May 31, 2014
On average, you’ll need 4-5 interviews to land the job–likely one with HR, a couple at the manager level and a couple at the director level. If it’s part of the formal recruiting process, then you need to realize you are being judged at every moment, from the on-campus event to the potential dinner/lunch during the interviews and even how you act between interviews. If they give you a mentor to help you, that person will also have influence. In our debrief about candidates, there were just as many comments about things beyond the interviews as there was the interviews themselves.
Many interviews are moving to behavioural style where they might say: “tell me a time when you had a conflict…” This means you need to translate all your strengths and weaknesses into stories that show you have experience in the given area. Write down your answers in the form of Situation Action and Result. Learn how to tell the stories so that it answers the question and showcases your strengths. Even if people don’t ask you the “tell me a time…” questions, it can be powerful for you to answer in that method.
You will still get asked “what’s your weakness?”. It’s such a cliche question now, but it still gets asked. I once had a candidate tell me they hated ambiguity, which was pretty much the death-nail. Avoid the BS style “I’m too hard on myself” or “I work too hard”. You just sound annoying. The safest option I would recommend is “I’m not very good at negotiating” which is a skill that’s not really that important for marketing.
Here are the Interview Questions that I used to Ask:
- Tell me a time you used numbers to sell an idea? Most marketers suck at finance and it will eventually limit your career. At some level in marketing, you have to be good at running the P&L, so I’d rather find out now. You better have your story tight because your answer will be questioned one or two more levels to see if you really know your stuff. Great Marketers can tell stories with analysis. I’m going to challenge every aspect of your story.
- What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done? It really doesn’t matter what it was, but how far did you push yourself out of your comfort zone to find the creative solution.Your passion for your idea should come through.
- What’s the thing you’re most proud of? When I read a resume, I want to see big accomplishments beyond your work experience or school. Football, chess, travelling the world or charity work etc. I want to hear your story and your pride come through. Great Marketers accomplish things, and I want to know that you have a history of accomplishments. Don’t tell just what you did, tell me what you ACCOMPLISHED!
- Tell me a time when you’ve convinced your boss of something they thought wouldn’t work. I want to see if you can make it happen. This will show your leadership, selling skills, and willingness to push. A great Marketer can get what they want..
- If you were the agent of Miley Cyrus, how would you maximize her value over the next 10 years? I always took something in the pop culture news and asked how you would handle it. I was looking to see how curious you are and how you could take something with very little subject matter expertise and put together a plan. A great Marketer has a curiosity and can form opinions quickly. This lets me see your thinking. Pop culture is a great area that goes beyond books.
- If you were on a team that solved a serious healthcare problem for Society, what factors would you use to price it on the global level? This is a very thick question with many issues, especially adding in the global issue. I want to see you think through those issues and layer those issues into your answer. How do you handle the differences between North America and the Third World? How important is profitability vs R&D vs compassion? How would you leverage government, key influencers and where would that fit into your answer. Great marketers can handle ambiguity and there is a lot within this case.
- From your previous Interview with our company, what’s the biggest mistake you made and how would you now change that? Great marketers are constantly pushing themselves to improve. That starts with your own personal assessment. I want to see that you have thought about it and now see a better solution. It also puts you under a bit of unexpected pressure to see how you handle that.
- What questions do you have for me? To me this is one of the most important sections. It demonstrates how engaged you are in the process. The quality of your questions will help to separate you. Have five great questions done ahead of time, ask about 2-3 each interview. Ask deep questions, not surface questions.Turn each answer into a conversation starter.
Act like you want the job. Show a bit of spunk and energy through the interviews. Marketing jobs are a bit different. Take a Red Bull before the interview. Be leaning forward, make eye contact, be comfortable and dynamic in your personality. Marketing jobs require a bit of charm, a big push, and a willingness to get things done no matter what. I want to see all those things in the interview.
If you bomb a few interviews, keep going for it. There are more people who want to be an Assistant Brand Manager than there are jobs. And that’s continuing to tighten in the tough economy as many places are going without. So how bad do you really want this job? Do you want it more than everyone else? And will you do what it takes to get that job. I remember interviewing so many times and not getting the job–I must have gone through 100 interviews before I finally landed the right job. I remember one time, after 3 minutes the hiring manager looked at my resume and said “you have zero marketing experience, this won’t work”. That one still stings after twenty years, but made me want it even more. Persistence has to be the key. If you are only half trying, then I have very little sympathy. If you are completely immersed in the effort, trust me, you will eventually break through.
Best of luck to you, and go for it.
Here’s a presentation on Successful Marketing Careers: