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How to…Perform a great SWOT analysis


If you’re applying for a job in retail management, you may very well be asked to perform a SWOT analysis. If so, this will be an important part of the process and you should take it seriously. We asked recruitment experts from Retail Human Resources about what to do, what not to do and key things to remember that will put you ahead of the competition for that job.

A great SWOT analysis (which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) can put you strides ahead of other candidates in the race for your dream job. We asked Jason Ellis and Charley Fairbrother from Retail Human Resources to give us some expert tips on tackling this part of the hiring process.

What exactly is a SWOT analysis?

Jason: The SWOT analysis stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Strengths are anything that sets the business apart from the competition. Weaknesses are any areas of improvement that have an impact on the store internally. Opportunities are areas that would improve commercial revenue and threats are external (things like competitors in the area or things that would impact the ability to shop in the store — location, roadworks, etc.)

Charley: A SWOT analysis for a retail manager would be a report that you prepare, either formally as a PowerPoint presentation, or more informally as a set of notes you will go through. It is based on the specific store you’re interviewing for and it’s a really good way to show your prospective employer your skills and why you would be right for the job.

Alongside a competency-based interview, the SWOT analysis is used to test job performance. It acts a shop window for your job application, and arguably, it can be the difference between you getting the role or another candidate getting it.

How should I present my SWOT?

Charley: SWOT analysis can take all forms of shape and size. Some interviewers ask you to present your SWOT as a formal presentation, some ask you to just talk though your thoughts and some just ask for general documentation.

I’d always ask to be sure — it’s best to find out at this stage rather than get caught out when you’re asked to present something on the day. My ‘safety net’ is always to prepare a PowerPoint presentation if you’re unsure.

How should I go about my SWOT?

Jason: The most important thing is to get into the specific store for which you are interviewing. Spend at least two hours looking at both the store and around the local area, making notes and taking pictures. You should then spend a good couple of hours putting it together including pictures; using PowerPoint if appropriate to make it visually appealing and creative.

Don’t have lots of text; use bullet points and elaborate on them at interview. As well as a SWOT, put together an action plan of how you would approach and tackle what you have highlighted in the SWOT. This could be in the form of a 30, 60, 90 day business plan.

Charley: Preparation is key with a SWOT. Visit the store two or three times during different trading times to get a full picture of the store’s commercial day. It may be good to visit a few other stores in the area, too to see how this one may differ.

How should I approach the different sections?

Strengths: I tend to break this down a bit more into store strengths and company strengths. Then again by customer service, visual merchandising and overall store standards. This way you cover all bases in the store and it shows the interviewer that you are an all-round manager.

Weaknesses: This is the trickiest part. Automatically you don’t want to be overly critical as you really want this job, but you have to write something in this part. Break it down into the categories stated in the strengths but ensure that every weakness is backed up by an opportunity documented in the next section.

Opportunities: These should come directly from the weaknesses. What you can do here is split this into short term, medium term and long-term objectives to show you are going to be a true ambassador for the business. Typical opportunities might include things like making sure the range reflects the customer profile for the area, listening to customer feedback on what they are looking for in the store or ideas to improve the shopping experience in the store.

Threats: When writing about threats, ensure that you look around the area and make it specific to the location. There is no point saying that Zara is a competitor, for instance, if there isn’t a Zara in the shopping centre. Stay clear of mentioning the ‘economic climate’ but stick to the local market — when was the last time the town had any investment, for example? Make sure you look into more specific things like pricing, promotions and sales – things that are actual threats to your store.

What mistakes do people make when doing a SWOT?

Jason: Being too generic. Ensure you are specific to the store and role for which you are applying. Otherwise, it could also look like you’ve done it from your bedroom and not actually gone into a store.

Another mistake is applicants not picking up on key issues because they don’t want to be too harsh. However, you do need to be constructive because if there is an issue of which the interviewer is aware but you don’t discuss, it will only result in the interviewer thinking you have missed it in your observations.

Finally, it may seem obvious, but ensure that you proofread your SWOT analysis before presenting it.

Need some advice on how to handle an interview? See our tips here.

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Read more: SWOT, the basics >>


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