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2 ways on how you can prepare for job interview in the food industry (and get the job!)

You did it.

Your perfectly tailored resume and networking got you an interview at your dream company. The only thing standing in your way is nailing the interview. Success, especially when it comes to your job search, is about being able to get the details right. I could go on at length about the need to make sure you iron your clothes, practice your hand shake etc., but most people do actually get those things right.

In terms of an interview what you don’t say could be what prevents you from getting that co-op. Some one who clearly has prepared for a job interview will have a lot more to say than one that does not. Interviewers are pleasantly surprised when someone can talk about something can talk about a subject unprompted.

Here are two ways you can prepare for job interview in the food industry (and get the job!)

1. Research the company you are interviewing with

Often, if your interview is with a large organization, say PepsiCo, this may seem like an unnecessary step since most of us have heard of PepsiCo. And, in the case of smaller companies, immediately available information might be limited. Neither of these scenarios is an excuse for not doing your homework before an interview. Knowing as much as possible about the interviewing company is important for two reasons:

  1. It gives you a better insight into whether the organization is actually a good fit for you. If you are a technician with a passion to focus on one product area, and the company just sold that division, then that isn’t a good sign. Similarly if there is no evidence of growth, and you are an ambitious corporate climber – is this opportunity right for you?
  2. It makes you stand out against 95% of all the other candidates who won’t have done their homework and therefore don’t seem as passionate about the organization as you. Companies want to hire candidates who demonstrate their desire to work for them.

Interviewers may ask you directly what you know about the company. If so, keep it brief but relevant. Practice in advance what you will say if you are asked this question. Alternatively, you can use this information to add credibility to your answers to other interview questions.

How you answer this question will be dependent on the role that you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for summer Quality Control Technician position than it would be a good idea to see what certification body that the company adheres such as SQF, GFSI or BRC. Then when prompted to talk about what you know about the company you can bring it up and demonstrate your knowledge.

Tie in your school courses such as those on food safety but be sure you actually have the capacity to talk about them. If you don’t have a food science related degree than use this opportunity to talk a different aspect of the company such as their commitment to sustainability as publicly disclosed.

Remember the key is to always highlight your unique set of skills and how you are well-suited to work for a company.

Alternatively, an interviewer may indirectly test your knowledge of their company by how you answer other standard interview questions. For example, you might be asked:

“What particular skills do you bring that sets you apart from other candidates?”

Use this opportunity to demonstrate you have done research on the company. Perhaps they publicly announced they recently acquired a new piece of equipment for a production line extension. Is there anyway yous could tie this acquisition into something that you have done in the past? For example, maybe there was a research project where you learned about this process. Mention about your ability assimilate data from a number of different places to draw conclusions as demonstrated in your report. Bingo.

Places to look for this information include (everyone’s favourite) Google, but there are other sources. Other sources include:

  • Organization’s social media
  • Relevant industry magazines
  • Youtube (CareersNow! Mentorship sessions)
  • Industry association news websites (such IFT or CIFST)
  • Podcasts (like the FoodGrads Podcast!)
  • Ask for a coffee with current employees at an organization

Be curious about the senior people at these organizations, find out who the CEO, COO, VP Marketing and CIO is. Where did they work before, what advances have they made at the company, how long have they been there? If you know who is interviewing you, and you can find information about them, so much the better.

Remember, knowledge is power.

When you are at a social gathering and you meet someone you’ve never met before, what are some of the indicators that they are interested in you as a person? They would probably make eye contact, maybe smile and nod when you speak, and more often than not, they would ask you questions about yourself. As I said in my last post, companies want to hire candidates that are interested in working for them….so here is interview prep tip #2:

2. Ask questions when you are given the opportunity

Usually, there comes a time in an interview when the interviewer will ask you whether you have any questions you want to ask. This is not the time to become a shrinking violet.

Remember that an interview is a two way street. One to help an interviewer figure out if you are well suited for a position and two to see if YOU would like to work there. Researching a company can fuel the areas you can ask about and provides another opportunity to showcase your knowledge and intelligence.

As a Food Grad there are many areas that you could ask questions about, although it is a good idea to try to make your questions somewhat relevant to the role you are applying to. If you are going into a lab environment, ask about something you have read about related to research or technology. Alternatively, if you have some knowledge about the general trends in the sector in which the company operates, then ask about this. Other aspects to consider are the following:

  • Regulations We all know food and drink is very closely regulated; have there been any recent changes in government legislation that might impact the market in which this organization operates? Has there been any legislative changes in the countries that it supplies to? Another topic at the moment might be food fraud; many people are writing and talking about it.
  • Ingredient Trends – if you are planning to go in to the corporate chef or ingredient creation side of the food sector, do you know what some of the hottest food trends are for this coming year? Why not ask about whether the organization you are interviewing with is going to be changing any of their recipes to accommodate these changes and what that means for their productions processes? From cactus water or powdered bugs, there is always something new.
  • Priorities in food manufacturing – Could you ask your interviewer what their major manufacturing priorities are? Whatever their answer you can drop in the fact that you read the Food Processing Magazine survey. It demonstrates your interest and commitment to the industry.

Prepare 3 or 4 and aim to ask 2 or 3 questions (prepare more so that you have a few to chose from depending on what you think are most appropriate) and always thank the interviewers for responding. If you are struggling to come up with questions about the company or sector, there are others you could ask that are more general but still would create some interesting dialog and peg you as an exceptional candidate. These include:

  • If I was the successful candidate, what would be my priorities in the first 30 days of my employment?
  • If you could identify one thing that would make someone the most successful candidate in this position, what would it be? (this gives you an opportunity to follow up with all the ways that you have the one thing the interviewer identified)
  • (If you are interviewing with your future supervisor) How would you describe your management style and what is the best way you like your employees to communicate with you?

Good luck out there FoodGrads and remember to check out the rest of the FoodGrads blog for more tips and tricks to help build your career in the food industry!

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