Maria and Paul Polman2 Business areas

6 months down the line: Maria Snowden, Finance IP

Hi, I’m Maria. I study economics at the University of Bath and am currently an IP on the Finance scheme.

My last blog post was about my experiences in Brand Development for Homecare, which involved business partnering a marketing team and working on everything from
business cases to brand strategies. Over the past few weeks I’ve transitioned from that role to working as part of a project team with external consultants to streamline our cost recovery process. It’s been a strange feeling joining a new team and feeling totally clueless all over again! I’m still based in our Global HQ in Central London, which is a really buzzing office to work in- not to mention being in a perfect location for socializing after work. Read more “6 months down the line: Maria Snowden, Finance IP”

Maria profile pic Finance

Finance, it’s not just sitting in an office all…

Hi- my name’s Maria and I’m three months into my Industrial Placement in the Finance Function. I work in Brand Development for Homecare, which is a really exciting global role that gives me a first look at some of the newest innovations coming out of Unilever. I’ve already been given lots of responsibility after just a short while- including leading a Strategic Plan for the Living Hygiene brand in Household Care, updating the quarterly results scorecard for the Homecare VP and creating a cost model to identify potential for margin improvement.

It was pretty daunting coming in for my first day working in central London. However, I was soon put at ease since everyone in my team was so welcoming; my manager even took me for lunch on the rooftop terrace on the first day! Day to day it’s not just creating and updating spread sheets- I’m also having conversations with people all over the world about some of the key issues affecting the Homecare category. I’m constantly liaising with new people, learning about different aspects of management accounting and problem solving, which definitely keeps me on my toes.

But it’s not been all about finance- I’ve also done had some additional voluntary work towards Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan. In September, through Unilever I got the opportunity to spend a day with a fantastic charity called Fareshare, who distribute surplus food from supermarkets to places that really need it- including homeless shelters, rehab and community centres. We spent the day delivering food all over London and meeting the people who benefit from their work. You can see us below (I’m second from the left) enjoying a cuppa before we set off on a hard day’s work!

Maria Finance

I also contributed to Dove’s Self Esteem Project by delivering a body confidence workshop to a group of Year 8 students. It was a pretty nerve wracking experience- and a long way from the days at the office that I’ve been used to! But it was incredibly rewarding to see how well the kids responded, and we even got some freebies at the end of the day.

I’ll soon be rotating to a new role, so I look forward to seeing what the next few months will bring!

Alex Walton profile Finance

My first few weeks as a finance UFLP: Alex…

Hi everyone,

I’m Alex and I’ll be writing a few blogs on my time in the graduate scheme (UFLP) at Unilever. I’m on the Financial Management programme and I’m currently based in Leatherhead on my first placement. I thought I’d give you a bit of an insight into my first month at the company, and let you know what I’ve been up to and what you can expect when you get here!

So I studied Marine Biology at Southampton University before applying for Financial Management. Like you’re probably thinking now, my initial thoughts were “I’ll never get a job in finance with a science degree”, but Unilever look so far beyond your degree class that it’s almost irrelevant what you studied (with the exception of R&D where a science degree is pretty useful!). We have financiers with science degrees, marketers with history degrees, BTM grads with English degrees. Unilever are looking for the kind of person that they can turn into a future leader, whether that’s in marketing, finance, customer development or anywhere else. They don’t at all expect you to be able to manage accounts or balance profit and loss spreadsheets from the start. Rather, they believe that they can teach you everything you need to know – all they want from you right now is a willingness to learn and an ambition to succeed.

The first thing that you’ll do with Unilever is the induction week. This is a very full on but very fun 5 days involving lots of talks, social activities, dinners, visits, tours etc. We visited Port Sunlight in Liverpool, 100VE in Blackfriars and Leatherhead. The induction week is great for getting to know not just people on your workstream, but people from all over the intake. It means that when you get to your first placement, you already know a good number of people and absolutely do not feel like you’re lost! You’ll also spend time with the years above you from your workstream, so the second and third year UFLPs. This is really useful, and probably your first minor introduction into networking. Certainly, I realised that you can never have too many people to ask advice from, so definitely don’t be shy and make sure you ask every question you can!

