Strengths/Weakness' SWOT: What's Hot, What's Not for Interview Success!

*About to interview for your dream job?
*Rarely make it to the 2nd interview?
*Want to get a leg up on the competition, but don't know what to do?

Use a SWOT analysis to guide your company research and create stellar, interview answers! Check out my initial post in this series : What are your Strengths and Weakness/ SWOT analysis!

I currently work as an MBA Career Counselor, in a Business School at a major American Research University. My students really have to compete to get recruiters' attention and compete for the top jobs. At our Career Center, we work with thousands of business professionals aand employers each semester. We often get feedback from frustrated recruiters about candidates. We also get feedback from frustrated candidates about recruiters and the interview process. Our role is to serve as the bridge between both candidates and recruiters.

Interview Success or not?

Not Hot!
The real issue is that job-seekers are often, not doing their due diligence about their target companies. I hate to say this, but some candidates seem confused that they have even landed an interview at all. If you could see what we see every day, you'd  be very surprised!

Smoking Hot!
Try something non-traditional, use a SWOT analysis to prepare for the interview. In a previous post, I discussed how to use a SWOT analysis on yourself. In this post, I'd like to show you how to use a SWOT analysis to guide your company research. Typically, a SWOT analysis contains  research about a companys' strengths, weakness', opportunities and threats. In business this is often used to determine competitive advantage. However, you can tweak this tool and use it to guide your employer research. See the modified version and questions which I provided below. This is great for your pre-interview research. Pre-interview research, you ask? Yes, in this type of recessionary economy, the competition for jobs is more fierce than ever. The best prepared, often get the job offers.

Not Hot!
Browsing through the company website is what your competition does to prepare for an interview. However, this can only provide about 20% of the research you will need! Don't be fooled...

Very Hot!
College graduates, many of your schools purchase very, very costly business databases, which contain incredible information about many industries, companies etc. Recently, while speaking to our research librarian, she told me that the average price of these databases is $500! We buy access to hundreds of them. Save your money, get an alumni library card and visit your college library today! Our Business career center  spends tens of thousands on electronic student resources; job boards, online interviews, online databases, etc.

You will need to clearly, understand the organization you are targeting, understand the position you are applying for and most importantly understand yourself. An experienced and licensed, Career Professional can expedite the process by asking even more detailed questions, providing links to resources and can tell you where you stack up in the candidate pool.

What advantages does this employer have and what do they do best?
What unique services can they offer? (ie: secure funding sources, pinpoint product or sales trends).
What does the market see as their company strengths? (key personnel: CEO, top managers?)
What factors mean that they "get the sale"? (review their funding sources, sales trends, financial reports).
What is their key differentiator? (within the context of their industry and sector)
What is their history, mission and goals, headquarters? *(typically this is basic level of information you'd get from a company website).

What could the company improve upon and/or avoid?
What are their market liabilies? *(market share, competitors?)
What factors cost them sales or opportunities?

Where are their best opportunities? (key clients, new products under development, important advertising?)
What are the interesting trends in this sector? (technology, markets, government policy, deomgraphics etc.
Consider this from the point of view of their customers and people in their market. Be realistic and write a list of their key characteristics.
What obstacles does this employer face?
Are there any government/regulatory hurdles coming up? Effects of globalization on products? Negative Press reports?
What is their competition doing that they should be worried about?
What are the required specifications for their products or services changing?
Is changing technology threatening them?
Debt or cash-flow problems?

Extra Hot: Tip (for loyal readers who read to the end of this post)!
Impress an interviewer with on-target, insightful interview answers. My favorite interview question of all time: How do you stay current in your industry. I am looking for a specific industry membership, online group, ezine etc. Then, I follow this up with " tell me about the last (event, article) you read and how it is related to a current trend in your field). If they can answer this, they have won me over by 80%. If they cannot answer it, it will be an uphill battle for them to redeem themselves the rest of the interview. Why? I am looking for genuine commitment to their careers, initiative and big picture analysis skills.

A detailed, SWOT analysis will provide the foundation for your company research. Company research will help you craft a detailed, set of answers to their hiring needs. The goal is to help you compete more effectively. Talk to a Career Management Professional who is experienced with your industry and sector, can help you analyze the results and "see the big picture."

Final Hot Tip!
Set up Google Alerts and LinkedIn alerts for your target companies, divisions, key executives and even jobs. Be a company fan on Facebook and follow your top companies on Twitter. Every time there is a new story about the company, the industry or job target, it will be delivered right into your email box!

Additional Reading
What are your Strengths and Weakness'? Conduct a SWOT analysis on yourself!
Recruiter Secrets & Emotional Intelligence
10 Tips to Ace your Next Interview!
Proxemics the Psychology of Positioning

Author: © 2011 - All Rights Reserved - Sharon B. Cohen, MA,CPRP, NCDA. Virtual Career Counselor and Career Transition Specialist.

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  1. Love the suggestions on SWOT analysis and utilizing library databases.

  2. Tks very much for your post.

    Avoid surprises — interviews need preparation. Some questions come up time and time again — usually about you, your experience and the job itself. We've gathered together the most common questions so you can get your preparation off to a flying start.

    You also find all interview questions at link at the end of this post.

    Source: Interview Questions & Answers:

    Best rgs