Once we’ve got them scheduled for an interview with one of our clients, the talented marketers we recruit often ask us for advice on how they can stand out and differentiate themselves from the rest of the candidates for the job.
Update: Many senior marketers and professionals simply don’t spend enough time preparing for an interview. If you want to make a stellar impression and stand out from competition, continue reading to see recent updates on additional ways to become fully prepared for the interview process.
This is no small task; the competition is tough for the best marketing executive jobs. Furthermore, the best advice for going “above and beyond” for an interview can vary from company to company and job to job. However, there are a few things we recommend to any marketer looking to really stand out during the interview process for a senior marketing position:
Looking the Part
The first step in setting yourself apart from the competition is to step into the interview looking and behaving like you’ve already got the job.
In almost all interviews for marketing executive jobs we recommend a classic suit that you’re comfortable in and that matches your business personality and style. This is especially important in traditional corporate environments, but even if you’re interviewing at a more modern business with a casual atmosphere, it’s a good idea to make a first impression of extreme professionalism that errs on the side of formality.
The only exception we typically make for this recommendation is for some select creative roles, in which case it can sometimes be valuable to represent yourself in a more alternative or inventive manner.
Walking and Talking
Experience and technical expertise do not alone make a leader. You must also have a certain amount of “executive presence:” that sort of professional confidence that earns trust and authority in a business environment.
It’s difficult to precisely define the traits that constitute this presence, and it manifests in different ways from person to person. But if you’ve ever had the good fortune to work with this kind of tenacious, inspiring, and problem-solving professional, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
In general, a lot of confidence and articulateness is essential to give off an aura of the self-assuredness and business acumen. That comes both from innate leadership talent, experience, and lots of interview preparation. Additionally, good posture, body language, eye contact, and general speaking and conversational skills all go a long way to reflecting your professional comfort level and gravitas.
Update: Stand Out in High-Stakes Marketing Interviews with a Two-Sided SWOT Analysis
Looking the part is definitely a determining factor of whether you land the role or not. But, an analytical evaluation system is also highly recommended to fully prepare yourself for the interview process. One strategy that can be effective in nearly any marketing job interview situation is the use of what is known as a SWOT analysis. This analytical evaluation system can be used to methodically consider an individual’s or entity’s capabilities. A comprehensive understanding of yourself and your future employer only becomes more important as you advance in your career. Click here to find out if you are well suited to the company and vice versa.
Creating a Plan
Candidates ask a lot–the most prepared candidates and the candidates who are most excited about the opportunity–will ask us “what can I do to set myself apart?” What can I do to make the biggest difference and biggest impact on the interview process? And one of the things that we talk to them about is can you do a 30-60-90 day plan or a 100 day plan depending on what you’re more comfortable with.
And there’s tons of research and it’s easy to find information on the internet on how to do a 30-60-90 day plan and what should be in there so we don’t need to go into the details here.
What’s important about that 30-60-90 plan is that you have enough information about the organization and the role to make it meaningful. And if you walk into that first interview and say here’s my 30-60-90 day plan your probably going to miss what they really need.
If you’ve already had a phone interview and were able to ask really good questions around what does success look like? And after 12 months what is it you want this person to have accomplish? Those are now the kind of things that you can use those answers and turn them into a 30-60-90 day plan.
So, we highly encourage that, it’s a really smart thing to do to separate yourself from other candidates who won’t take the time to do that but make sure you’re doing it based on having enough data first. It’s a combination of things, right, so in order to get enough information to prepare your 30-60-90 day plan part of it’s going to be talking to us, the executive search firm and making sure that you know what we know about the role.
The next is going to be usually in that first interview, be it a phone interview or in-person interview with the client, specifically the hiring manager and your able to talk to the hiring manager about what their expectations are.
The way you get the real job description for any position at any level is to say tell me after 12 months where you want the organization to be based on this person and this role. What’s the difference you want me to make in the first 12 months? And that right there is your job description, what does success look like after 12 months. So now once you’re armed with that information you can come in and say I realize what success looks like for you, here’s the first 30 days, here’s the first 60 days, here’s the first 90 days and that’s how we are going to start down that path.
Looking the Part
So one of the things that people are looking for in the interview process and it’s very unsaid, right, is does this person have an appropriate amount of executive presence?
Are they polished enough? Are they packaged up enough? And that really comes across in both the way that you dress , we still recommend that all people go in in a suit and there are certain creative roles there are certain roles where we will amend that but for ninety percent of the positions that we have people interviewing for we do recommend conservative blue suit, tie all those things.
And ultimately really how you sit and your posture and all those things are important and the way you are articulate your answers is very important meaning that you’re not, that your using appropriate grammar and sentence structure and your speaking in a way where they would be comfortable saying you know what I’m interviewing this person for a CMO role, I have no problem putting him in front of the board based on who they are and how they present to me their comfortable at that level.
Yeah, I think the way to look at it as a marketer, right, if you’re going in to interview for a manager role or a senior manager role, act, be prepared like you’re going in to interview for a director role. If you’re going in to interview for a Director role, expect to be interviewed like you’re going in for a VP role. Try to take where you are and your presentation of who you are up a level from where it is before you go in.
Round 2: Coming in with a Plan for Success
Once you’ve nailed the first interview, you’ll hopefully get invited back for more. This is where you can really distinguish your strategic aptitude. The step we recommend most frequently to the candidates we recruit for senior management or marketing executive searches is to come in with a well thought-out plan for how you’ll step into the role, assimilate with the company, start moving toward success right away. In most cases, this should be a blueprint for your first few months stepping in as a leader.
These plans go by many names, most frequently as a “3-Month Plan,””100-Day Plan,” or a “30/60/90 Plan.” What you call it, or exactly how many days you decide to plan out, aren’t critically important.
What is important is that you reassure your interviewers that you’ll be coming in ready to hit the ground running. After all, you’re a major investment in company resources, and your success as a marketing leader will directly influence the organization’s future growth.
You’ll want to show how you’ll quickly integrate yourself with your new colleagues and their company’s culture, evaluate what needs to be done, prioritize goals, apply best practices, and start executing as quickly as possible. So it’s important that you create a very detailed plan that’s specifically relevant to the company—not just a generic one size fits all approach. Do your homework on the organization and take advantage of your initial communications with representatives of the business to get a feel for the purpose of the role, the problems it needs to solve, and the needs of the company as a whole.
For more advice on developing such a plan, start here:
- Creating a 30-60-90 Day Plan to Secure the Job
- A 90-Day Plan: The Key To Getting An Offer
- Debunking the Myths of the First 100 Days
Update: Make a Stellar Impression at Your Marketing Job Interview with the STAR Method
An additional interview strategy marketing recruitment agencies find to be consistently effective, especially for marketing jobs, is the STAR method. In almost every style of interview for any kind of marketing job, it provides a stable and flexible base for you to stand on and confidently approach any questions and discussions with your interviewers. It’s a behavioral interviewing technique you can use to coherently frame your answers and discussions in a way that matters to good recruiters and hiring managers. Use the STAR method when you need to share an experience and quantify the results quickly and concisely. Check out the STAR method posts for more ways to make a stand out impression during the interview process.