What does it do? L'Oréal is a cosmetics company with worldwide reach. It has 50,000 employees in 130 countries making substances and smells that are dabbed, daubed and sprayed in ever-increasing quantities. It's a strange bathroom that isn't cluttered with numerous half-used bottles and pots from the stable responsible for such familiar brands as Garnier, Kérastase, Vichy, Lancôme and Helena Rubenstein. It all began in 1907, when a French chemist created the first synthetic hair dye. The Ambre Solaire suntan lotion was the first product to hit the mass market in the 1930s. Since then, the company has established a solid UK platform and acquired leading brands in the US, Japan and China.

Vital Statistics: Human vanity continues to increase the health of the business. In 2004, double-digit pre-tax profits were recorded for the twentieth consecutive year. Around 2,300 people are employed by L'Oréal in the UK, where nine out of 10 homes contain some company products.

The office: There are three main employment centres in the UK. Llantrisant, in South Wales, is the main manufacturing and distribution centre, more distribution is done in Manchester, and the UK headquarters are in Hammersmith, London.

Is this you? Every year, up to 30 graduates are taken on in five different business areas. Any degree will do for commercial, marketing, logistics and finance entrants, but something relevant is essential for engineering jobs, which are closely linked to the manufacture of the products. Creativity and a spirit of entrepreneurship is expected for work in a business sector responsive to fashion and experimentation.

The recruitment process: Every application, submitted via the website, at www.loreal.co.uk, is read individually, before a three stage selection process. First interviews, on university campuses or in London, narrow the field to those invited to a one-day assessment centre, featuring numeracy tests, a case study and a group exercise. After a final round of interviews with a senior manager, job offers are made for a September start. Graduate training lasts a year and consists of three four-month placements, all entailing hands-on responsibility somewhere in the chain between conception and consumer-consumption. In addition, off-site courses, with titles including "presenting with passion" and "managing priorities and time", help recruits make the transition from study to business.

Top dollar? You'll start on a salary described by L'Oréal as competitive, which won't be less than £25,000.

Beam me up, Scotty? After training, you'll enter a full-time role, and have the opportunity to move within the company. High-fliers get the chance to work abroad.

Who's the boss? Sophie Gasperment, 39, is managing director of the UK operation. French-born, she joined L'Oréal as a management trainee aged 22.

Little known fact: Even though men are gradually spending more on their bodies, women remain way ahead. They shell out more than 20 times than men on L'Oréal skin products alone.