Congratulations, you applied for a bunch of jobs online, networked, visited your college recruiting fair, worked with a staffing agency/recruiter, or some combination of the above, and you landed your first interview! Now, the big question, how do you turn that interview into a job offer? The best way to secure an offer is by being prepared.
Before I jump into preparing for your marketing interview (and really these tips will be useful for other business positions as well), I wanted to mention that this post is second in a series of three career related posts. The first post provides 10 Tips for Landing Your First Marketing Job, and the third post will be on the topic of employment branding.
Preparation gives you a leg up on the competition
I speak from experience when saying you would be surprised at how rare it is to interview a well-prepared candidate. To demonstrate this, I wanted to provide an example at the far end of the ill-prepared spectrum, to show you the person you don’t want to be. At a previous company, an executive interviewed a recent college graduate, and asked the candidate the question that is asked in almost every interview, “so what do you think our company does”? This candidate answered, “I don’t know, I thought you would tell me that.” Let’s just say that phone call ended in less than 5 minutes, and the executive was seeing red.
Interview Preparation Playbook
The first step in most interview processes is the phone screen. A recruiter emails you to schedule a phone interview (really a screening call to see if you should connect with the hiring manager) with someone on the recruiting team. Here’s how I recommend you begin the preparation process:
Phone Interview Preparation:
- Allow yourself around 2 hrs to conduct some preliminary research on the company (if you secure an in-person interview, you’ll want to do more in-depth research).
- Keep a notebook for all your job research. Begin on the company website and find out exactly what the company does. You’ll want to do this by reading the About Us page, Technology page, Careers page, and the boiler plate on press releases. If there are any explainer videos on the company watch these as well. Then in your own words, write down what the company does. Note: I like to take notes in a notebook to stay organized, if you prefer to keep your notes organized digitally that will work as well.
- Go to the PR/News section(s) and read any recent press releases and coverage to understand what new products, partnership, or other news the company has shared. Take notes in your notebook on any recent news you find interesting.
- Read the job description, and print out a copy of the description for your records. Take notes on any questions you have related to the role.
- Prepare a list of at least 10 questions you have about the role and company culture. You likely will not have time to ask all these questions, but you don’t want to be unprepared if the interviewer wants to hear a number of your own questions.
- Write down what you learn during the phone interview, as recruiters can provide great insights about the role that isn’t listed in the job description.
In-person Interview Research Preparation:
Congratulations, you got past the phone interview and now you have an in-person interview. Here’s where you really want to prepare.
- Buy a book with interview questions (or find a good resource online), and also look up the company on Glassdoor to check their Interview Questions section. Identify ~ 25 questions that you’ll likely be asked, and practice answering the questions. The goal in this practice isn’t to have a canned response, but rather to gain confidence answering interview questions. Common questions that come up are: where do you see yourself in 5 years, what is your biggest weakness, what’s an example of a project you worked on cross functionally, why do you want to work in marketing, and what is a company that you would consider has great marketing messaging. Also, be prepared for curve balls/seemingly random question. I walked into an interview about 7 years ago where the first two questions were, what is your favorite book and why, and what is your favorite movie and why? I once interviewed somewhere else with a CEO who asked me if I liked to cook?
- Research each person you will be interviewing with. Look them up on LinkedIn, understand how long they’ve been with the company, what their role is, where they’ve worked previously, etc. Then create a list of questions you will ask them related to how you’ll work together, and what their expectations are for someone in your role.
- Read the company’s entire website. Yes, you read that right, read the entire website. If you are interviewing at a startup their website is likely less than 100 pages. I can guarantee you that if you read the entire website you will have a solid grasp of what the product does, how the company markets their product, and you’ll be able to identify areas for potential improvement. I’ve only met two people who have actually read a company’s entire website during the interview process, and I can tell you that both people secured Director level jobs. If a Director knows to do this, I think an entry-level candidate can benefit from this advice as well. Of course, if you are interviewing at Cisco, there is no way you could read their entire website. But, you can read the entire section of the website dedicated to the product or service you are applying to work for.
- Be prepared to tell each person you interview with why you are qualified for the job. People will skim your resume, so don’t assume because you listed something fantastic people will have it committed to memory. Make sure to explain projects that you’ve worked on that qualifies you for the role. Talk about your work ethic, and express your desire to work for the company. People want to work with people who are motivated. If you seem wishy washy about the opportunity, people will be wishy washy on you as a candidate.
In-person Interview Preparation (all the other stuff):
- If you can afford it, buy a suit. You don’t have to spend more than $250 if you shop smart. When I interviewed for my first jobs out of college I had two suits, one I got at Target the other from the Ann Taylor outlet. There are several stores where you can find a nice looking women’s suit without breaking the bank: The Limited, Express, Banana Republic (wait for 40% off days, or shop the outlet), J. Crew outlet, Ann Taylor outlet, etc. Men, you may end up spending more than $250 (unless you hit a great sale at an outlet), but you also have more opportunities to wear a suit. You can check out the J. Crew and Banana Republic outlets, Men’s Warehouse, Nordstrom Rack, Hugo Boss outlet, etc.
- Bring a nice notebook to take notes during the interview and have a few copies of your resume printed with you. I think it’s worth the $30 investment to buy a nice leather portfolio that contains a legal pad. You can purchase this item with your college insignia at your University bookstore, and your resumes will tuck nicely inside the pocket.
- Know where the office is, and arrive 10-15 minutes early. It’s better to be 30 minutes early, and wait in your car for 15 minutes than be late. Many companies will want you to fill out paperwork when you arrive (things like a non disclosure agreement), so if you show up on time, you’ll actually be late for your interview.
- Ask the hiring manager about the hiring process. Find out if there are multiple rounds of interviews, when they anticipate making a decision, etc.
- Close. It doesn’t matter that you aren’t interviewing for a sales job, you still need to know how to close. Research online “how to close an interview,” and practice this skill. People will appreciate your confidence, willingness to go after what you want, and ability to overcome any objections the interviewer may have.
- Collect business cards from everyone you interview with, and send thank you emails as soon as you get home. A nice thank you email goes a long way in the business world.
I hope you found these interview tips helpful. Employers stay tuned for my next post on employment branding and attracting A-players in a competitive market.
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