How to Prepare for a Marketing Interview If You’ve Been Recruited as a Passive Candidate

Marketing Interview

When you’re actively looking for professional opportunities, you’re typically in full job-hunt mode. You’ve been updating your resume and LinkedIn profile, completing applications, engaging your references. You’re fully in the mindset of searching for work and explaining your marketing experience and capabilities. When the time comes to represent yourself in an application or interview, you’re mentally prepared.

But if you haven’t been looking for a career move, then you’ve had other priorities top-of-mind: work, family, hobbies. So when great opportunities for marketing careers land suddenly in your lap, perhaps through a referral in your network or a contact from an executive marketing recruiter, you’ll often find yourself practically and mentally unprepared for an interview that could be just days away.

In marketing, it’s not always the most qualified person that wins the interview and thus the job, but the most prepared. Walking into an interview with the right preparation under your belt will be all the difference between a dynamic move for your career and a missed opportunity, and it becomes more and more important the more senior the position you’re working toward.

If you’ve been recently approached with an excellent marketing job opening, it’s time to buckle down and get ready. Here’s how to get started:

The Rundown: How to Prepare for an In-Person Interview

Adjusting Your Mindset

If you’re a high-performing, hard working marketer, you probably have a certain attitude and focus that makes you consistently effective on a day-to-day basis. You’re constantly honed in on the work in front of you, on what you need to do next to drive success for your company or client.

You could easily complete a dozen meaningful things related to your job in a given day–but if you’re like most people, you’ll largely forget them by the time you get home from work. At that point, you’re already looking ahead to what’s next.

This is nearly the opposite of what’s required for an effective interview, and it’s a large part of why changing gears into interview prep mode is such a challenge for so many top marketers. Instead of rapidly moving on from one task to the next and anticipating the challenges ahead, you need to slow down, carefully consider everything you do (even the small stuff), and remember all those things you usually forget during your commute home.

Taking Time: the 4 – 1 – 1 Rule

Most great marketers have a lot of forward momentum and drive, and it’s difficult to reorient that energy and shift momentum to a more methodical perspective. It takes a lot of thought–and a LOT of time.

How much? As a general rule of thumb, we recommend that senior marketers in a marketing executive search spend four hours looking at their professional background and one additional hour researching the company you’re interviewing with for every hour of interviews you’ve got scheduled.

For example, if you have an 90-minute initial phone interview with the hiring manager for the position, expect to spend 6 hours examining your professional history and personal achievements plus 1.5 hours learning more about the company and its marketing. And if you’re called in for three follow-up interviews with various stakeholders at that organization and each will last about an hour, then plan for an additional 12 hours of introspective research and evaluation with three hours of research into the company.

It’s no small investment. But it’s one that will pay off.

Researching the Company

Learning about the organization you’re applying to is a critical part of interview prep. Going into the interview armed with this information will help you frame your discussions in a way that’s most relevant to the company and interviewer.

There’s so much to learn that could be relevant to the job you’re applying for and the future of your career: the company’s overall mission, their current financial strength and position in the market, the marketing initiatives and challenges it’s working through, its culture and vision.

Additionally, you should do some homework on the role and responsibilities of the individuals you’ll be interviewing with.

If you need some help getting started, try one of these guides:

Reviewing Your Own Background

Even more important (and more difficult) is looking back on your own history–your accomplishments, personality and education. That’s why professionals need to spend four times as much effort considering their own marketing careers than on the company they’re interviewing with.

Think about every professional position you’ve ever held, starting with your most recent and working backward to the beginning of your career. For each experience, ask yourself:

  • What was the environment like for that role when you started? What challenges was the organization facing?
  • What were your personal goals? What goals were set by your supervisor, that your success was measured against?
  • What results did you reach? How did you achieve those goals?
  • What specific improvements and innovations did you make in your area of marketing expertise, and how did they contribute to the organization’s success as a whole?
  • What was the culture like, and how did that affect your performance?
  • If you were in a leadership position:
    • What is your overall leadership style, and how do you modify it to fit various situations?
    • What success did you have in marketing recruitment: hiring individuals and building teams?
    • How did you turn underperforming staff into valuable talent assets for the organization?
    • What were your most difficult management obstacles, and how did you overcome them?

You’ve very likely forgotten a lot of details because it didn’t seem incredibly meaningful at the time; it was just another day of work. You’ll have to dig deep in your own memory, and may need to engage former coworkers, and dredge up old documents and records from your time at various positions.

Tip from the Pros: We strongly recommend that you hand-write all your research and thoughts with good old-fashioned pen-and-paper, especially anything that concerns your personal history. People in general are considerably more creative and thoughtful when they hand-write than when they’re typing something up in a word processor. This will become a living document that you’re constantly modifying and writing as your memory develops.

Before the interview, gather and organize all the homework you’ve done into some semblance of a logical order, and get to know it front to back. You want all that information to be readily accessible and top of mind throughout your interviews. Then go back and compare what you’ve written based on the job description and what you’ve learned about the company. Start making connections between your experience and capabilities and what the employer needs, and develop some concrete ideas on how you can help the organization achieve its goals.

If you follow these steps closely, you should be able to confidently and thoroughly engage all your interviewers in a meaningful dialogue about what you bring to the table and why you’re the best choice to fill that empty seat.

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