I'm applying for a marketing director role that would have 10 reports, and they seem quite interested in my background. However, my leadership experience is non-traditional. I built my own company and led a 6 person team. Most of team was in house and a couple were remote.

Below is a breakdown of what I did with my team, and I'm wondering what's missing that a director-level person would do at a company:

  • recruitment: job descriptions, interviews, and onboarding
  • meetings: weekly brainstorming / strategy meetings
  • delegation/processes: guidelines on accomplishing specific tasks as well as broad 90-day goals
  • systems: project management and Slack set up
  • 1-on-1s: private meetings with team members to understand challenges and get them unstuck

Here's what I was given about the specific job:

  • Breakdown: 20% team leadership, 10% strategy, 15% Analytics, 15% improving how we work, 40% working alongside others on the team
  • 3 Months: Learn our process inside out, generate ideas for improvement.
  • 6 Months: Initial improvement ideas implemented, roadmap for next 6 months clear
  • 12 Months: Increase team output 5-10x while only 2x resources, team hiring "complete"
  • 2
    Can you compare your list of experience against the list of responsibilities in the job description and answer this for yourself? It might be hard for us to tell you what's missing if we don't know what a "director level role" in that company is supposed to do.
    – dwizum
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 18:45
  • You're right. I'm mostly curious about what other things a manager does in a company that a self-employed manager might not touch. Formalities, etc. Because I haven't worked in a traditional company I have that blind spot.
    – John
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 18:56
  • 1
    @dwizum added more info in the question
    – John
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 18:57
  • In a very broad sense, the biggest difference is probably navigating leadership politics and the dynamics between different leaders above or next to you in the organization. But, again, it's hard to give much of a specific answer because it may vary from company to company.
    – dwizum
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 18:57
  • See, that's already helpful. Thank you.
    – John
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 18:58

1 Answer 1


You've told us that your leadership experience to date is starting your own company with a 6-person team. Starting your own company is a great experience and will teach you a lot about how to manage, as I'm sure you've already experienced.

However, it will also probably leave you with a bit of a blind spot. When you start your own company, you're the boss. You are essentially the "final word" on everything. There's no one to argue with, no one to compete with, no one to undermine you. On a more positive note, there's no one to partner with, or trade war stories with. Starting your own company can be very lonely. Meanwhile, being one-of-many mid level leaders in a larger company can feel very crowded.

When you get hired as a leader in a larger company, you are no longer the ultimate boss. You are just one of many. You will have other leaders above you, and you will have peers. This introduces a dynamic of office polities that you will need to navigate. That will probably be the biggest difference, and the biggest blind spot for you. It may be worth rehearsing answers to questions you may get in an interview about how you'll deal with that.

You also posted details about the job description in an edit to your question. One thing to point out from that list is that it sounds like they expect you to contribute work yourself (40% work alongside others on the team) as while as being an actual leader. Being a "working manager" like this can be very challenging, and many people do a poor job at it. The common issue is that people in roles like this have a hard time balancing individual contribution with leadership - it's easy to dive too far into the details, and try to do too much of the work yourself, versus delegating and leading your team. Other people struggle with staying too far from the work, compared to what their company expects - they try too hard to get the team to do everything and don't contribute. Understanding that balance will be a big challenge. But, the good news is, having started your own company, you are probably used to pulling up your sleeves and doing work - in addition to leading. This will be a strength you bring to the table that others may not posses, so it's worth preparing interview answers that help you emphasize that strength.

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