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How to prepare a Retail SWOT analysis for your Interview

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By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment

Asking candidates to prepare a SWOT analysis as part of the recruitment process is a popular selection tool to provide the prospective employer greater insight into the individual.
The SWOT you are asked to prepare could be about you, an aspect of the company’s business or the company as a whole. It could also be focused on or include information about their competitors.  In retail and hospitality it is a particularly popular tool to test an individual’s commerciality and market understanding. For the purposes of this blog I am going to focus on preparing a SWOT on a store or business.
It may be that you are specifically asked to complete a SWOT as part of the recruitment process or that you have decided to proactively prepare it to demonstrate to an employer your ability to research, your understanding of the business, market awareness and your eagerness to join the company!

So what exactly is a SWOT analysis?

SWOT is an acronym which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is an analytical framework to help summarise, in a concise manner, the risk and opportunities for an individual, store, business unit or overall company.
  • Strengths capture the positive aspects internal to your business that add value or offer you a competitive advantage.
  • Weaknesses are factors that are within your control but that detract from your ability to obtain or maintain a competitive advantage. They may be temporary weaknesses or strategic weaknesses that need addressing. Although these are the negative aspects, the more accurately you identify your weaknesses, the more valuable the SWOT will be for your assessment. It will help you develop a stronger strategy to improve and identify…
  • …Opportunities presented by the environment within which the company operates. Successful organisations are able to recognize the opportunities and grasp them whenever they arise.  This is an area where you can really set yourself apart in terms of your creativity and commercial thinking.
  • Threats arise when conditions in the external environment jeopardize the success of the organisation. Threats are uncontrollable factors that change the dynamics of the market such as increasing competition or changes in technology which will impact the long term success of the business.

General Tips

So how exactly should you go about putting together a SWOT analysis?
In my experience, many find it easier to compile the external Opportunities and Threats before compiling the internal strengths and weaknesses.
When carrying out your SWOT Analysis, be realistic and rigorous. By rigorous, I mean try and use quantifiable information, rather than sweeping statements. Ruthlessly prune long lists of factors, and prioritize them, so that you spend your time thinking about the most significant factors.
Make sure that options generated are carried through to later stages in the strategy formation process.
Also you need to make sure you apply the SWOT at the right level – it may be that you are asked to complete one on a particular store, town or business.
Bullet points – in most scenarios you will asked to prepare the SWOT analysis in advance and to present it as part of your interview or selection process. Bullets are fine as you will be given the opportunity to expand upon these verbally.

Research for your SWOT

When preparing your SWOT there are a number of tools available to gather the necessary information. There is a vast amount of information out there to help you understand both the prospective company but also the market in which they operate.
A few suggestions would include: company website, store visits, competitor websites, previous employees and industry contacts.
This is not an exhaustive list and I can’t emphasise enough the importance of taking the time to research and truly understand the business and the sector in which they operate.
Below is a matrix with some suggested areas to look at under each heading. Again, this is just a guide to start you thinking about the right areas.
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In my experience a lot of credence and weight is given to the SWOT analysis by clients and I have seen a number of very strong candidates fail to secure the right role because they have not dedicated enough time and thought into the SWOT. At the end of the day the SWOT is only a tool and it is worth being aware about some of the pitfalls of it as a technique and how this may affect your work.
Some of the common negatives about SWOT analysis are:

  • Generally there is a lack of prioritisation of factors, there being no requirement for their classification and evaluation; it is worth making sure that when you present your SWOT that you provide some clarity around prioritisation.
  • Listing too many factors is often an issue – try and make sure you pitch your analysis at the right level.
  • Implementation – make sure during your commentary that you make comment about the costs/challenges of implementation.
  • Sweeping statements – during your commentary try and back up your statements with any data you have gathered during your research.
  • Analysis only at a single level (not multi-level analysis);

Whilst it is important that you highlight the key points in your matrix/presentation arguably the most important part is the commentary and detail you describe alongside. Again this will only be delivered effectively if you have thoroughly prepared.

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  1. […] 2-4 minutes per slide. A useful tip might be to include additional information such as a PEST or SWOT analysis in to an appendix rather than the body of the presentation. This allows you to demonstrate […]

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