What do you need to work in the food industry? Passion, energy and an entrepreneurial spirit

Want to work in food manufacturing? Here are some tips from Pippa Greenslade, group HR director of Bakkavör, which makes products for Waitrose and Marks & Spencer

Bakkavör employs more than 19,000 people in the UK. What makes a candidate stand out from the crowd?

The first thing has to be a passion for the food industry. It’s the first thing we Pippa Greenslade - Group HR Director Bakkavorlook for. The next things are energy and drive – particularly the entrepreneurial spirit, but it has to come with discipline. We want self-starters who can see new ideas and want to run with them. It’s a fast-paced culture here so we want people who have got the get-up and go to thrive in that kind of environment.

What can you offer your staff in return?

You’ll get a lot of responsibility quite quickly here but it has to be earnt. If people step forward they’ll get rewarded. Graduate trainees can progress more quickly than they can with other food manufacturers because we have a very fast speed of response to our retailer customers, so if you can roll up your sleeves and get going you’ll be given immediate responsibilities.

If you could offer one CV tip, what would it be?

Focus on your achievements and give specific examples. A good applicant won’t just mention that they’ve spent a period of time working in a café, for example, they will tell me what they achieved from the experience – such as the money management skills they learnt or the experience they gained of dealing with difficult customers.

Your achievement doesn’t have to be working with the food industry but make sure you explain how it would be useful in our working environment. Really think through everything you’ve done, whether it’s a Saturday job in a clothes shop or charity fundraising. Spending time on CVs and applications is an investment, it’s your big chance to show us that you’ve got get up and go.

If you could offer one tip for interviews, what would it be?

Do your research beforehand. With the internet today you can find out a lot about the organisation and the interviewer before you arrive.

Show your enthusiasm and your focus. When I’m interviewing a candidate I want to see that they know what they would like to achieve with the role they’re applying for. They need to show that they understand the organisation and they’ve thought through the type of work they’ll be asked to do and the contribution they’re going to make.

What’s the most commonly held myth about working in the food industry?

I don’t think people realise what a range and myriad of opportunities are available. There is a world of possibilities out there.

Why is the food industry a good place for young people to work?

It’s unique because from a young age you can see the impact of what you’re doing because you’re producing a product that people are going to eat or drink. It is an industry that allows people to develop formal qualifications but it also honours hard work and input. If you don’t have a formal qualification you can get the experience as you go along.

What’s Bakkavör’s company culture like?

It’s a fabulous environment and we really invest in our staff with a mixture of formal qualifications and on-the-job training. In addition to our graduate trainee scheme, we are taking on 40 apprentices in the coming year working with the University of Lincoln. If people join us at the factory level, we’ll invest in their literacy and numeracy. Our Nottinghamshire site Laurens Patisseries, for example, provides free tutored learning in numeracy and literacy to boost staff confidence and create a culture of learning. The feedback has been fabulous and some of the staff who have taken place have moved up the company ladder thanks to the confidence boost it’s given them.

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