Decoding the P&G Interview

William Procter and James Gamble would never have crossed paths if they hadn’t married the sisters, Olivia and Elizabeth Norris. For a company that leaves almost nothing to chance, this fortuitous beginning is almost ironic.

P&G has been around for 178 years. It was founded full two decades before the famous and oh-so-distant Mangal Pandey led ‘Revolt of 1857’. Its legacy is such that the world literally discovered things as P&G invented them.

It was the first company of the world to conduct data-based market research with consumers, the first to advertise directly to consumers on TV and one of the first to establish a consumer relations department.

Today its market capitalisation is more than the GDP of many countries. In the hyper-dynamic world of startups, acquisitions and high attrition rates, P&G is akin to the calm, experienced marathon runner who is confident of outrunning the young sprinters on the long road.

It is this steady persona that explains why P&G deliberately treads so carefully when it comes to getting new talent on-board. To give you some perspective:

• It hires less than 1% of the 1 million applications that it receives every year globally.

• It only hires people at the entry level as it believes in creating leaders who are “Built from within”. The only chance you have at getting in is while you are still in B-school.

 

Build from within. Source

• It has literally been the pioneer in setting best practices for recruitment processes. P&G was one of the first companies in the world to develop & patent an adaptable reasoning test.

• P&G hires the person, not the position. The focus of the assessments prior to the interviews is to confirm that you have the threshold reasoning skills and that you are a culture fit. The interviews are competency based, specifically focused on understanding who you really are rather than your technical skills.

Now let us get to the ideal candidate that P&G is looking for! P&G recruits and evaluates its people against core competencies called “success drivers”. The company’s purpose, values and principles (PVP) are at the core of this model. We’ll start by understanding the three Success Drivers.

  • Power of Minds: The ability to draw insights from various sources of information, leverage data to make decisions, and identify opportunities for improvement.

The fundamental philosophy behind Power of Minds is that data collection and analysis are essential to attaining a lasting competitive edge. P&G expects its employees to always strive for knowledge mastery: be the information kings of their respective categories/businesses and follow a sequential decision making process based on that data.

“In God we trust, everyone else brings data to the table” might have been uttered by Narayana Murthy but fits perfectly to P&G. In fact P&G has its own version of this:

“Data always wins. If there is no data, people with the highest salary win.”

The dictum is clear, if you have data, you can challenge anyone. In case there is no data, the experienced guy will be listened to.

  • Power of People: Leadership, collaboration, and development of self and others.

Power of People creates a working environment where everyone feels free to contribute their best and keep their minds open to new ideas. The regard for collaborative working is high. Also P&G want its leaders to nurture and grow the people below. This is crucial since all its leaders are “Built from Within”.

‘If you leave us our money, our buildings and our brands, but take away our people, the Company will fail. But if you take away our money, our buildings and our brands, but leave us our people, we can rebuild the whole thing in a decade.’
— Richard Deupree, P&G CEO, 1947

  • Power of Agility: The ability to be responsive and in-tune with one’s environment, and the discipline to focus your efforts on top priorities.

Long before VUCA became a buzzword, P&G had it figured that business solutions are neither easy nor straightforward. There is too much change, complexity and too many different parameters affecting the same problem. P&G believes that it can win only when its employees are tuned into the world around them and look at the problem from all perspectives. That happens when they truly understand their customers, consumers, stakeholders, competitors and employees. The Power of Agility further states that the employees need to quickly apply all this knowledge to their business decisions and that requires prioritising & being disciplined with the decision making processes.

In a nutshell, you can only be accurate if you are exhaustive, you can only afford to be exhaustive if you are fast, and you can only be fast if you are disciplined.

During the entire recruitment process, P&G looks for how you relate to, compare with and connect to the above mentioned Success Drivers. Having talked to a number of recruiters and candidates, we have zeroed in on the following behavioral attributes that fit well with the above success drivers.

1. Data Driven

As already mentioned, at P&G data is your sword and your morning coffee. Intuition or emotions play no part when it comes to the decision making process and nothing is left to chance. An analytical mind that uses data to come to conclusions is preferred.

 

Making Data backed decisions.

