What it does: One of the ‘Big Two’ supermarket chains, accounting for about a third of the Australian grocery market
Staff stats: Over 100,000 staff spread across 2,200 store, site, warehouse and office locations
The good bits: Great starting salary, potential for fast progression, variety of work
The not so good bits: Long hours, some corporate bureaucracy
The Coles story
Generations of young Australians have worked their way through high school and uni stacking shelves or manning cash registers. Most have gone into other fields after finishing their studies. But if you’re looking for a challenging, well-paid career it’s worth considering Coles.
George James Coles opened the ‘Coles Variety Store’ in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood in 1914. In the following decades, Coles gobbled up several grocery shop chains. In 1962, all these supermarkets were branded ‘Coles New World’, which later became Coles Supermarkets, then just ‘Coles’. A decade ago, Wesfarmers, Australia’s largest company, Wesfarmers, purchased Coles for $22 billion.
Even with new entrants such as Costco and Aldi arriving down under, Coles and Woolworths continue to hoover up 80 per cent of the money Australians spend on groceries and endlessly vie with each other to be Number One. While most Australians see Coles as simply the place they get their groceries, it’s a vast, sophisticated and increasingly high-tech company with annual revenues of almost $30 billion.
Retail has long been an industry where people can and do rise from shelf-stacker to CEO. The advantage of joining one of Coles grad programs is that you get to skip the lower rungs of the career ladder. Grads can work on the frontline in a store/convenience retail site/ distribution centre or in a ‘back-office’ department. These range from Corporate Affairs to Digital to People & Culture to Finance to Legal to Marketing to Procurement to Property to Supply Chain. How far you progress up the org chart will largely come down to how driven and effective you are. At Coles, you can expect a buzzy, fast-paced, dynamic and collaborative culture.
Coles partners with a range of charities. It donates food to Foodbank and Secondbite, as well as partnering with Redkite, Bravery Trust, Red Dust, Guide Dogs Australia and Cancer Council. It seeks to source food responsibly, in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, cause undue suffering to animals, or encourage the exploitation of workers. It also aims to reduce waste and landfill and minimise energy consumption.
The recruitment process
Coles offers two grad programs – the ‘Store Support Graduate Program’ and ‘Operations Graduate Program’. The former goes for two years and offers 17 business streams to choose from. While it does involve spending some time working in a store, this program is well suited to those wanting an office based role. As the name suggests, the Operations program is for those wanting to work in a store or site, giving experience to move into a senior operational leadership role at the end of the two years. There are 3 streams to choose from; Supermarket Operations, Coles Express Operations and Distribution Centre Operations.
You start the application process by submitting an online application via the careers section of the Coles website. If you make it to the next round, you’ll spend a day at a Coles Assessment Centre. If you do well there, you’re offered a position, often within 24 hours!
There are 5 stages to the recruitment process; if you are successful you will progress to the next stage and they will keep you informed at each stage of the
1. Online Application: Applications are open from 13th February 2018 and close 1st of April 2018 at 11:59pm
2. Psychometric Testing: 5th of March 2018 – 11th of April 2018
3. Video Interview: 12th of March 2018 – 27th of April 2018
4. Assessment Centre: Held nationally in May 2018
5. Offer of Employment: May 2018
Coles pays “very competitive” salaries to those in its grad programs and it’s not unrealistic to expect to be pulling down six-figures within a few years of finishing the program. Plus, you get discounts on everything from groceries to petrol to gym memberships to film tickets. You also get to do some interstate travel, going to Melbourne for your induction and travelling to sites such as the Sydney distribution centre.
Retail is an industry where there is a strong promote-from-within culture. Once you’ve finished the grad program, there is the opportunity to progress quickly, especially if you impress your line and department manager.
The vibe of the place
You can expect to work with many different people in many different areas. You’ll be working alongside passionate managers who are keen to see you succeed and readily available to offer guidance. The company has long had a diverse workforce and is keen to funnel more women and indigenous Australians into leadership roles. There are generous parental leave schemes.
Overall satisfaction rating among grad employees: 4.3 stars
From The Employer:
"Our Graduate Programs
Feed your ambition with an iconic brand that makes a positive difference on the lives of Australian families every day. Our two year Graduate programs are the first ingredient to a flexible and dynamic career at Coles.
Our Operations Graduate Program, based in our stores and sites across the nation, will accelerate your career to become one of our next senior operational leaders. Take your pick from one of our three streams; In Supermarkets you will be supported to run a multi-million dollar business, in Coles Express you’ll be a multi-site leader that brings convenience to Australians and in our Distribution Centres you’ll be the heart of our supply chain ensuring that thousands of customers get the products they want.
Join our Store Support Centre (SSC) Program and fast track your career in our Melbourne corporate office by gaining a mix of technical, operational and leadership skills working alongside key leaders across the business. You can choose one of the many business areas we offer, such as Digital, Strategy, Marketing, Merchandise (Buying & Trading), and Finance to name a few. You can even try a different area at the end of year one – the choice is yours!
If you know you want to join our People & Culture (also known as HR) function, you choose from either a Store Support Centre (SSC) or Operations state-based role. Our Operations roles focus on generalist Business Partnering which involves working closely with leadership teams and store/site team members to drive our People & Culture agenda, and are available in VIC, NSW, and QLD & WA. The SSC roles are only available in VIC and provide the opportunity to work in both generalist Business Partnering rotations and on strategic initiatives during specialist rotations across our Centres of Excellence such as Advisory Services, Learning & Development, Recruitment or Organisational Development.
Not sure which program or function is for you? Visit our website for more information.
What makes our programs unique?
Professional learning and development - Induction, delivery of intensive professional learning and development sessions, and mentoring relationships with senior leaders, mean you will be constantly learning.
Creative and dynamic work environment - You will have the opportunity to lead teams in an environment where no two days are the same and can challenge the way we do things to make a real difference to the business and our customers.
Learn from great leaders - You will have an extensive support network to assist you in creating a challenging and successful career and be given constant feedback to hone your skills.
How to apply
It's simple to apply for the Coles Graduate Program! There are 5 stages to the recruitment process; if you are successful you will progress to the next stage. We will keep you informed at each stage of the process!
- Online Application: 13th February 2018 – 1st of April 2018 at 11:59pm (AEST)
- Psychometric Testing: 5th of March 2018 – 11th of April 2018
- Video Interview: 12th of March 2018 – 27th of April 2018
- Assessment Centre: Held nationally in May 2018
- Offer of Employment: May 2018
We'll ask for some personal details, your CV and for you to answer a few simple questions. To apply, click on Available Opportunities and follow the prompts.
We will send you an invite to complete a 30 minute psychometric test.
Make sure you leave yourself enough time to complete the test and that you find a quiet space when completing it. Make sure your space is distraction free!
You will complete a short video interview in response to three set questions from our Graduate Team.
This is your opportunity to showcase your talent, enthusiasm and passion for retail!
Don’t forget to have some fun and get creative with your video.
You will need to prepare for a short case study.
Be prepared to have discussions and talk in front of small groups - if you get nervous, practice!
The afternoon session is for candidates who are successful through the first half of the assessment centre.
-This includes an interview between representatives from across the business and YOU!
-It is a two-way conversation, so you can ask us question o We'll spend 30 minutes getting to know you and you can get to know us!
-There is an activity based on the functional activity that you applied for! This will include presenting back your findings to one of our business leaders.
It's not about 'winning', so focus on teamwork.
It's not how much you say, it's what you say that counts.
If you want to find out more about our business, our goals and our values, head to our website.
If you're successful through the assessment centre we'll contact you shortly with a job offer!"