Recruitment at Sainsburys

Sainsbury's is one of the biggest and oldest supermarkets in the UK. They are known for their high standards of customer service and the values they uphold. They're a great company to work for because they actually value their staff and offer a number of benefits, a wage much higher than the industry minimum, and flexible working hours. Students applying to Sainsbury's will generally be looking at General Assistant roles, which currently pay at around £6.71 per hour for students over the age of 18.

Sainsbury's recruitment website

Sainsbury's generally operate a strict no CV policy. This means that if you go to your nearest store and give them a copy of your resume, you are unlikely to hear from them ever again. 

Instead, Sainsbury's handle recruitment through their website. All vacancies at their supermarkets, store support centers, logistics depots, pharmacies and convenience stores are listed here as soon as they become available. To apply for a job, you need to head over to the website

In order to use this service, you will need to apply for a job seeker's account. The link to do so can be found in the top right of the screen under the search box, and reads My Account. Click this and follow the link under the Log In box, and then follow the instructions to complete the sign-up. When you have done this and been sent a confirmation e-mail, return to the recruitment website and click My Account again. This will take you to an general application form. To fill this in, you will need your National Insurance number. 

Please note: the Sainsbury's recruitment website is best accessed in Internet Explorer. Other browsers have been known to prompt errors and cause you to have to restart your application.

Finding a vacancy

Once you have signed up and filled in your application form, you are free to apply for jobs. First however, you need to decide which department you wish to apply for. For most students, this will be 'Store Roles' or 'Convenience', although those with experience in managing, logistics and pharmaceuticals may wish to apply for these respective departments. Please note: you are only able to apply for one job at any time, so make your choice according to preference. 

When you have decided on the department you wish to apply to work in, click the relevant 'Find jobs and apply' box. This will take you to a terms of service screen, which you must accept to continue.

Following this, you will be taken to a search utility. Fill the relevant information into the utility and press 'search'. Search result will be displayed below, and you will need to browse through all pages to see all results. Also, do not use keyboard shortcuts to navigate through the results. This will void your search and you will need to start over.


When you have found the position you wish to apply for, you can click the IRC reference number on the left of the entry to see more information about the job. The IRC reference number will look something like this: IRC00000. Please bear in mind that unless you have managerial experience, the only jobs you will have any chance of getting will be those without the word 'manager' in. This is more or less limited to general assistants and customer service assistants

Take a look at the job description for the role you are looking at: make sure you are happy with the hours listed, the department you will be working in, the salary, and available for the induction days described. If not, search for a more suitable role. When you are happy with your choice, click the Apply Now link at the bottom of the screen and follow the instructions.

The first test: customer service

In order to sift out people unsuitable for the job, Sainsbury's ask you to take a short test at the end of submitting your general application. This comprises around 25 multiple choice questions and focuses on customer service, something which Sainsbury's as a company is very focused on. Questions come in sets of two. The first gives you a situation and asks you to choose the best response to the situation. The second asks you to identify the worst response to the situation. The questions will look something like this:

[B]Today you are working in the electronics department, stacking iPods and cameras on shelves. You notice that a box of iPods delivered that day is already open. What do you do?

  • Continue stacking shelves and try to meet your replenishment target.
  • Have a word with the delivery man next time a delivery comes in.
  • Check the contents of the box on your tick-list to ensure all stock is still there.
  • Seek your team leader and inform them about the situation.

What would be the worst solution to this situation?

  • Continue stacking shelves and try to meet your replenishment target.
  • Have a word with the delivery man next time a delivery comes in.
  • Check the contents of the box on your tick-list to ensure all stock is still there.
  • Seek your team leader and inform them about the situation.

Remember that the test is looking for you to show that you understand customer service. This means that you will go out of your way to do the right thing, will seek help when necessary and not try to deal with complex customer service issues yourself, and will inform seniors of situations where something is wrong. For these reasons, the ideal answers to question 1 would be 'seek your team leader and inform them about the situation' , because this shows that you know something is amiss with the situation and are willing to go and find a team leader to inform them. Likewise, an ideal answer for question 2 would be 'continue stacking shelves and try to meet your replenishment target' , as this shows you would be willing to ignore the discrepancy, despite the fact that stock could be missing. It is generally a sign of laziness. In all cases, try to answer the questions in the way your manager would want you to. 

