Updated: Apr 24
With the whole great resignation going on there are so many great opportunities for employees to really choose where they want to work.
I'm going to recommend 10 questions to ask when interviewing for a marketing job, specifically a small B2B company. You’ll see that not all of the questions apply to larger companies so you’ll need to filter them out for larger companies.
I’m going to arm you with some really good questions that will make you look like you know what you’re talking about and demonstrate your keen interest in the company. The answers to these questions will also help you determine what kind of company they really are and if you want to work there, from a marketing perspective. There will be no questions about culture and pay. They’re all related to marketing.
The episode doesn’t stop there. Once we go through these questions, I have 6 things you need to look for when applying for a job in marketing.
I put the questions from easiest to toughest for the employer. But pick which ones to ask. And make sure you take notes while they’re answering questions. You’re interviewing them as well. So let’s start with an easy one.
1. What are your expectations for this role over the next 3 months?
This is an easy question for the employer because chances are they already cover this in their interview. They may have laid out a plan of what they want you to accomplish in the next few months. But if they didn’t mention it, be sure to ask for two reasons.
1) You want to see what they are trying to fill this position for. There is clearly a gap in their team and they want to fill it. Make sure you find out what that reason is. Maybe they know nothing about marketing and need someone to fill that role? Maybe they’re concealing what they really want you to accomplish? Whatever they’re answer is, write it down and try to determine their intentions.
2) The second reason is if they don’t have a plan for you, you need to pay attention to what they say. It would lead me to wondering why you're in that interview in the first place. Also, I would question their onboarding process. A lack of a onboarding process is a sign not being organized or prioritizing employees.
Also, the reason I’m telling you this is because some entry level marketing positions are promoted as a marketing job but when you dig a little further they are sales jobs or something completely different. In my experience, a "marketing" job was actually a secretarial job.
2. How many people are working on the marketing team?
In smaller companies, you’re likely going to be on a small team. You can ask what everyone’s role is and who you report to. But this is another easy question because they may have already addressed this in the interview. But what you really want out of this question is to find out if they outsource any marketing. No contractors means everything falls on the small team. Can be a great learning experience. Can also impose a lot of pressure.
3. Is there a marketing project you have yet to start that you would love to start in the next 6 months?
This question is important for you to see if you actually want to work on that project and to prepare for it even if you may not have all the skills to execute it. Don’t say no to a challenge because you don’t know how to do it yet. There are so many free resources out there and plenty of resources coming up on the Marketing Bound Podcast that can help you prepare. Definitely reach out to me if you need help with something specific.
4. How do you currently generate leads?
This question can go in so many different directions. Every B2B company always has a lead generation problem. There are never enough leads for a business. So this question might make them uncomfortable. If they say their only source of leads are referrals, that’s not very good. It means they are dependent on these partners. It also suggests that their marketing is not developed. If they mention many streams of leads, that’s the ideal.
5. Who is your ideal customer?
If they can just answer who their ideal customer is without hesitation, that’s pretty darn good. Many companies struggle answering this question. So if they have an answer for you, I would say this is a good sign.
Now if they hesitate and are not sure. They might be having sales problems. They might not be generating a lot of revenue. They might not have strong marketing in place. And honestly, they might not even offer you a good salary. I know! this is a big jump but a unclear audience means things aren't running smoothly. Now, if you like the company, see what they offer you, they might have good values and put their employees first. But their answer to this question will tell you a lot about what’s happening internally.
6. What is your biggest marketing challenge to date?
They will definitely have to think about this answer. This is where you write a lot of notes. When I asked this question, I got rambling answers. There were a lot of challenges. Many companies will probably play this answer safe but I think it’s super interesting to see what they come up with.
It’s interesting to see what the company thinks they need versus when you get in the company and see what’s going on. What you think they need may not be the same as what they think they need. We will cover dealing with objections in a later episode. This insight into their challenges can better help you for the role. For example, if they are having a hard time narrowing their target audience, you may want to learn about interviewing customers and doing secondary research before you start the job.
7. What percentage of revenue is allocated to the marketing budget?
This is a polite way of making sure that their marketing budget extends beyond your salary. Because when they have absolutely nothing dedicated to marketing, you’re about to enter an unknown world of problems.
