Julia is Head of Unilever’s Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) and has spanned a career within Unilever since 1998. With an academic background in biochemistry and a PhD in toxicology, she has also played a key role in shaping the R&D UFLP and so read about her career so far, tips for being successful on the scheme and maintaining that vital work-life balance: Read more “Senior leader interview: Julia Fentem, Vice President SEAC”
As some of you may be approaching selection board interview time, I thought it would be a great opportunity to revive a previous blog and make sure you’re fully prepared for the final stage in the UFLP and internship selection process. Read more “Guide to Selection Board Success”
In your time at Unilever as a graduate or placement student, you are set your work goals under a framework known as your “3+1’s” which are linked to the Standards of Leadership (you can find out more about here: http://www.unilever.co.uk/careers-jobs/graduates/application-process/). Typically, the “3” of the goals are on “main role” at Unilever and the “+1” is your chance to support and develop Unilever’s graduate recruitment goals. This could mean being a part of an on-campus team promoting Unilever at a university or managing the onboarding process for the next group of students and graduates to join. From now on, you’ll also have the opportunity to work in developing Unilever’s relationship with Enactus UK.
Together with Abs Islam (Marketing Placement Student) we were lucky enough to join at the beginning of this process. As a sponsor company, we were given the opportunity by Enactus to launch our very own Individual Topic Competition to work with individual Enactus projects or whole Enactus teams – that choice, was down to us.
The award gave us an opportunity to really show off Unilever’s proudest asset: Our Sustainable Living Plan (USLP). If you ask everyone here what were the reasons they joined or the main reasons that they stay, the USLP often features in their top 3 (just above free Ben & Jerry’s, obviously). We were then able to pick an issue related to the Sustainable Living Plan that is very important to us and that Enactus projects could benefit from our support… we chose waste – the sexiest of topics!
Waste is an incredibly important issue around the world and Unilever is taking responsibility for its own impact and its influence everytime somebody uses one of our products – 2 billion times a day, by the way.
Our award is set up to incentivise projects to come up with entrepreneurial means of addressing the issue of waste whether that’s through a product or packaging innovation or even consulting businesses in communities to tackle waste across the value chain.
Throughout the year we were able to work directly with Enactus teams from across the UK – whether it was conference calls or one of the two project dens we hosted at Leatherhead and 100VE (Blackfriars). We’re serious about pairing up our expertise to support projects that share our aims and hope the competition and partnership with Enactus will continue to be a great way for us to do that with university students.
That way, as all Enactus students will say… #WeAllWin
We caught up with Carol Bosko, Research Director for R&D at out Port Sunlight site to provide some insight into what a career in R&D at Unilever might entail.
What excites you about science and what made you want to go in to science?
Well I first realised I wanted to become a scientist when I saw the very first example of pH change. I was at a science fair and somebody from a very large pharmaceutical company was demonstrating a simple pH indicator. When the colour changed from blue to green I thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. I was probably about 5 or 6 years old and it was at that point that science really grabbed my attention.
I think what’s most exciting about science is that you learn something new every day. Your job never gets mundane, never gets boring it never gets too routine because every time you answer one question there are five more questions that it opens up. It is the most intense, exciting and diverse career that one could have.
Were you inspired by any teachers, films or books?
For sure some of my inspiration came from teachers. I remember that in college I had a microbiology teacher who was very phobic about germs so it was always very interesting for me to hear him expound about the dangers of germs and yet those were the things we were studying. He was very inspiring.
Did you receive any good advice about studying science or entering a scientific career?
I do recall asking teachers about what I should do to enter a career. The best advice I got was to get an advanced degree. That is what inspired me to go on and get a PhD in microbiology.
Do you have any suggestions or advice for how to encourage more females into science subjects?
Well I think if somebody has an inclination for science they’re going to follow their heart so I don’t think people need encouragement to go into science. However one thing I would encourage women not to dismiss is the hard sciences like engineering, physics and mathematics. Those are very critical and we are certainly under represented as a gender in those sciences. If you are going to go into the sciences remember that you may focus on one discipline like biology like I did-but you can’t forget your physics and your maths. The best science comes from a merging of disciplines and a merging of scientists from different disciplines coming together to look at a problem from more than your own point of view so don’t assume that you can forget your organic chemistry or your calculus.