After a week of late nights and early starts on induction, I didn’t at all feel nervous for my first week in the office. I’m based in Leatherhead which is a really easy commute and there is a free bus run by Unilever from the station to the office which is great. When I arrived, my manager and I sat down with a coffee and chatted about both of our life/experiences so far (his certainly went on for longer than mine!). It was really informal and my first taste of the management style at Unilever. He had organised at least twenty 1on1 sessions with various managers/directors around the building which again was a great way to network and build up a bank of people that I could go to for help, whether it was work related or otherwise.

A lot of the first couple of weeks in the office were spent learning the systems and software that Unilever use. I found it frustrating at first that I wasn’t able to crack on with work right away, but soon realised that the projects I was working on were very long term and that it was important to build a base of knowledge rather than blindly charging in. It takes time to get used to just how big Unilever is, and you will be emailing people in different offices in different countries for pieces of information. Of course, your managers are fully aware of all of this so don’t worry that don’t have anything to show after your first day! My manager and I have regular catch ups where we will sit down and talk about everything from the projects I’m working on currently, to England’s fiery exit from the Rugby World Cup.

Leatherhead itself is an amazing place to work. I’d spent a year before Unilever working for a small company in Bath and initially thought that the workplace itself wouldn’t have much of an impact on me. But once you’ve spent some time at Unilever, you will fully appreciate everything they have to offer! Massively discounted staff shop, free gym membership, free Ben and Jerry’s, discounted canteen – the list goes on!

I will write another blog soon that’s a bit more finance focussed, but hopefully I’ve given you some insights into what to expect in your first couple of weeks at Unilever from a more pastoral point of view!

Alex

 

amelia 1 Business areas

My First 6 Weeks in Finance: Amelia Swan, SP

Hello – I’m Amelia and I’m on the Finance Summer Placement. I’m going into my final year at Durham in October. Here are my highlights so far, things I’ve learnt and what I’ve been working on…

Some highlights…

  • Free Ben and Jerrys
  • Finance Sports Day (Should have seen me win the bouncy hopper race)
  • Living in London
  • Team away day to the Escape Rooms
  • The view from the rooftop garden at the central London office
  • Discounted Shop (Definitely making the most of it)
  • Lots of freebies!
  • After work drinks and meals out

amelia 1

Photo of the winning team of our Finance Office Olympic Games (I’m in the middle!).

I honestly had no finance knowledge/experience before I started (I’m studying Biology and Anthropology). This has not mattered at all and I feel like those studying Finance/economics related degrees had no head start at all.

Finance is a very diverse function – I’ve had nothing to do with any accounting in my placement. I’m working in a centralised finance team that provides financial insights to the category teams (i.e. Hair, Skin Care, Tea etc) and to those teams working with the customers (Tesco, Boots etc). It’s interesting seeing the monthly figures behind brands I use all the time and how they perform compared to competitors.

12 weeks seems like ages but means you can get into the role and make a difference. It goes quickly as you’re so busy with a work plan set on day 1. Sounds daunting but it’s cool to be able to get stuck into your own projects and feel useful.

Things I’ve been working on…

  1. Creating a file that compares the shelf price of products against our key competitors which updates every week, in each Customer (Learning to love Excel).
  2. Creating an Information Pack for New Joiners in CD Finance.
  3. Helping with the monthly sales forecasting process.
  4. My ‘Plus 1’ – Arranging a ‘Durham@Unilever’ Afternoon – Entrepreneurs Durham Society are coming to Unilever for an afternoon in September to find out about the company and careers.

So far it’s been challenging, rewarding, fun, and a very steep learning curve! The weeks have flown by and I’m looking forward to what the next 6 weeks will bring.

Stuart Business areas

Why you should consider Finance: Stuart Hoddinott, UFLP

I am currently one year into starting working and it feels like I finished university yesterday. Finance seemed like the right option for me because out of all the functions at Unilever, it was the one that I felt the most relation to. My degree was in Economics but what you study has no impact on your ability to work in finance, Unilever accepts people with all sorts of background and they teach you what you need to know to succeed here.

