Monday, July 16, 2012

How Jobseekers Can Use SWOT in Their Job Search (And How Resume Writers Can Use It In Their Business Too)

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I love "SWOT." It's a great tool for resume writers, and a great tool for our clients as well.

SWOT, or "Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats" is a classical yet still effective tool for analyzing competition. By doing a SWOT analysis, you can analyze your marketplace in a very systematic way -- and your clients can use SWOT as part of their pre-interview research. (I included a SWOT analysis in the "Jobseeker's Guide to Preparing for the Job Interview" -- which is this month's Pass-Along Materials content on the site.)

Here are the basics of how to do a SWOT analysis. The analysis for the resume writer is in RED; the analysis for a jobseeker is in GREEN.


In what arena is your resume writing service particularly strong? (Do you have any particular areas of specialty? Unique certifications? Work experience that has prepared you to work with a certain type of client? How does that play out in the marketplace?)

How does the prospective employer's business compare to its competitors? Does its current employees provide a competitive advantage -- perhaps through years of experience or training? What does it do particularly well compared to others in its field? Is there a strength that can't be replicated by its competitors (or that can't be "stolen")?


On the other hand, it's equally important to know what your weaknesses are. If you don't have an eye on your weaknesses, it's easy to get blindsided.

For example, say your weakness in your resume writing business is answering your phone calls live. You can't justify hiring someone part-time or full-time to take calls, but if you're busy interviewing clients to capture their information, or writing resumes, you can't be on the phone talking to prospective clients all the time. (But, as many resume writers will tell you, live callers are often the best prospects to convert into clients.)

If you're aware of this weakness, you can implement systems like a live answering service, live chat, virtual assistant or other such tools to help handle calls in real-time.

For a jobseeker, identifying a prospective employer's weaknesses is vital. Companies hire employees to solve problems for them. Whether the job you're seeking is in response to an already-identified weakness (perhaps they are adding a CFO position because they realize they need to do a better job of handling cashflow and recordkeeping and reporting) or you uncover a weakness you're not sure they're aware of in the course of your research (like an untapped potential market, if you're interviewing for a sales position) -- understanding the company's weaknesses can help you understand the company itself better.


Successful resume writing businesses focus on opportunities. What are the emerging areas where you can help prospective clients -- many resume writers have added service offerings to take advantage of these opportunities. Examples include LinkedIn profile writing/development, writing corporate bios for executives, helping clients practice for interviews, or negotiate salaries.

For jobseekers, sometimes it's easier for an outsider to spot an opportunity than the business itself, because the company may be focusing on urgent problems, instead of "bigger picture" issues. In business, there's always going to be urgent problems that need immediate attention. It's the companies that can manage to stay focused on their opportunities that win out in the end. Look for opportunities with your prospective employer and identify ways you can take advantage of them.


Resume writers: Keep an eye on your threats. There are constantly articles circulating that proclaim the death of the resume. While these are erroneous -- and, at the least, premature -- you also can't be complacent that technology is affecting the career services industry. Ignoring new technology like LinkedIn or even Facebook's rumored job board is to your detriment.

For jobseekers, being aware of competitive threats is even more important. It may be unwise to hitch your star to a fast-growth company that doesn't have a solid foothold in a high-growth industry. I just read an article yesterday about how companies that created custom Facebook tabs/pages have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars because Facebook changed to the Timeline format and the emphasis on Facebook landing pages went away almost overnight. Understanding the competitive threats posted by new competitors, existing competitors, third-party technology, or even internal issues (like joining a family business where there is no succession plan in place) can be a threat to your career.

What Areas SWOT Encompasses

For both resume writers and jobseekers, when you're looking for strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, these are the areas you should assess:

  • Management, personnel and talent
  • Marketing and outreach
  • Finance, cashflow and cash on hand
  • Product positioning and price
  • Brand and brand perception
  • Intellectual property and patents
  • Supply chain and supply costs

If possible, do a SWOT analysis for each category. This will give you a very in-depth analysis of all the most important aspects of your business.

For resume writers, a SWOT analysis should be performed at least every six months. For jobseekers, you should do a SWOT analysis before each job interview -- and even before each application. (Again, it will give you better insight into how you can be an asset to a prospective employer.) Upon completing a SWOT analysis, ask yourself: What's the #1 highest leverage arena I could compete in today?

Craft an action plan around that answer. It could be based on leveraging a strength, fixing a weakness, exploiting an opportunity or mitigating a threat. Find the highest leverage activity and approach it head on.


  1. Great article - I enjoyed it!!!

  2. I learned about SWOT a long time ago and can say it has helped my interviews a lot, but it has not really helped at work. Managers typically spend much of their time focusing on putting out little fires and don't really wanna think about the tinder boxes all around thence that could burst into flames at any time.

    Nevertheless, it's a good starting point for self and business analysis.

    The next step, obviously, is to develop an action plan to address all four if the SWOT elements.

  3. Thanks for sharing this worthwhile stuff with us, I was searching for resume writing tips and very glad to found this useful blog. Thanks