The Customer Is Central to FMCG Recruitment Conversations

17th December 2018

Whether you are working for a company that manufactures smartphones or sweets, it doesn’t matter which functional vertical you might work in; you have to have the end customer at the front of your mind in whatever you do.

As FMCG recruiters, we approach every conversation with our candidates with a customer mentality. What are they aiming to sell and what is their unique contribution in the process? How does their job make the decision that little bit easier for the person standing in that aisle or with their finger hovering over the “purchase” button on a website.

If they can’t tell me what difference they make to their customers, that is a vital box left unchecked. You have to be passionate about the customer in FMCG – without that passion, there will always be corners cut and opportunities missed.

We have found ourselves working closely with a large number of “challenger” brands over recent years. These disruptive start-ups have entered the market without the legacy of a brand image and seeking to do only one thing: delight a customer segment that has been neglected. They have needed acutely customer-focused people, and many have hired because of the passion for their product over their practical experience. When you are on a mission to provide the most amazing products for your customers, you simply have to care about them.

As recruiters for these brands, we are passionate too.

Therefore, when a candidate walks into the interview, no matter what their job role, we always seek to test their understanding of the customer. “Why” customers buy is the big question in retail, and if people understand how their contribution fits into that equation, they are uniquely placed to make the biggest difference possible. Those are the sort of visionaries that brands (big and small) want to get on board.

It has got to the point that I find it hard to enter a supermarket and buy anything other than brands that our clients produce. It sounds ridiculous, but this is the sort of loyalty that people need if they are to rise up the FMCG career ladder. If a candidate spends the majority of their interview talking about themselves, I know that they are not quite right. If they spend the majority of the interview talking about the product and the customer, I know that I am onto a winner. You can’t fake passion, it oozes out of every pore, and even their CV should shout “I know who I am really working for, and I love it.”

In my experience, a lack of customer focus is the biggest stumbling block during the final stages of interviews. You might get four people in a room with similar experience, but the one who sees their activity through the eyes of the customer is the one who will get the job.

This isn’t something that you can train or teach – you either have that customer-focussed attitude, or you don’t. There is a reason why many FMCG leaders start out in stores or in the field. An intense focus on the customer is the only route to the top in FMCG.