how well you understand the organisation and why you want to work there.

Eleanor explains why the question ‘Why do you want to work for us?’ is so important: 'Our employees are all hugely passionate about what they do and we want to make sure our graduates feel the same way. This question is one opportunity to show your research at the application stage and you can expect to be asked questions on this topic throughout the application process. Our business model is unique and we want to make sure you have understood this before they start working for us.’

Motability Operations only accept between two and four graduates each year. 'The size of our graduate programme differentiates us from other organisations,' explains Eleanor. ’At Motability Operations the placements are driven by business need meaning graduates are required to learn quickly on the job and are actively contributing to the business very early on. We also have a fairly flat hierarchy, so graduates are exposed to senior managers across the business from day one.’

She also points to the support on the graduate programme. 'You have both a mentor, who shapes your experiences on the graduate scheme, and a sponsor, who helps guide you through the early stage of your career at Motability Operations. Your mentor and sponsor have usually interviewed you, see something special and maintain a close relationship with you.'

More information on both the organisation and the graduate programme is detailed on the Motability Operations website. Eleanor recommends you watch the videos to get a real feel for what the company is like.

Complete the application form honestly and with examples

Eleanor tells us that the candidates’ application forms that really stand out are those that are well thought through, honest and include some different examples. 'We get a lot of candidates saying, for example, that they are motivated by meeting business targets but they can’t demonstrate when they have done this or explain sufficiently why it motivated them,’ she says. ’When giving your answer, you should make sure you have explained yourself properly and provide the interviewer with sufficient context to enable them to assess whether you are a good fit for the company. When thinking of examples to use, consider whether the example you have chosen demonstrates the skills and company values that we are looking for.'

The recruiters will therefore particularly value application answers that are detailed and explain the context of the situation in such a way that the recruiters don’t have questions in their minds when reading your answer.

'When answering questions about your greatest achievement or doing something that motivated you, use the STARR structure: explain the Situation, the Tasks you had to complete, the Actions you took, the Results of those actions and any Reflections on how things went,' suggests Eleanor. 'We want to understand the background and what you did personally (what role you played, rather than the team). For example, how did you manage things and interact with others? How did your actions help the results?'

Tailor your CV but keep it simple

Motability Operations provides basic guidance on what your CV should cover via an attachment downloaded from its website: follow it.

However, to impress with your CV, go beyond these basics. Use your CV to prove that you want to join Motability Operations. ’Don’t send us your standard CV,’ advises Eleanor. ’Tailor it to us. To do this, ensure that your work experience and extracurricular activities highlight how you have acted in accordance with Motability Operations’ company values; point out times when you have maximised commercial opportunities and shown persistence, passion, drive and resilience.’

It’s worth noting that Motability Operations has no preference over the structure or headings on your CV – but Eleanor does say that over-complicated structures can make it more difficult for the company to assess your potential. 'We like neat, clearly laid out CVs that don’t require us to have to guess what you’ve done or achieved,' she says. 'Focus it around your personal statement (which you should also tailor to us), contact details, academic history, work experience and extracurricular activities.'

Double check your dates and explain any gaps. 'It’s perfectly OK for you to say that you haven’t worked during every holiday because you’ve been concentrating on your studies or been travelling; it helps us understand you a bit better,’ Eleanor adds.

One extra thing: 'Read it through again and again, and get someone to proofread it to check for errors. Eight out of ten of the CVs we see contain some kind of mistake.'

See also: TARGETjobs example graduate CV and our ‘big guide' to writing your own CV

Use a range of examples in your interviews

The telephone interview is with a member of the HR team. 'We ask further questions around your motivations. We want to find out more about you and whether you fit with our company values,' Eleanor says. 'You can expect a range of questions and we find that the more examples someone can give us, the better. We get to know them, their personality and their preferences, helping to assess whether they would be a good match for our programme.'

See also: TARGETjobs’ tips on succeeding at telephone interviews for graduate jobs.

Plan ahead for the assessment centre

The assessment centre lasts for half a day and typically comprises of a combination of exercises including a presentation, a face-to-face interview with managers from across the business and a networking session. You will be given time to prepare for the presentation a couple of days before the assessment centre and Eleanor recommends you use this time wisely. 'While the assessment centre has been designed to allow us to get to know you better, we also know that you will want to know more about the company. During the day, you will attend two networking sessions; one with managers and another with current graduates. Think of questions that you can ask in advance of these sessions, to make sure you really understand what its like to work for us,' she says.

See also: TARGETjobs’ tips on succeeding at assessment centres 

Don’t over-think the final interview

'The final interview is unstructured and so you may end up talking about a whole range of topics,' says Eleanor. 'It will be with two senior managers who may well become your sponsor and mentor during your time on the programme, so make sure you end the interview feeling as though they know the real you, and you have sold yourself well.'

Our 'How to get hired' articles are written by TARGETjobs editors and writers with job candidates in mind, helping you research and understand employers. Copyright of all material written by TARGETjobs lies solely with GTI Media.
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