We caught up with Ben, who is on the Buying Graduate Programme at Lidl, having studied Zoology at University of Bristol. He provides us with some great insight, including tips for the application process and his background.
Talk us through your Lidl journey
While I was at university, I set up a food stall and traded at festivals, selling salads and wraps. Afterwards, I decided I wanted to stay in food, but in a more permanent career, which is why the Lidl graduate scheme appealed to me.
Lidl is a fast-growing disruptor in the retail sector, and I heard that their graduate scheme provides really good training. Since joining, I’ve rotated around buying admin and coordination, bakery, bread and crisps. Afterwards, I moved to fruit and veg. What’s great about this scheme is the freedom you get to request the departments that interest you. I also completed store and warehouse training, with three weeks in store and two weeks in warehouse. It was really good to meet the customer to see the front end of the business and to get an understanding of sales.
How did you find the interview process?
It was actually really enjoyable. I completed the online application and online tests, then went through to the phone interview, and then the assessment centre. On the day, you get given a maths test, so definitely practice beforehand.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I enjoy the variety of the role and the fact that you never sit at your desk all day. Also, the exposure to a variety of stuff, for example, suppliers, the farm with fruit and veg, what the products look like, and the taste and look. You really get to know all of the products. Buying is Lidl specific and it is end to end. You take the product from when it doesn’t exist and you decide on the quality and the specs. You then see it through and decide the volumes to sell and do the forecasting, along with getting the contract signed. It’s amazing to get so much responsibility early on.
What has been your biggest challenge?
I went from managing my own business to joining a company where I didn’t know how anything worked. Whereas before I was in control, on the scheme there were all these processes in place which you have to learn and adhere to. At first it was different, but I got used to it.
What has been your proudest moment at Lidl?
My first negotiation was my proudest moment – it was for a new herb line – potted coriander (fun fact - 1 in 10 people have a gene where coriander tastes like soap). The product was due to come into trial soon. It was a proud moment for me because it was challenging, new and exciting. The whole process is a bit of a game and you decide the price you want. On my first negotiation, I got the price I wanted, so it made me a lot more confident for the future.
What is the office atmosphere like?
It’s fast-paced and you should keep up, but I really enjoy this aspect of the work.
What activities are there outside of work?
There’s a summer party, and we’re going to play mini golf as a department. There are loads of other events to get involved in like bake off and wine sales.
What's the work life balance like? How would you describe the culture?
There’s a lot of work to do, but it’s about managing your time. Also, you can work from home one day a week which provides a lot of flexibility. I find the work rewarding and am very satisfied with the job. The culture is very international which I enjoy as I can speak to offices all around the world.
What advice would you give to students applying for Lidl?
Be determined and tough. You need to have thick skin and be ready to give everything. Regarding the application process, research Lidl and get to know the products and stores as well as doing your weekly shop at the company.
Anything else to add?
You’ll need a passion for food – not just for eating but also in wider issues of sustainability, packaging, and plastic awareness. The ethical stance is a notable one too, for example, where the food comes from. You should want to live and breathe food.
What's the training like?
We have a training centre, store and warehouse training, and a presentation course. We also learn about personal impact assertiveness, conflict management, technical training on internal systems, and category management training, all of which were really enjoyable.
To find out more about Lidl and view their opportunities, click here.