Tips for each step of the DHL graduate recruitment process

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The DHL supply chain essentials | The strengths journey | The job simulation | The experience day

DHL’s recruitment process has changed this year, with the addition of the job simulation stage. The focus is on candidates’ strengths, rather than technical knowledge or experience. For each graduate programme with DHL, there are four stages of recruitment. These are:

  1. Online application – you will be asked to provide basic personal details, along with your qualifications. This will be to gauge whether you meet the minimum criteria.
  2. Strengths journey – you’ll be given a series of situations based on real-life experiences you might encounter as a DHL employee. You' will need to rank different answers according to whether you think they would be an appropriate response.
  3. Job simulation – one scenario, based around a situation that you’d face in the role for which you’re applying, will provide the basis for a series of tasks. You’ll provide your answers in different ways, including making video recordings, writing answers, ranking responses and selecting your preferred responses from a list of choices.
  4. Experience day – this is DHL’s version of an assessment centre. Depending on the format of the day, this could include an interview, site tour, group exercise and presentation.

Amy Ward, graduate talent manager at DHL, has given us some advice on how you can prepare and perform in a way that puts your strengths on show.

Remember the supply chain essentials throughout

DHL's Amy expects candidates to know the three ‘supply chain essentials’, so it’s a good idea to become familiar with them before you begin the recruitment process with DHL. Using them to inform your approach, and showing that you’re aware of what they are, will demonstrate that you’re a good match for the company.

Strengths journey

At this stage, you’ll be given a series of situations and a number of potential responses or actions for each. You’ll be asked to rank each one in order of preference.

‘It’s important that you answer honestly at this stage – that way, we can clearly see your strengths,’ says Amy. ‘The main way to prepare for the strengths journey is to make sure you know about the logistics and supply chain industry, as this will give you some background understanding and allow you to make more thoughtful decisions.’

Strengths journey tip one: research the industry

As a third-party logistics company, DHL arranges the warehousing and distribution of goods for other businesses. You should consider how this influences the priorities of the company and the skills it expects from employees. For example, in order to maintain strong relationships with clients, those who work at DHL need to have strong communication skills. Ensuring the expectations of the businesses the company works with are fulfilled is also fundamental, so DHL employees must have strong time management capabilities.

The ‘about us’ section of the company website is a good place to start but Amy told us that DHL expects candidates to go further than this for their research. News articles on DHL and the logistics and supply chain industry will also give you an idea of its current priorities. Sector-specific websites such as CILT (Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport) provide related news articles, along with useful information about the industry. During your research, consider how any issues affecting the business can be influenced by individual employees.

Strengths journey tip two: use your feedback

At the end of the strengths journey, every candidate will receive a feedback report. If you do progress to the next stage, make sure you read this carefully and use it to influence your preparation going forward in the recruitment process. If it states that you need to work on your problem-solving ability, for example, research to find out exactly what this means. Think about how you might make improvements based on the feedback and demonstrate the skills mentioned during the later stages. There may be a feature dedicated to the skill you want to work on among the targetobs articles on skills and competencies for graduates ; in which case, it should provide you with guidance.

Job simulation

The types of response you’ll be required to give in the job simulation will be varied; you’ll answer through video recordings and written answers, as well as ranking responses and giving your preferences. ‘This gives you the opportunity to show your strengths in different ways,’ reflects Amy. So, don’t worry if you’re stronger in some sections than others as recruiters will be looking to see your strengths where you demonstrate them best.

Job simulation tip one: prepare as you would for an interview

‘The job simulation is more role-specific than the strengths journey,’ says Amy. ‘You should prepare for this stage as you would for an interview’. This includes being dressed appropriately for the filmed sections and having a calculator, pen and paper with you.

Conduct research in the same ways as suggested for the strengths journey but focus more closely on how trends or concerns for the sector would affect you in that particular role. For example, one challenge for the logistics industry is to minimise costs to the business by maximising journey time and fuel-use efficiency. If you are on the DHL finance graduate programme on a business analyst rotation, you might be asked to investigate this. It’s also a good idea take a look at the LinkedIn profiles of people working in finance for DHL in order to find out what tasks they carry out and the skills required to do so.

Job simulation tip two: practice makes perfect

Amy told us that practising for the recorded part will benefit you, as recruiters can usually tell if a candidate hasn’t done so. She suggests saying your responses to some interview-style questions out loud and watching yourself – by standing in front of a mirror or having your friend film you on their phone and playing it back. This way, you’ll be able to see your facial expressions and body language; you should come across as you’d like to if you were carrying out a face-to-face interview – friendly and professional. You can read more advice in the targetjobs article on preparing for video and Skype interviews.

