Interview Insights | Interview Question: Who are our competitors?

Interview Question: Who are our competitors?

*This is particularly helpful if you are trying to land a job in a newer industry or one where there are fewer direct competitors.

Any senior professional looking to land a role in a Fortune 500 firm should be able to confidently list a handful of key competitors. It’s easier when you are vying for a traditional role in a longstanding organization. It’s harder, however, when you are trying to break into a new company that is creating a new category or industry. In these scenarios, it’s often tough to find real competitors when there are limited players so you have to think more broadly.

Here is an example:

Imagine you are applying for a job at Seamless.com. This website makes it easy for people to order take-out online rather than having to call a restaurant on the phone in addition to offering other conveniences. You can think of obvious competitors such as Foodler.com. However, to really stand out and more accurately consider the competitive landscape, you should include other businesses vying for your target audience’s attention in this space such as supermarket buffet tables (ex. Whole Foods), or restaurants with websites, or even mobile apps for finding food trucks in your area (ex. Eat St.).

Here is a sample response:

The major competitors in this space include Foodler and Eat24hours yet I’d include supermarkets with buffets as a growing threat. When it comes to Foodler, Seamless really wins when it comes to the number of restaurants who partner with Seamless within its key markets. You have more than X restaurants in your system in NY whereas Foodler only has Z. [Side note: you can provide crisp comparisons of Eat24hours here too]. However, let me explain why I think any supermarket a tired professional can stop into on their way from work to their home is also a competitor. One example that comes to mind is a local Whole Foods. The supermarket continuously replenishes its offerings and provides a number of cuisines to choose from. Customers can also manage how much or how little they want to pay for on an ounce by ounce basis. At the same time, there are further expansion plans within precisely your key markets. [Side note: you can name another quality that makes Whole Foods a threat to Seamless]. As a result, I’d consider buffets as your competition as well.

The key insight is that if you are going for a company that is operating in uncharted territory then you’ll need to broaden your thinking in this situation to a) answer the question, and b) show a hiring manager that you can bring in well-thought out ideas.

*This is a sample to guide you. It is not an actual competitive analysis based on real data.

Written by Melissa Llarena

Melissa Llarena’s craft is coaching top executives on how to strategically dissect and deliver the perfect job interview. Get instant access to a 20-page interview preparation kit that will give you an edge. Join the thousands who’ve read her career insights in Forbes and The Huffington Post. Follow her at @CareerOutcomes.