If you are gunning for the Aldi Graduate Area Manager job in England or the UK I have been through the entire interview process and have some solid insight into the process for Aldi in the North and England. I am not available to answer questions, but here are my impressions, based on my initial application, assessment day, first round interview with the Regional MD in Manchester, followed by second round interview with a trading director and senior recruiter. I will write as much as possible - I experienced some great things while interviewing for this job, but also some poor things that are quite unlike what others have described. If you’re serious about this job Google all of the Wikijobs and Graduate forums about the earlier stages of the process. I will fill in some of the gaps.
For the initial application you need to clearly articulate how your experiences match up with the key skills that they look for: leadership, people management, hard working, down to Earth personality. Aldi looks for people that have demonstrated all rounded hard work and an ability to lead people from different backgrounds. This includes sports team membership, the military, personal achievements and of course academic achievement. The initial application should be interesting, too. I think I conveyed passion and understanding about retail.
At this stage it is worth pointing out that Darlington is the region for Yorkshire and the North while their Middleton branch represents most of the north west including Manchester, Liverpool and Cumbria. They expect you to be flexible regarding travel (after all they ARE giving you an Audi A4 and from what I can gather you spend a lot of the time traveling). After about 9-12 months of training you will be posted to an area that encompasses five stores, but it could be anywhere in the area. For instance, you could train in Bolton and Middleton for the first year, then be posted to an area in Lancaster, even though they try to accommodate people near where they live.
The assessment center was pretty straightforward. Google Aldi Assessment Center and you should get some decent info about it. This includes a presentation about yourself (intro), a group exercise almost certainly involving an arctic survival mission, a numeracy/verbal test, and a chance to sell something to the MD. I wouldn’t worry about the tests - they seem more concerned about how you deal with the tests. I did quite poor on the numerical but I still got through. Practice the typical “Sell this to me” questions and be prepared to sell something clearly, establishing the need, creating a price, etc. Be confident and concise when you speak. Aldi wants clear, confident and put-together graduates who are not afraid of rejection or being challenged. The MD challenged us on our answer to the survival scenario and I was the first person to speak up and defend the answers we gave as a group (why we ranked items 1-15, what our objective was).
The first 1-1 Aldi interview was highly unorthodox. I know of another candidate in Manchester who also had the same impression. Rather than asking the same straightforward competency based questions, the MD for Aldi in the northwest asked about family background starting from my earliest experiences and building up to the present. We spent two hours together and the majority of the questions were about where I went to school, where my parents were born, where I was born, what I felt about the “haves” and the “have-nots,” my political views, what kinds of people I spent my time with, the accomplishments that I had achieved earlier on before university. I felt that this was a challenging interview because the Aldi MD didn’t seem to think anything was off limits: he asked questions about family background, (my parents, wife’s parents), my marriage, political views and so forth that were uncomfortable (and illegal!) If you want this job though, you have to just put up with it and answer the questions calmly and collectedly. In essence be prepared to describe yourself/your experiences in 1-2 minutes and to expand on everything that you have done up to the present. Make sure that you sell yourself correctly: if you come across as too academic or ambitious they will worry that you want to move up the ladder too quickly. Aldi wants people dedicated to retail and to working hard as an area manager.
Here are questions from the first 1:1 interview:
Tell me about your early childhood and upbringing, what was that like?
Specifically where were you educated – was it private or public school?
What are your parents like? What do your mother and father do?
Were your parents born in xyz or were they born elsewhere?
Why did she (great grandma) take a new name?
What is your relationship with your father? Mother? Sister?
Like I said before - the 1:1 is not going to be a typical interview. You need to prepare competency questions so that you can sell yourself, but you also need to go back to tradition interview methods: your background, what your family is like, why you decided to do the things you did.
Key qualities that they look for: hard work, dedication, your relationship with blue collar workers / people who are from a lower socio-economic background, drive and ambition.
The second stage interview for Aldi’s Area Manager job was with the trading director and one of the managers in charge of half of the area managers in the northwest (or whatever region in the UK you apply to). For my interview it was very much “good cop” versus “bad cop.” I say that because one interviewer would ask me a question: “What other jobs have you applied for - where specifically and why?” and then the other interviewer would interrupt, “Why did you get a bad grade in German at A level?” They do this to see how you handle stress - answer the question directly, calmly, then move back on to the previous question. They asked the same questions as they did in the first 1:1 interview - about family background, tell me about yourself, “What do you think about the requirement for an area manager to have an academic degree?” “What do you think about managers not being able to progress beyond their level?” (Store Managers cannot go beyond in the business). They will not give you every opportunity to sell yourself, so when you get a chance to talk about any of your experiences make sure that you link back your work/volunteer/sports experience back to those key qualities. At this stage they are looking to identify whether you will be successful at the job: that includes managing people from different backgrounds than you and relating to them, because the mantra I heard again and again was “you are only as good as the people working for you.” Key KPIs include sales performance and how your staff manage to keep up with the work.
For both stages of the interviews with the managers make sure you have relevant questions about the job and what kinds of strategies they use to motivate their staff. After the second stage interview you will have a final chance to ask questions before they send you out the door to make a decision. Be really enthusiastic - perhaps even ask when you could start, what the best advice is for a trainee working their way up to an area manager. Do not ask about how long it takes to progress into upper management: they don’t want people that are too ambitious. Don’t bother asking about salary or package - they are 40,000k + car and set in stone. Don’t ask about the hours - they will be 60-80 hours a week depending on the area and how well you develop your staff (e.g. in the northwest they tend to work 70 hours a week, wheres for Leeds/Darlington region I hear they work 50-60 hour weeks). If you come across as too ambitious or not dedicated enough they will be looking critically at the questions you ask.
Finally - be flexible about location and ensure them that you will be willing to move around the area. Insist that you want the opportunity to develop your skills as a manager within a retail environment - but be prepared for questions that test how you think on your feet, too. Best of luck with the interviews. My impression is that they want young, single, down to Earth graduates with relevant work experience and the ability to be trained in the Aldi management system, working 60-80 hours a week managing 5 store branches. If that sounds like the role for you then I hope this helps you get there! Best of luck.