My first placement was working as a Business Partner in the Global Deodorants team. This involved helping the marketing guys to make decisions from a financial point of view about some of the biggest projects they were hoping to launch in the near future. For a first role, it was fantastic. I got to work hands on with some Unilever’s brands and I learnt from the bottom up how major innovations come to market. On top of that I had the opportunity to work with a large variety of people from all across the world. An amazing experience is seeing an advert pop up on telly, or a product appear on shelf, knowing that you have worked on the business case for that product.

For my second placement, I have been sent to work in the European supply chain hub that is based in Schaffhausen. This means that I get the chance to live and work in Switzerland for 9 months! So far, it has been an incredible experience. One of the major pieces of work I have been involved in is helping to build the plan for the European supply chain in 2015. This is an amazing chance to see how planning happens in the supply chain and the way that Unilever places itself to become the market leader in supply chain. During the weekend, I get the chance to explore Switzerland and the surrounding countries and at the minute am waiting for snow to come so that skiing can begin.

One of the main reasons that I chose finance is because of the ability to see the widest range of the business possible. Finance touches every part of Unilever which means that you have the opportunity to work in every aspect of the company. I have given two examples, but you could also work with the sales teams, with the country marketing teams, with HR and so on. My two roles I have had so far couldn’t be further from one another and that is a great opportunity to learn as much about the business as possible. The culture in Unilever is unique as well. You are encouraged to learn and to take on responsibility as soon as you walk through the door. From what I can tell, the grad program here is pretty unique.

In terms of tips for applying for finance, I think it is important to show your enthusiasm for the function and an understanding of what role finance plays within Unilever. Good luck!

finance-2 Finance

Welcome IPSP Finance!

Welcome to our 2014/2015 Industrial and Summer Placement Finance students! Here they share with you their profiles, what attracted them to Unilever and top tips for future applicants:

Abbie-Thistlethwaite

Name: Abbie Thistlethwaite

University: Loughborough University

Course: Accounting & Financial Management

Function: Finance

Role Title: CD Finance Analyst, Tesco

What attracted you to Unilever?

The UFLP (Grad scheme) and free ice cream

Any top tips for future applicants?         

Know the brands and understand Unilever’s core competencies. It was also useful to understand that the company has a strong marketing focus, which was highlighted as a strength during my assessment centre.  Just be confident in your abilities!

Alex-Bick

Name: Alex Bick

University: Nottingham University

Course: Economics with French

Function: Finance

Role Title: ETS Finance Support- IT Geography

What attracted you to Unilever?

Initially, the prospect of working for a world leader in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods industry- a constantly evolving industry- was the main attraction to working at Unilever. Unilever’s global presence also offers a huge number of opportunities to work abroad, meet people from different cultures and travel within your work which appealed to me, as a keen traveller. I was attracted to the Finance role particularly because it offered a chance to add real value to the business and promised immediate responsibility at the start of my placement for personal growth in my work. In the second week of my placement, I was communicating with Unilever employees based across Europe, resolving issues with actuals that would make a real difference in next month’s reports. Working for a company that owns renowned brands like Ben & Jerry’s also has its perks!

Any top tips for future applicants?

Do your research! Know the real reason you want to work at Unilever, why working at an Fast Moving Consumer Goods company appeals to you and what attracts you to your chosen function.

Be yourself! Your assessors want to get the best out of you and find out if you are suited to the company. They want you to show your best side.

Matthew-Haughton

Name: Matthew Haughton

University: University of Oxford

Course: Mathematics

Function: Finance

Role Title: Unilever International Finance Analyst

What attracted you to Unilever?

So many things attracted me to Unilever! One great aspect of Unilever is that it is a truly global company with over 2 billion consumers using a Unilever product every day! Unilever has a huge variety of brands in its portfolio from Cif household cleaning products to Magnum ice creams.

Any top tips for future applicants?

Ensure that you understand Unilever’s Standards of Leadership as these form an important part of both the recruitment process and Unilever’s culture. It is very helpful to try and think of examples of experiences where you have demonstrated each of the five Standards of Leadership.