Why did you chose Unilever?
I grew up in the United States at a time when I knew Unilever’s brands but didn’t know Unilever as a brand or as a company. I first became exposed to Unilever when I was doing my PhD work and I happened to meet somebody who worked at Unilever because they were funding some research in my mentor’s lab. I then began to understand the possibilities of working with Unilever. I understood how good the research was, how good the research facilities were and how many different products it went into and that’s why I chose Unilever.
What opportunities have you had whilst working for Unilever?
I’ve had so many opportunities whilst working for Unilever. First of all- travel. There is always this opportunity with Unilever as it is a global company. You get to look at consumers in other countries, to work in other countries, to visit other countries and so I do have to say my passport is stamped and it is full because I work for Unilever. I’ve also had so many other opportunities professionally-to grow and to develop myself. I get to do things that I would never naturally be comfortable with such as doing this interview, standing up in front of people and presenting my work. Unilever is a great place for developing yourself, expanding yourself, and continuing to build your scientific skills as well as your professional and personal skills.
If you would like more information about working for Unilever follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
At Unilever our 3 main office locations are in and around London; 100 Victoria Embankment (100VE), Leatherhead and Kingston. Leatherhead is the head office for the UK & Ireland and 100VE and Kingston are our two global centres. For those of you who will be joining us this year find below a list of the top things you should know about the Unilever Office Locations, some of them may get you pretty excited!
- The Unilever Shop; because who doesn’t love all their favourite brands at fraction of the price? Rest assured I will be stocking up BIG TIME before I head back to Uni.
- Free Ice-cream; when people find out you can eat free Ben & Jerry’s whenever you want you can pretty much guarantee their reaction will be something like this
P.S. In Leatherhead you can get a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s in a cone which is pretty cool. I’m sure many of you discovered this on your assessment day!
- Free Gym; for when you’re feeling guilty about all the ice cream. The facilities are great; towels, shampoo, conditioner, bodywash, hairdryers and deodorant are all provided.
- Free hot drinks; if you’re a tea fan, you’ve come to the right place. PG Tips in all flavours can be found in the refreshment areas. There’s also coffee and hot chocolate!
- Subsidised Canteen; there’s a huge range of food on offer at many of our sites for great prices. Whether you want breakfast, a hot meal, a sandwich, soup, salad or a jacket potato you will be well fed. And if you want to explore beyond the realms of the office there are loads of great places to eat outside. Kingston town centre has endless lunch options and 100VE is near some great restaurants with quick service as well as a wide variety of ‘grab-and-go’ options.
- Although why would you want to go outside the office when you can eat your lunch looking over a view like this…
This is the view from the 100VE Skyline Restaurant. In the summer they also open the roof garden which is pretty spectacular.
- Thanks to Agile Working, on the days you don’t have to be in the office you can work from home. For those of you commuting, you’ll treasure the lie in (and yes, 8 o clock will feel like a lie in!). Agile Working also gives you the flexibility to visit different sites and office locations (so hopefully you’ll all get to experience the Leatherhead cones and 100VE view and roof garden).
- Nearest stations?
- 100VE – Blackfriars, the building is right across the road, you can’t miss it.
- Leatherhead – Leatherhead station, there’s a coach which transfers employees between the station and the office, running at regular intervals throughout the day, and it’s free of course.
- Kingston – Kingston station, it’s about a 5/10 minute walk through the town centre
- All our offices are modern and open plan. We also practice hot desking in some of our office spaces which means you don’t always have a set desk – although don’t worry there are lockers to store all your everyday office essentials.
- Spotlights; these are small events usually held in or outside the canteen during lunch time. They are used to communicate changes, benefits, information etc. to the rest of the site. They’re worth visiting, even if it’s just for the freebies; very few people can resist a spotlight with cupcakes, and that’s a tip for those who may have to organise one in the future!
Hope you now have a better idea of what to expect of the Unilever South-East office sites – there’s a lot to look forward to!
