“What are your strengths and weakness?” Most people dread this question and do not know how to answer it. Even if you are never asked this question in an interview, you must know how to answer it, in order to effectively compete for a job. Read on, to learn more.
Conducting a SWOT analysis will help you understand how to market yourself and increase your chances of surviving the pre-screening process of candidate selection.
As a Global MBA Career Advisor at the Robinson College of Business, I work with MBA students and alumni at Georgia State University. My role is to advice clients on the Career Management process and to serve as a liaison between candidates and employers. In order to help my clients, position themselves for an effective and efficient job-search, I need to know what makes them unique. Over the past ten years, I have worked with countless business professionals, yet very few can succinctly state their USP, Unique Selling proposition. Even seasoned, business executives often fail to understand what their competitive advantage is and do not know what differentiates them from their competition. In traditional career management counseling, the counselor would embark on an exploration process, in partnership with the client. The goal would be to use narrative counseling techniques to elicit the client’s USP. The process can be lengthy, it can be frustrating and it is definitely time consuming.
The term “SWOT analysis,” is as common in business school, as the term Picasso would be in Art school. You hear this term in conversations in the elevators, you see it in the business textbooks and students and faculty talk about it all the time.
“A SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture. 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. The technique is credited to Albert Humphrey, who led a convention at Stanford University in the 1960s and 1970s using data from Fortune 500 companies.”
About 8 months ago, I had an epiphany, an “aha” moment and realized that the shortest route between point A and point B was a SWOT analysis! The fastest way to determine a clients’ differentiator or USP was to conduct a SWOT analysis. So, I appropriated this concept and adapted it from its’ traditional usage and form. Now I use this concept in both my individual Career Advising sessions and in Executive Career Education Workshops. As a result, the time it takes to determine a clients’ USP, has been cut in half. This enables a client to quickly begin customizing paper-tools, create a career action plan and begin their job search.
The rudiments of a SWOT Analysis are contained in the information below. It is recommended that you work with an experienced and licensed counselor to expedite the process and gain insight into your competition.
• What advantages do you have?
• What do you do better than anyone else?
• What unique or low-cost resources can you offer?
• What do people in your market see as your strengths?
• What factors mean that you “get the sale”?
Consider this from an internal perspective, and from the point of view of your customers and people in your market. Be realistic and write a list of your characteristics.
How do you know what your differentiator is, if you never see your competitors resumes?
In analyzing your strengths, you will need to put them in the context of your industry and profession, think about your competitors. With 7,600 business students, the Robinson College of Business, is the largest business college in the Southeast. With 500+ business professionals on my caseload each semester, I review hundreds of your competitors resumes and provide individual, career advising to hundreds of your competitors. The advantage of creating a SWOT analysis with a professional Career Advisor, who works in a high volume setting, is having a standard of comparison. For example, if all your competitors use SPSS software and pivot tables for Actuarial Science and Risk Management roles, then this is not a USP. Rather, it is a necessity for the pre-screening process and resume-review phase in candidate selection.
• What could you improve?
• What should you avoid?
• What are people in your market likely to see as weaknesses?
• What factors lose you sales?
Have you ever had a 360 degree review? Do other people seem to perceive weaknesses that you do not see? Are your competitors doing any better than you? It is best to be realistic now, and face any unpleasant truths in the interview.
• Where are the good opportunities facing you?
• What are the interesting trends you are aware of?
Useful opportunities can come from such things as:
• Changes in technology and markets on both a broad and narrow scale
• Changes in government policy related to your field
• Changes in social patterns, population profiles, lifestyle changes, etc.
• Local events which could impact business development.
A useful approach for looking at opportunities is to look at your strengths and ask yourself whether these open up any opportunities. Alternatively, look at your weaknesses and ask yourself whether you could create opportunities by eliminating them.
• What obstacles do you face?
• What is your competition doing that you should be worried about?
• Are the required specifications for your job, products or services changing?
• Is changing technology threatening your position?
• Do you have bad debt or cash-flow problems?
• Could any of your weaknesses seriously threaten your business?
A well done, well analyzed SWOT analysis will spotlight what needs to be done and put your problems into perspective.
Strengths and weaknesses are often internal to your organization. Opportunities and threats often relate to external factors. The SWOT Analysis is sometimes called Internal-External Analysis. You can also apply SWOT Analysis on your competitors.
This framework and introductory questions referended above, will help you get started. Consult a Career Management Professional who is experienced with your industry and sector, to help you see the big picture and to launch your new career.
© 2009 – All Rights Reserved – Sharon Cohen, MA,CPRP, Global MBA Career
Advisor at Robinson College of Business in Georgia State University.
Executive Career Advisor and Educator.