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Crack the Danone CODES: how to approach the assessment centre

The facts

The assessment centre is a chance for the recruiters at Danone to get to know you better, so be yourself.

The final stage in Danone’s recruitment process is the assessment centre (also referred to on Danone's website as the Danone Leadership Academy). This will involve an interview and various group exercises.

Read our tips below to find out how to shine at the assessment centre and how to show that you are compatible with Danone’s CODES behaviours.

Go above and beyond in your research about Danone

Your preparation for the assessment centre is key. Danone values applicants who have made the effort to research Danone thoroughly in terms of what brands it offers, its competitors and its position within the market. Doing the bare minimum in terms of research isn’t going to cut it. ‘Regardless of the role applied for or the preparation we have asked candidates to do, we would expect them to research all four of Danone’s businesses,’ says Lizzie Mooney, an HR manager at Danone.

These four businesses are:

  • fresh dairy products
  • early life nutrition
  • waters
  • medical nutrition.

While your role may only be relevant to one or two of the business areas, researching all four of them will show your interviewer that you are committed to, and passionate about, Danone.

How to do your research on Danone

  1. Start off by familiarising yourself with Danone’s corporate website and social media pages.
  2. Move on to a general Google search on Danone to see what you can find, eg press releases and newspaper articles.
  3. Do you know anybody who works for Danone? Reach out and ask them if they would be willing to talk to you.
  4. Take a trip to your local supermarket and look at Danone’s products on the shelves.
  5. Ask friends and family for their thoughts on Danone's products.

Lizzie tells us: ‘It’s really good to see that somebody has made an effort in terms of their research. We’ve had candidates bring in pictures from their store visits, which really stands out as somebody who is going above and beyond.’

Your Danone research checklist

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I know what products Danone makes?
  • Who uses Danone’s products?
  • Do I understand Danone’s mission in action?
  • Do I know what Danone’s core values are? (visit the ‘our culture and leadership style’ section of Danone’s website if you don’t).
  • Can I identify Danone’s main competitors? How are they similar/ different to Danone?

If you’ve done your research, you should be able to confidently answer these questions.

When to talk about your research in the interview

Your interview is likely to be the best time for you to show that you have done your homework on Danone. There are several ways to do this.

  • You might need to talk about your research in detail if asked the question ‘What do you know about Danone?’
  • You could also introduce your research yourself. If you’re asked ‘Why do you want to work for Danone?’, refer to something you found out about Danone and explain why this made you want to work for them. For example, if you want to say that you share Danone’s goals, you could refer to Danone’s manifesto and explain what particularly impressed you about it.
  • You could use your research when it comes to asking your own questions. Ask questions that are specific to Danone rather than generic questions that you could ask any company. Tell them that your question arose from looking at the Danone website. For example, you might say ‘I read on your website that mobility is very important to Danone. How will this translate to my role specifically?’

Remember it’s not just a case of reciting a list of facts about Danone. Your assessors don’t need reminding how many countries Danone works in or how many employees it has unless you go on to explain why this relates to you wanting to work for Danone.

Mention (in your own words) what you have found out and link this back to you and why you are well-suited to a graduate role at Danone.

Demonstrate your knowledge of Danone outside the interview room

You can also draw on your research at other points of the assessment centre. If one of your group exercises is a case study, use your research to inform your judgement. Think about what you know about Danone – does your idea match with Danone’s values and work ethic?

You may also be given the chance to network with graduates and senior employees who work at Danone. If you do, make the most of this time to speak to them about Danone and use your research to generate discussion points. You could ask them how Danone’s CODES values are demonstrated in the day-to-day running of the company, for example.

Prepare to crack the Danone CODES

Danone’s recruitment team will be assessing you against their CODES behaviours in the interview and in the group exercises.

CODES stands for:

  • Creates
  • Opens
  • Drives
  • Empowers
  • Self aware

Familiarise yourself with Danone’s HOPE values as well:

  • Humanism
  • Openness
  • Proximity
  • Enthusiasm

Take a look at Danone’s graduate brochure and the ‘our culture and leadership style’ page on its careers website to get to grips with what these values and behaviours mean to Danone. You will need to show that you have these qualities in common.

As part of your preparation for the assessment centre, decide what you would like to talk about in your interview. Really think about which examples you can use to showcase the particular skills and qualities that Danone values, such as leadership, motivation and mobility. To show off your mobility, you could talk about any international experience you may have, whether this is teaching English as a foreign language or spending your summer backpacking around Europe.

Show that you can, and will, take the lead

Leadership is a key quality at Danone and one of the main skills that you will be assessed on. ‘We want to see candidates who are going to be able to take the lead on projects,’ says Lizzie. ‘It’s all about taking the initiative and taking on more responsibility.’

Lizzie gives an example of this: ‘One of my most memorable interview answers is to the question ‘What is the best idea you’ve ever had?’ The candidate told me about when she was travelling in a group in Mongolia. They bought the wrong food and were stuck on the road for a month with nothing to eat. The candidate came up with the idea of stopping at local people’s houses and asking if they could donate any food or if they could do jobs in exchange for food. This answer was so good because the candidate matched with so many of the leadership competencies that Danone looks for in just one example.’

What does leadership mean to Danone?

Danone’s leadership style is centred on its CODES behaviours. Are you proactive? Can you solve problems? Can you delegate when necessary? Do you dare to step outside of your comfort zone? These are all qualities that align with Danone’s CODES behaviours.

Think of times when you have demonstrated these skills. Don’t worry if you haven’t been the president of a society or the captain of a sports team. You don’t need to have experience as a leader to show that you have potential and that you possess the leadership competencies that Danone wants.

You could talk about your dedication to a university society or sports team, for example, or your willingness to take on additional responsibilities. Lizzie says: ‘One thing that is particularly impressive in a candidate is somebody who is really proactive and willing to go above and beyond. Maybe you spent time volunteering or completing a summer internship that wasn't required of you, but you chose to do it.’

When to speak up during Danone’s group exercises

It doesn’t matter when you speak up, as long as you do. Your assessors will be interested in what you have to say rather than when you say it. ‘I hear from candidates that they are advised to speak second so they show leadership but don’t come across as overbearing,’ says Lizzie. ‘I would say don’t be afraid to speak first. We don’t mind who speaks first, second or last.’

If you have a good thought, don’t be afraid to go ahead and be the first person to say something. Equally, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t speak first. You will perform better if you relax and treat the group exercises like a natural discussion. Don’t say something just because you feel like you need to.

Be your real self, not the version you think Danone wants

While it’s important to show that you match with Danone’s CODES values, don’t force it. Lizzie says: ‘Candidates perform much better when they don’t try too hard to be what they think we want. All types of personality thrive within Danone so it’s not about being a carbon copy of the same person.’

The assessment centre is a chance for the recruiters at Danone to get to know you better, so be yourself. Let your real personality come across rather than pretending to be something you’re not.

Lizzie advises candidates to relax and be natural at the assessment centre. ‘I know it’s really hard but candidates are more successful when they are relaxed and authentic,' she says. Try not to overthink things. Focus on the task in hand and don’t worry about the assessors in the room. If you’re relaxed then your personality and natural abilities will come through.

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