Unilever – Back to Basics
As Unilever Grads it’s somewhat unsurprising to hear that we are proud to work for the Company. Not only are Unilever one of the UK’s Top 20 Graduate Employers (#12 if we are being specific) but we get to work with amazing brands across the world. It’s fast-moving, exciting and about as broad as you can possibly get. The breadth and size of Unilever can however make the Company seem extremely complex in many ways to those outside, particularly potential graduates. From my own perspective when I applied to Unilever in 2013 I had some understanding of what the Company did but struggled to really understand the sheer scale. With this in mind I thought it might be useful to publish a back to basics blog, a sort of get to know Unilever from the inside. I hope that you find it useful in one way or another, whether it sparks an initial interest in the Company, helps you with your research prior to a telephone interview / assessment day or simply gives you something to do for the next few minutes – enjoy!
Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG). Every day, 150 million times a day, people will reach for a Unilever product whether it be from the fridge, in the bathroom or cleaning the house.
- Unilever employs 174,000 people across the world – from Sao Paulo to Japan to Kenya. Unilever is a global business and you will have opportunities to work with different cultures, countries and continents during your time as a Graduate.
- Our products are sold in 190 countries. Different products are available in different countries depending on consumer needs in that location.
- I always find this mind-blowing but 2 Billon consumers use a Unilever product every day. Next time you are in the supermarket have a look at what other people are buying – it’s surprising how many Unilever products are in there.
- Our Top 14 brands all have sales of more than €1 billon (including; Dove, Knorr, Hellmans, Magnum, Surf)
- Emerging markets now represent 57% of our turnover – this is HUGE for Unilever.
Beyond the Brands;
Unilever is not simply about products. Our mission and the missions of our brands goes above and beyond profit maximisation and for me this is what makes working for Unilever something that is truly exciting. Yes, the company is a multi-national organisation and for some this may not be what you desire from a graduate career. It’s inevitable that this corporate life may not suit everyone, but if it does appeal to you, this is an amazing opportunity to be involved in something outside of a function. You are not just a marketing graduate, or a HR graduate. You have an opportunity to be involved in something bigger.
Not quite sure what I mean? Take a look at some of Unilever’s / Unilever Brands wider initiatives for a better understanding;
- Unilever Project Sunlight
- Dove Real Beauty Sketches
- Domestos bringing hygiene to schools
- Lifebuoy Global Handwashing Day
- Ben & Jerry’s Fairtrade Commitment
Unilever Future Leaders Programme (UFLP);
The Unilever Future Leaders Programme (UFLP) is a massive part of Unilever’s wider recruitment strategy. It attracts and develops graduates who aspire to achieve world-class careers in a range of functions. The goal of the programme is to develop individuals who have the knowledge, skills, ability and attitude to become future leaders, achieving and performing in a managerial role within three years. To do this you are supported with structured training, international exposure, challenging job rotations and collaborative opportunities with senior leaders. It’s fast-paced, challenging and a fantastic way to start your graduate career (although we may be biased!).
A slightly random overview of Unilever but hopefully this gives you a taste of what we can offer and makes you want to find out more. As always, if you have any questions please ask using the comments box below. We respond to all comments and love hearing from you.
Apologies in advance for what could be the cheesiest post I have ever written but hey, it’s Valentine’s Day so I’ll work with what I’ve got. It’s short and sweet but here are ’14 Reasons Why Grads LOVE Working at Unilever’;
- The Staff Shops – an unbeatable opportunity to buy Unilever products at really, really cheap prices. After 18 months of working here I still haven’t quite moved past the excitement of this and have managed to incorporate ‘Unilever Goody Bags’ as Christmas presents for the last two years (my family are easily pleased). But really, who can say no to Simple Make-Up Remover for better than half price!
- International Opportunities – this is by no means a guarantee but it DOES happen. Grads in my year have had placements in Dublin, Switzerland, Ghana and Italy and I myself am currently preparing to head off to Rotterdam for six months. There’s also the opportunity to travel in your current role with one Customer Development Grad recently spending two weeks in Seattle and Vancouver. I’m trying to not be too jealous of this one.
- Responsibility – it’s real, it’s scary but it is without doubt the best way to learn. The support is there if / when you need it but you are immediately given opportunities to take the lead in a way that not all jobs offer.
- Progression – all around the business are people in senior roles who started their careers on the UFLP. It’s inspiring to know that when Unilever say that they are looking for future leaders they really mean it.
- Agile Working – i.e. the ability to work from anywhere at any time (within reason) so long as the work is completed. In reality the majority of Grads spend a lot of their time in the office as it’s a great place to network, build relationships and be involved in what is going on, but the opportunity to work from home as and when you need to is a definite bonus that makes life a lot easier.
