Going for a placement at Unilever: video interview questions

Image for Going for a placement at Unilever: video interview questions

Assuming your application form made its mark with the Unilever recruiters (and, for those applying to the finance programme, that your online assessment was successful) the next step in the hiring process for its 12-week summer internships, 12-month industrial placements and two- or three-day spring placments 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, a tablet or a smartphone. Unilever recruiters stress that you need to ensure that you have a good and stable internet connection and this is because it will enable your answers to be more easily assessed. While you can complete your interview anywhere, make sure you choose a place that is well lit and quiet – you don't want to be disturbed halfway through recording your answers. 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 or ask a friend or family member to do so for you. For example: are you looking into the camera (rather than at your face onthe screen)? 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 placements 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.

Not much is known about the questions that Unilever ask during their video interviews. 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. The questions are also likely to depend on the business area that you are applying to, so the hypothetical questions you are asked for a finance interview won't be the same as for a marketing interview, for example. 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

Previous scenario-based questions cited on internet forums for a marketing placement include ‘What would you do if there was a problem in production and your line manager wasn't available?’ and 'How would you understand and fix the issue of low interest in new shampoo products?'. 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 vision', 'our strategy' and 'purpose 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 there was a problem in production and your line manager wasn't available?’ 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? You won't need to have first-hand experience of production to answer this question, you don't need specific knowledge of production processes, rather think about how you would behave in this situation. Secondly, think through the ways in which you could respond. For example, as a first step would you try and resolve the problem to the best of your ability? Or would you find someone else who would be able to respond to the issue? Or would you do a mixture of the two: do your best to halt the problem from getting worst so that you have enough time to find someone who will be able to help? 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 – as outlined in the 'code of business principles and code policies' document).

The second example question 'How would you understand and fix the issue of low interest in new shampoo products?' might require a bit more specific knowledge about Unilever and its products. You aren't expected to come up with new brand strategies on the spot, but think about how you would behave in this situation. Recruiters will be looking to see how you think through and respond to issues, and whether that would suit working at Unilever. Your answer might be informed by research you have done into Unilever, its products and its brands – can you think of an equivalent situation in the recent past where Unilever's products were not popular, how did they respond and was this successful? Again, you don't need to have direct experience of this situation. For example, you might find you've solved similar problems during university assessments or as part of a society committee.

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?’ or Why Unilever? 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 placement?
  • What are your career aspirations?
  • Why would you be suited to one of our placement?
  • 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 strategy.

The ‘Why this placement?’ question can be answered in a similar style. What does Unilever say about the training and insights you will receive on the placement? 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 on theFarmers Guardian or New Food websites as you are in Businessweek or Campaign. 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.

What next?

If you are successful in impressing recruiters during your digital interview, you will then be invited to the final stage of assessment: Unilever's virtual discover centre. Find out what this will involve and how you can prepare here.