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Going for a placement at Unilever: video interview questions

The facts

Assuming your application form made its mark with the Unilever recruiters (and, for those applying to the finance management programme, that your online assessment was successful) the next step in the hiring process for its summer internships, industrial placements and spring insight programmes is the video interview. A video interview is often students’ least favourite part of any recruitment process, but there are some basic things you can do to impress:

  1. Get the practical elements right.
  2. Prepare and practise.

Unilever’s placement video interviews: get the practical elements right

Unilever’s video interview involves recording and uploading your answers using a computer with a webcam or a smartphone. Unilever recruiters stress that you need to ensure that you have a good and stable wifi connection and this is because it will enable your answers to be more easily assessed. Make sure you choose a place that is well lit and quiet. Dress smartly – not only because you can never be sure what the camera might pick up but also because it will make you feel more prepared and professional.

Practise recording yourself answering example interview questions, using the ones below and these tricky interview questions as a basis. Then, as horrible as it might be, evaluate your performance. For example: are you making sufficient eye contact? Does the light shine in your eyes? Are you talking too quickly? Do you need to take more breaths?

Unilever’s placement video interviews: potential and past interview questions

Unilever states that the video interview questions for its industry placements, spring insight programmes and summer placements will be:

  • scenario-based (which means that they are likely to be hypothetical, asking ‘what would you do in X situation?’)
  • based around your motivations for applying to Unilever and the work experience programme – and by implication are also likely to focus on your career ambitions.

Unilever has only recently replaced telephone interviews with video interviews for its work experience opportunities and so not much is known about actual past questions. However, we can give you some advice about the past questions we know about and, using our extensive careers knowledge, give you some questions likely to be asked. Be aware, however, that there is no guarantee that any of these questions will come up in the interview – these are just to help you practise.

Possible and previous scenario-based interview questions for Unilever and how to answer them

A previous future focused question cited on internet forums is along the lines of ‘What would you do if you were working on a team project and one person wasn’t contributing?’. Other hypothetical questions that TARGETjobs thinks may come up (based on what we know about the company) include:

  • What would you do if you were juggling various projects and you were in danger of missing a deadline?
  • How would you react if you were given negative feedback from your line manager?
  • How would you deal with a difficult team member?
  • What would you do if a supplier or customer raised a complaint?

An advantage of these type of hypothetical or scenario-based questions is that you don’t need to have experienced something similar in your previous work experience to answer these questions: they ask you ‘what you would do’ as opposed to ‘describe a time when’. However, if you have experience of the situation (perhaps gained from an internship or through being on the committee of a student society), you can bring this into your answer.

The most important thing to remember when answering these questions is that Unilever recruiters are looking to see how you would genuinely, instinctively respond to the scenarios, but that they are also likely to be assessing your responses against their values. Make sure you browse the ‘our values and principles’ section of the Unilever website and download and read the company’s 'code of business principles and code policies' – let the information there influence your responses.

Let’s take the ‘What would you do if you were working on a team project and one person wasn’t contributing?’ question as an example. Firstly, consider whether you have gone through something similar: if so, what did you do and how did that work out? Secondly, think through the ways in which you could respond. For example, as a first step would you challenge the person, explain the impact on the team and tell them that you expect them to raise their game? Or would you raise the problem with the person, find out what the reason behind them not contributing is and, if appropriate, help them work out a solution to the problem so that they can contribute more? Or would you do something else: for example, seek the help of your manager? Don’t get entangled by trying to work out an ‘objective’ right answer – think about what you would do, but reflect upon how your response chimes with your understanding of being responsible, showing respect and acting with integrity (three of Unilever’s four core values).

Possible and past motivation interview questions for Unilever and how to answer them

You can expect the questions: ‘Why do you want to work for us?’ and ‘Why have you applied to the programme?’ (or variations on these themes) to be asked. Your answers to the questions listed below could be incorporated into your answers to those ‘Why?’ questions – however, it is also possible that you might be asked them as subsequent questions. Either way, it would be wise to think about how you would answer them.

  • What do you know about us? What do you know about our brands?
  • What do you want to get out of the programme?
  • What are your career aspirations?
  • Why would you be suited to one of our programmes?
  • Who are our competitors and what differentiates Unilever?
  • What do you think our main priorities are over the next year and/or what are our major challenges?

The key with answering any of the ‘Why…?’ questions is to connect detailed research on the company with what you want to achieve on the placement. You should want to work for Unilever because of what you have learned about the company.

With the ’Why Unilever?’ question, pick a subject area that appeals to you and try to demonstrate how it ties in with your own relevant work experience or interests. Are you impressed with its promises of sustainability? Why is that important to you? For example, if you’ve been working part time for an NGO dealing with the environment, think about what you enjoyed from this posting and use it to back up your love of Unilever’s sustainability projects.

The ‘Why this programme?’ question can be answered in a similar style. What does Unilever say about the training and insights you will receive on the programme? What kind of work will you be doing? How will all of that help you with your personal aims and ambitions?

It’s important to note that as an aspiring intern you are not expected to have fully worked out career aspirations yet: it is perfectly acceptable for you to say, for example, that you are choosing between sectors or between roles and that a placement with Unilever will help your decision-making.

A note on researching before your video interview

Don’t confine your research only to Unilever’s website and social media. Look at its competitors’ media, alongside business or industry-related publications. Key competitors to Unilever include Mars, Procter and Gamble, Nestlé and SC Johnson but remember that almost anyone that deals in some area of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) is potential competition. Note that you are just as likely to read about Unilever or the industry in Farmers Guardian or New Food magazine as you are in Businessweek or Advertising Age. Set up Google alerts to help you and make use of your university's subscriptions to online versions of The Economist and the Financial Times.

Our 'How to get hired' articles are written by TARGETjobs editors and writers with job candidates in mind, helping you research and understand employers. Copyright of all material written by TARGETjobs lies solely with GTI Media.