How To Prepare For A Marketing Job Interview

  The “How To Prepare For An Interview” series is supported by Gillette.

the sartorialistBrilliant Self-Marketer, Scott Schuman — A.K.A. The Sartorialist

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Marketing is about chemistry: chemistry between a company and consumer that is carefully built after periods of research, strategising, and campaigning.

On your job interview, you need to be sure that you market yourself properly to create that chemistry between you and the employer.

Whether you are jockeying for a position in account management, design, promotions, CRM, PR, or other related areas, “marketing is marketing,” says William Scheckel, Director of Marketing at OnSSI. 

CareerBuilder‘s director of corporate communications, Allison Nawoj, distills the requirements in three simple traits: creativity, organizational capability, and overall professionalism.

As a marketing exec, you are a thinker, an architect, and a relationship-builder. Show your employer that you can identify and satisfy a customer: be versatile but remain focused on driving results, clicks, or traffic.

Research And Reality Check

Start by knowing as much as you can about the company.

This includes its target audiences, role in the industry, products, and recent news coverage. eHow suggests making a short list of important facts about the company: revenues, new product releases, competitors, annual data reports. Understand the structure of the company's management.

Having that background knowledge shows the hiring manager that you are interested in the position and value his or her time.

Show Your Creative Side

You will be expected to show that you can think your product out of its box and into clients' hands -- or screens.

If your experience lies in account management, share how you creatively sold a client, suggests Nawoj.

If it's a copywriting role you want, provide your interviewer with a sample of your work -- or a spec ad, if you're shy on experience. For a PR position, you should have clips and be ready to explain how you would leverage your contacts.

If you do not have past experience directly in marketing, do not make your creativity conditional with 'I would do X with your brand'; instead mention past instances that demonstrate your creativity and relate them to your position.

Brand Yourself Online

According to CareerBuilder's Allison Nawoj, 'it's definitely an asset to have a personal brand online -- it's just another way for companies to find and learn about you.'

While some may seem sceptical about the impact of your Twitter feed, Facebook profile, or blog activity on your career, Nawoj insists that they 'can only help you.' If you keep it 'unified,' anyway.

'It's a great way to promote not only your skills but your past experiences -- not to mention increase your social and business contacts online.'

Still doubtful? Accenture includes the number of relevant Google hits on a 'business intellectual' as a qualifying factor for their top 50 business gurus list.

If you are really ambitious, you could even create a personal website like the one that helped OnSSI's Scheckel nail his current job.

Determine Your Level Of Experience And Prepare Accordingly

Unlike a consulting interview, a marketing interview has no set sequence.

That said, Lester & Associates' President, David Lester, notes that expectations for a marketing interview do vary based on the interviewee's level of experience.

If you are a marketing veteran, your interviewer will expect to see a portfolio of your work along with your employment history. You should have ready a detailed explanation of what you did at your previous job, how you executed your plans, and what kinds of markets you have worked in in the past.

If you are a rookie, chances are your communications skills, general self-confidence, and level of articulation will be under more scrutiny -- even if you will have to demonstrate your creative and organizational skills through other channels. Impress your employer by creating a portfolio with relevant, if not professional, writing samples, collateral materials, and research projects, eHow suggests.

Look Sharp

As a marketing professional, you are what Emily Allen, Sales and Marketing Consultant at Business Insider, calls 'the ambassador of the brand.' As such, you should dress in a brand-appropriate manner for your interview, looking more or less formal or fashion-forward depending on the company or brand's profile.

When in doubt, it is always best to err on the side of professionalism -- especially if you applied for an ad agency account management postion. Generally, men should be clean-shaven and wear a nice suit and shoes; women should look well put together and not skimp on hosiery. Keep your personal appearance as organised as your portfolio.

Nawoj does say, however, that if you are interviewing at an agency, it is likely that you will have to be less 'buttoned up' than at a firm.

Quantify Your Past Success

The chief quantitative skills a marketing professional will be expected to have involve calculating how to increase profits. Sell your success by quantifying your contributions to the bottom line.

Whether this is measured in site clicks or more traditional terms, Allison Nawoj observes that an employee's contribution to his company's profitability is more crucial than ever.

Likewise, being able measure your impact at a company in quantitative terms proves you are results-oriented, which is always attractive to employers. Just be careful not to take credit for something that was actually the sales department's responsibility.

Try to phrase your contributions something like this, Wendy Enelow of TheLadders suggests -- only with subjects in your sentences:

'Built new marketing organisation to support Japanese-based Quiqto's entry into the U.S. marketplace. Conducted extensive market research, defined country-specific marketing strategy, restructured pricing to improve profitability and created a portfolio of print and e-based marketing communications. Supported sales team that generated $22.5 million in first-year revenues.'

Line Up Your References

While Nawoj notes that references should be from varied sources, she specifically suggests using someone with whom you have worked on a team in addition to previous supervisors. A marketing campaign is never a one-man show, and your potential employer will want to know how well you work with people.

It is also useful to keep all the information for your references on a separate sheet of paper from your resume. You never know exactly what the hiring manager will ask you for.

Don't Forget To Ask Questions

Your elementary school teachers may have said there's no such thing as a stupid question -- but that's not quite true.

While you should not ask questions like 'How long is my lunch break?' or 'How many weeks of vacation do I get?', intelligent questions can only make you look better. In fact, be ready when your interviewer says, 'So, do you have any questions for me?'

Prepare a list of questions that reflect the research you have done about the company and perhaps the interviewer's own career trajectory.

Show Your Interviewer You Were Raised Right: Thank Him

It may no longer be de rigeur for much of this country to observe 'antiquated' forms of etiquette, but it always behooves job candidates to remember their business manners.

Send your interviewer a follow-up email within 24 hours thanking him or her for meeting with you and expressing your interest in the job. Then put a handwritten note in the mail.

'You should cover all your bases,' Nawoj said. 'Just let the hiring manager know you're thankful that they took the time to meet with you.'

P.S. Interview Faux Pas To Avoid

It's a good idea to cite transferable skills if you lack professional marketing experience, but it is not advisable to reference Dungeons & Dragons, World of Warcraft, or Second Life as examples of teamwork. Stick to real-life examples.

Nawoj cites 'not coming prepared' or not being familiar with the position or company as particularly egregious mistakes, as well as acting arrogant, that you 'know too much.'

Finally, even though the interview might be over, do not eat a snack in the employee break room. Just don't.

To see CareerBuilder's list of interview slip-ups, click here.

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