This post is contributed by Karla Ahern and Kit Nordmark, Burtch Works’ marketing research recruiting experts.
Have you ever been asked to complete an assignment as part of the interview process for a marketing research role? If your answer is yes, you’re not alone. We have seen an increase in the number of companies adding this step into the selection process when searching for new talent. If you haven’t encountered a request like this yet, chances are you will at some point in your career.
Assignments are a form of assessment beyond a standard personality test or previous work sample you may be asked to provide. They can take many different shapes – a case study, a reporting exercise, presenting to a group – and these assignments are becoming increasingly common during the interview process for marketing research and insights roles today.
Employers use assignments as a way to evaluate a researcher’s abilities in practice and thoroughly vet a candidate before deciding to bring them on board. Maybe they’ve been burned by job seekers overstating their abilities in the past or just feel more comfortable instilling a pilot test before adding a new member to their team – either way, many firms are hoping to get a sense of your work style, thought process, and you overall research chops before they make any major hiring decisions.
These assignments can occur during an on-site interview, though more often will be completed on your own time before a formal interview or even after you’ve already met the team. Regardless of your seniority in your marketing research career, we recommend that you start to anticipate assignments as a likely step during a job search.
Tips for Approaching Assignments
As assignments become more commonplace in the marketing research job search process, we wanted to offer some tips and best practices that may help you along the way:
1. Dedicate enough time – The time commitment for an assignment can vary greatly – we’ve seen some that are a timed two-hour assessment, or others that take a bit longer, perhaps 6-10 hours over the course of a few days. Regardless of the time allotted, it’s always a good idea to budget time in advance and leave a buffer in case the exercise takes longer than anticipated or something else comes up along the way.
- Don’t procrastinate when it comes to your assignment. Make sure you read all the instructions early on so you have a good idea of the time you’ll need to allow (this also gives you the chance to ask any questions!)
- If you have a generous deadline, aim to complete your work early. An assignment submitted after a deadline can reflect poorly on your work ethic and time management skills, so if possible, set an artificial deadline for yourself to make sure you have plenty of time.
2. Pay attention to details – Read all instructions thoroughly and ask for additional instructions or clarifications if necessary (preferably as soon as you receive the assignment to allow time to hear back). If you need to make an assumption about the data or a base size, make sure to explain your thought process.
3. Tell a cohesive story – Strong storytelling is a key differentiating factor for marketing researchers. Potential employers will want to see examples of strategic thinking, robust analysis, interesting insights, and the ability to come up with prescribed actions. Make sure to summarize your findings concisely, but don’t stop there – it’s essential to provide recommendations using the data and information at hand.
4. Check your work! – It sounds obvious, but double – or TRIPLE – check your work before you submit it. Ensure your assignment is free of typos, that you have the correct spelling of any brands or companies mentioned, pay particular attention to charts, labels, data points, and call outs, and make sure everything lines up.
5. Take assignments seriously – This is critical for your success at this stage in the process. We’ve seen candidates rush through their exercise or not give it the proper attention and in turn be eliminated from consideration because their assignment wasn’t strong enough. This is a reflection of your work and potential employers will use it to evaluate you. The quality of your assignment can make or break your candidacy, so this part of the process should be taken just as seriously as an in-person interview.
Keep in Mind
While these assignments are designed by employers to evaluate marketing researchers, they can also provide an excellent opportunity for you to evaluate the company as well. Is the process buttoned-up? Are the instructions clear? Are you given the resources or time you need to deliver strong work? The firm’s approach to the assignment can give you a window into how they operate as well as the kinds of projects they do.
Overall, as firms look for more ways to gauge potential talent, we expect assignments to become even more common. We’re hoping the above information will help anyone who might be unsure of how to tackle this (sometimes daunting) part of the interview process.
Your finished product should give the hiring team an idea of your thought process, the way you approach research, and your style, as well as the caliber of work you would bring if they brought you on board, so take it seriously and make it count. This is your chance to shine!
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We hope this information was helpful! If you’re looking to hire marketing research or consumer insights talent, or looking for new opportunities, be sure to connect with us on LinkedIn (Karla Ahern and Kit Nordmark).