Power and people Tesco prides itself on the dynamism that has made it into Britain's top supermarket chain. In a little over 70 years it has grown from a single shop in Edgware to become the largest food retailer in the country with nearly 600 outlets. That growth has accelerated in the last decade as the chain has continued to expand abroad. "Ten years ago we had 88,000 staff worldwide, Now it's closer to 220,000," says graduate recruitment manager Emma Howell. Tesco has stores in Eastern Europe and the Far East, as well as closer to home in the Republic of Ireland. It also runs one of Europe's most successful online shopping services. All of which gives graduates with an eye on a retail career an unparallelled range of opportunities. So what kind of candidate is Tesco looking for? "We want proactive, outgoing people," says Howell. "People who like dealing with people, who are real team players looking to lead." Any degree discipline is acceptable, though Tesco is more interested in doers than thinkers. "We're looking for pragmatism. For the kind of person who does not necessarily want to be stuck in an office all day," says Howell. Although Tesco still uses the milk round to a limited extent, the main avenue for graduate applications is via its web site at www.tesco.com. "Our research shows that 70% of interested students use it to find out about Tesco and many of them apply online, though we still welcome postal applications," says Howell. With just 80 or so vacancies each year, the selection process needs to be challenging. After an initial screening, promising applicants are invited for three hours of psychometric testing and an initial interview. Then they spend some time instore, talking in private to existing members of staff and getting a feel for the company and its philosophy. "The idea is it's totally open, honest and unassessed," says Howell. "It's really an opportunity for applicants to find out what we're like to work for, whether they're going to be happy here ­ an opportunity for deselection, if you like." Assuming they don't get cold feet ­ apparently very few do ­ the last hurdle is a day at one of Tesco's assessment centres. Candidate take part in exercises testing behavioural skills, give a presentation and undergo a structured interview. When taken on, newcomers go straight into an exhaustive 18 month training programme with a starting salary of about £17,000. Tesco aims to build technical competence and accountability early on, so the training is mostly on the job, supplemented by special workshops run by senior directors in areas such as finance or international commerce. A typical recruit's training starts with a store familiarisation which lasts up to eight weeks, alongside a strategic induction which gives them some idea of the company as a whole. They then become a line manager. And for the right people, prospects are good. "There are a lot of opportunities to progress for hungry, ambitious managers who can deliver," says Howell. {{Z SUPPLEMENTS }}