When you have submitted the test and are told that your application is complete, it should be visible on your home page, the link to which is also in the top right of the page. If instead you are sent to an 'error' page, your application did not submit and you will need to go through the process again. This is usually a result of not using Internet Explorer, and so can be easily rectified.

The interview: part one

If you did not completely mess up on the customer service test, you will be emailed and/or texted by Sainsbury's, asking you to call their HR department to arrange an Interview. When you call, choose one of the interview times the HR staff offer you. Generally, times are not negotiable, as they interview in groups at certain times on certain days. The staff member will then brief you on dress code, location, meeting point, your interviewer and the necessity to bring your passport and proof of address with you. Please note: the dress code is generally smart-casual. This means no jeans and no trainers. Generally, guys should be thinking about wearing black suit trousers with a shirt and smart leather shoes, and girls should be thinking of wearing smart black trousers with a blouse or a plain t-shirt and blazer-jacket. 

When you turn up to your interview, you should go to customer services (unless HR staff told you otherwise) and sign in. There will be a Sainsbury's employee here to give you a name badge and a sign-in sheet, who will then take you up to a waiting room. Between now and your interview, you may be joined by other interviewees. Make an effort to talk to them, as your interviewer will see this as a sign that you are personable and confident. You could also find out which job they are applying for if you like, this gives you an opportunity to scope out competition.

Shortly, you will be called into a room individually to answer a few questions. These are just to make sure that you have your passport, are the correct age for the job (as stipulated when you applied) and are being interviewed for the job you actually applied for - apparently HR have a habit of messing that bit up. After this, all the interviewees will be sat in a room for the second recruitment test.

The second test: customer service, attention to detail, mathematics and values

The second test is split into four sections and given using a video. It usually takes around one hour to complete, and is quite simple.

The first section is on customer service and is very similar to the other test you sat online. Again, you are given a situation - this time in video format - and are asked to identify the best and worst responses out of a selection of four. Your selection of answers will be on the answer sheet given to you by your interviewer, and you will need to mark your answers here too. Again, remember to answer these questions in the way your manager would want you to, bearing in mind that you would not be encouraged to deal with complicated customer service issues yourself. Also remember that Sainsbury's likes its employees to go out of their way to help customers, even if they do not ask for it. 

The second section is on attention to detail. You will be shown video clips, and will be asked to identify two things wrong with these video clips. This could be anything from spillages to bagging heavy objects on top of fragile ones at the tills. Do not be put off by similar problems in one clip, just write them down. This section is incredibly simple and the errors are easy to identify as they are focused on by the camera. Your answer sheet will have two boxes for each question. Write the first error you see in the box entitled 'Error 1' and the second error in the box entitled 'Error 2'. Simple. 

The third section is on mathematics. Unlike previous sections, questions are listed on your answer sheet, so you can work ahead if you finish quicker than the video. Don't worry, these questions are very basic, and you are given rough paper to work them out on. Generally, they involve very simple adding and subtracting, though there is a slightly more complicated question at the end that involves both multiplication and subtraction. If you are worried about this, you may like to do this one first to ensure you have enough time. Again, I can't stress how basic the mathematics is. Anyone who passed SATs maths should have no problem. 

The final section is all about you. It is the only part of the test not done by video, and comprises a series of statements with which you have to agree or disagree. It is very simple, but when filling it in, try to remember what your manager would want you to say.

The interview: part two

When you have completed the test, all but one of the interviewees will be taken back to the waiting area. The one left behind will be interviewed first. This is the last stage of the interview, so if you go first, you will be allowed to leave as soon as you are done. Otherwise, you will wait in the waiting room for other candidates to have their interviews.

During your interview, the interviewer will only ask you a few open ended questions. These are generally stipulated by the sheet in front of them, next to which the interviewer will make notes on your answers. The usual questions are as follows:

Why do you want to work for Sainsbury's? When answering this question, try to say a little bit about yourself and a little bit about the company. If you love working with people, tell your interviewer and go on to say how you feel that this is especially important when working for a company like Sainsbury's, who are so focused on customer service. If you're looking for more of a challenge than your current job, describe how you expect the sheer range of different tasks you will be entrusted with will fulfill this for you. If you are truly stuck for a reason, don't tell them you're looking for more hours or better pay. Take a look in the 'about us' section of their website and find something you particularly agree with. If you think it's good that they do so much for the community, then describe the extent to which you empathise, and would value being associated with a company who does so much for others. This is a good strategy as it shows you have researched the company, which always scores brownie points. 

