It is imperative to differentiate yourself.
One way to do this is by being more prepared than any other job
candidate. According to Wikipedia, a SWOT Analysis is:
“…a structured planning method used to evaluate the Strengths,
Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business
venture. A SWOT analysis can be carried out for a product, place,
industry or person. It involves specifying the objective of the business
venture or project and identifying the internal and external factors that
are favorable and unfavorable to achieving that objective.”
SWOT Analysis is most often credited to Albert Humphrey, who led
the work through the 1960s and 1970s based on data from Fortune 500
companies. The following is a high level description of the characteristics
of each of the main components:
• Strengths: What are the differentiating factors that are advantageous
to the proposal?
• Weaknesses: What are factors that are a disadvantage relative to the
team, process, business, or product?
• Opportunities: What features could be exploited to the advantage
of the team or product? This is often related to controllable and
internal to the company.
• Threats: What external factors, often outside of the control of the
team, business, process, and project that can be a concern?
I started integrating SWOT analysis by creating four blocks on one
sheet of paper and brainstorming specifics related to the company role for
which I was applying. One of the main reasons was to see if it would be a
position I would like, a position I could succeed in, and a position where
I could have an immediate impact.
When I first talk with people about SWOT analysis, they think it’s a
fancy way of kissing up. Actually, the primary goal for me when doing the
analysis was not to benefit the people I was potentially interviewing with;
I needed to believe I was a good fit for a role before I could have a genuine
conversation convincing someone else that I was the right fit. The SWOT
analysis became a tool to allowing me to do that. If the secondary goal is
to show your work and how you prepared for the interview, it can only
help in the goal to differentiate yourself.
I defined each block so I stayed focused and consistent within its context.
Since SWOT analysis was originally created for project settings, it’s
important to understand how it can be used effectively in the job-search
process with a little modification and clarity.
– The strengths represent the skills you can bring.
– The weaknesses are specific to the role, the department, or even the
company, based on your insight gathered from interview preparation,
from articles, current/past employers, and other factors.
– The opportunities should be a direct reflection of the action you can
take to address the weaknesses (internally focused).
– The threats are more externally focused and most of the time are out
of your control. For example, could new federal regulations create
issues in the industry you’re looking to get into?
Historically, the SWOT has had great results for me by ensuring that I
was fully prepared for any interview and knew that the job was definitely
something I wanted. In some cases, when asked how I prepared for the interview,
I might mention the SWOT analysis I completed. On more than
one occasion, the interview became focused around the SWOT work itself.
When that happened, I knew I had the advantage by discussing a
document that I had put together, and in many cases, took some control
over the flow of the interview. Although you should never manipulate an
interview, having some control to play to your strengths can be the extra
advantage you’re looking for.
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