This post is contributed by Karla Ahern and Kit Nordmark, Burtch Works’ marketing research and consumer insights recruiting specialists.
After examining the marketing research and consumer insights hiring market a few months ago, we found that professionals seem to be taking advantage of the copious research opportunities available. We offered a few words of advice on tenure, but thought it might be helpful for us to revisit an important implication that an active hiring market can have for research and insights professionals: increased competition during the hiring process.
Because it is common for many research and insights professionals to have similar core skill sets, being able to differentiate yourself during the interview process – including your resume – often comes down to your ability to tell your own story and validate it, by providing compelling examples of the impact of your work.
Here are some of our tips for researchers to keep in mind throughout the interview process:
1. Demonstrate your impact
This is the first impression you will have on a hiring manager or recruiter, so it’s important to make it strong! Too often we see resumes that read like bullets on a job description, but it should go a step beyond that and highlight the impact you’ve had on your clients’ or internal partners’ business. Use this as an opportunity to not only showcase your day-to-day duties and responsibilities, but also exhibit details around projects you’ve worked on and the outcome of your efforts. Any color you can add to ensure your resume reads as strategic, not just tactical, will help you stand out among the competition.
2. Establish progression throughout your career
Make sure to showcase development and growth throughout your various roles. This includes increases in responsibility, new methodologies you’ve learned, various data sources or tools you’ve picked up along the way, and different categories or industries you’ve touched. These all show a potential hiring manager that you’re eager to learn, grow, and tackle new challenges.
3. Ensure your resume is tailored to every role
If it’s a custom research position, ensure your resume is packed with examples of custom work you’ve done. If the role has direct reports, make sure you highlight your experience managing other researchers. If it’s a global role, include any specific instances where you were able to influence key players located in different countries, as well as your ability to multi-task. Please remember though: while it’s important to provide examples of your relevant experience, be careful not to overstate your abilities. Stretching the truth on your resume can certainly come back to bite you down the line.
1. Do your homework
A common complaint we hear from employers is that some applicants haven’t done adequate research on the company’s business. There’s no such thing as being too prepared for an interview and it’s important to know as much as possible about the company before you speak with anyone. Think about the scope of the business – what kinds of questions would this research team want to answer? If it’s a supplier, what kinds of clients do they work with and what kinds of research do they provide? If it’s corporate, what are important industry trends or potential competitive threats that may affect them?
Learn as much as you can about their business, the landscape in which they compete, their potential priorities or the direction of the business. And don’t forget, always do a quick search on the company before your interview so you’re up to speed on any current events or news impacting the organization.
2. Ask well-researched and thoughtful questions
This is another frequent sticking point. It’s important to come to the table with well-thought-out questions, especially if you note “natural curiosity” on your resume (which is a great attribute for researchers to have!). These questions should go beyond what you can easily find on the company’s website.
Strong questions should be specific to the company, industry, and/or role, and not something that you could ask in just any If you’re meeting with multiple people, make sure you ask different questions to each person because a team will often compare notes after interviewing someone. Asking great questions can help set you apart from other peers who maybe didn’t come as prepared.
3. Be excited!
Even though you want to be professional, this doesn’t mean you can’t show emotion or enthusiasm when you’re interviewing. It’s good to show that you’re interested in the company, business, or industry, and employers often take notice of how engaged you may be in the opportunity. Especially at smaller companies, where each researcher has a greater impact on the group, companies want to know that you’re just as excited about working with them as they are about hiring you.
1. Thank you notes are a must
Manners still go a long way these days! After an interview, make sure to follow-up with thank you emails to each person you met. Try to tailor each note to the specific conversation you had with each person (again, the team may compare notes on the back end). Although handwritten notes might be memorable and were suggested in the past, timeliness is crucial today and the hiring process can move fairly quickly, so we recommend sending emails within 24 hours of your interview. By the time your snail mail note arrives, the team may have already made their decision!
In an increasingly competitive market, the impression you make throughout the process matters. Some of these suggestions may seem like surprisingly small things, but the extra effort you put into them can make sure that you are the candidate the hiring manager remembers, and your attention along the way can pay off in the end!
Whether you’re planning your own career or hiring for your marketing research and consumer insights team, we hope this information was helpful! Let us know what you think in the comments, and be sure to connect with us on LinkedIn (Karla Ahern and Kit Nordmark).