Distribution & Logistics is a fast-paced sector which requires applicants to be dynamic, decisive and able to take responsibility for small or large teams. Jobs in this sector are varied, ranging from managing supply chains, to planning and expanding businesses. Candidates must be efficient, diligent and able to take on challenges. Distribution & Logistics offers many excellent career options for graduates who are confident and bright enough to bring an innovative approach to the work.
For graduates entering the sector, companies will consider a variety of degrees from differing disciplines such as Business, Business Management, Supply Chain, Logistics Management or Logistics and Operations. While not always required, a relevant degree will increase a graduate's chances. Much of the work in this sector involves streamlining and improving business practices, and it shares many similarities with Consultancy.
How to Get a Job in Distribution & Logistics
Distribution & Logistics requires a particular set of skills to excel.
Candidate should display the following:
1. Organisational skills
Work in this sector involves handling many different problems at once, and keeping a cool head when the pressure picks up. Roles may require organising supply routes and finding solutions to the setbacks which arise. Organisational skills are vital, and candidates should provide employers with detailed evidence of their ability to handle many different tasks at once without getting flustered. This includes time management skills, such as juggling university work with extracurricular activities and a part-time job.
2. Problem solving skills
Retail distribution involves dealing with product and stock issues in a time-sensitive manner, such figuring out how to get cuts of meat from Scotland to the south coast without compromising the quality of the product. Distributors must be on top of orders and able to work out how to feed supply and demand to different areas of the country. Candidates should display strong problem-solving skills, ideally providing employers with examples of times when they have brought near impossible tasks to satisfactory conclusions.
3. Ability to think logically and innovatively
Roles in Distribution & Logistics often require dealing with issues facing a business's supplies, production or distribution lines, and while the direct route is usually best, candidates will occasionally be required to think creatively to design improvements to the business. Graduates should show evidence of both logical and innovative thought, perhaps in their management of a student society or in a creative approach to a university presentation.
4. Good interpersonal skills
Work in this sector can necessitate meeting suppliers and establishing routes through negotiation, such as in Procurement Logistics or Distribution Logistics. These roles require candidates to display excellent interpersonal skills in dealing with customers and clients alike. Candidates must be able to understand the customer's needs and expectations and act in the best way for the business. Graduates can provide examples of their customer service skills such as part-time work in a shop or bar, or time spent negotiating with vendors and suppliers for a university society.
5. Strong communication skills
Along with good interpersonal skills, this sector requires strong communication skills. Written and oral communication is extremely important to dealing with clients and vendors. Candidates can provide examples from their time at university, both in their studies and extracurricular activities.
Distribution & Logistics Case Studies
I joined Royal Mail three years ago and I look back and hardly recognise myself. I've developed so much in this role in terms of my skills and self-confidence..."
The Employer - Joanne Hall (Senior Recruiting Talent Programme Manager - Royal Mail)
Name: Joanne Hall
Job Title: Senior Recruiting Talent Programme Manager - Royal Mail
What competencies do you like to see in candidates?
Candidates need to be self-motivated, tenacious and love a fast paced environment where they thrive when challenged. Our graduates are offered a responsibility from the moment they are placed in a management role. They are exposed to senior managers early, so they need to be ambitious, enthusiastic and confident enough to deal with that.
Graduates start with us in September, just before the run up to Christmas which is our busiest time of the year. That means the challenge is upon them very quickly. By then they could be managing a team of 20 to 40 people. So, it takes a lot of resilience and organisation. They need a high emotional intelligence because they are working with people that have been in the company a long time and who know the business inside and out. Graduates also need to be very articulate, supportive and clear in their instructions to their teams.
Candidates need to be resilient, positive and focussed, as well as data driven and analytical. This is important when they need to be great at logistical planning, be convincing and able to motivate staff to get things out on time, manage and deliver in a 24/7,shift environment.
Can you talk us through the application process?
Candidates need to apply online. There are application questions and also some competency and motivational type questions. They will then go on to complete some online tests. For Operations these are verbal, numerical and logical reasoning. They will also complete a work style and preference test, similar to a personality questionnaire. If they pass those, they will progress straight through to assessment centre.
At the assessment centre the exercises can be anything from a case study presentation, an interview, a role play or a group exercise.
What is the most common mistake you see in an application, which leads to candidates being rejected?
