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SWOTs: the basics

SWOTs: The basics

If you’ve been invited for an interview in retail - especially management, you may well be asked to complete a SWOT analysis on the company. But what is a SWOT? Here, we go through the basics of what the interviewer is expecting to see as well as what you can do to put yourself ahead of the competition.

SWOT for beginners

A SWOT report stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It’s a way of showing an interviewer that you understand the business and its position in the marketplace.

The best things about the retailer - the things that hopefully make you excited to join the company! Examples of a retailer’s strengths include a unique product offering, great visual merchandising, the specific store location, customer service or the brand’s reputation.

These are slightly more negative and need to be dealt with carefully. Think about it in terms of ‘what is stopping any goals from being achieved that the company could change?’ Think about the categories you looked at for ‘Strengths’ such as customer service, location, the look of the store etc.

Here’s where it all starts to come together. Your answers for ‘Weaknesses’ will help you out here. For example, if one of the weaknesses you found is ‘poor customer service’ then you could give the ‘Opportunity” as ‘increase staff training and listen to customer feedback’.

This is usually area-specific so note down other shops in the area that might pinch customers off your potential employer. Look at their pricing, promotions and sales in comparison to your SWOT store.

Go the extra mile: Don’t just think about the immediate situation. You’ll get far more brownie points by coming up with a 30,60 and 90 day business plan. Show the company you’re thinking about the company’s future and the part you can play in it.

How many stores should I visit?

Experts at recruitment agency Retail Human Resources advise that you should visit at least one store, preferably two, but the more research you can you into the company the better.

Go the extra mile: Visit the website, have a good look at the social media and maybe even order something online to check the service out (if you’re interviewing for a fashion brand you can then wear this to the interview.) If you can, visit the store at different times of the day and take pictures.

I’ve done all this research. Now what?

Try to find out how you’re expected to present the SWOT. If it’s a fairly informal interview, you may just need to bring notes.

Slightly more formal situations might require you to present the results in a matrix (see the image, left) which should be nicely typed in bullet points and you should bring a copy for the interviewer/s. More formal interviews will want you to put the results into a great looking Powerpoint presentation.

Go the extra mile: If you’re unsure, or you have the time you should create a Powerpoint presentation, with good quality photographs of the store if you can take them, on a USB stick as well as printed notes, just in case.

What to look out for

Make sure it’s obvious you’re talking about a specific store. If you haven’t visited a store and you’re just basing it on your general knowledge of the company, you’ll soon be found out.

Also, many interviewees don’t want to pick up on key issues because they don’t want to criticise their prospective employer. But if there’s a glaring issue that the interviewer knows about but you don’t bring up, it will make you look like you haven’t spotted it.

Go the extra mile: Make sure you proof read your SWOT and have someone else look it over if you can - sometimes it’s hard to spot your own mistakes.