Why do you want to work in the [blah blah] department in particular? Generally, your job description will have specified which department you will be working in. This is where you try to formulate a good reason as to why they should hire you for this role. Do you have experience in delis? Do you love baking? Do you have a vast knowledge of fresh fruit and vegetables that you could impart upon customers? Talk about you and why you are different from everyone else, and if you can, put a customer service spin on it. As mentioned, Sainsbury's are very passionate about it and are more likely to hire someone who empathises with this. 

What do you think your roles will be in this job? This question is mainly to make sure that you have realistic expectations of the job you're applying for. If you're going to be sweeping floors when you expected to be managing cleaning staff, you are not going to be happy - and they don't want unhappy staff. To answer this question, think realistically about what experience you have, what experience Sainsbury's expect the general candidate to have, and what department you are applying for. For example, as a bakery assistant with no professional experience in baking, you are likely to be expected to package baked goods, display them, and maybe handle them in and out of ovens. When you have decided what tasks you think you'd be expected to perform, describe them to the interviewer, following on to tell him that you would however love to work with food in it's preparation, with the correct training. Show you are realistic but still ambitious. 

These are the standard questions. Whilst your interviewer is at liberty to ask you others, there would be little point as there is no space to write your answers on his sheet. Following this, you will be asked some other formalities like your right to work in the UK, your size for uniforms, your openness to working other departments/hours, and how flexible you are. There's no trick questions here, just be honest.

The final bit will be the interviewer asking you if you have any questions. Whilst you may not, it's best to ask a couple anyway, as it shows you have actually put thought into applying and have considered what might happen if you actually get the job. Try to stay clear of personal gain questions like holiday or rates of pay (if the interviewer went through the sheet properly, they should have covered that anyway), instead ask things relevant to your job if you can think of any. If not, questions about lockers, uniforms and overtime are always safe.

Remember: the unique thing about Sainsbury's interviews is that they are almost entirely based on your test results, so when you go head to head with your interviewer, relax. They will ask you a few questions and make a few notes which will then be sent to HR with your results. The notes will not be on how nervous, sweaty or over-dressed you are, so just concentrate on getting across everything you want HR to know about you. After all, it's them making the decision, not the interviewer.

After the interview

When the interview is finished, remember to thank the interviewer for his time, and hand your badge back in at customer service. Your interviewer will probably escort you and prompt you to sign out.

Whilst many people hear from Sainsbury's regarding their interview within the next few days, do not be concerned if you do not hear from them until a day before the official induction days. Remember that they are holding a number of interviews over a number of days, and will get back to you if you are successful as soon as they can. Their first action is always to call the number you provided them with. If you miss the call, you will be asked another way (answer-phone message, email or text) to call HR and quote your IRC reference number. If you have forgotten this, it will still be listed in your Sainsbury's recruitment account under 'current applications'. After you call and accept the job, Sainsbury's will contact your references. If all goes well, you won't hear from them before the induction days. If you have not heard from Sainsbury's and the stipulated induction days have passed, you can safely assume you did not get the job.

Successful applicants

Successful applicants will be asked to attend two induction days. These are paid, and are usually done at the store you applied to work at, unless otherwise informed. Dress code is smart-casual until you receive your uniform, and if you made the effort to chat to fellow candidates in the interview process, you won't be totally at sea - if they got hired, they'll be there too. Also be sure to take with you your passport and bank details, otherwise, you're not getting paid any time soon.

Even though you won the job however, that's not the end. You are put on a twelve week probationary period, during which Sainsbury's are free to let you go, should you be unsuitable. Don't worry too much though - they do need a sufficient reason to sack you. After this twelve weeks, your pay will usually go up to your 'competency rate' This is usually about 15p-60p more than your starter salary.

And after that? You're on your own. Good luck.

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