Experience day for graduates

The experience day, DHL’s version of an assessment centre, is held at one of the company’s biggest business partners in the UK. Our interview with Amy informed us of the four top tips for approaching this day.

Experience day tip one: show engagement at every stage

‘It’s called an experience day because we want candidates to experience us just as much as we experience them,’ says Amy. So, it’s important to show that you’re interested in finding out about the company throughout the day, as this will demonstrate your passion to recruiters.

As the initial group activity doesn’t have an obvious link to logistics, it might be tempting to slip into an informal way of talking or to demonstrate less effort than you would for a more business-focused task. This is something to avoid – remember that you’re being assessed during every stage, so show that you’re engaged and want to learn more.

You may have the opportunity to take part in a site tour; demonstrating your enthusiasm for DHL is important for this part, too. ‘We might not be standing with clipboards but we can instantly see which candidates are genuinely passionate about working in a warehouse and on site,’ Amy informs us. She tells us that those who impress DHL are often at the front of the group, asking questions to employees. They also use what they learn: ‘Some people go above and beyond by including what they found out during the site tour when they carry out later activities, particularly the presentation. This really shows us how enthusiastic they are about working for us.’

Experience day tip two: be a team player, not a dictator

‘Lots of candidates fall down during the group exercises as they don’t demonstrate the strengths that make a strong team player,’ Amy told us. Showing your teamwork skills should be a top priority during group exercises as working with others will be a fundamental part of your role with DHL.

‘Being the best isn’t being the most outspoken. It’s usually the person who gets the team involved and asks lots of questions.’ Don’t think of group activities as competitions but approach them as if you were an employee at DHL working in a team. Work in the way that you feel will bring about the best results. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t voice your thoughts and ideas; it’s about doing so when you feel it’s most appropriate and communicating in a way that will convince your team of the strength of your views. Importantly, you should also encourage, listen to and take different ideas on board.

Our article on teamwork will give you some ideas about how recruiters assess these skills; reading this beforehand should improve your performance during the experience day.

Experience day tip three: know what makes a good leader

The activities you’ll undertake during the experience day will give you the opportunity to showcase your leadership potential, so it’s a good idea to work on improving your understanding of what makes for strong leadership beforehand. These targetjobs articles on emotional intelligence and leadership and management are good places to start.

You should also consider what makes a good leader for DHL specifically. The language used in the careers section of its website should help you with this. In the ‘working here’ section, you’ll find that the company talks about respect and results as the fundamental principles of their culture. Don’t think of these as being contradictory terms; if you were to take on a managerial role you would be expected to make sure employees felt valued and to take strong ideas on-board, yet ultimately you would have to make tough decisions and make sure objectives are met. Listening to and working cooperatively with others, as well as being decisive when you know that will bring about the best results, will demonstrate to DHL that you have leadership potential.

Experience day tip four: remember the supply chain essentials

We’re finishing where we started – with a reminder of the three essentials that DHL emphasise as being fundamental to being a strong employee in the supply chain sector: can-do, passion and right first time. The experience day provides a particularly good opportunity to show that you possess all of these qualities.

Having a positive attitude throughout will emphasise your ‘can-do’ attitude. Group tasks should allow you to show that you can get it ‘right first time’ by thinking through scenarios carefully and giving well-thought-out ideas. This doesn’t mean you should worry if things don’t go perfectly. Amy says, ‘Right first time is something we’re always striving for. We know that it’s sometimes impossible to achieve but we make sure we learn very quickly when we don’t – and we get it right first time next time!’ Using logical thinking and attention to detail to avoid problems, dealing with any issues quickly if they do arise and being able to reflect on how you could avoid these next time will demonstrate your capability when it comes to ‘right first time’.

  • Right first time – this means doing the preparation and research needed to deliver everything a customer expects (when they expect it) first time around. You can demonstrate your ability to provide this by being prepared for each stage of the process and doing research into the company and position beforehand.
  • Can-do – this means showing a positive attitude towards every task, whether it’s one you perform every day or an unexpected challenge. It’s also about having the confidence to take on new responsibilities or apply yourself to new challenges.
  • Passion – showing your knowledge of the company and the supply chain sector throughout the recruitment process should prove your passion. Linking any university modules, activities or hobbies to the role (such as by stating how the skills you gained might help you) will also emphasise your passion.

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