Candidates who fail to research the company! Best prepared candidates carry out thorough research about the company and clearly understand the business opportunities and scheme offering. These candidates quickly realize that they will be working in warehouses; they relish shift work, whether it's night, late or early shifts and they enjoy juggling various demands. The ideal candidate automatically matches him/herself to the business ethos and culture. They are often high energy individuals who are passionate about delivering against production targets in a 24/7 environment. Able to think on their feet; they habitually use their initiative; have experience of convincing people to do things differently and are the kind of people who show high emotional intelligence, positivity and lead by example.
It really pays when a candidate has work experience which will shine through at the assessment centre. It doesn't need to be work experience in a logistics company. What we look for is that they have some experience working with different people, from all backgrounds, in the workplace. They will feel challenged when they get here, so they need to feel confident. If they are not as resilient or confident it tends to show. That's tested very much at the assessment centre. Also during presentations they really need to be able to put forward their case.
What is the main piece of advice you would give a graduate starting in the Distribution and Logistics sector?
People that have work experience tend to do well in the application process. It's not the case of one thing standing out, like a 2:1 degree, but experiences and times they've challenged the status quo. They will be asked how they think about how their previous experience relates to the role.
What's the main challenge graduates face when they start?
The sheer size of Royal Mail can be quite daunting for them. They won't quite know what that means until they join. It's difficult to grasp at first as it is fast paced and there's so much going on, so they need to continue to ask lots of questions and be really confident and enthusiastic.
If you weren't a Senior Recruiting Manager, what would you be?
I'd be a professional chef or business owner. I trained as a chef before I began working in HR. I'd love to have my own small restaurant with the glorious 9 to 5 hours.
The Employee - Harriet Dodds (World Class Mail Deployment Lead - Royal Mail)
Name: Harriet Dodds
Job Title: World Class Mail Deployment Lead - Royal Mail
University: University of Leicester
Course: Contemporary History
Graduation Year: 2008
How did you find your graduate job in Distribution and Logistics?
After I finished university I started to work for Royal Mail part time, not as a manager, but sorting post in the evening. That was my introduction to Royal Mail. I didn't know about the graduate scheme beforehand. While I was working there I found out about it and applied as an internal candidate.
Why do you think you were successful at Royal Mail?
I think it was because of the enthusiasm I have. Also I'm ready for a challenge and willing to learn. I didn't have much particularly relevant experience - a Contemporary History degree has nothing to do with distribution and logistics. So, I think it must have been my attitude which saw me onto the scheme.
What do you actually do?
My role is really varied, supporting the running and continuity of improvement activities at different sites around the country. I attend national forums which are involved in benchmarking, best practice and then looking at developing the methodology and the tools that we use to improve the quality of service for our customers.
What skills do you need?
I think a lot of the skills that I've developed for this role have been developed during the three placements of the scheme. In terms of the skills that I had when I joined the graduate scheme, you've got to be willing to be hands on and get stuck in. Also, you need to be good at working with people. This is what I've loved about all my placements for Royal Mail, all the different types of people I work with. Obviously as a manager you've got to be able to deal with different people in different ways, depending on their needs and how you inspire them.
A lot of it is being able to think on your feet, equally being able to create a long term vision for people with what you are doing. You need to be able to inspire people because things change and are changing all the time.
For my current role I needed confidence in myself, in what I'm doing and the vision that I'm setting. Being able to listen to people and take things in from people all over the country. Also, there is always more that can be done. So, being able to prioritise and stay motivated is key.
What is the best thing about your job?
There are two things really. One is that I get to work with lots of different people, all over the country as I am in a national role. Also, being able to have a genuine impact on the business, on the company and on what we do. They're the best things really about this job. All the roles that I've done have allowed me to make a genuine impact.
And what is the worst thing about your job?
The worst thing is that it never stops. There is always more that could be done. One of the first things that I've learnt is how to cope with that. I'm sure I could get better at it, but you need to be able to prioritise and cope with pressure. You could just keep going and going because there is always more that needs doing.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I do see my future at Royal Mail. One of the things that I do see is that the knowledge and the skills that I have now will have vastly increased in ten years. I joined Royal Mail and the graduate scheme three years ago and I look back and I hardly recognise myself. I've developed so much in this role in terms of my skills and self-confidence.
What advice would you give to graduates applying to Royal Mail?
Go in with an open mind. Listen to what people are telling you. Be willing to learn and get stuck in. You have to be ready for the really tough times as well as the great times. This is because when you first get started, there are times when you are really in the deep end. When you're in those moments, you have to think of it as a challenge now, but one that is going to make me a much better manager in two or three years because I've had this experience. You've got to keep going and drive on.
If you want to find out more about graduate jobs with Royal Mail, please take a look at their minisite.