Romilly-Smith

Name: Romilly Smith

University: University of Edinburgh (& 1 year at University of California, San Diego)

Course: Social Anthropology and Politics

Function: Finance

Role Title: ROMI Finance Analyst

What attracted you to Unilever?

Opportunity to work for a Fast Moving Consumer Goods company with potential roles abroad.

Any top tips for future applicants?

Do not let your degree title put you off applying for any of the functions – it really does not matter in the assessment day, they just want to see how you think and whether you can be analytical in a general sense.

future Application Tips

Top 10 Tips for Graduate Job Hunters

Hi All,

We all know that job hunting as a graduate isn’t easy. The process is constantly growing in length with extensive application forms, multiple psychometric tests, telephone interviews and of course, extremely demanding selection boards. The process is most definitely challenging and on top of other deadlines that you may be facing (exams, coursework deadlines etc.) it can be a stressful time. As a recent graduate who started at Unilever in 2013 I remember clearly the pressure of job-hunting and the challenges it created. I thought therefore it would be helpful to offer my top ten tips for graduate job-hunters. Some are specific to Unilever and some are slightly more general. These are by no means the holy grail of securing a graduate job but hopefully for those who are feeling the strain they may help;

1.    Know yourself

It sounds so simple but isn’t always something that people remember to consider. Joanne Lucy (Capability Director, Enterprise Technical Solutions at Unilever) who is regularly involved in Selection Boards highlighted the importance of candidates understanding and being able to articulate their own Unique Selling Point (USP). Know what makes you stand out from other candidates and don’t be afraid to share this. Consider your strengths but also be able to identify any areas where you would like to improve. Most importantly, be yourself. It’s easy to recognise someone who is saying what they think recruiters want to hear so honesty really is the best policy.

2.    Avoid generalisations

You don’t have to be a ‘certain person’ to fit a particular role. My degree was in Sport Management and my work background was mainly focused around Communications and Marketing but I am currently a HR Management Trainee. Unilever do not look for specific backgrounds but rather where the individual wants to be in the future. Don’t be deterred if you have studied something that isn’t naturally connected to the role you’re interested in. As long as you can justify your interest and demonstrate potential you have a chance.

3.    Preparation is key

Preparation is important for every stage of the recruitment process and should never be underestimated. Make sure you’ve done your research on Unilever as a company, our history and our culture. Keep up to date with news on your chosen function and be able to justify your opinions. Understand the function that you have applied for and how it applies to other areas of the business. Ask yourself why you are interested in this area and what can you bring to the role and to the company. It’s also worth making sure that you have an awareness of the external market – how are Unilever performing against our competitors? How are we navigating the challenges faced? Sources such as The Economist can help with this. Finally, ensure that you have a good grasp of Unilever’s Standards of Leadership as these are a critical part of the selection process.

4.    Be specific – use examples

Think carefully about the examples that you can use to back up the skills/strengths that you have. Interviewers want to hear about specific challenges/experiences that you have had and how you reacted in this situation. Try to structure your answers using the STAR technique;

S – Situation – What was the task/challenge?

T – Task – What did you need to do to complete the task/overcome the challenge?

A – Action – What actions did YOU take to complete the task/overcome the challenge. Be specific here. Think in terms of ‘I’ rather than ‘we’.

R – Result – What was the outcome? What did you learn during the process?

It may help to think about examples around key competencies (e.g. communication, leadership etc) in advance as this will help you to develop a sense of self-awareness that can be extremely useful in interview situations. Also where possible try to use a broad range of experiences rather than the same scenario in every example. This can help demonstrate versatility and breadth of experience.

5.    Be confident but realistic

Confidence in your own ability and what you can bring to the company is key. Be proud of your achievements and learn to sell yourself and your skills. You are your own best advocate and this is an opportunity to share the reasons why you stand out from other applicants. You should however be realistic in what you are saying. Exaggerating your skills is unlikely to get you far and is a risky approach. Also be aware of areas where you may need to improve. These may not necessarily be ‘weaknesses’ rather areas that you recognise as not being as strong and would like to improve on.

