What does it take to be voted the Graduate Employer of the Year? This year, L’Oréal took away the top honour from the TARGETjobs National Graduate Recruitment Awards. Chris Phillips, the research director at TARGETjobs, spoke to Negin Lankarani, the graduate recruitment manager at L’Oréal UK&I, to find out more about the secrets of the company’s success in becoming the UK’s most popular graduate employer.
1. Graduate trainees are exposed to different parts of the business
L’Oréal’s twelve-month rotational programme involves three placements within three of a range of 28 brands. Negin explains, ‘Each brand has its own culture and way of working, so each time the graduates move, they are faced with a new challenge and not much time to assimilate – and they have at least one project to manage. The programme takes trainees outside their comfort zone, stretches them from the start and has been really successful in creating senior managers.’
2. L’Oréal reaches out to students and lets them know they matter
A team of around 50 of L’Oréal’s senior managers is committed to involvement with campus events, the recruitment process and assessing interns and management trainees. This initiative is known as Talent Spotters and it sends out a powerful message that graduates joining L’Oréal UK&I are regarded as critical to the development of the business. Negin says, ‘In simple terms, it’s getting the talent we already have to identify the talent of the future. It’s part of our culture that everyone in the company values management trainees and young talent.’
L’Oréal has also formed strategic partnerships with other employers as part of its approach to graduate recruitment. Rolls-Royce and Jaguar Land Rover both sometimes struggle to get enough female applicants, whereas L’Oréal can find it difficult to hire enough men, so they teamed up to run joint events, which were well-attended and attracted positive feedback from students.
Social media is another important way of building and maintaining relationships. Negin says, ‘We manage all social media activities in-house and our following on Facebook and Twitter has increased significantly in the last year. To generate awareness of our brand portfolio we have introduced #FreebieFriday, where we offer our followers the opportunity to win different L’Oréal UK&I products.’
3. Interns and graduates are encouraged to come up with new ideas
Everyone who joins the company is invited to suggest new ways of doing things, and this includes management trainees, industrial placement students and interns. Negin says, ‘Whatever level they are in the company, we will listen to their idea and if we think it will work, we will make it happen.’ For example, Jonathan Kerr, an intern, led the ‘Decembeard’ project which raised awareness for Bowel Cancer UK and attracted widespread social media attention.
4. L’Oréal’s business game Brandstorm helps it spot talent
L’Oréal’s Brandstorm business game is open to teams of students from UK and Irish universities and focuses on a different brand each year. The students experience what it would be like if they were part of a marketing team, and during the semi-finals and finals they present to senior management. The winners get to go to Paris to compete against teams from 45 countries. ‘It’s great for the students but it’s also an opportunity for us to spot talent early and offer internships and it’s a great way for students to get noticed and get into the business,’ Negin says.
5. Graduate trainees both give and receive support
All management trainees have mentors and they are given training to support them both in their current positions and in their future careers, including ‘Insight into’ days that give them exposure to four key areas: marketing, commercial, supply chain and finance.
They also provide support to others in the business. Management trainees help interns to feel comfortable at work through a buddy system and help senior leaders in the business develop their digital skills through a reverse digital mentoring scheme.
6. ‘Keep warm’ strategy takes care of future hires
New interns are invited to a social event even before they start, and there is an intern committee which organises further sports and social events and publishes a newsletter. Negin comments, ‘We recruit 70% of our management trainees from internships, so it makes sense to keep them warm.’ The ‘keep warm’ strategy seeks to maintain a relationship with future hires by keeping them up to date with new launches and changes at L’Oréal UK&I and getting in touch on occasion throughout the year, for example by sending Christmas cards.
The company handles graduate recruitment in-house with a small team, and feedback shows that candidates enjoy being able to speak directly to a member of the team about the process. The recruitment team promises an outcome within ten working days of the assessment centre, makes a point of getting back to people and is accessible to candidates both by phone and through social media.
Tips for students who want careers in consumer goods
Negin advised students hunting for jobs in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies to do their research, target their applications, show a dash of entrepreneurial flair and attend interviews ready to ask a few questions of their own. Here are her tips for successful job hunting in the consumer goods industry.
Do your research
Understand the brand portfolio. We get loads of people applying who think we are just L’Oréal UK&I when we have 28 brands in total. Study the business strategy and how the organisation plans to develop globally. Build your knowledge of the whole industry. Go into stores and look at adverts to see how brands are being sold and marketed.
Get the basics right
We reject applicants who can’t spell or master basic grammar but the big turn-off is finding other company names pasted into application forms or covering letters. It’s only worth applying if you personalise and target applications. Generic applications are a waste of your time.
Show your entrepreneurial spirit
Think outside the box. We want to see something from you that makes you different and distinctive from other students – but don’t act a part. Be yourself.
Go on, interview us
We are very honest about how fast-paced and demanding our careers are, so interview us and make absolutely sure we are the right organisation for you. It’s not enough to be attracted to popular brands, you have to be comfortable with the culture of the organisation.
More news and advice about graduate job hunting and employers
- Find out more about the TARGETjobs National Graduate Recruitment Awards
- The UK’s most popular recruiters: winners of the TARGETjobs National Graduate Recruitment Awards 2015
- Blog post from Chris Phillips, research director at TARGETjobs, about why L’ Oréal won the Graduate Employer of the Year award