- Structure – the UFLP has clear structure in terms of rotations / placements to ensure development is maximised. It’s not always easier moving around every six/nine months but looking back and seeing what you learned and how much it differed from your previous placement really helps you track your development.
- Pay – it’s not the most important factor but it doesn’t hurt that Unilever pays a great starting salary. As Graduates we are also entitled to regular pay reviews and bonus (aligned with performance) so the opportunity to increase salary quickly is there for all.
- Brands – there’s something really cool about working with Brands that people use on a daily basis. In my recent placement I’ve worked with the Global Hair teams and seeing the process behind product creation is fascinating. These Brands are globally recognisable and genuinely impact people in their everyday lives and that’s pretty awesome.
- USLP – Unilever goes beyond business and the work that the Company does in this area is amazing. A lot of the 2012/2013 Graduates have had opportunities to get involved in this (e.g. Camilla’s One Young World Experience, Maisie-Rose’s work in Ghana) and feedback shows that working for a company who has values beyond business is a big positive.
- Training – not only does Unilever offer great on-the-job training but also regular training and development activities throughout your time as a Graduate. In addition, for certain functions (e.g. Finance / HR) the company will also pay for you to complete a Professional Qualification linked to your role as well as study leave to help you through exam periods. It’s hard work but the benefit outweighs the costs.
- Recognition – Unilever is currently ranked #12 in The Time’s Top 100 Employers with hopes to improve this in 2015. Whilst working for a large organisation may not be for everyone this type of award does provide credibility in terms of your development and employment.
- Grad Community – there are around 100 Graduates employed each year (as well as Industrial Placement students / Summer placement students) which makes for a great community. Whether it be after-work drinks or needing to find a new roommate, you have a lot of options and a lot of support.
- Relocation Support – moving around every six to nine months isn’t always easy but Unilever provides a great level of relocation support for all Graduates including time to visit your new area, support finding housing and expenses. It makes life easier especially when trying to balance your day job alongside the move.
- Free ice-cream – at all our offices, all day, every day.
We are somehow already at the end of November, which means we are fast approaching Christmas, Graduate application deadlines and potential Telephone Interviews / Selection Boards. With this in mind we thought it would be a great opportunity to give you a chance to ask any burning questions you might have. This could be anything – whether you want to know about a specific experience on the UFLP scheme or about application tips or even how to manage nerves during the Selection Board, we are more than happy to answer.
So if you do have a question, simply use the comments box below and we will get back to you ASAP. We are more than happy to help!
Thanks in advance,
Hi everyone, these are some of my tips for getting through the telephone interview stage of the Unilever application process.
Before the interview
1. Do your research about the Fast Moving Consumer Goods industry
FMCG as it’ll be abbreviated the majority of the time – your interviewer may even use the acronym so plaster it in your mind now!
2. Know about Unilever’s position in the FMCG market
This includes competitors, brands, our sustainability plan and corporate social responsibilities, and any other details which may be relevant to your function
3. Remind yourself why you want to work in your chosen function and further to that why you want to work in it at Unilever
4. Know the Standards of Leadership and prepare your competency examples around them
Sometimes it can be hard to translate the kind of competencies you will be asked to demonstrate from the Standards of Leadership, so here are a few suggestions about where to start preparing:
- Your strengths
- Weaknesses and how you’re overcoming them, or how you’ve overcome weaknesses in the past e.g. lack of confidence speaking in public but regular presentations at university have helped you overcome that
- Examples of how you’ve demonstrated leadership and dealt with someone not working well in the team
- Challenges you’ve faced and how you’ve dealt with them
- Times you’ve taken educated risks
- How you’ve dealt quickly with situations that didn’t go the way you planned
This is not to say that you’ll be asked to demonstrate these exact examples, but you should be aware that the competency questions are not as one dimensional as ‘give me an example of when you’ve worked in a team’ or ‘give me an example of when you’ve solved a problem’; you need depth and detail – use S.T.A.R. (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure.
During the Interview
1. Take the interview somewhere comfortable where you won’t be disturbed
Get rid of any distractions and spend a few minutes focussing yourself before the interview commences.
