Competitor analysis is an essential tool in building successful businesses. They can identify weaknesses in companies, find potential threats from the competition and even highlight strengths. Without analysis, businesses make uninformed decisions and target unfruitful audiences.
While this strategy may not seem useful during a job search, a closer look proves that competitor analysis can be a helpful tool for analyzing business competition as well as candidate competition. To help you learn more about how you stack up against other applicants, we highlighted three competitor analysis models and provided worksheets to help you uncover your strengths and weaknesses.
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1. SWOT Analysis
One of the most common competitive analysis frameworks is the SWOT analysis. Whether you use this for clients in your career or just learned about it in a business course, you are likely familiar with this exercise. SWOT, which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, helps highlight and uncover opportunities that aren’t immediately apparent. This information is useful when preparing for interview questions about strengths and weaknesses and identifying areas that might otherwise reduce your chances of getting a job.
Step One: Strengths
The first step of the SWOT analysis is to highlight every relevant strength you have. These can include experience, education, skills or circumstances that make you a valuable candidate. Try to focus on assets that set you apart from your competitors. For example, if you are a graphic designer, proficiency in design software will not set you apart from others. Choose a unique skill or ability that will help you stand out.
- What are you an expert at?
- What is your favorite skill?
- What skill do you get the most compliments about?
- What abilities come easy to you?
- Which skill are you most proud of?
- What areas do you notice others lacking in?
- Do you have any unique background?
Step Two: Weaknesses
Once you identify your strengths, begin highlighting your weaknesses. Though this exercise can be a challenge, do your best to be honest about areas that could use improvement. Acknowledging your shortcomings will help you prepare to answer questions about them and make a plan to develop these areas.
- What area has held you back in the past?
- What is your least favorite work-related task?
- Do you have any education gaps?
- Which areas do you get negative feedback?
- Do you have any bad habits that you have at work?
- What scares you most about your job?
Step Three: Opportunities
Like your strengths, opportunities set you apart from competitors. These assets can be network access, available technology or any other advantage that you can use. If you are having a hard time coming up with opportunities, look at your strengths list and identify areas that you could further develop.
- Do any of your skills lead to opportunities?
- Can you get trained in any missing skills?
- Do you have a strong network of contacts?
- Is there any upcoming tech that you could be trained in?
- Are there any areas where you see others failing?
Step Four: Threats
Threats are aspects of your career, experience or qualifications that might hurt your chances of landing a job. These can include technology that you don't have experience with, bad references or questionable work history. Identifying these threats is crucial in the interview preparation process. For each threat, you should brainstorm solutions.
- Is your industry shrinking or growing?
- Does emerging technology threaten your job?
- Could any of your weaknesses lead to threats?
- Could new applicants be more qualified?
2. Porter’s Five Forces
In addition to identifying your own strengths and weaknesses, it can be helpful to look at the competition around you to build your competitive position. To do this, one of the best tools is Porter's Five Forces model. This analysis lays out all aspects of the competition to give you a better idea of where you stand in your job search.
To conduct your personal Five Forces model, make lists for each of the five forces which are existing competition, bargaining power of buyers, bargaining power of sellers, threat of new alternatives and threat of new entry. These five forces will give you a well-rounded look at your competition and inspire ways to stand out. For easy analysis, use this printable sheet below.
In the job search, your existing competitors are other applicants. A single hiring manager may receive hundreds of applications for a given role. To build an understanding of your competition, list some personas of other applicants. For example, if you are applying for a Jr. account manager role list people such as summer intern, recent graduate or career changer.
Bargaining Power of Buyers
The buyers in the job market are the applicants. As you look for a job, think of yourself in this way. For this exercise, think of ways that you have bargaining power in your industry. For example, if your job is highly specialized, you may have the power to ask for a higher salary.
Bargaining Power of Suppliers
In the same way, the suppliers, or hiring companies have bargaining power. To get quality candidates, they might offer benefits, competitive pay and other perks. In this section, write down some of these items that you see companies bargaining with.
Threat of New Alternatives
In recent years the threat of new alternatives has been automation. In manufacturing, service and many other industries, jobs have been replaced with technology to save money. Make a list of potential alternatives for your industry to ensure that you stay competitive.
Threat of New Entrants
Finally, the threat of new entrants is the constant stream of new job seekers in the market. These new entrants might be recent grads, employees returning to the workforce and many others. These new entrants might be armed with more education and drive. For this section make a list of all possible new entrants and jot down a few ways to keep your competitive advantage.
3. Perceptual Mapping
The last competitive analysis that can help you develop your competitive position is the perceptual mapping method. This analysis creates a visual representation of how a company might perceive specific attributes about you. This method can be helpful in determining whether or not you are a well-rounded option for the position.
To complete your personal perceptual mapping exercise draw two perpendicular lines (see example above). Then, pull up the job description you are applying for and choose two required qualifications. Once you have two skills or qualifications, put one on the x-axis and one on the y-axis. Finally, rate how others perceive those skills and draw a dot in that spot. Repeat as many times as you would like. For easy analysis, use this printable sheet below.
The job application process can be frustrating and confusing. If you are getting rejected and ignored by companies, running competitive analysis on yourself may help. Use the data that you gather to identify weaknesses on your resume and prepare for future interviews. This new perspective could be the key to your next career move.