On the flip side, they might go into detail about how they allocate the budget. This is great to take note of. See what they are spending money on and what they aren’t. This can help you brainstorm ideas on how to help them before you even start at the job.
If they ask you why you’re asking that question, tell them how you read that the most successful B2B businesses have allocated a minimum of 2% to their marketing. So I was wondering what a reputable company like yourself allocates to the marketing budget.
8. What does your customer journey look like?
Question number 8 is quite spicy. This is asking them to describe how their customers buy their product. This will make them uncomfortable but it will show your knowledge about how customers buy things.
Everyone goes through a customer journey. At it's simplest form, there are 3 phases of the customer journey: awareness, likeness and purchase. Awareness is making sure people know you exist. Likeness is making sure they like and trust you. And purchase is when they buy from you. As a consumer, you have gone through this journey for every single purchase you made. And it's important for the B2B customer as well.
If I were to guess, the interviewer will probably explain that their customers fill out the lead form, get a demo, finalize things on a phone call, and then purchase. If that’s what they say, they don’t know very much about marketing. They described the sales side of the process. But how did they know your company existed? How do they gain trust with you? All that is missing from their explanation.
I’ll give you an example of a customer journey from Assurance IT. This is the cyber security firm I work for. Unfortunately, what encourages buyers to invest in cyber security is when something bad happens, usually. Then they start doing research. This includes online resources and their coworkers in IT. They reach out to a few vendors, set up meetings with them. See which one they like best and who is more affordable. That’s the customer journey of one of our personas before they ever fill out a form or ask for a demo.
This question is important so you can get a better idea of how developed their marketing is. This question won’t make or break you taking the position, but good to know before you start working somewhere.
9. How much budget do you allocate to learning per employee?
This question may shock them. If they have no budget toward learning, that sucks. They may not be prioritizing their employees’ development. This is where they might ask you why? Why do you ask? And you respond: I need to stay on top of marketing trends, I need to allocate time and potentially budget to make sure my marketing skills are always up to date. You are setting expectations of how you need time to continuously learn for your job. No harm there. On the flip side, if they do invest in their employees’ growth, then that’s amazing.
10. Do you allow your employees to have personal brands?
This question, in my opinion can make or break the opportunity. Personal brands are the new resumes. Everyone in marketing needs to be developing their personal brand. I have several episodes coming up to discuss personal branding. (Don't worry)
So, if they say no, you’re not allowed a personal brand. You get up and leave and never go back. Okay, okay, obviously don't do that but in all seriousness, if they can’t recognize the power of personal brands for their employees and how that can positively impact their business, then I would say this is a deal breaker.
So those are 10 questions to better prepare you for your marketing interviews for a small company.
Before you go to the interview, here is what you need to find out about the company to help you decide if you should accept a role there. The goal is to find a company with an open-mind, and practicing modern marketing tactics.
Here are 6 questions you need to answers to before going in the interview, and I would suggest even before applying:
What social media platforms are they active on? Are they active at all? Red flag if they are not.
Look up the credentials of your direct manager?
Find out how old the company is? For example, are they over 50 years old and NOT on social media.....red flag.
Look for brand ambassadors? In other words, are their employees active on LinkedIn because why is the CEO not active on the biggest free professional social media platform? It’s weird. Sometimes they just don’t know they should be active. But keep it in the back of your mind. I worked for a CEO where he was too busy for LinkedIn... He was too busy for free exposure.
What is their purpose? Why does the company exist. It’s always helps your job as a marketer when you understand why the company exists and who they help.
How are they different? If not clear on the website, it might be hard for you to understand once you get in. And that just makes your life very difficult.
And voila those are 10 questions to help you look super smart and knowledgeable about marketing in your interviews. And we just went through 6 questions to answer before an interview or even applying to a job.
Marketers, thanks for joining. Hope this helps you with your job search. Let me know if you have additional questions.
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About the Marketing Bound podcast:
Helping new B2B marketers look good at work. Tune in to the Marketing Bound Podcast to develop your marketing skills, navigate the corporate world like a pro, boost your confidence in your role and access the greatest minds in B2B marketing. Join Laura L. Bernhard every week to fast-track your career in B2B. Subscribe to the Marketing Bound Podcast on Spotify or on Apple Podcasts.