2. Speak slowly
This is one of the most important things you should be aware of during your interview; nerves can quicken your speech without you even realising
3. Not being face to face means first impressions are in your voice
Try not to sound bored, monotone or unfriendly. Your passion for the company and desire for the role needs to come through.
4. Have your notes in front of you but don’t read from them and don’t prepare chunky paragraphs
Use your notes to jog your memory but avoid writing large paragraphs and reading them straight from the page. Why?
- It’s going to sound recited and therefore unnatural and the interviewer may doubt you’re being genuine and your ability to perform under pressure.
- The questions you’re asked are unlikely to be exactly what you prepared. If you’ve made brief notes you should easily be able to adapt your answers but if you’ve written chunky paragraphs adapting will be a lot trickier and may lead you to panic.
5. Don’t be afraid of silence
If you need 2 minutes to think let your interviewer know this and take 2 minutes to think. Don’t get stressed out or feel pressured by silences
Hope these tips help you with the next stage – good luck!
Here you’ll find our A to Z of tips for applying to Unilever. Some tips are general, some are more specific and some are not just applicable to your initial application but also the rest of the process. We hope they give you some help and reassurance in seeing the application through. Enjoy!
Apply as soon as possible – our jobs are given on a rolling basis, the quicker you apply the higher the chance that there will be jobs remaining, you don’t want to get half way through the process to find out the opportunity has gone.
Be yourself – if you’re not genuine, you’ll get sussed out eventually!
Check your application before submitting – poor spelling and grammar won’t impress; double check everything.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – Unilever is a fantastic company to work for but you have to be sensible. Apply for as many jobs as you can instead of relying on one application at a time.
Emphasise the competencies which demonstrate the Unilever Standards of Leadership.
Feedback – if you don’t feel confident submitting without a second opinion get feedback from a friend, family member or a careers advisor.
Generic application? Try and be more imaginative, you need to stand out.
Honesty – don’t lie in your application.
‘I’ not ‘We’ – It is your application, if you’re writing about when you worked in a team make sure you’re talking about what you did and not what ‘we’ did.
Just be aware that Unilever can’t guarantee your work location until closer to your starting date. UFLPs (graduates) may have to do various placements in different locations throughout the scheme, depending on the function, but placement students will be in one location for their full period of working. You can give your preferences to location but nothing can be guaranteed. If the idea of this makes you uncomfortable then applying to Unilever may not be right for you.
Know about the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG as you will hear it abbreviated) industry and why you want to work within it.
Lists – these will be helpful to create before starting applying for jobs and will ensure you’re never forgetting anything. List everything you’ve done, the skills you’ve learnt, your strengths, your weaknesses (and how you’re overcoming them, see N) and what you want to gain from your placement/ a company. A lot of these things will already be on your CV if you already have one.
Make sure the function you’re applying for is right for you.
No negativity – don’t talk about yourself in a negative way. If you talk about a weakness, highlight how you’re overcoming it.
Overuse of examples – try to have various examples of when you’ve demonstrated the Standards of Leadership and competencies in general. Throughout the process you should try not to use the same examples over and over again as this will make you seem limited in experience.
Passion – if you have it, this will come through in your application. Unilever loves people with passion. If you’re not passionate about the company then maybe Unilever is not the company for you!
Questions – make sure you understand what’s being asked of you and that you answer all parts if the question is asking you for numerous things. Be relevant and don’t waffle.
Research before you start writing.
S.T.A.R. – if you give an example of an experience or competency use the Situation, Task, Action, Result format to structure so that you are clear and concise. This doesn’t just apply to the application process but to interviews too.
Tailor your application to Unilever and specifically why you want to work in your chosen function at Unilever in particular.
Understand what Unilever does and why we stand out from our competitors.
Visit our website, our social media portals and Google us! Everything you can get your hands on to read will just help you throughout the application process.
Word limit – try and get as close to them as possible. This is not to say if you write 200 words for a 500 word max question you won’t get through to the next stage but it should look like you’ve really thought about what you’ve written and put a bit of effort in. Remember this is your first opportunity to make a good impression so give as much detail for each question as possible.
Xtra mile – putting in that little bit more time is worth it to submit a well researched, well thought out and well written application.
Your examples don’t just have to be work or education related, you can use experiences from hobbies, volunteering, home life etc.
Zen – be calm and enjoy the process!