Tackling Unilever's discovery centre day

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Unilever’s virtual discovery centre day is the final stage of its recruitment process. This is basically Unilever’s assessment centre but it’s different to a standard assessment centre format. You won’t be asked to give a presentation and there won’t be a formal interview.

Instead, the day will focus on a number of activities designed to immerse you in a typical day on the future leaders programme at Unilever. These exercises include:

  • a project meeting with colleagues from your function
  • a short meeting with senior management regarding a current business challenge
  • a team meeting with the other colleagues
  • a one-to-one meeting with your ‘line manager’.

Preparing for Unilever’s virtual discovery centre day: read up on Unilever

We are not yet sure exactly if and how the virtual discovery centre day will differ from Unilever's 'usual' in-person discovery centre. However, as you will be doing very similar exercises, the methods in which you should prepare will not have changed. Read about Unilever and think about what the company stands for. Your research will help you think of some questions you could ask to show off your commercial awareness and your interest in Unilever.

If you’ve read our tips on preparing for Unilever’s digital interview, then you might have already read up on Unilever’s culture and values. If you have, refresh your memory on what you found out. If you haven’t, you can find out everything you need to know on the ‘who we are’ section of Unilever’s website. Pay particular attention to the sub-sections ‘our vision’, ‘purpose and principles’ and ‘our strategy’.

This knowledge will help you in all of the exercises you’ll face on the day. When talking about the current business challenge, for example, you can then think of ways to tackle the challenge that go hand in hand with Unilever’s strategy and principles.

You should also make sure you know what Unilever does. This will help you anticipate what topics might come up on the day and demonstrate your commercial awareness. Think about:

  • the markets it operates in eg food and drink, personal care, home care
  • the brands it works on eg Dove, Marmite, and Persil
  • the Unilever Sustainable Living plan and its three targets, eg its approach to reducing environmental impact and promoting positive social change
  • its competitors eg Mars, Procter and Gamble, Nestlé and SC Johnson
  • any prominent issues it's facing at the moment eg how has Unilever adapted to the pandemic?
  • consumer trends eg the increase in ‘free from’ and vegan products available in the supermarkets

Tips on professional behaviour

Unilever has used this format of assessment centre for a reason. The recruiters want to see how you might perform on the job if they offer you a position and how you behave in a professional environment. The emphasis on meetings suggests that they are interested in how you work with others and how you can contribute to a group in order to identify solutions to problems or to progress matters.

Dress for the office. Treat Unilever’s virtual discovery centre like you would a face-to-face interview. Even though you may just be joining a video call, it’s probably best to go for office dress. Make sure, however, you’re comfortable in what you wear. If you’re still not sure, our article on dressing to impress at graduate interviews can help.

Draw on your experience of any work environments to guide you, whether that’s a summer job as a lifeguard or volunteering once a week as a teaching assistant. It might help to think of colleagues who you admired. What skills and qualities did they have that stood out to you as impressive?

Be proactive in meetings. Be sure to make notes, but be careful that you're not just scribbling away all the time. You want to show you’re paying attention: look at the camera so it looks like you're making 'eye contact'. You could even volunteer to take notes. And be sure to speak up. A good way to do this is to follow on from somebody’s idea with ‘That’s a good idea Tom. We could advance that by…’. You could also speak up to summarise what has been decided so far.

Show you are listening to your colleagues and build rapport. A good way to do this is to acknowledge somebody’s point by nodding or asking a question. Be wary of talking over someone else in a virtual meeting, listening to what they are saying and finding a natural place to make your point will help show that you're a good team player.

Respond to constructive criticism positively. If you are given constructive feedback in your line management meeting or if someone dismisses your point in one of the meetings, ensure you don’t come across as angry or defensive. Instead, show that you are considering their points and accept them if they have merit; if they don’t, make your point unemotionally.

Keep aware of timings Set out enough time to spend on each task you are given and keep a meeting on schedule. Remember that it is better to turn up to the day thirty minutes early than three minutes late.

Act in accordance to Unilever’s values: integrity, respect, responsibility and pioneering. Interrupting somebody or completely dismissing their opinion, for instance, doesn’t align with this standard. In Unilever’s ‘Code of business principles and code policies’ document, Unilever’s CEO states their values 'not only protect Unilever, and each and every one of us, but will help us to have a meaningful impact on the lives of millions o people across our value chain’; this is a reminder that you will be working within a commercial environment and that you need to keep the quality of products, the cost of products and the needs of the customer in mind.

Show your interest and find out what you need to by asking questions. Unilever stresses that this virtual centre is as much for you to find out what it is like to work for the company as it is about the recruiters choosing you. You'll likely have a chance to speak with current employees and graduates and the recruiters advise on their website to ask questions. Prepare questions in advance – think about what you really want to know – but keep a few ‘in your back pocket’ in case these are answered. Good ones that can help you find out about working life at Unilever include: ‘What do you find most enjoyable about your job?’, ‘What has been the most challenging aspect of working in your role (or, if talking to a graduate, transitioning from university to the workplace)?’, ‘How did you come to work at Unilever?’ and ‘What would I be expected to achieve in my first six months?’.

Remember not to swear and, finally, remember to have refreshments on hand. You’ll need to keep your energy up.

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