Discovering diamonds in the rough
A stellar academic record will always be an advantage for those seeking an enviable place in the corporate structure, but it’s no longer enough in a volatile, fast-changing world.
What the world’s largest corporations are also looking for in their potential leaders are the increasingly rare abilities to work well with others, think fast on their feet and do whatever it takes to meet goals.
In other words, to go above and beyond their duty to achieve clear objectives.
Unfortunately, these prized attributes are not accurately captured in a curriculum vitae, thus companies have had to devise their own methods to discover the diamonds in the rough.
In the case of beauty and cosmetics giant L’Oreal, it challenges potential hires to accomplish specific tasks designed to reveal facets of their personality that the company is looking for, according to Jake Bustos, L’Oreal Philippines talent acquisition and employer branding manager.
For example, potential hires who have passed the basics such as minimum educational attainment and personality exams are brought to the L’Oreal warehouse where they are directed to pack products for delivery to various customers. Through this, supervisors will know who works without complaints and who are able to work well with others to achieve a common task.
Then in the commute challenge, the applicants are tasked to find their way from the warehouse in Parañaque City to the head office in Pasig using public transport. This exercise weeds out the divas and spots those with street smarts.
The last challenge, says Bustos, is the business case challenge where those wanting to be part of the L’Oreal organization are tasked to formulate solutions to a business case, such as how to relaunch a mascara product to garner more sales.
Bustos says that in this exercise, L’Oreal management does not observe the presentation per se, but rather the process of brainstorming—who in the team does not participate, who leads the discussions, who dominates the meetings, upstages the other members of the group or are quick to grab credit for another person’s work.
Only those who pass these challenges are hired, with the academic records taking a back seat in the final evaluation.
“We hire for attitude and character,” stresses Bustos.
L’Oreal does not lack for applicants given its size and the prestige that goes with working with a brand known the world over, thus it can afford to be choosy. It cannot afford to go for the mediocre given the kind of competition it is up against every day.
As Bustos says, L’Oreal strives for nothing short of excellence and thus only allows those with grit, resilience and competence to join the fold.
“We are a community of individuals who are open, prepared to challenge and be challenged,” he says. “Given this, we find that those that thrive in L’Oreal are individuals who are comfortable in an agile and fast-paced environment, and have natural entrepreneurial inclinations; these and being open-minded and resilient are essential characteristics that would help candidates succeed in L’Oreal. In L’Oreal, we give our employees many opportunities to try out new things, new ideas, to really express, apply and discover themselves; you need to have a relatively good appetite for taking risks and also be quite good at prioritization and can stay focused in the face of all the different tasks and opportunities.”
To have a successful career at L’Oreal, Bustos says it is also important for the employees to have a driving passion for its products such as L’Oreal, Garnier, Kiehl’s and Maybelline and what the billion-dollar company stands for.
“Given the industry we are in, we end up at times working long days under high pressure, so it is really important to have that passion to help keep you going. To add, we find that those who thrive in L’Oreal are individuals who are passionate and have a strong sense of purpose,” he says.
University students can get a sneak peek into what it is like to work in a company such as L’Oreal that is anchored on continuous innovation by joining Brandstorm, L’Oreal’s signature business and innovation competition for students.
It is one of the largest and most prestigious global business competitions and has attracted over 120,000 students in 60 countries since its creation in 1992. Brandstorm gives students from diverse backgrounds and degree programs the unique opportunity to put themselves in the shoes of an innovation leader for L’Oreal’s international brands and take on a business challenge on the world stage.
Since the participation of the Philippines in the global competition in 2009, L’Oreal has consistently brought together the best talents from partner universities and have impressed counterparts from all over the world.
In 2012, the Philippines bagged the Global Championship, besting finalists from over 40 other countries. Then in 2017, L’Oreal Brandstorm Philippines was given global recognition for increasing its student participation by 371 percent with 1,527 registered student players from 22 universities, making it the third largest worldwide in 2017 and the largest in Southeast Asia to date.
Last year, L’Oreal committed to offer students and professors the most hands-on and strategic business competition in the country.
The latest run of Brandstorm was globally launched on Oct. 1, 2018 and online registration was opened on Oct. 11, 2018 for interested students.
Some of the winning participants end up working with L’Oreal, ranked the world’s eighth most attractive employer according to Unviersum. It hires only about six to eight out of the average 1,000 applicants every year.
And the young people who emerge through the gauntlet do not possess the negative characteristics frowned upon by employers, like being entitled and easily frustrated by challenges and even the most mundane tasks.
“They will inevitably fail because they will easily quit or rationalize mistakes or when they take a wrong turn. What we are looking for are highly resilient individuals,” says Bustos.
“Through Brandstorm, we want to show students that employers are no longer just looking at the grades, they are looking for certain traits such as emotional resilience and professional maturity,” he says.
If an applicant has these increasingly rare traits, then there would always be work waiting for them, possibly even at L’Oreal.
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