How to get an interview with a top employer like Innocent Drinks? Here’s how I did it.

It was coming up to 5pm and there I was, seated on one of the couches inside the “Fruit Towers” – the premises that house the London offices of Innocent Drinks…

My Fruit Towers experience

The floor was covered with artificial grass as far as the eye could see and some people were sitting at their desks at the other end of an essentially open plan office.

Upon my arrival a few minutes earlier, a pleasant staff member who referred to herself as “People Helper” greeted me. She informed me that someone from HR would see me shortly and that I should make myself comfortable in the meantime.

On my right was a wall with empty bottles and cartons of various drinks brands stuck to it and on the left there was a small room in which I could see three people focussed on a flip board chart. Just outside the room, resting by the door was another chart – a graph – possibly depicting sales numbers and next to it stood a refrigerator full of Innocent drinks.

A couple of staff members were engaged in their yoga routine in a square piece of empty space in the centre of the office. Another staff member walking past took out a plastic shopping bag and indiscriminately stuffed some drinks from the nearby refrigerator in to her bag before walking out.

Soon, another People Helper approached and escorted me into a room where I was to have my interview for a Supply Chain Analyst position – first with HR and then with the Finance Director.

Conventionally unconvetional

The interview with HR was rather unconventional and felt more like an informal chat – I suppose it was to be expected from a company that prides itself in doing everything rather differently – but I do recall that I was asked to estimate the number of passengers flying out of Heathrow Airport in a day along with a couple of other similar estimations. I was also asked for my views on what segments and markets Innocent should explore going forward.

Following the HR interview, the FD walked in. He was wearing a pair of chinos and a t-shirt – yes that is right! For a moment I could not help but feel a bit overdressed. Thankfully though I had opted to wear a smart casual light coloured cotton suit in keeping with what I had learned about Innocent during my pre-interview research.

Although the interview with the FD went really well – and I know this because he gave me an offer to consider and get back to him within a certain time period – I decided not to take the position as not only would it have been a step back for me in terms of my career progression but also because I was looking for a higher pay scale.

Nonetheless, it was a once in a lifetime experience to have seen Innocent and its happy bunch of people so closely. And I would have likely not had this opportunity but for a carefully crafted CV and Cover Letter.

How it started?

I came across this Supply Chain Analyst position on Innocent’s jobs page, which till this day is part of a section of their website titled “Bored?”. Innocent do not advertise through agencies so you would typically not find their vacancies on job sites. So if you are bored with your existing job, you now know where you can go to look for one that is not so boring.

Applicants interested in the said position were required to submit a CV along with a Cover Letter detailing why they wanted to work for Innocent, what value they would bring to the role and exactly how they would go about doing so.

Recognising that this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity, I set about to putting together a CV and Cover Letter. I knew that while the CV would essentially have to conform to the job market norms and therefore would only be flexible to a certain degree, it was the Cover Letter where I would have more of an open field to express myself without the need to conform to exacting market practices.

Tailoring a winning CV & Cover Letter

Tailoring the CV was a fairly straightforward affair in that I highlighted the specific & transferable core and soft skills that were relevant to the role.

In the Cover Letter, however, I employed a rather unconventional, quirky and witty tone – which essentially was typical of Innocent’s own style – as is evident from their website content and the humorous comments and text on their products. I recall spending a good part of 3-4 hours that evening writing my CV and Cover Letter.

I related my existing skills and experience to the job description and assured potential reader(s) as to how I would learn any new skills required for the job. I wrote a couple of punchy paragraphs on what I love about Innocent and why, and how I would go about adding value to the role.

I would like to mention here that my previous jobs up until that stage were purely based around plain vanilla management & financial accounting activities and there were obvious gaps between my existing skillset and that expected of a Supply Chain Analyst role. Nevertheless, this did not put me off and when I sent my CV and Cover Letter across, I was fairly confident that I would get an interview call, which thankfully I did.

And although I did not end up joining Innocent due to my own choice, the experience of coming so close to working for a highly coveted employer – which incidentally till this day enjoys an extremely low staff turnover – taught me a few useful practical lessons.

And here are some of the lessons that I learnt:

  •  If you are applying to an organisation that you really want to work for, then please do not just send your general CV & Cover Letter to them. Tailor your CV so that it is definitively specific to the role and organisation that you are applying for. Try and get insights into the organisation’s culture and relate to it as much as possible.
  • Put your heart and mind into the application process and tell your potential employer why you want to work for them, what excites you about the role and the organisation, why you are the best person for the job, how you fit into the organisation, how you believe in what they do and how you are willing to align your goals with theirs to achieve their objectives and mission.
  • Do not shy away from writing Cover Letters, as this is where you have an opportunity to EXPRESS and IMPRESS. Personally, I feel more confident in applying for roles that require a Cover Letter or a Personal Statement, because I know I can use it to differentiate myself from other applicants and convince the reader to at least call me in for an interview.

Over the years I have written impactful CVs for myself and for my clients. If you feel that your CV is not getting the desired response and would like to change that, then please get in touch to have your CV / Cover Letter / Linkedin Profile professionally reviewed and tailored.

P.S. In case you are wondering about the wall of empty bottles and cartons, I discovered later on that this was Innocent’s way of keeping an eye on the competition and all those empty bottles and cartons were essentially competitors’ products. I did not however discover whether they actually drank the contents of those bottles or simply dumped them in the nearby river.

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