It’s true that graduate interviews and assessment centres are an opportunity for you to find out whether the employer suits you, as much as it is for the employer to assess you – but this is something often forgotten in the moment of assessment. It’s heartening, then, that the graduate recruitment process at Kerry Foods seems designed to help you to make an informed decision.
‘We know that graduates have choices,’ says Gemma Hurt, early careers lead at Kerry Foods. ‘We’re conscious that before the assessment centre their primary source of research will have been our website, perhaps supplemented by meeting us at a careers fair. That’s why our assessment centre is spread over two days: it gives candidates a good chance to really get to know us and decide whether we are right for them.’
Intrigued, TARGETjobs asked Gemma for insights into how candidates can both impress the assessors and confirm whether the company is right for them during the video interview and assessment centre stages. NB: Gemma's advice relates only to Kerry Foods' graduate programme, not Kerry Taste & Nutrition.
Kerry Foods’ assessment criteria explained
Throughout the recruitment process for their graduate programmes, recruiters for Kerry Foods assess your performance against Kerry Foods’ values. These are:
- Ownership: we care about the business as if it was our own.
- Open-minded: we are energised by new ideas and think broadly about opportunities to grow our business.
- Forward-looking: we are focused on where we are heading but never lose sight of where we have come from.
- Better together: we know that we can achieve more when we work together.
- Courageous: we are brave and challenge each other to get the best results.
- On it: we all play our part every day – we show up, we don’t just turn up.
Assessors are primarily interested in how your behaviours match these values, but skills will also be considered. For example, the HR graduate programme requires candidates to be excellent communicators and problem-solvers with a practical mindset.
The preparation needed to make a considered decision
For the video interview and assessment centre, Gemma and the assessors will have expected you to have completed some research on Kerry Foods – to show that you know what the business does, what its products are and how they compare to their biggest competitors. They want to see how your research has sparked a desire to work for Kerry Foods.
The time you spend preparing is also a chance to work out what you want to find out more about at the assessment centre. ‘Think about what is important to you,’ suggests Gemma. ‘If you are interested in sustainability and something interests you about our policy, you will have lots of opportunities to ask people about it: graduate employees, managers, partners, me.’
Gemma stresses that you should ask any questions that you want to know the answer to, but TARGETjobs would always suggest phrasing questions positively and tactfully to demonstrate your professionalism. ‘What’s been the biggest challenge about working here?’ is better than ‘What’s the worst thing about working here?’.
Your questions can be asked informally throughout the assessment centre or at the end of your assessment centre interview. ‘If you are interested in our environmental policy, you could phrase it as “I’m really interested in sustainability and I’ve read X about it. How does this relate to Y in your environmental policy?”,’ Gemma suggests.
When doing your research, make technology work for you. ‘I suggest setting up a Google alert for the business,’ says Gemma. ‘If we have been in the press the day before, we would expect you to know about it. When I applied for my role at Kerry Foods, I took a look at Instagram to find out how the products were promoted and what people were saying about them.’
The Kerry Foods video interview and questions
The video interview happens after the application form, the situational judgement test, the numerical reasoning test and the inductive reasoning test – and before the assessment centre. ‘At this stage, we are wanting to find out if they can demonstrate a passion for our business, food and our products and we also check their understanding of what the role requires,’ says Gemma. ‘For example, we look for mobility across different regions and our sites.’
How can candidates demonstrate a passion for food? ‘When we ask them why they applied for Kerry Foods, I’d hope that an interest in food was in there and that they were excited about our products,’ says Gemma. If possible, then, it would be a good idea to not only know the product range but also to have tasted them and have an opinion on how they compare to the main competitors.
The video interview starts with a welcome by Gemma and instructions. Questions then appear on screen and you upload your answers. ‘We want the video interview to paint you in the best light,’ says Gemma. ‘The main advantage of the video interview is that you can choose when to take it, ensuring that it is at a convenient time for you and that you are adequately prepared. Looking at the data, we’ve seen that some people have completed it late in the evening and some on Christmas Day. The “when” doesn’t matter: choose a time that is right for you.’
