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As the UK's leading pharmacy-led health and beauty retailer and one of the country's most trusted household names Boots are evolving in the ever changing world of retail and their future's looking bright.
Name: Donna Browne
Job Title: Talent and Programmes Recruitment
Name: Kelly Collister
Job Title: Marketing Manager
University: Lancaster University
Course: Business Studies
Graduation Year: 2008
"…Don't forget the customer. They are at the heart of everything we do. We're a customer led organisation, so that needs talking about and suggesting as part of the interview day…"
What competencies do you like to see in candidates?
For all our graduates we like to see leadership, teamwork and a passion for Boots UK, but most of all, we look for those with a passion for delivering great products and services to our customers. That will include customer care and making sure our customers have a really great experience at Boots UK.
What really helps applicants is if they have been in or managed any teams, for example, a university club or society. I know a lot of graduates think we're just looking for work experience but it can be down to activities they've done at university where they've stood up, been noticed and been a leader.
Can you talk us through the application process?
All of our initial applications are submitted online. First they submit a CV; some do this with a covering letter. Then it's entering personal details, work experience and highest education; in this case, we request a degree at 2:1 or above – achieved or predicted. After that, we give some application questions, specific to the graduate programme such as: Why do you want to work for Boots? Why that area, and what skills can you bring? Then we do some situational judgement tests and a numerical reasoning test.
Successful applicants to the next level will then be invited to a telephone interview. This is opportunity to really get to know them and it usually lasts around fifteen minutes. Online application systems are really useful, but you get a lot more information when you're talking to an applicant.
The next stage is an assessment centre held at the Boots UK Support Office in Nottingham. This includes an in-tray exercise to see about how applicants manage priorities and a store visit, which they are then required to discuss. After, there is a role play activity and a one-to-one interview.
What is the most common mistake you see in an application, which leads to candidates being rejected?
When I'm reading through the application questions, I can really tell if someone has got a passion for the business and I can tell if they really want the job, if they've done their research and if there is a passion for retail or customers. We ask: Do they really want this job, or are they just applying for a graduate job? When you are applying for a graduate role, make sure that you are applying for the right role for you because recruiters can tell. Inaccurate or incorrect covering letters are a common mistake and so are spelling and grammatical errors.
What is the main piece of advice you would give a graduate starting your scheme?
I would say really do your research. Marketing can be lots of different things at different organisations. There is lots of information available about Boots, for example about what we do, about our brands and our marketing.
When applicants are at the telephone interview stage and in the assessment centre, it is really good to show your understanding of what Marketing means and what it means to us here at Boots UK.
We know who really wants to go into Marketing because we can see that passion and how they share fresh ideas with us. We don’t require a degree in Marketing, our assessment tools are tailored to bring out the best in applicants and you can really see if they belong in those areas.
If you weren't in graduate recruitment, what would you be?
I would still be at Boots. I love the company, though could try something different such as Corporate Social Responsibility. Supporting the local community is something I'd really like to do.
How did you find your graduate job in Marketing?
I applied for the Boots Commercial graduate scheme, which gives opportunity to do two rotations in three areas: Brand, Buying and Marketing. This is my second rotation; my first one was a brand role where I was Project Manager for Soap & Glory. After my first year I always knew that I wanted to go into Marketing and so ensured that I was very clear in my preferences and they type of role I wanted to move to.
Why do you think you were successful at Boots?
Through prior experience with Boots, I had a good understanding of the Boots customer and business. I had done some research about the organisation before coming to the interview and so I knew what the business missions and goals were. It always helps to have that kind of understanding.
Also, I have had had experience of working in a customer service environment before. Even though I'm not working directly in customer service currently, Marketing is all about understanding customer expectations. Ultimately, whatever we do is seen by customer going into a Boots store or visiting boots.com.
In terms of being successful and getting into the Boots Marketing Graduate Scheme, I think it was a combination of my strengths and weaknesses identified in the first year. It looked like I would be better suited to an environment with a bit more creativity where I was able to work and support external suppliers and also internal colleagues.
What do you actually do?
I work with suppliers, big and small, to deliver insight-driven customer-led marketing plans. I have lots of meetings every day, sometimes they can be back to back. I spend a lot of time talking to different suppliers about different types of activity they might want to activate within the Marketing channels at Boots that I have access to. The team that I work in is called Partnership Marketing and we have access to a number of channels which include customer insights, the Health and Beauty Magazine and Boots Advantage Card quarterly mailings which go out to our top six million Boots Advantage Card members.
We also have access to boots.com and activities within boots.com such as banner activity and sampling activity. We have a dedicated insight team that allows us to answer business questions that suppliers might want to understand about their shoppers. We are able to use this information to help suppliers develop their own marketing plans.
These are a handful of the tools I have access to and on a day to day basis. I talk to suppliers about what I can help them with, when it comes to launching a new product, raising awareness of an existing product or increasing sales.
What skills do you need?
You have to be able to build effective relationships and be able to understand the different roles and functions within the business. Project management is also quite a good skill to have. Effectively I am a specialist in developing the plans but not in the individual areas. So a good skill to have is to know enough to sell it, but to not know too much to get bogged down in nitty gritty detail. You need to know enough about each channel and the objectives it can deliver and then know when to go to the specialist in that channel for the detail. It's being confident with a small amount of information and not the whole picture.
