It’s a great time to be a marketer. LinkedIn reported a 63% increase in marketing jobs, and the Great Resignation has led more marketers and SEOs to look for better work opportunities, benefits, and of course, pay.
To help companies better evaluate job candidates, marketing interviews typically include a “take-home assignment.” You’re given a prompt and asked to do a short presentation. This is your chance to showcase how you approach problems and how you communicate your solution to key stakeholders.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the steps that I took to create a marketing pitch and ace this part of my interview, which landed me my current job as an SEO specialist.
Ask the hiring manager thoughtful questions
First off, congratulations on making it to this stage of the hiring process! Now it’s time to really show them what you got.
When you receive your prompt, read it over and jot down questions that come to mind. Sometimes, prompts are vague on purpose to see whether or not you ask questions, and to evaluate the types of questions that you ask.
For the questions you wrote down, can you easily find the answer on Google? If so, you know what to do for those.
If there are questions that only the team you’re interviewing for would know, don’t be afraid to ask them and get clarification. This not only helps you avoid shooting in the dark, but it also shows the hiring manager that you genuinely care about doing a good job.
A good pitch starts with understanding the audience and the goals of the project. Here are a few questions you might want to ask, depending on the prompt:
Who will you be pitching to?
How long should the pitch be?
How will they measure the project’s success?
What has/hasn’t worked for the company?
Are there any companies that they look up to? (this can be a source for inspiration later)
Research and brainstorm project ideas
Now that you have the background information you need, it’s time to do some brainstorming for the project. For my project, I was asked to propose a backlink campaign idea.
To get the ideas flowing, I first looked at what our (Dialpad’s) competitors have done, and identified what worked or didn’t. I took a screenshot from Moz Pro’s Compare Link Profiles feature and included it in my deck to provide context for what Dialpad was up against at the time.
For a content marketing role, you may be looking at content or keyword gaps.
You should also think about projects you’ve worked on and whether or not it’d be feasible to do something similar for the company you’re interviewing for — or perhaps there are some success factors that you can apply to your project proposal.
Be sure to tap into your network, too. If you know anyone at the company or who’s a current customer there, you can also reach out to them to get ideas for potential campaigns.
Remember that at this stage, you want to gather as many ideas as you can for inspiration. In the next step, we’ll narrow these down.
Score your ideas and choose a winner
After my brainstorm, I came up with 11 backlink building tactics and a few ideas about how I’d approach each tactic. To help narrow things down, I assigned an impact, confidence, and ease (ICE) score for each. This means rating each idea on the three areas, from 1-10:
Impact: How much of a positive impact will this have on the goals?
Confidence: How confident am I that this idea will reach the end goal?
Ease: How easy would it be to successfully run the project?
Here’s a screenshot of how my scorecard looked, which I also included in my slide deck:
My top two ideas actually had the same ICE score, and I went with the first one since I’d seen the most success with that tactic.
I then had a second brainstorm on potential topics for the data-backed report, and my mind kept going back to an idea that I was very passionate about: the recent growth in video conferencing. I built my project around that idea, and after joining Dialpad, I was able to turn my pitch into reality by publishing the State of Video Conferencing report.
As you score your ideas, keep in mind that the ICE score is just a guideline. There are other frameworks you can use for prioritization, such as PIE (potential, importance, and ease), or you can go with the project idea you’d truly be excited about.
Create a slide deck their team would be proud of
Now that you have your project idea, it’s time to put together the pitch.
It’s easy to throw a bunch of words onto your slides and, honestly, I’m guilty of this, too. But if you’ve attended marketing conferences like MozCon or watched TED talks, you’ll notice that most presenters only have one key idea on each slide, so keep your slides simple. Too much text makes you susceptible to reading the slides, which isn’t very helpful.
Here are other things to keep in mind when creating your slides:
What to include
A quick self-intro
Why you chose this idea
What not to include
Your complete work history or resume
Excessive use of animations or GIFs that distract from the main idea
Bonus points: Look for the company’s style or branding guide to see what are their main and secondary colors, and customize your deck accordingly. If you’re able to find a slide deck their team has used, you can also use that as design inspiration.
Practice your presentation out loud
If you’re not a fan of presentations, I completely understand. Even more reason why you’ll need to practice. I like to run my presentation in my head a few times, but I can assure you that it sounds different when you actually say everything out loud.
Ask a friend or a peer (such as a former colleague) to listen to your presentation. Get feedback on your slides, and also things like how fast you’re speaking.
If you receive suggestions for your slide deck, you should take those into consideration. Remember, though, that they’re not the decision-makers. It’s impossible to please everyone, so make sure to always keep your final audience in mind when making changes to your slides.
Give it your best shot
Pitching a marketing project to a team you’ve barely met can be intimidating, but if you really are the best person for this job, it’s a great way to show them. To wrap up, here are a few more pointers to help you prepare:
Anticipate the questions that they may ask, and have answers ready
If there’s an important point you want to highlight, repeat it more than once
Take deep breaths and talk slowly
Like Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State, said, “there are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”
Good luck out there!
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