Due to their size and wide range of expertise needed, companies in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry usually recruit candidates from all academic backgrounds. For instance, students with a humanities background are desired by Proctor & Gamble (P&G) as sales representatives due to their high emotional intelligence. And Nestlé keeps an eye out for budding accountants and managers, to manage everything from their profit margins and budgets to supply chains.
Some companies, like Amazon, have precise degree or diploma requirements. Others, such as Dyson, prefer a 2:1 on top of specific fields of study. However, by and large, if an employer is bringing in a large number of recruits, different training programmes are typically offered.
But with the allure and appeal of the FMCG sector attracting so many graduates – Unilever and Nestlé have hired scores of students between them, according to the annual Singapore 100 Leading Graduate Employers Survey 2021 conducted by GTI Media Singapore (S100 Survey) – competition for limited vacancies can get intense. And that’s just on the local level. Internationally, university graduates from different countries can work for a company remotely from anywhere in the world, thus increasing competition with the local candidates.
All this brings a number of questions to the fore. How can you enter an industry with such stiff competition? Do internships give you an advantage? Moreover – to prevent jumping through hoops just to find out that the industry may not suit you – what’s the nature of the industry and is it suitable for you?
Understand FMCG companies first
At a glance: Firms in this sector generally sell large quantities of products, such as bathroom products (P&G) and cosmetics (L’Oréal) to consumers for a low cost. As such, these commodities are typically manufactured in bulk before distribution.
The nature of the industry: As competition among companies is high, firms are always looking to introduce new products and refine existing goods, in order to continue building their brand awareness and consistently engage consumers. As a result, organisations typically invest heavily in research and development, as well as marketing.
Fast fact: Supply chain management is also crucial in FMCG, from gathering the raw materials needed for the product to the point of sale. Maximising the efficiency in the various processes is imperative for firms to meet consumers’ needs, raise (or maintain) profits and reduce impacts on the environment.
Skills you'll need
Skills needed: Much like other employers in different industries, FMCG firms keep eagle eyes out for team players. Due to the nature of the industry, the abilities to negotiate and innovate while remaining resilient, adaptable and flexible are a must. Leadership qualities are preferred as well. Communication and problem-solving skills are also important, as is commercial awareness.
How to show your skills to recruiters: Highlight team projects completed in university when talking about your teamwork abilities. And be sure to point out times you led either project teams or university clubs – these point up your leadership skills, resilience, adaptability and flexibility.
On the other hand, it can be hard to show your problem-solving and innovation skills during your interview. Take note not to make bold statements that oversell yourself! Instead, be self-confident and speak of your own experiences in raising funds for your club, or finding a less time-consuming way to complete an assignment. These show how your innovations helped you address issues and resolve them.
And last but not least, prove your commercial awareness by doing some research beforehand and identifying some issues the company or the industry may be facing. Then, give (reasonable) suggestions on how your employer can leverage on the circumstances advantageously. You don’t need to show that your knowledge is in-depth – recruiters aren’t looking for this, especially for new graduates – but a solid understanding of the company will impress.
Qualifications you may need
The importance of qualifications for some roles: Although there are varying degree requirements, most FMCG companies take in graduates of all disciplines. However, some roles, such as those in finance and engineering, need more specific qualifications due to the more specialist knowledge needed.
How to show your qualifications to recruiters: Create a subheader titled “Education” near the top of your resume and list your qualifications below that of your degree. Be sure to tailor your resume to get past applicant tracking systems (ATS), too! Due to the large sizes of most FMCG companies, as well as the sheer amounts of graduate interest and applications, they’re often deployed to help recruiters sift through resumes more efficiently.
Entering the industry
Graduate programmes: Some employers, like Dyson, Nestlé, The Body Shop and Carlsberg, offer a range of graduate schemes and programmes. And although applications for graduate schemes usually begin around August and run to September in Singapore, a number of companies also accept applications year-round.
How to set yourself apart: As most FMCG companies are multinational behemoths, knowledge of a second or third language, global and cultural skills, and a willingness to relocate and remain mobile may also give you the advantage you need to get into a graduate training scheme or programme.
Internships: If you’re worried that you may not be able to compete well enough to secure a place, you can instead turn your attention to applying for internships or work placements, both when you’re in school and as a graduate. Then, you can use the experience gained to set yourself apart from other hopefuls. Popular companies that students look to for internships include Dyson and Nestlé.
Benefits: On top of the chance of being offered a full-time position upon completion of your internship or work placement, should you prove a stellar intern, you can also gain practical insights into the industry. But these won’t be the only benefits you’ll get – prospective employers will also be able to get a look at how committed you are to joining the FMCG industry.
FMCG is also a sector where any experience you have – such as retail experience gained over summer break – is also applicable. However, even if you have no relevant or prior experience, if you have a strong application and are able to show off the skills employers are keeping an eye out for, you’ll stand a chance of entering!