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Applying to Unilever's future leaders programme: the digital interview

If you’re applying to Unilever’s future leaders graduate programme, you’ll face four stages: an online application, a profile assessment, a digital interview and its discovery centre day.

Unilever’s online application and profile assessment

The first two stages of Unilever’s application process are relatively simple and don’t require you to do any preparation. Its online application will take around 20 minutes and involves filling out basic personal information, your education history and answering a few eligibility and diversity questions.

After that, you’ll need to complete the profile assessment. This consists of 12 online games designed to test your cognitive, social and emotional traits. The games will evaluate how well you fit with the Future Leaders programme and which function you’re most suited to. Unilever’s website assures you that no preparation or previous gaming experience is necessary and there are no right or wrong answers. You’ll receive personalised feedback after completing the games.

The next stage in the process, Unilever’s digital interview, will require more preparation on your part though.

Unilever’s digital interview

Unilever’s digital interview isn’t a classic interview format in that you will record and submit your interview rather than speak to a person in real time. Many students report finding this strange at first so practise beforehand to get used to it. The interview itself also includes a few practice questions so take advantage of these. For more tips, read our advice on performing well in your video interview.

Unilever deliberately doesn’t give you much information on what to expect from the digital interview. All it tells you is that the interview will involve three short hypothetical questions and a business case based on Unilever scenarios. This is because the interview is designed to assess:

  • your problem-solving ability. How do you approach these scenarios? Can you think on the spot and process new information quickly?
  • your research and knowledge about Unilever and your business thinking. Can you take Unilever’s priorities and objectives into account?

So what can you do in advance to prepare for the interview?

Do some research into Unilever’s global brands

The business case will be based on one of Unilever’s brands so it’s a good idea to brush up on what they are. Start by looking at the list of its brands on its website. You’ll spot a lot of UK household names such as Dove, Cornetto and Marmite, but the business case could be based on one of Unilever’s international brands that you might not be familiar with, such as its Lux body washes or Signal oral care, so don’t overlook these. Also watch out for products that are the same but have different names in different countries. What is known as Sure deodorant in the UK, for example, is branded as Rexora in other countries.

Things to consider include:

  • what products the brand produces
  • its target audience
  • where it is positioned in the market
  • any competitor products
  • what its competitors do better or worse

Some of its products might face stiffer competition than others. Marmite, for example, might have a limited number of products to compete with in comparison to Flora. Beware: some of the competitors you think of might be owned by Unilever too! Sure, Dove, Lynx and Impulse are all Unilever’s brands.

Unilever presents its Magnum brand, for example, as luxurious, sophisticated and up-market. Its products include the ice-creams you buy in a supermarket but there’s also the Magnum Dipping Bar, which allows customers to customise their own Magnum ice-cream bar. Unilever owns several other ice-cream brands, including Cornetto and Ben & Jerry’s, but one of its main competitors is Nestle, which produces Haagen-Dazs and Movenpick. Don’t just think of like-for-like competitors though; who are some of Unilever’s less obvious competitors in this market? Hint: think of the more budget-friendly ice-cream brands.

Read about Unilever’s culture, values and standards of leadership

Familiarise yourself with Unilever’s company culture and how it does business. You can do this by reading the ‘who we are’ section of its website, paying particular attention to the sub-sections ‘our vision’, ‘purpose, values and principles’ and ‘our strategy’. Top tip: make a note of your key findings. They will come in handy when it’s time to prepare for the discovery centre day.

Once you’ve done this, identify what you think Unilever’s main priorities are and what kind of company it is trying to be. This will help you consider how best to tackle the problems you’re given in the interview in ways that align with Unilever’s strategy and values.

Take Unilever’s stance on sustainability, for example. It’s clear from its website that this is something it is focusing on. It launched the Unilever Sustainable Living plan in 2010 with three main goals, one of them being to halve the environmental footprint of its products. This is something you should consider in the interview – for example, if you get a hypothetical question about something that might contradict its sustainability plan, such as switching to a fuel source that’s cheaper.

You should also bear Unilever’s standards of leadership in mind. These are:

  • growth mindset – competitive leadership
  • consumer and customer focus – purpose-driven leadership
  • bias for action – action-driven leadership
  • accountability and responsibility – performance-driven leadership
  • building talent and teams – people-driven leadership

So, for example, if you’re asked something along the lines of ‘What would you do if you made a mistake?’, this is a good time to show that you will take accountability.

Follow Unilever in the news

Keep up to date on what Unilever is working on at the moment. Has it announced any new products or launched any new advertising campaigns? You can look on its website for its latest announcements, do a general Google search and be on the lookout for any stories that appear in the news.

It's also a good idea to think about what problems Unilever has faced recently and how it dealt with these issues. For example, in the age of social media, campaigns can create unprecedented responses and blow up within hours; you could consider Unilever's recent and older problems with Dove campaigns and how the company handled them to ensure minimum damage to the brand.

If the opportunity arises, show that you’ve done your research and bring it into one of your answers in the digital interview. You might also be able to use this research at the fourth and final stage of Unilever’s application process – its discovery centre day.

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