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Associated British Foods’ graduate scheme: the video interview and assessment centre

While it’s good to keep ABF’s competencies in the back of your mind, don’t try too hard to be what you think ABF wants.

If your online application to Associated British Foods’ grocery graduate scheme is successful, you will face some online tests as well as a video interview before the final step in the process: an assessment centre.

How to prepare for ABF’s video interview

ABF’s video interview is pre-recorded: ‘You’ll read the questions on screen and then record yourself answering them. You’ll answer a warm-up question followed by five competency-based questions,’ says Mari Pugh, graduate talent officer for ABF UK Grocery.

Tip one: find out which competencies ABF are most likely to test you on

ABF doesn’t have a list of competencies on its website so your preparation will involve predicting what competencies ABF might want to test you on. Look at the ‘About’ and ‘Our schemes’ sections on ABF’s graduate website and the description of the scheme you’ve applied to. Make a note of any competencies mentioned eg teamwork, leadership and resilience.

You could also look at the websites of the eleven businesses that make up ABF’s grocery division: AB World Foods, ACH, Allied Bakeries, Allied Mills, George Weston Foods, Speedibake, The Silver Spoon Company, Twinings, Ovaltine, Westmill Foods and Jordans Dorset Ryvita. Look at their values and think about what competencies reflect these values.

Beware that questions can change every year but, according to our Inside Buzz graduate survey, questions that previous candidates have been asked include:

  • Describe a time when you worked in or led a team
  • Describe a time when you failed or succeeded
  • Describe a time when you overcame a problem
  • Describe a time when you dealt with a difficult situation or colleague

Tip two: think about what experiences you want to talk about

Brainstorm examples that you could use for your answers. Use a range of examples from your academic achievements, work experience, extracurricular activities and voluntary work. You want to show that you are well rounded so avoid talking about the debating society at university, for example, in all of your answers.

Tip three: practise

When ABF sends you an invite to the video interview, you’ll also receive a video that includes tips and tricks. ‘Make sure you watch this video and have a go at the practice interview,’ advises Mari. You could also ask your friends or family to listen to your answers and give you a few pointers.

How to shine during your video interview with ABF

Once you’ve followed the advice above on preparing for the interview, you’ll be more than ready for the real thing. But here are a few extra trips from Mari to help you impress:

  • ‘Treat this in the same way as a face-to-face interview. We really want to see you in the interview so smile and don’t be afraid to show your personality.’
  • ‘Confidence, clear communication, eye contact and a relaxed approach will all help you stand out.’
  • 'Use good examples. Explain them clearly, tell us the outcome and answer the whole question. Remember to use the STAR approach.’

Take a look at our article on competency-based interviews for more help and a breakdown of the STAR approach. We’ve also got an article full of tips on how to tackle video interviews.

Pre-assessment centre: asking questions during your tour of ABF’s factory

Applicants to ABF’s engineering and supply chain graduate schemes are invited to attend a tour of the factory before the assessment centre. Mari advises candidates to: ‘Enjoy it and ask questions. It’s your chance to experience a new environment. Show that you’re interested in what you’re seeing and you’re eager to learn.’

Think about a few questions you might want to ask but keep them specific to ABF. For example, you could ask where you would be based on the site or you could ask about the training and mentoring available.

If you think of a question about something you see on the tour, ask it. This will show that you’re curious and want to learn new things. If you have any technical questions, direct these towards an employee in either the engineering or supply chain department rather than the recruiter.

Pre-assessment centre: how to enjoy the evening meal with ABF’s assessors

Candidates for all of the graduate schemes are invited to an evening meal with the recruiters and current graduates at ABF the night before. ‘This is all about helping the candidate to relax and letting them ask questions and find out more about what it’s like to work for AB Foods in a relaxed environment,’ says Mari.

Make the most of the chance to speak to current graduates and find out more about the scheme. You could ask them what projects they’ve worked on, what kind of tasks they’ve been given and how they’ve found the experience so far. This is also a good opportunity to get a feel for the culture and social side of ABF.

Navigating ABF’s assessment centre

ABF’s assessment centre involves a group exercise, situational judgement exercises, a presentation and an individual interview. Some of the exercises will be designed around a case study specific to AB Foods. You will be given a score based on ABF’s competency framework and each element of the day carries equal weighting.

Tip one: don’t be afraid to show your leadership potential

One of the main competencies you’re likely to be assessed on is leadership. ABF is looking for future leaders. Be prepared to give strong examples of when you’ve taken the lead on a project or held a position of responsibility. You could use an example from your degree course, the sports and societies you took part it, or any jobs you’ve had. How did you become the leader – did you volunteer or were you nominated? What skills made you a successful leader?

Mari describes leadership at ABF as ‘driving our businesses forward, bringing teams with you along the way and taking strategic approach to growth.’ Can you use your example to show how you’ve done these things in the past? So how did you motivate your team? What results did you achieve?

Tip two: keep ABF’s competencies in mind…

It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with ABF’s competencies before the assessment centre. Read our advice above on preparing for the video interview for help with this. Once you’re at the assessment centre, you could show the recruiter that you possess these skills through your behaviour in the exercises or the examples you draw on in your interview.

For example, a way to demonstrate your communication skills during the exercises would be to speak clearly and concisely and, if you’re talking about something technical, phrase it in a way that your audience will understand.

…but ultimately be yourself, not the person you think ABF wants

While it’s good to keep ABF’s competencies in the back of your mind, don’t try too hard to be what you think ABF wants. It’s important to show the recruiters the real you. ‘It’s easy to see when someone has looked up online how to behave at an assessment centre and it can stop us from really seeing what they are like,’ explains Mari. ‘Show us your personality and take a down to earth approach but remain professional.

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