We’ve talked many times about the importance of preparation when it comes to interviews for big marketing jobs. Whether you’re making you first meaningful career move out of a junior position or you’ve been contacted by a marketing executive recruitment firm for a huge CMO role, the success you have in your interview is critical to your chances of landing the new gig. Furthermore, we recommend spending at least four hours preparing for every one hour of interviews you anticipate.
So how should you spend those hours? Obviously, you want to polish up your resume, learn about the job, and anticipate potential questions that might be difficult to answer. But if you’re serious about trying to win this marketing career opportunity, you need a strategy to make the most of your preparation.
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 is an analytical evaluation system that can be used to methodically consider an individual’s or entity’s capabilities.
SWOT stands for:
It’s often used as a business exercise to evaluate a company’s place in their market or a team’s capabilities within an organization. But it can also be a useful tool in interview prep, to not only analyze your potential employer but also yourself. A comprehensive understanding of yourself and your future employer only becomes more important as you advance in your career, and it’s particularly essential during a marketing executive search. The SWOT strategy gives you a strong starting point to consider subjects that are likely to come up in your interview, and how well suited you as an individual are to the company you’re applying to.
We recommend putting the lion’s share of your interview prep toward evaluating your own abilities and accomplishments. The SWOT method is well suited to the task:
- Strengths: What are you best at, personally and professionally? This is a more complex question than it seems initially. Consider what talents you can bring to the table that can offer a potential employer a competitive advantage in their marketing. Whether you’re a master of a marketing discipline, or you bring a lot to team environments, or you never stop learning, it’s critically important to examine your past for instances where those skills came into demonstrable play. Take time to make sure you’re able to provide proof that you were able to make a difference that contributed to better ROI for the marketing operations.
- Weaknesses: Few interviewers will use the cliche “What is your greatest weakness?” question any more though it does happen. However, it’s still important for you personally to understand your own shortcomings and be ready to address them in the interview if needed. Maybe there’s a gap in your employment history that will need to be explained. Or perhaps you don’t have the best conversational skills. Maybe your marketing expertise is lacking in some fields. Whatever your case is, carefully consider what you could be doing better, and make a plan to alleviate or address them.
- Opportunities: Consider where the most fertile ground for your personal and professional growth lies in the future. Do you see yourself going down a certain marketing career path? What could you learn that could vastly improve your ability as a marketer and a human being? What unexplored territory would be conducive to your current skillset and abilities? It’s best to consider realistic potential goals that you can make a plan to achieve in the foreseeable future.
- Threats: You have more threats than you realize for a highly desired marketing role, both internal and external. Some are other people–for instance, the other candidates in the interview process that bring different abilities and personalities to the table. Others could be self-imposed–for instance, an unprofessional habit or a part of your history that’s not particularly flattering. There are plenty of potential obstacles standing in between you and this role–consider how they could interrupt your dreams and plan accordingly.
Analyzing the Employer
Conducting a SWOT analysis on your potential employer requires some research, but it can be very valuable to understanding their situation, their vision for the future, and the role you could play in it. You might not be able to track down every detail and do as thorough of an evaluation as you did on yourself. But you should at least be able to build a basic comprehension of their current abilities and needs, which will help you frame your interview conversations in the most favorable way possible.
- Strengths: What does the company do well, and what material or intangible assets does it have that others don’t? Think about this both in big picture company-wide terms as well as specifically in terms of their marketing? Do they have a superior product, or unique brand? Are they active in a low-competition market? Do they have a strong technical infrastructure that’s highly conducive to advanced digital marketing? In particular, look for strengths that will be highly relevant to your own experience and to the marketing role you’re applying for.
- Weaknesses: Though it’s wise to be sensitive about bringing up a company’s weaknesses in an interview, it still pays to be able to understand them and anticipate the pain points that they probably cause the organization. Where are they lagging behind their competition? Are they missing any critical pieces of the marketing puzzle? Perhaps most importantly: what would they be doing better if you were there?
- Opportunities: Consider their strengths and weaknesses, what areas have the most potential for growth for your potential employer? Could they steal market share from a complacent competitor? Is there a new marketing channel they could exploit, or an unconsidered consumer demographic that would be interested in their product? This is a great chance to explain how your own strengths could contribute to making the most of the profitable opportunities.
- Threats: The most obvious threats to companies come from competitors–both large, established firms and new, growing enterprises. It’s wise to look into who the other major players in the market are and see what they’re doing from a marketing perspective. But remember that many threats can be internal as well. Perhaps the company’s structure makes it slow to respond to change, or its products are becoming obsolete.