How to get on to the Waitrose graduate trainee scheme programme (by someone who made it!)

How to get on to the Waitrose graduate trainee scheme programme (by someone who made it!)

You love their food - but do you have what it takes to make it on to the Waitrose graduate trainee programme? We quiz Laura Fear, 24, on how she did it

How to get on to the Waitrose graduate trainee programme


Waitrose’s three-year graduate trainee programme is one of the most prestigious retail schemes around – so competition for places is stiff. Always fighting to get you the inside scoop, plotr grabbed Laura Fear, 24, who made it on to the scheme at Waitrose, to ask her all the questions you wish you could! This is what she said…

What personal qualities does Waitrose look for when hiring new graduates?

“Anyone who works for Waitrose must be passionate about the retail industry. An interest in food and where it comes from is also important – at Waitrose we’re always launching new projects regarding food - whether we’re encouraging healthy eating in schools or supporting local, British farmers and companies. 

“When hiring new graduates they look for people who are passionate about the company – and who have potential to not only learn and develop themselves but also to help others to do the same, through training, targets and encouragement. It’s also vital you are a real ‘team player’ who likes working in an environment where no two days are exactly the same. We pride ourselves on being one of the top food retailers in the country and we want everyone who works for us to share that pride. I started with Waitrose when I was 16 and I worked my way up, joining the graduate scheme once I finished my degree.”

What makes a CV go into the ‘Yes’ pile for the graduate trainee programme?

“When it’s clear it belongs to a graduate who knows a bit about our company, how it works and why it’s so special. The John Lewis Partnership (which Waitrose is part of) is a unique company where every person who works in it is fundamentally an 'owner' of the company. This means that there are many benefits for people who work for Waitrose that you don't find in other companies - great discounts, a yearly bonus that is a percentage of what you earned that year and lots of subsidised holidays, days out at theme parks and local attractions.

“If you have some community projects on there too, that’s always a great bonus - Waitrose creates strong ties with local communities so an applicant who feels the same would be ideal.

“My other tips? Always spell check your CV and application – and ask someone else to read it for you before you submit it. Make sure that your CV relates specifically to the job you're applying for. It’s tempting to send your CV out in bulk to multiple companies in one go, but it’s vital you tailor each one to each individual company. I know that means more work for you – but you’re far better off sending out fewer, tailored CVs than masses of generic ones. It's also important to talk about what interests you outside of school, college, uni or work. Graduates often focus solely on our CV from a business point of view and forget that companies are also interested in hearing about what else we like doing. It's having a passion for something that really makes you stand out.”

What wows a Waitrose interviewer?

Someone who is confident – and not afraid to be themselves. You don’t need to be a formal, stiff version of yourself. The interviewer would much rather you act natural. Think of it as being you, but on your best behaviour!

“It's important not to be afraid to talk in front of a large group – especially if you’re asked to do a group task with other applicants. But that doesn’t mean hogging the mic – you should also remember to give others a chance to speak and take their ideas on board as it’s important to show you have listening skills too. And don’t be a ‘sheep’. Someone who will confidently come up with their own ideas always stands out.

“Dress smartly, and think about your body language and posture in an interview too. Sit up straight and be animated to show your passion for the job. If you're feeling the pre-interview nerves remember to take deep breaths. The interviewer wants to hire you if they think you're right for the job and isn't trying to catch you out. I promise!”

What experience or skills does someone need when applying for the Waitrose graduate trainee programme?

“You don't need any sort of experience to get your first job at Waitrose. I started when I was 16 and it was my first job – but even today, for the graduate scheme, they don’t rule anyone out. If you are passionate about working in a team and you're confident talking to customers and providing them with an excellent service then you could work for Waitrose. If you want to have some work experience on your CV to give you extra confidence and something more to talk about in your interview, then anything that relates to customer service, retail, or food is great. Volunteering in anything to do with your local community or a charity always sounds brilliant too.”

Tell us something we don’t know about what it’s like to work at your company!

Waitrose staff – who we call ‘Partners’ –   stay at the company for a long time as there are plenty of opportunities for career development and progression. The managing director of Waitrose started with the company as a graduate when he was just 21!

There are so many great benefits when you work for Waitrose. You get a 25% discount in John Lewis, where you can buy anything from a handbag to a hockey stick – and 15% off at Waitrose. The company will also support you to learn something new outside of work through the ‘leisure learning’ scheme and you can get other great benefits including half-price cinema tickets and free entry to all National Trust estates. The company also has many holiday centres in England and Wales. Waitrose prides itself on having excellent and heavily subsidised dining rooms for all our staff.” 

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