Do you want the inside scoop on how to dazzle HR recruiters at GN Store Nord when applying for one of their Graduate programmes? We have consulted the experts on how to pull it off.
You offer graduate programmes within Marketing and Finance. What do you seek in a candidate applying for one of these two programmes, apart from a relevant educational background?
This would probably not come as a surprise, but a huge part of what we look for, besides relevant educational background, is work experience - either from abroad or as part of one’s studies. The latter should complement the candidate’s theoretical skills. As a supplement, we also look for what you’d call capacity for learning. We have different tools to measure that, such as a traditional cognitive test, for instance. That enables us to evaluate the candidates in a more wholesome way. Of course, there are additional considerations we factor in when assessing applicants’ eligibility with a view to determining if they would be able to take part in a programme marked by a lot of variation. In this context, motivation, agility, and capability to handle sudden changes are all important qualities for us that we expect candidates to demonstrate through the entire recruitment process.
"Being employable in the current market is not simply reliant on the qualifications one holds and their school grades"
How important is an applicant’s academic record when applying for a graduate programme at GN Store Nord?
What I could say with absolute certainty is that we look for candidates that are above average in every conceivable way. Having shown outstanding academic performance in university indicates that you are serious about your career. Your scores and achievements, however, need to be supplemented by experience and personality as well as a strong ability to collaborate. The latter is a competence that we really emphasise.
Being employable in the current market is not simply reliant on the qualifications one holds and their school grades (though the latter are important). We look for dependable, committed and talented people, and will, therefore take into account both their academic and personal capabilities.
Can you give us an example of what a successful candidate did (or wrote in their cover letter) that made them stand out from the rest?
I have not taken part in the assessments myself but I obviously receive the summary from the hiring managers. Despite being quite young, some candidates come across as extremely professional and mature - razor sharp in thinking and incisive in speech. That has impressed us a lot. To illustrate what I am talking about in practical terms, candidates that have been ultimately approved for our graduate programmes have all exhibited agility in the way they handled complex cases that we would hand out to them, as part of the assessment process. They would transform raw data into a very convincing presentation within a short time frame. Their appraisal of the situation would be lucid and to the point, and presented eloquently to the audience. We found that awe-inspiring.
"We like to see candidates demonstrating genuine interest in who we are"
What's a mistake people make in the application process all the time and don't know it?
This is probably not new, but tailormade applications are highly recommended. As a candidate, you should always do some research on the company and incorporate that into your application. We need to see the energy and depth of commitment you’d bring to your endeavours and showing us that you have done your homework is a good way to demonstrate the latter. Company websites are a great source of information. We do a lot to present who we are, so you can evaluate what it is that attracted you the most and tailor your message to the specific demands of our company, the position you are applying for and your own personality. We like to see candidates demonstrating genuine interest in who we are and what we do.
Following up on what you just said about candidates having to do some research, is it a requirement that they are well versed in your product line, for example? How extensive should that research be?
We don’t test our candidates on how familiar they are with our products and services. But we would see through it if you were to show up for an interview totally unprepared. While such specific knowledge is not part of your assessment, it reveals something about your way of handling the application process. It also communicates your interest, or lack thereof, in working for us. Your level of preparation would also reflect on the quality of the interview and the impression we will be left with of you as a candidate.
To sum up, as a minimum, you should find out what the company is all about. If you want to go the extra mile, just google a little about the industry - what is happening; is it a market that’s growing or is the reverse trend visible. That information is so easy to get a hold of. While we don’t test candidates during an interview on whether they’ve done their homework, the latter shines through in a conversation.
How does the assessment process for graduate programme applicants at GN Store Nord look like?
The first step of our screening process is all about finding out whether or not the candidates have the right educational background. A shortlisted group is then asked to do a cognitive assessment and solve a case. Finally, the selected few are invited for a personal interview. Other than the professional requirements, there are certain behavioural traits we look for - one of them that I already mentioned is the ability to collaborate. In rough terms, that is the process that they go through. And they have a second interview as well.
"We need to know what the candidates’ motivation was to seek out the GN programme in particular."
What types of questions do you usually ask in the interview?
Considering the high number of applicants, the natural question would always be “why did you apply for this graduate programme?” There are lots of graduate programmes in greater Copenhagen and we need to know what the candidates’ motivation was to seek out the GN programme in particular. We obviously have a round of questions where we seek to explore who you are as a person. To ascertain if a candidate possesses the behavioural traits that we look for, we have a special set of questions. Further, we enquire about your work experience, whether you studied abroad, what kind of knowledge did you extract from that, how has it helped you to grow personally and professionally - that type of questions.
What questions should candidates always ask in an interview?
Generally speaking, I’d recommend that they reflect on what motivates them and what they value most in a job. I know that most of our candidates are just about to embark on their career journey, but they typically have some work experience. Drawing on the latter and being able to identify what’s the perfect fit for them, company- and position-wise, would also help them to transform those insights into questions for us. The purpose of this exercise is to ensure that the role you are applying for matches your personal and career aspirations. As a final remark, make sure that you have all the information that you need before you leave the interview.
How should candidates follow up after the interview?
True motivation and enthusiasm for the graduate programme can be conveyed by sending an email, where you reflect openly on the interview and elaborate on what you’ve learned from it. That could be a strong approach and we’ve seen it happen. A phone call is also very welcome after an interview.
Can you walk us through the day of a graduate programme employee at GN Store Nord?
I would try to the best of my ability. I know for a fact that days are varied. Graduates are exposed to different work - product work, day-to-day assignments, sparing with local stakeholders, and on top of that they meet with a mentor on a regular basis. It is really a programme where professional and personal development go hand in hand. Besides having normal job tasks, they participate in projects and they spend equal time reflecting on what they have learned either with a mentor, as I’ve mentioned already, or with their direct manager.
Does a graduate programme at GN Store Nord lead to full-time employment in the company?
That is clearly our long-term ambition. We put a lot of effort into these programmes and they are considered to be strategically important for us - it’s a way for us to build our talent pipeline. Our contract is limited to 24 months with a clear intent to match each graduate with the right professional channel after the programme, but we cannot, of course, make any promises.
Caught up in a whirlwind of uncertainty? Wondering if a graduate programme is the right career start for you? Dig into the subject and find out if the latter would be a productive use of your life force. Complement with Anjuli Deo's story on how does it feel like to be a graduate at GN Store Nord, then revisit our timeless advice on what employers want to see in your application.