Ciara is a current Graduate on the Commercial pathway, and we spoke to her about why she joined Pilgrim's Food Masters and her tips for succeeding through the application process.
What graduate programme are you currently on?
Commercial grad programme – a 2-year programme with rotations in sales, category management and marketing. I’m currently in the sales function.
Why did you apply for PFM?
I had a strong desire to start my career in the food industry and PFM owns some of Ireland’s best performing and iconic bands.
How would you describe your time on the graduate programme so far?
Filled with responsibility! You’re a really valued member of the team and are expected to take ownership of your role and contribute to the overall team.
What type of University Degree did you do?
A dual degree called Global Business Spain. I studied business and Spanish for 1st and 2nd year in Ireland and then went to Spain for 3rd and 4th year to study the same.
How did you find the assessment process?
Nerve wrecking, like all interviews processes are! However, each stage was very straightforward and clearly explained beforehand – nobody is trying to catch you out with the interview questions either. At the final stage in the assessment centre all the interviewers were so welcoming and really want you to do your best.
What would your advice to future grads be?
Spend an hour or so researching the three different roles in commercial, office locations and brands to see if Pilgrim’s would be a good fit for you. Also, if successful in securing a job with the commercial function, be sure to let the recruitment team know what role you would prefer to start in (sales, marketing, or category), as they take this into account.
What kind of development have you received?
I have monthly check ins with my manager to discuss my career goals and areas I want to improve upon. We pinpoint what I want to achieve in the future and then I will try to join certain projects / meetings to help me develop in my desired areas. One of my goals was to get better at public speaking so now every week I present for 10 minutes on one of my projects to the wider team, as well as leading a weekly meeting I have with one of our suppliers.
What kinds of things do you do with the team for fun?
I unfortunately haven’t been to the office due to Covid however I have met my team over lunch and there are many dinners and nights out being planned very soon!
How did you prepare for the interview process?
Firstly, I asked some of my friend’s parents who work in the food industry to read over my CV and what areas I needed to improve upon before I applied. If you can, ask anyone you know who works in the corporate world to review your CV – it never hurts to have a second set of eyes!
I asked friends who had applied for other graduate programmes what kind of questions they had received and researched common interview questions online so I could prepare answers. The main thing is to know why you applied for the role / industry and how your experience relates to it.
For the assessment centre I reached out to employees on LinkedIn who had completed the commercial graduate programme to find out more about what the assessment centre and their roles are like. I had phone calls with 4 of them and they were extremely helpful – one of them is even on my team now! I also researched common competency-based interview questions and prepared anecdotes where my experience related to these. Finally, I asked my older brother who had done numerous assessment centres when he was a graduate for any tips.
Has anything surprised you about the company?
How willing my team is to give me responsibility and has been from day 1. PFM makes sure to not throw you into the deep end, however, when you are ready there are so many opportunities to get involved in any aspect of the business you are interested in. Within my third month I was made project manager of one of PFM’s largest projects in ROI. I was also surprised by the amount of cross functional work and collaboration between departments. Although I am in the sales function, I have meetings with marketing and category on an almost daily basis.
How would you describe the culture?
Extremely collaborative – everyone wants you to excel.