We asked Katie Dunne, early careers talent advisor at Kerry Group, for her tips on how to impress during the different recruitment stages of the consumer goods giant’s graduate programmes – and she gave us lots of practical tips below. But the foundation lying behind all of these tips is to know the company and its assessment criteria so, before you read this, head over to our Kerry Group assessment criteria feature to brush up on the basics.
‘We use SHL [an external provider of online assessments] for our psychometric testing. The test you take is made up of numerical, verbal and inductive reasoning,’ Katie explains. ‘We have an agreed benchmark (a certain percentile) that all candidates must pass.’
In addition, there is a situational judgement test, in which you are given various work-based scenarios and asked how you would respond.
Katie’s first tip is to practise as many online tests as you can before taking Kerry’s: ‘There are lots of practice tests online – both paid-for and free,’ she says. Click here to access our links to free practice tests, and take the Graduate Benchmark, which tests numerical, verbal and inductive reasoning skills, enabling you to identify your strengths in each area.
The second tip is to choose your time and place carefully. ‘Go somewhere quiet with minimal distraction to ensure you can fully concentrate,’ she says. The tests take around 40 minutes.
For the situational judgement test, refer to what you have researched about Kerry’s values and working culture.
The video interview starts with a welcome and instructions. Questions then appear on screen and you record and upload your answers. ‘There is a mixture of questions regarding their motivation for applying for the role, their previous experience and their attitudes towards travel,’ Katie explains. ‘There are also some technical questions regarding the function they have applied for.’
The video interview is the first point at which the Kerry recruiters can get to know you. ‘It provides an opportunity for a candidate to show their interests, personality and enthusiasm, things which do not always come across from a CV,’ Katie says. ‘It also enables the candidate to demonstrate their depth of knowledge and experience of the role and company.’ And Katie tells us that one of the reasons that people might be rejected at this stage is their lack of knowledge – so research is key.
Speak clearly but naturally: ‘Try not to read from a page or a screen – it is good to be prepared and to have notes to prompt, but not so much that you come across as scripted,’ says Katie.
If you give a more conversational answer with direct eye contact, as you would in a face-to-face interview, it will build more rapport with the recruiter.
‘It will help you prepare if you know your CV and can give a three-minute pitch about yourself, but remember that it is perfectly fine for you to take a moment to fully understand the question before answering,’ Katie adds.
Again, choosing your time and place is essential. ‘Be somewhere quiet so that your answers aren’t drowned out by noise,’ Katie advises. You can choose any time for the interview, so pick one that’s convenient for you. Whatever time of day or night you choose, dress smartly. ‘Ensure you look tidy and presentable,’ Katie says.
Kerry’s graduate assessment centre used to last two days, but this year they are introducing a one-day assessment centre instead, comprising a 30-minute presentation, a one-hour group exercise and a 30-minute interview. The assessors will be four senior managers from the division you are applying to.
Current graduates will pop by to talk about their experiences at Kerry, too. Use this as an opportunity to work out if Kerry is for you. ‘The employer/employee relationship is very important, so make sure this is a place you would be happy and excited to come to each day,’ advises Katie.
But we suggest finding this out in the right way, ensuring that you ask questions tactfully (for example ‘What have you found most challenging since joining?’ rather than ‘What is the worst thing about Kerry?’). Remember that being too casual or phrasing things inappropriately won’t reassure Kerry that you could work professionally with clients.
The topic of the presentation will vary according to the programme. Kerry doesn’t want you to suffer nerves from technology going wrong, so you will be given flipcharts and big pens. ‘We absolutely do not assess you on your handwriting or how “pretty” or “neat” your pages are,’ says Katie. ‘You can cross things out.’
The assessors do, however, look at how the presentation is structured and the thinking behind your ideas. Don’t be surprised if the assessors question your ideas or put forward the opposite point of view. When answering, don’t come across as defensive: instead, explain your thinking.
Don’t think you have to be loud in the group exercise. ‘Don’t speak just for the sake of speaking – if you only make a couple of inputs but they are relevant and contribute to the task, that stands out more than a lot of less relevant contributions,’ advises Katie. Remember that it is important to be a good listener.
‘Don’t be intimidated or distracted by the behaviour of others,’ she continues. ‘You can challenge someone’s thinking or dominance, as long as you do it in a way that accords with our values, and it is always good if you help to ensure that everyone has their say.’
‘The interview questions are largely driven by Kerry’s values and your self-knowledge. You might be asked questions to do with what the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself is or to give an example of when you have used your initiative. Katie tells us that the candidates who treat the interview as a conversation rather than as a grilling stand out.
What marks out a great candidate for Kerry’s graduate scheme?
A great candidate for Kerry Group’s graduate programmes demonstrates, in Katie’s words, ‘enthusiasm, curiosity and a passion for what Kerry does.’