How to get into Marketing: What Procter & Gamble says

For the second post in my series of “how to get into Marketing“, I spoke to James Williams who is the Corporate Communications Manager for Procter & Gamble. Speaking to James, I found out not only how he got into the industry, but also what a company such as Procter & Gamble look for from today’s budding marketing talent and what they’re expecting.

First of all (in case you didn’t know), Procter & Gamble are a multi-national consumer goods company. Under their ‘Procter & Gamble’ umbrella, they own some of the most popular everyday consumer goods brands, from Gillette and Head & Shoulders, to Max Factor, Ariel and Pampers.

With several offices dotted around the UK, they are one of the biggest companies to work for in the UK. If you think you could see yourself in a place like Procter & Gamble, here’s what James has to say on how to get into marketing:

How did you get to where you are now?

Procter & Gamble: How to get into MarketingI’m currently Corporate Communications Manager for P&G in UK & Ireland. My role is to build and protect P&G’s reputation and my remit covers corporate media relations, executive speech-writing as well as issues and crisis management. I’m also responsible for employee communications across our UK and Ireland business (approx 5,000 people at 15 sites).

At the University of Edinburgh I studied Politics and specialised in political communication. I started with P&G while I was at Uni doing summer placements, followed by an internship in my penultimate year. I then joined P&G as a graduate in their sales function working in Retail Communications for a year before moving into the Communications function. I’ve worked in this department for nearly 4 years covering Corporate Communications and (a 2 year assignment on) Brand Public Relations on our Gillette business.

What do you look for in a CV?

Clear concise examples of when you have been involved with curricular and extra-curricular activity and have also demonstrated leadership potential by solving problems or initiating change and bringing about great results because of this.

We look for people who provide solutions, not just identify problems. We want people to focus on the power of possibilities, not the scale of obstacles in the way. Vision, insight and direction are the true virtues of great leaders and we want to instil and encourage this in all our people. It is clear for us to see this when experiences are explained using the CAR concept (Context, Action, Result).

An interest in the relevant role should be noticeable, if not in the CV then in an accompanying cover letter.

Procter & Gamble: How to get into Marketing

What do you look for in an ideal candidate?

The skills we look for in an ideal candidate (known as our Success Drivers) fall into the following categories:
Power of Minds  – someone who displays infinite curiosity, problem-solving and a healthy disregard for conventional thinking.

Power of People – they value the differences between people, acknowledging and using other’s strengths to achieve results and create a nice environment of trust and respect.

Power of Agility – ready to meet change head on, can adapt to change and initiate change when necessary given the dynamic nature of our business.

Given our emphasis as a company on leadership development, we expect management candidates to demonstrate leadership potential, whether this is through self-leadership, through leading others or through leading a wider group/organisation.

What are your “must haves” from a candidate?

Leadership potential, experience that demonstrates the skills we are looking for above (no matter what kind of experience this is, i.e. doesn’t have to be professional experience). Interest in relevant role function and the consumer goods industry.

What “nice to haves” do you look for in a candidate?

Previous work experience in the relevant role / industry, though we really do ‘hire the person, not the position,’ so this is of secondary importance if you can demonstrate the skills as mentioned earlier across the 3 Powers.

What do you hope they would bring to the role at P&G?

Fresh eyes and new ways of thinking. A willingness to learn but be autonomous in their work – a thirst for challenge and responsibility. We like positive and meaningful change.

Do you have any advice for those looking to get on the marketing career ladder?

Take the time to understand what Marketing is about, and if possible, especially what the Marketing team at P&G actually do. Candidates who are most successful understand what a company is looking for and focus their efforts on practicing, developing and then demonstrating this.

Although we all know relevant experience is invaluable, it’s interesting that James mentioned “we hire the person not the position”. Demonstrating that as long as you have the tenacity and skills needed, perhaps you’d be a perfect fit for the company, relevant experience or not. What are your thoughts on these comments? Plenty of food for thought? Feel free to leave your comments below, or send me a message on Twitter.