How To Not Fall Victim to This Bad Marketing Interview Tactic

How To Not Fall Victim to This Bad Marketing Interview Tactic

Updated August 2, 2020
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The Modern Marketing Interview

How hard can it be?

You are looking for a new social media marketing job and you are preparing for the next marketing interview, like a pro.

You have everything ready including your

  • portfolio
  • references
  • resume
  • online presence
  • internship
  • on-the-job experience

Everything this company is asking of you is ready to be handed over and to be discussed in the interview!

You are stoked, right?!

But then…

Boom!

You walk in for the first round – or worse, get an email before you even show up!

You are asked this one question [or a variation of this question]:

“Can you please prepare a 12-month marketing plan for the first 12 months in the role we are looking to hire. Outline the required budget and proposed metrics for tracking its success. We will ask you to present this to us as part of the formal interview.”

Say what?!

Today we will look at

  • why companies are using this marketing interview tactic
  • what a company stands to gain with this tactic
  • what you stand to lose with this tactic
  • when to walk away from this type of marketing interview

The Marketing Interview Tactic Marketers Loath!

What is this marketing interview tactic marketers loath?

It is the ‘marketing plan' ask.

During the interview process, you are asked to create a marketing plan to:

  • ‘proof yourself to us'
  • ‘show us what you've got'
  • ‘wow us with your knowledge'
  • ‘demonstrate your expertise'
  • ‘authenticate your resume'
  • ‘manifest your style'

Whatever pretty way this question is phrased, you are asked to give of your time and talent, for free!

Before thinking about this further, before diving into the ‘yay' or ‘nay' of this tactic, let me ask you this:

  • If you were to interview for a car detailing job, would you expect to spend hours detailing a car to show that you can?
  • When interviewing for a job as a banker, do you expect to be handed a wad of cash to show you can count it correctly?
  • How would you like it if, during an interview for a job as a nurse, they'd ask you to assist with surgery to show that you can?

I know what I would do!

I'd walk away and tell everyone who would listen not to work for these people!

Yet…

Marketers are asked to give away 12-month marketing plans again and again and again and again during the interview process.

Is this an accepted interview tactic?

We can't say it is accepted as the norm, but it is widespread!

Why This Marketing Interview Tactic is So Widespread

There are still few industry standards as it pertains to social media marketing.

Until recently, social media marketing wasn't a degree you could pursue in college. Marketing yes, social media marketing, no. As these new social media related jobs like social media manager, community manager, content manager, and social media strategist gained momentum, many companies were left with new jobs to fill but no standard job descriptions or interview process.

So, therefore, they made stuff up, or we can only assume that is what happened.

Social media marketing isn't cheap.

Neither are TV buys, newspaper ads, and highway billboards.

However, ‘old media' is what businesses are used to spending their marketing budget on. Now business owners, CEOs, and CFOs are asked to spend money on social media marketing and many just don't have a clue how it all works.

There are also speculations out there that CMOs don't want to pay for consulting and strategy as part of their budget. It goes on to speculate that some are using fake interviews to get it for … free!

See where this is going?


become a social media manager


You Will Lose If You Agree To This Marketing Interview Tactic

If you agree to create a full 12-month marketing plan as part of the marketing interview process, we want you to be prepared.

Not a single person in our 28,000+ member Social Media Managers Facebook group has come forward to let us know that they wrote such a plan, and then got the job.

[If you have, please enlighten us and leave a comment below! Tell us your story of success with this tactic. We'd love to hear it.]

Instead, several social media managers reported these reactions by the interviewers after such a plan was submitted

  • “As soon as I submitted my marketing plan per their ask, the company went radio silent”
  • “I saw the CEO of the company on TV talking about the exact strategy I'd given them two days prior”
  • “My strategy was implemented by interns hired after I submitted my plan. They told me I was too expensive.”
  • “I spent hours on a marketing plan, only to be told the position was filled by a VA. Of course, they used my plan!”

You stand to lose your work, your time and your self-respect if you spend hours crafting a 12-month marketing plan for a company who has not hired you yet! 

via GIPHY

When to Walk Away From a Marketing Interview!

Now, how do you approach this question and this tactic then?

First and foremost, ask questions and do your research before your interview!

We suggest you use your social media skills to research this company online; go online to search for previous job postings for that position, or marketing-related jobs (because if they keep posting the same jobs each year that would be a red flag), don't forget to check Glassdoor reviews, read their blog if they have one and scour the website especially the ‘about' page, check on LinkedIn to see if you might be connected to someone who works there and send them a message, etc.

Do not go into the interview without understanding the structure and the size of the company, especially as it pertains to the marketing department.

Next, when asked to create any sort of marketing plan during the interview process*, know that you have choices!

You can

  • refuse to do this task, and walk away if needed
  • tell them your consulting fee for creating such a plan and see how they react
  • immediately call them out and state ‘I don't work for free'
  • show them a marketing plan you've created for a previous client (with blurred out details, of course)
  • counter their question by asking for access to all their data including target audience, budget, keywords, competitors, and analytics such as Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, Instagram analytics etc.
  • create a simple, basic outline of a marketing plan with blank spaces for all the info you don't have
  • complete this task and blur out tons of data on the PDF you give them, with the understanding you give the completed plan when hired
  • create a plan and be prepared to never hear from them again

In short, write the plan and be prepared to lose!

Let it be said that a verbal conversation during a marketing interview about strategic planning is fine, of course! You can show off your expertise by talking about all the things that go into creating a strategy, such as an audit, competitors analysis, keyword research and more!

Happy Interviewing!

We want to leave you with some positive news.

Social Media Pro has a brand new directory for social media professionals just like you!

Check it out here; you can get listed, found and hired!

*This is a follow up of the article “How to decline writing a marketing plan as part of the interview process“.

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