Updated: Jun 29, 2020
The most surprising realization dawned on me when one of the members of the blog texted me asking, "Is there a post on how to land a marketing job at IIMs?" I was stunned. I've written on management consulting in detail, on finance and CFA, even slight bit on PM Tech as well but I haven't written any post on how to prepare for a marketing role. Being a marketing enthusiast, I felt it's time to do justice to the field I love.
Marketing is an amazing arena to work in and you'd wonder if I'm saying so because of my past experience with Mondelez but it's not only that (though, it had a huge impact). When you get to understand how consumers think, how they take decisions, it becomes a joy ride to solve their problems through marketing.
But, let's get back to the question at hand - "How to get a Marketing Internship or Job at IIMs?" Before I answer this question, you might have had some doubts in your mind. Let's clarify them first.
Some people have a misconception that only freshers get hired by marketing companies. This is not true. In an earlier post on the impact of work experience, I demystified that it's probably because a lot of freshers apply to the marketing roles and hence the trend.
A lot of people tend to worry about the lack of prior experience or an academic background suited for marketing. If you're one of them, please don't worry. Marketing requires a certain bent of mind, there's no need for you to know the jargon or frameworks in the marketing books to get through its job interview.
That's clearly untrue. Most marketing firms that hire from IIMs offer a CTC in between 15-35 LPA. The internship stipends generally range between 1-2 LPM. Apart from these, your travel and stay is often taken care of.
Sales & Travelling
Another common misconception is that one needs to do a lot of groundwork and sales before getting to the marketing positions and often there's a lot of travel involved. The truth is, sales is an essential part of marketing. If you don't know how the goods are being delivered and displayed, you can't market them. Having said that, the sales position after an MBA is not equivalent to taking orders from shops or selling door-to-door, as is commonly imagined. It's about managing people who perform those invaluable duties. And the travel is only limited to resolving complaints of your distributors, wholesalers, retailers and the team you're leading.
Now that we are done with the basic clarifications, let's talk about the shortlisting process. Marketing companies can get really creative when it comes to the screening process. The most common steps are:
All the rounds are elimination rounds. However, some companies insert multi-fold screening rounds in between the above-listed. Some of those rounds can be:
Video Cover Letter
Since these are rare exceptions, let's talk about the basic 3 steps in more detail and see how you can prepare for them to land a marketing internship or job.
If you're a regular reader of the blog, you would have gone through the CV format we use at IIM-A by now. If not, I'd suggest you to go through it once as it will make the subsequent points clearer to you.
A marketing firm doesn't bother about your past academic scores as much as a finance or consulting firm does. That is why, most students at IIMs have this notion that if you wish to get into marketing, you need not worry about your grades. At the same time, you're also not required to elect marketing subjects to get into a marketing role. This is a point I have clarified earlier in the post on specializations at IIMs.
If you notice carefully, the CV format that I've shared has 2 main components: Buckets and Spikes.
Buckets refer to the different portions of the CV: Academics, Co-Curricular, Internships & Work Experience, Positions of Responsibility, Extra-Curricular.
Spikes refer to the extra-ordinary achievements that add value to your candidature.
As a marketing enthusiast, you must have a Balanced CV. A balanced CV has a fair amount of spikes in all the buckets. This means that the student is an all-rounder and has diverse achievements to reflect in all buckets.
You may not be an expert of a particular area, but you've got yourself involved into all sorts of activities ranging from hosting competitions in your college to representing your institution in a competition. The more variety your CV reflects, the better.
At the same time, if you have bits and pieces of marketing linked in your past accolades, it counts as a positive. For example, if you have done some marketing certifications, it shows your interest to the interviewer.
If you're aiming for a marketing role, the best way to build your profile is to use this CV format (a downloadable doc version is available in the link shared earlier), fill in your achievements and see which buckets are comparatively empty. For example, if you feel your work-ex is not sufficient, take up some internships.
I won't lie when I tell you that GDs were not my strength. In fact, Mondelez was one of the only top marketing firm which shortlisted me after the GD round because it had a marketing GD. However, there's a lot I've learnt about GDs since that point, so there are a couple of things I can share with you.
There are three broad kinds of GDs:
Abstract GDs: These GDs have no base, they're open ended and look for creativity on the part of candidates. For example, "Nice men finish last." In order to prepare for these GDs, one must look at models like PESTEL and SCAMPER (explained here) to think from multiple perspectives.
Current Affairs GDs: These GDs are generally not too specific but one needs to be well versed with the happenings around the world in order to perform well in them. For example, "Banking regulations are flawed in India." The best strategy to prepare for them is to create a repository of facts/opinions on the latest topics. This process has been explained in-depth here. Always give 1-2 quality points in such GDs backed by solid figures and facts.
Marketing GDs: In these GDs, often a product and a target segment is defined. The company asks you to create a go-to-market (GTM) strategy for the product. For example, "Perk wants to target the urban children between 13 to 17 years of age group in India, how should it begin?" Most students go after using the STP and 4Ps models for such problem statements. My strategy was a bit different. I used 2C1P (Customer, Competitor and Product). Please note that such a model doesn't exist, I just named it using the acronyms. The idea was to think of the product, its customers and its competitors and then combine any 2 of these at a time to arrive at a strategic idea (an insight if you may call it). For example, Perk (Product) is a glucose-based energy chocolate and the urban demographic of children defined (Customer) is known to attend tuition classes back to back which drain energy. So, by combining these two, you arrive at an insight - "Position it as an energy bar between your tuition breaks". Like this, you should think of some solid insights and then back them up with creative ideas on how to implement.
Apart from these types of GDs, there are some basic norms and rules which one should abide by in a GD. I'll try to pen those down in a separate post and add the link below when it's done.
Let's move on to the final stage of the selection process. There are three broad kinds of questions which can be asked in a marketing interview:
HRQs: Human Resource Questions constitute the most part of a marketing interview. The interviewer is always trying to asseess your soft skills, your ability to lead teams, work in groups, talk to customers, retailers, salesmen, etc. Marketing interviews are all about stories, so if you are able to narrate the most important stories of your life to your interviewer, it seals the deal. Each answer of yours should point at a value that you live by and that the company also appreciates. Here's a 3-step approach on how to prepare such answers.
Ad Analysis: I've already written a detailed post on what ad analysis is and how to go about practicing it. Generally, marketing companies ask the candidates to look at an ad for 2 minutes and then evaluate its efficacy. One can easily do that using the approach shared it the post. It is always better to prepare the ad analysis of the famous brands of the marketing company you're interviewing with in advance.
Guesstimates: These are similar to the guesstimates asked in consulting interviews. For example, "Estimate the number of SKUs in a small Kirana Store". I would suggest you to go through the preparation material used in consulting and refer to Aaditya's videos on guesstimates. Just practice a couple of them and you'll get used to the knack of solving them.
With this, we come to an end of the interview process as well. If you make it so far and get selected, be ready to get spoiled by your company. Marketing firms are known to be too generous, sometimes:
I've already shared so many links for you to go through in this post itself. So, let's just limit the extra reading to these light posts: