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How to stand out in your Tesco interview: approaches and strategies

The facts

You could talk about retailers’ growing commitment to sustainable sourcing and link this to Tesco’s initiatives.

You can’t predict the exact interview questions you will be asked by Tesco; interviewers can change the questions from year to year. However, past candidates have said on internet forums that they were asked the following types of question. You can use them as a starting point for your interview preparation, but also think about other types of question you could be asked (about your skills, CV and understanding of the job role) and how you would answer them.

Possible Tesco graduate interview question 1: Why this role?

Point of question: It’s important that you identify why you want a place on the particular scheme you’ve applied for and why you think you would suit the role. Assessors want to know that you actually understand what the role entails and have a strong foundation to work from.

How to approach: Research into the individual scheme is crucial. You need to be able to give specific reasons for why you are applying for that particular role. If you were applying for Tesco’s cyber security graduate programme, for example, you should pinpoint what it is about cyber security generally and that scheme specifically that makes you want to apply for it. You should consider your interests and what motivates you in the workplace, then identify how these are suited to the position.

Part of the reason you want to apply is probably that you feel you are well suited to the role. Matching your strengths to the requirements of the role will show employers that you’re a serious candidate. One useful way to identify your strengths is to ask friends, colleagues or tutors about what they’ve seen you do well; it might be easier to work from another person’s opinion than to try and assess your own strengths.

Possible Tesco graduate interview question 2: Why the retail industry?

Point of question: This is partly a question about passion; Tesco is not going to hire someone who isn’t genuinely interested in their industry. Additionally, it tests your understanding and research capabilities; you wouldn’t bother conducting a good level of research unless you really did want to work in retail.

How to approach: The retail industry is extremely broad, particularly in the case of Tesco. You will approach this question differently depending on which of its programmes you applied to. For instance, if you’re being interviewed for the finance graduate scheme, think about comparing a finance role at Tesco with finance roles in other sectors, or in a finance-specific company. As Tesco’s primary field is retail, not finance, what is it that makes you want to work for a retailer rather than a straight finance company?

You can also use this as a chance to demonstrate your knowledge of modern developments in retail. As an example, you could talk about retailers’ growing commitment to sustainability and link this to Tesco’s initiatives (eg its work with Volkswagen and Pod Point to provide carbon neutral energy) – as long as you explain why this development makes you want to work for the retailer.

Possible Tesco graduate interview question 3: Who are Tesco’s main competitors?

Point of question: The aim of this question is to assess how familiar you are with the market that Tesco is competing in.

How to approach: Try to go further than just listing the main supermarkets you can think of. Tesco does have like-for-like competitors (Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Asda etc), but thinking beyond the obvious will help you to stand out. Consider the different product areas the retailer deals in. It doesn’t just offer food; it also sells clothing, homewares, cosmetics and toiletries. Think about who its main competitors are for each of these different areas. There are lots of different clothing stores, for example, so look at factors such as which ones serve a similar clientele or offers products at similar prices. Tesco is online as well as a physical store, which means it competes with online retailers such as Amazon. How have the fates of competitors changed due to coronavirus – is Amazon now more of a threat, for instance? Giving a carefully considered answer will show that you have done your research and understand the market that you’ll be working in as a Tesco employee.

Possible graduate interview question 4: How does Tesco stand out from competitors?

Point of question: This is a commercial awareness question. It’s about demonstrating your understanding of Tesco’s position within the market, rather than flattering the employer.

Tesco are aware that the past year or two has seen its market share fluctuate in certain areas. It also understands the seriousness of the problems caused by coronavirus – from the competition with online retailers (particularly when it comes to clothing and homeware ranges, as examples) to the importance of keeping customers safe – and being seen to do so. Rather than ignore this, Tesco employees need to be aware of what sets Tesco apart from the competition and which areas need more work. Being able to analyse competitors’ business models is crucial in determining how to make Tesco stand out.

How to approach: Make sure you know who Tesco’s main competitors are and spend some time reading up on them. Compare them with Tesco and look up news articles to see who is performing best in certain areas. Then identify Tesco’s unique selling points (USPs). What does it do that other retailers don’t? Or what does it do much better than other retailers? You could think about the product ranges Tesco stocks, such as their ‘Free From’ range. Or you could consider the different types of store that Tesco has (including convenience-type stores), along with its increased focus on the online section of the business, and what the impact of this has been. Be prepared with specific examples.

Possible Tesco graduate interview question 5: What are the current challenges that Tesco is facing today?

Point of question: This is another commercial awareness question, checking to see whether you understand the challenges that you’ll immediately face when you join Tesco as a graduate.

How to approach: Don’t shy away from any major news stories about Tesco. Your answer should show you understand how the business and its employees are being affected by any challenges the retailer is facing. What has the impact been on the brand? It's important to remain factual and not dwell on the problems; instead, focus on the company turning things around.

How is Tesco recovering from past difficulties? What is it doing to combat any current challenges and have any further issues arisen from these methods? Try to keep your references as current as you can.

Discussing the company’s approach to the pandemic and how this differs from the actions taken by its competitors could produce a strong answer. Its decision to offer many of those working on temporary contracts during the lockdown permanent positions as pickers and delivery drivers enabled the company to keep up with the trend towards online shopping (accelerated by the coronavirus). It also offered the chance for positive press during a time when so many retailers have had to make job cuts and store closures. Still, there are positive and negative news stories about Tesco and its approach to the pandemic; how’s the company dealing with this and what other strategies are being used to strengthen its reputation?

Possible Tesco graduate interview question 6: Tell me about a time when you worked as part of a team.

Point of question: You’ll be working in teams as soon as you enter the business. Most of Tesco’s divisions intertwine in one way or another, so it will be important to understand what your colleagues are working on and to be able to coordinate your work with many people.

How to approach: It would be a good idea to explain the successes of the team you choose, as well as the challenges you faced. Your answer should focus on your own actions, rather than those of other members of the team. Ideally, your example should be one in which you either led the team, or demonstrated leadership qualities.

A potential follow-up question to this could be about a time when something went wrong in a team you were part of. A strong response will demonstrate your ability to learn from experience by explaining how you’d do things differently if you completed the same task again. You could also demonstrate self-reflection by giving an example of a later time in which you worked in a team, altered your method as a result of your previous experience and achieved positive results.

Possible Tesco graduate interview question 7: What are your personal values?

Point of question: Tesco wants people who are going to get on with other members of staff and help the company achieve the aims it has set out. Therefore, this question is aimed at making sure you’re personable and have a strong work ethic, as well as that you share Tesco’s values.

How to approach: What are Tesco’s values, how do they overlap with your personal values and what examples can you draw from your experiences (whether academic, work-based or extra-curricular) to demonstrate your personal attachment to these values? These can be broad; can you see your belief in the importance of supporting people when they need it reflected in the company’s Community Food Connection scheme? If you view the protection of the environment to be crucial, take a look at Tesco’s aims and actions around sustainability.

However, you should also consider the different teams’ values at Tesco. The goals of the Tesco Stores team aren’t going to be exactly the same as the Tesco Online team, for example, so think about the values of the team you’re looking to enter, too.

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