How to stand out in your Tesco interview: approaches and strategies

Giving a carefully considered answer will show that you have done your research.

You can’t predict the exact interview questions you will be asked by Tesco; interviewers can change the questions from year to year. However, past candidates have said on internet forums that they were asked the following types of question. You can use them as a starting point for your interview preparation, but also think about other types of question you could be asked (about your skills, CV and understanding of the job role) and how you would answer them.

Possible Tesco graduate interview question: Why this role?

Point of question: It’s important that you identify why you want a place on the particular scheme you’ve applied for and why you think you would suit the role. Assessors want to know that you actually understand what the role entails and have a strong foundation to work from.

How to approach: Research into the individual scheme is crucial. You need to be able to give specific reasons for why you are applying for that particular role. If you were applying for Tesco’s supply chain graduate programme, for example, you should pinpoint what it is about the supply chain generally and that scheme specifically that makes you want to apply for it. Part of the reason you want to apply is probably that you feel you are well suited to the role. Identifying the requirements of the role and matching your strengths to them will show employers that you’re a serious candidate. One useful way to identify your strengths is to ask friends, colleagues or tutors about what they’ve seen you do well; it’s often far easier to work from another person’s opinion than to try and assess your own strengths.

Possible Tesco graduate interview question: Why the retail industry?

Point of question: This is partly a question about passion; Tesco is not going to hire someone who isn’t genuinely interested in their industry. Additionally, it tests your understanding and research capabilities; you wouldn’t bother conducting a good level of research unless you really did want to work in retail.

How to approach: The retail industry is extremely broad, particularly in the case of Tesco. You will approach this question differently depending on which of its programmes you applied to. For instance, if you’re being interviewed for the property graduate scheme, think about comparing a property role at Tesco with property roles in other sectors, or in a property-specific company. As Tesco’s primary field is retail, not property, what is it that makes you want to work for a retailer rather than a straight property company? You can also use this as a chance to demonstrate your knowledge of developing areas of retail. For example, you could mention some of Tesco’s multichannel initiatives, as long as you explain why these developments make you want to work for the retailer.

Possible Tesco graduate interview question: Who are Tesco’s main competitors?

Point of question: The aim of this question is to assess how familiar you are with the market that Tesco is competing in.

How to approach: Try to go further than just listing the main supermarkets you can think of. Tesco does have like-for-like competitors (Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Asda etc), but thinking beyond the obvious will help you to stand out. Consider the different product areas that Tesco deals in. It doesn’t just offer food; it also sells clothing, homewares, cosmetics and toiletries. Think about who its main competitors are for each of these different areas. There are lots of different clothing stores, for example, so look at factors such as which ones serve a similar clientele or offer products at similar prices. Tesco is online as well as a physical store, which means it competes with online retailers such as Amazon. Giving a carefully considered answer will show that you have done your research and understand the market that you’ll be working in as a Tesco employee.

Potential follow-up question: Who is our biggest threat?

Possible graduate interview question: How does Tesco stand out from competitors?

Point of question: This is a commercial awareness question; it’s not about flattering the employer. Tesco are well aware of their competitors and the past year or two has seen Tesco’s market share fluctuate in certain areas. For example, in the UK, discount retailers such as Aldi and Lidl are continuing to have an impact on the market. Rather than ignore this, Tesco employees need to be aware of what sets Tesco apart from the competition and which areas need more work. Being able to analyse competitors’ business models is crucial in determining how to make Tesco stand out.

How to approach: Make sure you know who Tesco’s main competitors are and spend some time reading up on them. Compare them with Tesco and look up news articles to see who is performing best in certain areas. Then identify Tesco’s unique selling points (USPs). What does it do that other retailers don’t? Or what does it do much better than other retailers? You could think about the product ranges Tesco stocks. Recently they’ve been drawing a lot of attention to their ‘Free From’ range, for example. Or you could consider the different types of store that Tesco has. Does it have more express/convenience-type stores than other retailers? If so, what advantages does the mix of physical stores bring to the retailer? Be prepared with specific examples to avoid giving a generic answer.

Potential follow-up question: Which of our competitors do you respect?

Possible Tesco graduate interview question: What are the current challenges that Tesco is facing today?

Point of question: Another commercial awareness question, checking to see whether you understand the challenges that you’ll immediately face when you join Tesco as a graduate.

How to approach: Don’t shy away from any major news stories about Tesco. For example, irregularities in Tesco’s finances and ongoing issues with its suppliers, which came to a head in 2014, were well publicised by the media. As such, not mentioning issues like these would appear naïve or imply a lack of research. Your answer should show you understand how the business and its employees are being affected by the challenges the retailer is facing. What has the impact been on the brand? It's important to remain factual and not dwell on the problems; instead, focus on the company turning things around. How is Tesco recovering from past difficulties? What is it doing to combat any current challenges and have any further issues arisen from these methods? Try to keep your references as current as you can. For example, in September 2016 Tesco achieved its best 12-week sales performance since March 2014. It's summer 'Drinks Festival' event was hailed as one of the driving forces.

Potential follow-up question: As a graduate on our scheme, how would you work to resolve issues resulting from that challenge?

Possible Tesco graduate interview question: Tell me about a time when you worked as part of a team.

Point of question: You’ll be working in teams as soon as you enter the business. Most of Tesco’s divisions intertwine in one way or another, so it will be important to understand what your colleagues are working on.

How to approach: Note that this question does not ask for a successful or unsuccessful team; it would still be wise to explain how successful the team was and the challenges you faced. Your answer must focus on what you personally did, not what the team as a whole did. Ideally, your example should be one in which you either led the team, or demonstrated leadership qualities.

Potential follow-up question: Have you ever worked in a team where something went wrong?

Possible Tesco graduate interview question: What are your personal values?

Point of question: Tesco obviously wants people who are going to get on with other members of staff. Therefore, the subtext to this question is two-fold: firstly, are you personable and approachable, and secondly, do you have the work ethic to fit in with the teams you’re working with?

How to approach: Perhaps you have something in your background that shows you identify with Tesco’s environmental policies. However, you should also be thinking about the different team values at Tesco. The goals of the Tesco Supply Chain team are not going to be absolutely the same as the Tesco Online team, for example, so you have to identify what their own values are, too.

Potential follow-up question: How do you see those values fitting into your role at Tesco?

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