Time management is really key, especially with so many suppliers to look after. Negotiation skills are quite important, I wouldn't say you need hard negotiation skills because it is not a commercial conversation that a buyer and supplier might have, but there is a degree of negotiation required when it comes to how much the client is prepared to invest. Finally, having some creativity and thinking outside the box, because when a client wants to do something that they can't achieve, it's how you can achieve the same objective and activity while managing expectations.
What is the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is that I am constantly talking to different people, both internally and externally. I get to deal with really small suppliers that have small pots of money and want to bring a product to life and then I can talk to a huge supplier who has got lots of money to spend and wants to execute a larger plan. It's the diversity of the conversations and the clients that I really like.
And what is the worst thing about your job?
The most challenging thing about my job is trying to have the time to see everybody. I often find that there is just not enough time to have all the conversations with different suppliers. It makes you very busy, but I like to be busy.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I'd like to still be at Boots. I imagine myself hopefully being in the promoted job above my current position. After two successful years on the graduate scheme applicants will potentially have had the training and experience for a level five position at Boots, and I have worked hard to get there quickly. So in ten years I'd like to be a level four and have my own team to manage. I'd like to work to be closer to top management level and lead and guide people like me.
What advice would you give to graduates applying to Boots?
Don't speak for the sake of speaking in an interview session. Only bring things up if you think they are relevant. I found that it is not a case of whoever speaks the most is going to get the job; it is whoever comes up with the relevant and good ideas which will indicate if you're suitable.
Don't forget the customer; they are at the heart of everything we do at Boots UK, so that needs talking about and should be part of everything that you're suggesting as part of the interview day. When it comes to applying, it is a lengthy process, so don't give up and keep at it. If you think you are right for the job, and answer the questions truthfully you will be fine.
If you want to learn more about graduate jobs with Boots, please take a look at their minisite.
Ranked 2 of 40 sectors
The popularity index ranks the sectors graduates chose most frequently during registration since 2000.
Average salary for jobs in Marketing compared to the average salary for all jobs posted to graduate-jobs.com
Marketing is often a very popular route for graduates to pursue. Applicants do not have to have studied any particular course at university, although having studied Marketing, Advertising or similar would be an advantage. Marketing is split up into either marketing agencies or marketing departments. There are different specialities within marketing, for example Brand Marketing, Direct Marketing, Digital Marketing and Market Research.
Getting a job in Marketing after university is not entirely dependent on having a Marketing degree. Many successful Marketing professionals have come from a range of academic disciplines and different degrees bring their own strengths to the field. There are opportunities for students to make headway in Marketing before they have graduated. Student Brand Manager positions are available at a variety of companies and have been used to gain a foothold on campus.
Ways that graduates can get that job in Marketing are often varied and depend on the sort of Marketing that candidates want to pursue. Each type has its own skill set and specialities it would be advised for candidates to have mastered, or at least have some grounding in, before applying. Some of the skills are already known to graduates, the brand or the company.
One of the more modern aspects of Marketing is Internet or Digital Marketing. The modern world is so connected and social networking has revolutionised the way companies interact with its customers. This element of Marketing is vital to get anywhere in the ever changing field. Candidates aiming to make it in this competitive industry need to be aware that they need to be on the ball, all of the time.
Traditional forms of Marketing tend to be responsible for organising brand perception, advertising, public relation stunts, events and awareness. The methods for promoting a brand or a business can vary and in more traditional times have relied on adverts on television, radio and advertising boards. Candidates should think about when they have been left in charge of promoting an event, establishing a presence for a campaign on campus or marketed a new business to a new area.
Harnessing social media has become an excellent way to market, represent and interact as a brand or company. The candidate could have been entrusted with a Facebook and Twitter profiles and could show evidence of boosting their audience. Evidence of representing a society or working with student media beforehand is exactly what employers want to see.
One aspect of Marketing that candidates should aware of is brand management. Understanding the message that companies are trying to convey through various mediums, such as print adverts, television and radio adverts and social media can really improve their application. If an applicant can express, in an interview or application, aspects of the company's own marketing strategy and provide intelligent suggestions and insight on it, they will certainly consider that candidate for progression in the process.
An understanding of market research can help graduates in the application process. If a candidate can state the use of trends, fashions and moods amongst sections of customers, employers are likely to look kindly on their application. Candidates would be advised to research the company and, like brand management, talk about the company's marketing where there is evidence that market research has been used.
With this in mind, creative ideas are a fundamental part of a career in Marketing. Employers sometimes look to their fresh and bright graduates to provide a new impetus into the creative process. This is not to say that graduates should walk into interviews with a full plan of how to improve their Marketing. However it is more than likely in applications or interviews they will be asked about the company's Marketing, so having something inventive to respond with will help their application.
The Chartered Institute of Marketing offer a qualification after university. This would be worth considering for any candidates that are serious about pursuing a career in Marketing and can be cheaper than studying for a Masters in the subject. It is a way that candidates can show employers not only that they are serious about the sector, but they have the commitment and capabilities too.
Furthermore, like all fields and sectors, any work experience or internships is worth its weight in gold. Whether candidates have helped out with the branding on a university event or managed the social media of something. Anything that is related to field will only work in their favour. Marketing is such a competitive field, so if applicants can prove that they have done something off their own back and they have the tenacity to go for it, it is exactly the sort of thing Marketing employers are looking for.
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