When you go for a job interview you know you’re likely to be facing a whole load of questions about yourself and your career to date. What’s less obvious is that as well as considering the content of your answers, many interviewers will also be assessing how well you communicate when you give them.
If that sounds like a tough gig, there is some good news. You can probably anticipate many of the questions you’re likely to be asked. Even if you don’t know the exact wording, you can have a pretty good stab at the general theme. And that means you can prepare for them so your answers provide the content the interviewer wants and you can deliver them with confidence.
If you’ve done your pre-interview research well you’ll have an advantage when it comes to anticipating the likely questions. Perhaps they’ll ask about their competitors or their products. Spend some time thinking about what might come up.
To help you on your way, here are some commonly asked questions and our advice on how to respond.
Tell me about yourself
Some interviewers ask this as an ice-breaker. Others have been accused as using it as a bland opener to give them time to read your CV. Oh yes, some interviewers can be very unprepared!
Whatever the reason, this is a great opportunity to pitch yourself. You’re being offered an open goal to highlight why you are the best person for the role. So grab the opportunity to hit the back of the net.
You need to judge it carefully because the question is usually the first one you’ll be asked. You haven’t had much chance to build rapport or judge the tone of the interviewer. So avoid attempts at humour and give a focused, brief (two or three minutes) overview of your career.
It’s a great idea to tailor your answer to the specific role if you can. Talk about relevant qualifications and experience that ties in with the job and don’t over complicate matters by talking too much.
Your pitch should be career focused and we don’t normally advise talking about hobbies. That said, if you have researched your interviewer(s) well and discovered you have a shared interest in marathon running mentioning it at the end of your statement might help build rapport.
Why do you want to work for us?
This question is often asked at first stage interviews and can be quite tricky to answer. You must think about your career goals and how the position is a good match for you (as well as the other way around). If the company offers progression, training or travel opportunities, these can be useful hooks for your answers.
But don’t centre your answer solely around what you can get out of the relationship. Think about what you can bring too.
This question also presents you with the chance to show off some of that research you’ve done. What makes this company different from its competitors? Does this employer offer something that others don’t? Are they giving you a chance to get involved in a new product launch? Or the opportunity to work for the market leader in its sector?
What types of marketing campaigns have you run in the past?
Here the interviewer is making sure you really do have the experience you claim to have in your CV, so don’t head off on a tangent and talk about campaigns you’ve seen, or what you would do in a campaign. Tell them about what you’ve actually done.
Use the STAR approach to structure your answer. Position the campaign as a response to a specific marketing challenge, such as “Research had showed us we were not communicating well with parents of young children, even though they were a key target market for our product, so I...”
It’s a great idea to present numbers and facts at this point as this will show that you know that the best marketing campaigns produce measurable results. If you can say something like ““Within three financial quarters, sales increased by 350% and brand recognition improved by 10% within the target demographic” then trust us, you will have the interviewer’s attention.
Once again, your research comes in here. If you’ve seen some of the company’s campaigns or researched their market you might be able to think of an example from your career that was similar or had similar objectives. If you can show good practical experience and you can convince your new employer you understand their business, it’s a real boost to your chances.
Tell me about a recent marketing project that you brought in on time and under budget
This kind of question gives you a chance to show your ability to plan, implement and deliver against objectives; so ensure you pick an example with enough detail to cover this.
Once again the STAR approach is helpful here. Using the Situation, Task, Action, Results structure describe a project that has a defined beginning, middle and end. Talk about how your planning saved your company time and money, how you tested different approaches and measured which ones worked best and, if relevant, how you led team members.
Once again, it’s important that you can give real examples and figures that will impress your interviewer but ensure you don’t reveal any sensitive trade secrets about previous employers.
Tell me about a marketing project that didn’t go so well.
Sometimes you might be asked about a project or campaign that didn’t work out. In marketing, testing ideas and seeing what works and what does not is a vital process in developing marketing strategies. And sometimes, because we are human, we make mistakes.
The interviewer isn’t trying to catch you out. He or she just wants the reassurance that you have resilience and are able to learn from mistakes. So talk about what went wrong, demonstrate you understand why and explain what you’d do differently next time.
Honesty is important but remember you are in an interview not a confessional! So choose your answer carefully. If your last company lost thousands of pounds because you pointed an AdWords campaign to the wrong website you might want to think of a better example.
Equally, if you claim you’ve never had a project go belly up the interviewer is likely to assume you’ve never been given responsibility to do anything challenging.
What can you bring to our company?
This kind of question is a good way for your employer to find out why you think you’re suited to the role. You need to keep your answer relevant to the job description requirements, showing you have the experience, skills and qualifications needed and any language abilities or additional qualifications needed for the job. Let them know why you're the perfect candidate.
This question also gives you space to suggest new ideas and strategies that could really impress. If you’ve done your research you will probably know what the company’s commercial objectives are and be able to talk about how you will help the company achieve them. What strategies and ideas worked very well in your last role? How can you save this company time and money by introducing new ideas that are a proven success?
For marketing roles, you could do a short report on the company website and identify areas for enhancement. Your interviewer won’t have seen this from many applicants and it’s a great way to demonstrate you use your initiative well. Be diplomatic though! If you are being interviewed by the Head of Marketing you are in danger of criticising his or her work.
Describe a situation where a creative or innovative course of action was necessary.
Your interviewer may want to dig deeper into your problem solving experience; after all marketing is about hitting targets and meeting objectives against a budget. As well as measuring your ability to demonstrate your creative qualities, they want to hear how you deal with problems that may arise during marketing campaigns.
Think about how you gained perspective before deciding on the focus of your innovation. How you gathered your resources around you and used them in an innovative way. And what the result was.
Tell me about a time when you led a team.
This is another competence-based question so avoid saying what you would do and describe a real life example. Your interviewer is exploring your ability to motivate a team and provide leadership. Tell a story - don’t just say “I manage three people.
If you already manage your own department it should be easy to think of examples. But what do you do if you’re not already a team leader? Perhaps you’ve led project teams and you can talk about that. If no work examples spring to mind are there groups outside of work where you took on a leadership role? Anything from the Uni drama club to the Territorial Army can provide a good case study.
Give me an example of a time when you’ve convinced someone to do something they didn’t want to do.
Here you are being asked to demonstrate your influencing skills, so examples where you had to convince people to pursue a course of action they initially had doubts about are useful.
The interviewer is likely to want to hear about your persistence, how you listened to the other person’s concerns and addressed them and your powers of persuasion. Forceful coercion is generally frowned upon!
Tell me about a marketing campaign you like.
If marketing runs in your veins, you probably already look out for really good campaigns from the big brands. Maybe you follow brands on social media and have come across some fantastic material that you may feel like testing out at work. This kind of knowledge will separate you from the also rans, especially if you can give some informed commentary about why you think a campaign is especially interesting, distinctive or successful.
Talking through the campaign in terms of the four P's of marketing (Product, Price, Place, Promotion of course) might help you structure your reply.
If you choose a campaign that is less obvious than the norm (no meerkats!) you’ll stand out more. If you’re being interviewed for a B2B marketing role choose a B2B marketing campaign you rate.
So there’s ten questions to think about. Why not have a brainstorm and see if you can think of any more that have come up in your experience? And if you are struggling to know how to answer them email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we might include them in a sequel to this blog.