Gemma emphasises that she is more interested in the substance of your answers than your performance on camera but, when pushed, she does come up with one performance-related tip. ‘Be aware that, even though we are not in the same room as you, we can see when you are reading from your notes,’ she says. ‘An over-reliance on notes or answers being read out verbatim can lead to the communication style becoming stilted.’ 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.
The structure of the Kerry Foods two-day assessment centre
‘There will be around 12 candidates on the day, 6 assessors and a member of the HR team plus me or one of the resourcing team,’ Gemma explains. ‘Our assessors are managers from the business and many of them have come from our graduate programmes, so they understand what you are going through.’ So what happens?
You’ll arrive in the afternoon, attend a presentation about the business and be set a presentation task for the following day. If you have applied for the technical or operations graduate programme, you will have a tour of a Kerry Foods site and have the opportunity to quiz the employees you meet. You’ll spend the rest of the afternoon working on your presentation, before having dinner with graduate employees. ‘This is your chance to relax and find out what you really want to know, so neither I nor the assessors attend,’ Gemma tells us. ‘And, no, we don’t ask our graduates what they think of you!’
The next day, you will come back to the site or office where the assessment day is held and you’ll give your presentation to two assessors. After this, you will be split into two groups and given a group discussion task, in which you will need to form conclusions to provide to the assessors. You will then have an interview.
Gemma reassures us that you will be well fed throughout your time at the assessment centre and, during the downtime while you are waiting for others to finish their tasks, lots of people from the business will pop by to say hello and to answer any questions you might have: from the graduates you met the previous evening to executives. ‘Everyone is interested to see who we hire, so you’ll have lots of people to talk to and to reassure you,’ she says.
Tips for the Kerry Foods presentation
The presentation will be 15 minutes long, with an additional 10 minutes for questions from the assessors. The topic of the presentation will vary according to the programme. Kerry Foods 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 Gemma. ‘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.
Tips for the Kerry Foods group exercise
‘The candidates probably find the discussion exercise the most challenging part of the day,’ says Gemma. ‘Many candidates think that their performance relies on the strength of the group they are in, but that isn’t the case: focus on your individual performance.’
She admits that you have a lot to think about – and that doesn’t even include the topic under discussion! You need to make sure that you input into the discussion, include others and keep an eye on the time to help ensure that the group forms its conclusions in good time.
‘Don’t be intimidated or distracted by the behaviour of others,’ Gemma says. ‘Don’t think that if someone is talking a lot that they are adding more value than you. Your small nuggets of input may be of more value. 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.’
So how do you ensure that you have input and find a gap in the conversation? A lot of it comes down to building on what others have said, for example: ‘That’s an interesting point, but I wonder if we have considered…’ or ‘I agree with X that Y is important, but we need to make sure that we don’t forget about…’.
Tips for the Kerry Foods interview
The interview is with two of the assessors and the questions are largely driven by Kerry Foods’ values and your self-awareness. 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. ‘Prepare by making sure that you really understand our values and show that in your answers,’ says Gemma. ‘But also use the time to question the assessors; many candidates come out saying how much they enjoyed chatting with the assessors and learning more about the role and career prospects.’
What makes a successful Kerry Foods graduate candidate?
TARGETjobs finished by asking Gemma what distinguishes a great candidate from a good one and got a considered reply. ‘A great candidate for us is one who knows what they’re looking for in an employer and is a natural values fit with our business. A great candidate will have the self-drive to go after what they are passionate about and is comfortable being who they are. They will have the ability to think on their feet and can build constructive relationships,’ says Gemma.
‘I really stress that, if you feel like you’ve done badly on one exercise, put it in a box and focus on the next one,’ she continues. ‘For one, you might not have done badly. For another, other exercises might compensate so don’t get distracted by thinking about what’s happened. Remember, too, that you are not in competition with the other candidates: if we meet a number of impressive candidates, I’m sure we will find homes for you all!’