How To Ace The Job Interview: Advice For MBA Students

This post was cowritten with Ellen Regan, a first year MBA student at the Darden School of Business, actively recruiting for internships in marketing.

To help Marketing/GM students prepare for the recruiting gauntlet, we sat in on a couple of interviewing workshop sessions led by Johnson & Johnson and E.&J. Gallo at the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia. To see tips on how to ace the interview from Johnson & Johnson, click here. Below are tips from Lee Susen, Marketing Director, from E.&J. Gallo (the world’s largest wine company and one of the top 100 companies for flexible green jobs).

Tips from E.&J. Gallo:

1. Understand what the interviewer is looking for – Typically an interviewer is trying to get a sense of four things when speaking with a candidate: interest, fit, leadership, and skill. Make sure you can answer the following questions: Can you articulate why you are interested in the industry/company/role? Can you demonstrate that you understand the core values of the company? Have you been a leader in the past and are you well positioned to lead people in the future? Do you have direct or transferable marketing skills that can add immediate value?

2. Know what a technical marketing interview question is – Technical marketing questions test your ability to demonstrate skill in marketing and passion for brand-building. They are typically shorter than marketing case questions (one sentence) and provide less parameters to candidates answering the question. Examples include: How would you improve the positioning of [brand]? Why is [brand] performing poorly and what would you do to fix it? How would you increase the penetration of [brand]? How would you extend [brand] into another category? Because these questions don’t provide a lot of direction, it’s imperative that the interviewee articulate the assumptions they are making when answering the question. For example, if you were asked to improve the positioning of Tide, you’d want to state what you think the current positioning is, what you believe would need to be improved, and then provide the improved positioning.

3. Apply MATH – And no, we’re not talking about mental math! The MATH framework can help you organize an answer to a technical question. First, make assumptions (M), then ask clarifying questions (A); think out loud as you talk through a positioning statement for the brand in question (T); and most importantly, have an opinion (H), and state it confidently with well articulated support and rationale.

4. Think about what you might already know to answer the question – If you’re asked about a brand and you don’t know much about it – don’t panic! Think first about the type of good or service it provides. Who might be interested in this product/service and why? What might be the geographical reach? If you’ve never heard of the brand before, ask clarifying questions rather than blindly guess.

5. Make sure you’re answering the question from big to small – It can be tempting to jump right into specific tactics, especially if you have insider knowledge on the brand/industry, but first, think through what the brand actually is. Start by developing a positioning statement. A typical framework is: for [target customer] who [statement of need or opportunity], [brand] is a [product category] that [statement of key benefit]. Then, you can think about the 4 P’s and ways in which you might build out a marketing mix.

Finally - —and this is really important—marketers must possess the ability to think about the target in an objective, third-person manner. For example, when asked the following question: “Name a brand that you think is great and tell me why,” many students will respond in the first person: “I like Apple because the iPhone changed my life”. The reason this is actually a flawed response is because the student isn’t demonstrating a basic marketing rule: you are not the target and even when you are, a broad understanding of your target trumps your individual experience. You must demonstrate a more generalizable understanding of the target and this requires objectively assessing the whole of the target versus using your own experience as representative of the target. A much stronger response would be: I believe Apple is a great brand because of the following four attributes: 1) they go beyond meeting consumer needs to actually create consumer needs that change consumers’ lives – for example, the iPod changed how consumers engaged with music ….2), etc. Whether it is a case competition or an interview, being able to step out of your shoes and into the shoes of the broader target is critical for marketers and general managers and you want to consistently exhibit this ability.

Read full story: Forbes

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