It’s nearly impossible to wing job interviews, especially for the best internships and full-time jobs in marketing. Selling what’s on your résumé is no longer that impressive—you now also have to anticipate and address the assumptions your interviewers will be making about your skills (as well as your gaps). These enhanced expectations call for you to not only practice interview answers, but also preempt and prepare for questions you won’t be asked directly based on these underlying assumptions in order to stand out from the competition.
Your peers are stepping up their game when it comes to readying their résumés and practicing their answers to the toughest interview questions. I know this because, while I usually do job-interview coaching for top marketers who bring a wealth of experience, I have lately also been hired to career coach their Millennial sons and daughters into their dream jobs.
When I coach Millennials for marketing jobs at the best companies in the world, we start by going over the same 10 underlying assumptions that exist for veteran marketers.
The assumptions that your interviewers will be making about your skills include:
- You are creative.
- You are an abstract thinker and “brainstorm” well.
- You know how to grab someone’s attention.
- You know a thing or two about unique customers.
- You have strong communication skills.
These assumptions matter. When you prepare for a marketing interview, you need to reaffirm that you indeed bring these skills by making sure you have clear examples of when you demonstrated each ability exceptionally well. The challenge is that by having these skills, you are simply meeting expectations for jobs at top marketing shops. The way to exceed expectations is by being able to demonstrate these qualities on the spot. For example, if you were asked, “What is your brand?” could you rattle off a creative answer on the spot? Check out an example that incorporates Trader Joe’s and checks off practically every great assumption in one swoop. To master the art of thinking on your feet, you’ll need practice with someone who can throw you some curveballs. This way you’ll learn the eloquence needed to impress the types of veteran marketers who I’ve coached throughout the years.
Alternatively, the not-so-good assumptions are:
- You are not great at math.
- You are only an ideas guy/girl.
- You might not work well with the finance team.
- You have weak analytical skills.
- You’d rather do things your way.
No one is going to tell you the bad things that might be running in their minds during an interview. It’s your job to hypothesize what interviewers might be thinking about your qualifications or lack thereof. It doesn’t take magical mind-reading skills, but it does take savvy research skills—though those should be pretty supernatural too if you plan to excel in a marketing field.
Let me explain. Take a critical look at your background, ranging from your college major to your internships and real-world experiences. For example, if you opted for a liberal arts degree, then perhaps you should prepare examples that demonstrate your quantitative experiences during a marketing job interview. Alternatively, review your interviewer’s experiences, including her major or professional accomplishments. If you noticed that they have an analytical background, plan for a little mental math or be ready to show how you can think through a marketing case in order to address any perceived analytical weakness. A helpful tip is to partner with someone who works in your dream company but is not a marketer. Have them ask you the questions that might be on their mind regarding your skills. Check for how she responds and ask for candid feedback so that you can improve your interview answers. Interview preparation is really no time for sugar coating—sometimes it takes running through mock interviews with third-party experts in place of family or friends.
Marketing yourself into a marketing role requires you to do this strategic thinking upfront before walking into an interview—you have to know yourself and know your target audience (i.e., your interviewer). But I’ll let you in on a little secret: Your interviewers (i.e., veteran marketers) are stepping up their interviewing game, too. They are facing global competition and in their case, there are very few executive-level, six-figure jobs. As a result, what I’m noticing is that their uptick in expectations is making its way down toward entry to mid-level job candidates—we’ve had candid conversations where this trend has surfaced. It’s your job now as a savvy marketer to become a savvier yet gracious self-marketer, and using these assumptions in your favor is a great first step.
About the author
Melissa Llarena is the CEO and career coach behind Career Outcomes Matter. Her craft is coaching top executives on how to dissect and deliver the perfect job interview. The Financial Times, Fox Business News, American Express Open Forum, The Huffington Post, Money Magazine, US News & World Report, Forbes, WSJ, and Ladders have turned to her for insights. Grab her 20-page interview preparation kit today – there are loads of strategies and tips that will help you improve your interviewing skills and understand what’s really going on behind the scenes.