John Lewis Graduate Scheme: Application Process, Tips & Interview Questions

Last Updated: 19 February 2020

John Lewis Partnership has a reputation as a great place to work, with great graduate schemes. It offers six such schemes, each with a different focus and associated training and opportunities, so it’s worth reading through the information about all of them to ensure that you select the opportunity which best meets your aspirations.

These are the graduate schemes offered by John Lewis:

  • John Lewis Retail Management Graduate Scheme
  • Waitrose Graduate Leadership Scheme
  • John Lewis Buying
  • John Lewis Merchandising
  • John Lewis Partnership Technology
  • John Lewis Partnership Finance

About John Lewis Partnership

The unusual business structure of John Lewis Partnership is very important to the business. When selecting candidates to join the graduate scheme, hiring managers are also selecting partners for the business. It is therefore very important to them that they not only select an outstanding candidate, but also that that candidate understands and values the partnership arrangements.

It will be no surprise, therefore, that the selection process references this and tests candidates’ understanding of why John Lewis Partnership is different from many other employers.

John Lewis Partnership takes the behaviour of employees very seriously and sets out the principles of leadership for current employees. You should take some time to consider your fit with these values and behaviours, and use them to prepare for the selection process.

The Application Process

The selection process for John Lewis Partnership is structured as follows:

  • Online tests
  • Application form
  • Video interview
  • Assessment centre

Online tests

The John Lewis Partnership graduate scheme is unusual in that you must complete a raft of online tests before you are able to fill in the application form. The tests comprise:

  1. Values-based questionnaire. This untimed questionnaire is designed to assess the way you think, so as to understand whether your personal values and the way you approach situations are a good fit with John Lewis Partnership. You will be provided with a number of scenarios and asked to write what you would do in that situation.

  2. Management judgement indicator test. This is a type of situational judgement test. It provides you with a number of challenging or ambiguous situations you may encounter in the workplace, with a range of potential responses. Your task is to select the option which best describes how you would approach the situation.

  3. Verbal reasoning test. This is a timed test and you will be given 24 questions to answer in 45 minutes. Previous candidates report finding the time limit challenging, so prior practice is important. You can practice this type of test, or numerical tests, using WikiJob's own aptitude tests ,or with companies such as JobTestPrep and AssessmentDay.

  4. Numerical reasoning test. This is a timed test and you will have 45 minutes to answer around 25 questions; the questions increase in difficulty throughout the test.

  5. Scheme-specific multiple-choice questions. This tests your understanding of the scheme you are applying for, and helps assess your suitability/fit for the scheme.

Application Form

If you successfully complete all of the tests, you are able to access the application form, which includes standard questions about your job history and academic performance. There are also other questions about the John Lewis Partnership business and the scheme you are applying for. For example, if you’re applying for ‘Buying’, then there may be questions about what it means to be a successful buyer.

Previous candidates have reported that there may be three additional questions which assess your fit with the ethos of John Lewis Partnership. These are:

  1. Why are you interested in working for us?
  2. What skills and experience do you have for the role?
  3. What would excellent customer service look like in this role?

Video Interview

The next stage of the assessment process is an automated video interview. This means that you will need to record your answers to a set of questions that are presented via a computer programme rather than by an actual interviewer. If you are unfamiliar with video interviews, you can read more here on how to prepare for a video interview. It is really worth taking the time to complete the practice questions.

The video interview itself is short, lasting around 15 minutes with seven questions, which candidates report as being straightforward, simple and standard. You will be given a minute to think about your response after each question and then up to 2.5 minutes to record your answer.

Previous candidates have been asked questions including:

  • What makes the John Lewis Partnership unique?
  • What does it mean to be a co-owner of a business and not just an employee?
  • Why do you want to work in the John Lewis Partnership?
  • Why is working for a partnership important?
  • How do you think John Lewis Partnership could expand?

There are also competency-based interviews based around the Partnership values, such as: 'Give an example of a time that you received feedback'.

Assessment Centre

The final stage in the selection process is the assessment centre. This comprises four activities:

Group exercise 1. Previous candidates were split into small groups of approximately six candidates, and provided with some information to read and then discuss. This was about a scenario where John Lewis were thinking of opening a new store in an eco-town. Other retailers were coming, though the details hadn’t been confirmed. The group were provided with a description of the type of consumers living in the area and provided with seven options for gaining business there.

The group then had 30 minutes to discuss four strategic options. They had to approve two and discard two. Candidates were expected to demonstrate awareness of the company, contribute positive ideas and challenge (constructively) the ideas of others.

Group exercise 2. This is a negotiation exercise. Again in a group of six, the candidates were asked to come up with a strategy to meet the needs of both buyers and sellers. Applicants had to demonstrate a strong understanding of planning and strategy, basic maths skills (previous candidates suggest taking along your own calculator as they are not provided) and the ability to negotiate.

Individual role play exercise. Candidates are presented with a scenario and given 20 minutes to read the brief and prepare for the role play. This exercise previously centred on a store manager calling in sick on a media day and the candidate having to assume the role of running the store and dealing with a number of difficulties and challenges throughout the day. The assessor assumed the role of another member of the management team; the candidate was required to discuss with him what they would do to tackle the problems.

Interview. This is a standard competency-based interview with a few specific questions about John Lewis mixed in. Previous candidates reported questions about things they had done previously, but also hypothetical questions like 'what would you do if…?'

Other questions that have previously been asked include:

  • Tell me about a time you have worked as part of a team
  • Tell me about a time you have worked with difficult team members and how you overcame the problems*
  • What do you think the role you are applying for will involve?
  • How do you see the future of retail?
  • What would you add to the team?

If you still have any questions about the application process at John Lewis, please check out the WikiJob forums.