6.    Be flexible

As a Unilever Future Leader a certain degree of flexibility is required. For some functions this means geographical flexibility (e.g. Supply Chain, HR, R&D). For all functions flexibility in the roles carried out and the tasks within these roles is a must. Take time to consider if this sort of flexibility is something you are willing to take on. Personally, the opportunity to move around the country experiencing different elements of HR is one of the key reasons I chose the scheme. It’s exciting and a fantastic learning opportunity but this may not be for everyone.

7.    Ask questions

I can’t advocate the importance of asking questions enough. Yes, this can include prepared questions that you have thought of in advance, but also ensure that during your interview/assessment day you listen to the interviewer and respond where possible. Asking questions helps demonstrate engagement and enthusiasm which is important. When asked for his top tip for graduates at Selection Boards, David Sprent (Vice-President Customer Supply Chain UK and Ireland) spoke about looking for ‘genuine enthusiasm and energy around Unilever and its brands’. Asking questions is a great way to demonstrate this. However, do make sure that your questions are relevant and situation-appropriate. Also try to avoid the ‘obvious’ questions that are answered elsewhere as this could imply that you haven’t done your research.

In addition, if you have any questions before your telephone interview/selection day feel free to contact Unilever’s current graduates via our Twitter / Facebook pages.

8.    Make a contribution

This is specifically in regards to the ‘group task’ element of Selection Boards which are never the easiest tasks to get through. The best advice is to make sure that you make a contribution. You are being assessed against key competencies throughout the group task and if you say little or nothing this will inevitably affect your rating. Be assured and confident throughout the discussion and try to demonstrate interpersonal and team skills. Working as a team rather than as competitors will stand you in much better stead so consider your team mates and try to engage with those who may be struggling to find their voice. If you do disagree with another comment, explain why this is a case and suggest an alternative. Try not to become too consumed with finding the ‘right’ answer. How you get to a final solution is often the most important part.

9.    It’s never too early to network

The word ‘network’ is constantly used in the business world and whilst at first it may seem intimidating or irrelevant to where you are at, the importance will quickly become clear. It really is never too early to start building your own network. Keep in touch with as many people as you can – course-mates, past employers and lecturers as well as friends. All can be a good source of information and may be able to offer inside knowledge about the function that you are looking at. You might want to consider building a ‘LinkedIn’ profile so you can connect with people in the sectors that you are interested with. It’s also a great place to document your work history, show yourself off and find out about different careers.

10. Stay calm

Interview processes are not the most relaxing of experiences but it is important that you stay calm. Whilst nerves are usually inevitable try to not let them impact your performance. If possible, arrive to the venue with time to spare to enable you to familiarise yourself with the surroundings and avoid any last minute panics about being late. Specifically in regards to the assessment centre remember that there is more than one task during the day. Don’t panic if you feel that you have done badly in one task – this won’t ruin your chances of success and the chances are you are judging yourself harshly. Move on and tackle the next task as a new challenge. It’s a long day but whenever possible try to remain upbeat and interested until you’re on the train home. Remember, you can only do your best and the assessors genuinely want you to do well!

I hope this has been helpful. If you would like more specific tips about Unilever’s recruitment process take a look at Nick’s blog from February this year. If you do have any questions about the recruitment process feel free to ask in the question box below or contact the current grads via Facebook/Twitter. We are happy to help where possible and reply to all questions!

Good luck to everyone!

FNC Business areas

Finance Class of 2013!

Astrid
Name:
Astrid Barsk

Degree: Economic History (MSc)

University: London School of Economics

Based at: 100VE

First role: Global Financial Analytics

What attracted you to Unilever:  Last year I was working at the U.N. in Rome, but I knew that I wanted to move in to the private sector. I was interested in the strategic aspect of decision making within a company and wanted to gain exposure to this across a wide range of business areas.

I applied to Unilever because the finance function, as a whole, aims to address many of the strategic questions such as “Where do we have to position our business geographically to ensure strong growth in the future” or “How to navigate changing demographics in our consumer base?” that I was interested in learning about.