How do they check it?

Interviewers may put you in a hypothetical situation where you might have to either lean on your gut or towards the facts presented to you.

• ‘Describe a situation where you manage to solve a problem with limited resources.’

• ‘Can you tell me about a complex problem that you solved? Describe the process you utilized.’

• ‘Tell me about a time when you had to make a split second decision.’

2. Team player

At P&G, mutual interdependency is a way of life. Believing that together everyone achieves more is the key to being a team player. P&G doesn’t appreciate individuals who prefer to wage solo battles. People with a good Emotional Quotient (EQ) are sought out as collaborating and mentoring are key to the nurturing environment of P&G.

How do they check it?

• Tell me about a time when you responded to constructive criticism.

• Tell me about a time when you worked with a team to tackle a problem.

• Tell me about a time when you had to teach or train somebody, how you did it and how it turned out.

• Tell me about a time when you influenced other people and why.

• Please describe your overall philosophy of dealing with people. What kinds of attitudes in others make you uncomfortable in being around them? Why?

• What tangible evidence can you point to that illustrates your ability to build and maintain collaborative relationships between you and the people with whom you have to deal with?

• When was the last time you got into a major argument with friends/colleagues? What happened? What was the issue involved? How were things resolved?

3. Systematic and Orderly

Discipline is a key feature of Power of Agility. P&G expects its employees to be steady and dependable rather than produce great work in spurts.

How do they check it?

• Tell me about an event that you planned. How did you go about it?

• How organized would you rate yourself as?

• Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.

• Describe a situation where you had to make a choice between two equally important obligations. How did you decide which obligation deserved your attention?

• Describe a situation in which you effectively developed a solution to a problem by combining different perspectives or approaches.

4. Personal Mastery

Power of Mind asks employees to continuously push the limits and be curious for more. Employees are encouraged to be trend setters in the industry with their only limitation being the exhaustiveness of their own knowledge. Having the hunger to continually improve yourself and aiming to be the knowledge master of whatever interests or hobbies you have pursued in your life thus far is the key.

How do they check it:

• Tell me about your hobbies or interests in life.

• Strengths and weaknesses: what would you like to improve upon and why?

5. Cool as a Cucumber

A calm and composed person is the need of the hour when it comes to executing Power of Agility. You cannot take instinctive decisions based on a single piece of information. In crunch situations, can you step away from the problem emotionally, always asking the right questions and following a sequential decision making process backed by logic? That requires composure and confidence in your abilities.

Panic buttons and P&G don’t go well together.

How do they check it?

• Tell me about a time when you had to make an important decision and how did it turn out?

• What would you do if you see two co-workers fighting?

• Tell us about a time when you were really not happy with the way things were being conducted and what did you do about it?

You may also be asked to share an experience where your patience was tested, the reason and your response to it.

Apart from these success drivers, PVP: Purpose, Values and Principles, are core to P&G’s philosophy. Check them out in detail here. To test candidates on how they align with P&G’s PVP, questions like the following can be asked:

• Leadership and ethics are inevitably intertwined in the business world. Describe a situation in which you have dealt with these issues and how they have influenced you.

• What is your greatest achievement in life thus far?

As you would have realized by now, the P&G process forces you to take a hard look within. They diligently look for consistency and coherence in your answers, be it the psychographic test or the multiple rounds of interviews. Hence, you cannot afford to pretend to be someone else. Our advice: introspect thoroughly before this interview and understand how your past decisions and behaviours align with the success drivers. If you think you are the type of person who would blossom in a data-driven, process-oriented company with extreme focus on collaborative team play, we reckon P&G is the dream company you’ve been looking for. From personal experiences of friends and colleagues, we know that once you become one of them, they go out of their way to take care of you. Some old school values really count, no?

We wish you all the best!

This article is part of the series “Unleavables: The top marketing and sales recruiters of India”, featuring actionable insights about their placement process. Catch the article on Hindustan Unilever here, and like our Facebook page to get all the updates.

At Kraftshala we use stories and expertise to craft the marketing & sales leaders of tomorrow. If you are interested in coaching, teaching or learning more about marketing, write in to us at contact@kraftshala.com

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