This blog is contributed by Burtch Works’ marketing research & consumer insight recruiting team.
Whether you’re a recent graduate looking to land your first marketing research & insights role in the field, or a seasoned professional with a bulk of interviewing experience under your belt, it’s always a good idea to have an arsenal of questions in your back pocket for when an interviewer inevitably asks: “so what questions do you have for me?”
It may not seem like a top priority after you’ve already spent time researching the company, navigated the often challenging task of figuring out title differences in the market (more on that here), checked out your interviewers’ backgrounds, prepped for the process as a whole, etc. However, asking good questions not only helps you gather additional information and further explore fit, it can also demonstrate your sincere interest in the position and help you stand out as thoughtful candidate.
Before we dig into more specifics on questions to ask, here are a few high-level tips to consider:
- Prioritize your questions: Every interview is different and depending on the structure, there may be limited time for questions, so have a general idea of importance in case you can only ask a question or two.
- Mix it up: If you’re interviewing with a series of people for a role, make sure to ask different questions during each conversation, as interviewers often compare notes on the back end. If there is some overlap, try to frame it as such (for example, “I also asked John this, but would love to get your perspective…”).
- Have backups: You may have some questions that are organically addressed during the interview, so make sure to have some extra questions handy so you’re not caught off guard.
- Adapt as appropriate: It’s great to have some general ideas of questions to ask in advance, but it’s important to tailor them to the conversation in real-time. Actively listen as you’re interviewing and jot down notes if you hear something that may spark a question along the way.
While this blog is not an exhaustive list by any means, we wanted to share some ideas to get you thinking about different questions to consider while interviewing for research & insights positions ranging from the role, the research, the structure within the organization, and more.
Exploring the Marketing Research or Insights Role Itself
Job descriptions can provide an overview of the position and what it entails, so make sure you’ve given it a detailed read in advance. Some descriptions will be more comprehensive than others, and since titles across the research & insights field vary greatly (making the job searching process more complex), you may want ask questions designed to dive into more specifics on the role. Here are some questions to consider:
- What does a “day in the life” look like for the position?
- For what types of tasks will you be responsible?
- What’s the scope of the role?
- Is the position more tactical or strategic?
- What’s the reporting structure and to whom does this role report?
- Future growth potential – what does career path look like internally?
- Are there management expectations now or potentially in the future?
- Number of direct reports, if any? Will the role remain hands-on or focus on leading others?
What kinds of research will you be doing?
You’ll likely have a general idea of the work that the position covers, but it’s a good idea to think about what research the role involves and how you’ll be doing it. Here are some questions to consider:
- Custom research? Quant/qual/hybrid? What types of methodologies are used?
- Syndicated research (Nielsen, IRI, NPD, SPINS, etc.)? What tools are in place?
- Secondary research (Mintel, Euromonitor, Forrester, etc.)?
- Behavioral data? Social listening?
- Does the role have a particular focus? (i.e. Front-end innovation or product development? Brand-building or messaging/positioning research? Tracking? Segmentation studies? CX?)
- Is the role regional or global in scope?
- Will you be hands-on running research end-to-end? Or working on specific parts of a project?
- How technical is the role? Will you work with analytics team or running stats yourself?
- What type of output is expected? Such as: story-driven reporting, interactive dashboards, white papers, or something else?
- [Client-side:] Will you run research projects in-house (DIY) or work with external partners? Or a blend of the two? Is there a preferred list of vendors or flexibility to bring in new partners?
- [Client-side:] Will you socialize insights internally? Present to executive leadership?
- [Supplier-side:] Is there a business development aspect? What’s the ratio of seller/doer? Will you be pitching brand new work or expanding existing client engagements? Will there be soft goals or specific sales quotas?
The research & insights team and general organization landscape
The job description itself may not provide much context in terms of the broader team, where this role fits within the organization, or how the company is structured. Here are some questions to consider:
- How is the team set up? Is it a layered group or relatively flat?
- Whether internal or external, how client-facing is the role? Will you present findings yourself or someone else?
- Is there potential future growth opportunity within the team?
- [Supplier-side:] Are internal teams based by client category? Research type? Or does it vary project-to-project?
- [Supplier-side:] Are there any other teams that support the business? Dedicated sales team? Operations or logistics? Stats or analytics teams?
- [Client-side:] Will your research span the entire organization? Or is the portfolio divided by specific brands or products?
- [Client-side:] Where does research & insights sit within the organization (under Marketing? Strategy? Finance?)? Are there also Analytics or Data Science groups in place or blended teams?
- [Client-side:] What different business units does research & insights cover? (i.e. Marketing? Sales? Merchandising? R&D? Product teams? Operations?)
- [Client-side:] Does research & insights have a seat at the table? Is it a well-established and proven function or in an earlier stage of development or influence?
- [Client-side:] How invested is the company in research & insights? What does the dedicated research budget look like?
Other Questions to Consider
Of course, there are many other topics to think about beyond the role, the work you’ll be doing, and the organization as a whole. Here are some questions to consider:
- What’s the company culture like? As a whole and on the research & insights team in particular?
- Are there any particular qualities that are especially valued? (i.e. Entrepreneurial mindset? Autonomous working? Great collaboration or working within a team? Creativity?)
- How will success be measured in this role?
- Any training or on-the-job continued learning that will be offered?
- Does the role/company require full time in-office working or is there some WFH flexibility?
- Travel expectations?
Researchers tend to be a curious group and often come with a plethora of questions by nature – and these are just some ideas to get you started! Interviews can be a great way to get an on-the-ground perspective when you’re talking to someone within an organization of interest, and also give you the chance to follow up with how your skills, background, or personality may align with the opportunity at hand.
We hope this list gets you thinking about what questions may help while interviewing. After all, an important part of moving your research career forward means weighing potential career options and figuring out what will be the best and most rewarding move for you!