In the end, I chose Unilever because the UFLP programme structure means I wouldn’t be pigeon holed in to one role. Instead, over three years I would get a wide breadth of experience: from sales, marketing, or supply chain through business partnering to a very macro-level understanding from my current placement!

Daisy
Name: 
Daisy McElhinney

Degree:  Political Science (BA Hons)  Carbon Finance (MSc)

University: University of Birmingham and University of Edinburgh

Based at: 100VE

First Role: Global Sustainability Finance

What attracted me to Unilever: As someone from a sustainability and climate change background in my masters, the USLP was a huge influence in my decision to apply for the UFLP at Unilever.  The fact that I would be working for a company that not only did big business, but did it well and did it responsibly really stood out against a list of purely profit driven companies.  We also make PG tips, who doesn’t want to work for the company that makes PG tips?!Name: Samantha Kelly

Degree: Law (LLB)

University: University of Leeds

Based at: Kingston

First role: Global Operations IT Services – Enterprise and Technology Solutions

What attracted me to Unilever: There are few graduate schemes out there which provide you with the opportunity to become a manager within two to three years of starting with the business. I wanted to be challenged, given responsibility from the offset, and be provided with the opportunity to add real value to the role and team I would placed in. To date, the UFLP has exceeded my expectations in each of these areas. Furthermore, the roles within Finance are vastly varied – the rotations provide a broad range of experience which builds an excellent foundation upon which to start your career in Finance. On a lighter note, working for a business which owns brands such as Lynx and Ben & Jerry’s makes a much more interesting conversation than introducing yourself as an accountant!

Stephanie
Name: Stephanie Galliers

Degree: Criminology and Psychology (BA Hons)

University: University of Liverpool

Based at: 100VE Blackfriars (Global UK Office for Unilever)

First role: Global Business Partner for one of our 5 Global brands in Household Care

What attracted me to Unilever: I joined the programme as part of the Finance function along with 8 other graduates in September this year. What initially attracted me to Unilever was their reputation and global presence. Such a large organization has the ability to offer huge potentials for personal growth, and the possibility of international travel. After researching into the finance graduate opportunities I was further drawn to the prospects that were available and the clear investment that Unilever would make in terms of funding the CIMA qualification for each of us. Despite having worked here for almost 2 months, I am still grasping the variety of opportunities available and still amazed at the responsibility that I have already acquired in my role.

Stuart
Name:
Stuart Hoddinott

Degree: Government and Economics

University: LSE

Based at: 100 VE

First Role: Managing Russia and Ukraine for brand development deodorants

What attracted me to Unilever: I did a Summer Placement here last year and after a few weeks I decided that it was one of the best companies I could imagine working for. I had never done any kind of placement before where I was involved so heavily and given so much responsibility from the first day I walked through the door. After seeing the kind of work that year’s grads were doing, I was convinced that I wanted to come back and work here after Uni. Luckily for me, everything went to plan with the interview and here I am a year later doing an incredible role where I am constantly challenged.

Owen
Name:
Owen McMahon

Degree: Economics

University: University of Exeter

Based at: Leatherhead

First role: Customer Finance – Sainsbury’s and Waitrose

What attracted you to Unilever; Unilever’s exposure and success in emerging markets was what made them really stand out to me. I could see clearly that Unilever was a company that understood the importance of developing and emerging markets, and as a result of this they are extremely well positioned for the future.

Ravi
Name:
Ravi Pall

Degree: Physics MSci & ARCS

University: Imperial College London

Based at: UK&I HQ (Leatherhead)

First Role: Finance Business Partner UK&I Ice Cream

What attracted me to Unilever: The idea that I would have an opportunity to work for a leader in in an incredibly interesting industry (FMCG). Also, the Unilever graduate scheme offers amazing career prospects of becoming a leader in Finance after 2-3 years on the scheme and a qualification in CIMA. From the role profiles posted on the website and graduate blog, I realised that I would get the chance to make real tangible decisions in a company that impacts the lives of over 2 billion people every day.