SWOT Analysis Guide (With Steps To Perform and Examples)

By Hanne Keiling

Updated October 21, 2022 | Published February 26, 2019

Updated October 21, 2022

Published February 26, 2019

Hanne Keiling is a senior digital communications expert with over eight years of experience ideating, executing and launching user-first experiences to achieve business goals. She is a former Indeed editorial team member who helped job seekers be successful on Indeed throughout their job search and into their careers.

Illustration depicting a person fitting puzzle pieces for a SWOT matrix. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

A SWOT analysis is a way to evaluate strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Businesses might perform this analysis for a product, team, organization, leadership or other entities. Learning about this strategy can help you decide if performing one might benefit the company for which you work.

In this article, we share the ultimate SWOT analysis guide, sharing why companies use these and how to perform a SWOT analysis.What is a SWOT analysis?

A SWOT analysis is a tool you can use both personally and at work to evaluate and make decisions about a particular subject. In this analysis, you investigate both internal and external factors that affect different areas of an organization. There are four main areas to evaluate in this analysis:

Strengths

Your strengths analysis record the internal, positive attributes of the organization, individual, product or other entity you are evaluating. Some questions you might ask to understand strengths are:

  • What are your positive qualities?

  • What achievements have you made?

  • What helps you accomplish goals?

  • What resources do you have?

  • What are your specialties?

  • What sets you apart from others?

Related: How To Do a SWOT Analysis (With Steps, Tips and Example)

Weaknesses

Your weaknesses analysis captures all internal areas of improvement or vulnerabilities that exist within the subject you are evaluating. Some questions you might ask to understand weaknesses are:

  • Internally, what makes it difficult to achieve goals?

  • What are your areas for improvement?

  • What are you lacking (resources, technology, people, etc.)?

  • What do you need to tackle long-term goals?

Opportunities

Your opportunities section lists all external opportunities relevant to your subject. Some questions you might ask to understand opportunities are:

  • What products, services or information is popular with your audience?

  • Are there external resources you can use to achieve goals?

  • Can you benefit from any current economic or market trends?

  • What technology will be popular in the near future?

  • How do stakeholders view your brand, product or service?

Related: 6 SWOT Analysis Templates (Plus Why They're Helpful)

Threats

Your threats section includes all external threats that could have a negative effect on your subject. Some questions you might ask to understand threats are:

  • Is market health expected to be bad or turbulent?

  • Is your brand, product or service no longer needed?

  • Do competitors have a certain edge over you?

  • How does your audience, industry or market view your company?

  • What could put your business at risk?

  • Are there potential new competitors on the horizon?

Related: Threats in a SWOT Analysis: Definition and Examples

Goals of a SWOT analysis

SWOT analyses are used to gain more information about all aspects of an issue, team, individual or other entity. These evaluations are used in many businesses in nearly every industry or personally for individuals to assess their progress towards certain goals. Many people use SWOT analysis before they set team or organization goals to ensure they are working towards appropriate milestones.

Overall, SWOT analyses can be helpful to assess a certain subject. You might be looking to simply gain a better understanding of people, a product or a process, or you can also create action items as a result of your SWOT. For example, you might see that there are some internal weaknesses that can easily be fixed. From there, you can create individual or team goals to overcome those weaknesses.

When to use a SWOT analysis

Here are some times where you might use a SWOT analysis:

  • Reviewing performance: When reviewing the performance of current or prospective employees, you can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of individuals along with the factors out of their control.

  • Brainstorming: You can use this analysis when brainstorming or planning projects like new product features or revised strategies. The goal can be to better understand your current situation and see how you might change to meet business goals.

  • Problem-solving: This analysis can help you identify areas for improvement that you may target to improve performance. This helps you identify root causes of issues or areas of opportunity.

  • Prioritization: These analyses can help you understand the value of different business components, like product features, or competitive markets. With this information, you can prioritize new projects that can help you reach different goals.

How to do a SWOT analysis

While there are several ways you might perform a SWOT analysis, here are several essential steps you can take:

1. Clearly define the subject you are analyzing

Whether it is progress towards a specific goal, performance of a team, or a particular question about a product or market, clearly define what subject you want to analyze. This can help you gain clearer insights which might result in a better overall evaluation. Here are some examples of subjects for analysis:

  • January performance of inside sales team

  • Personal readiness to acquire an executive assistant job

  • Evaluating social media marketing strategy

Related: How To Perform SWOT Analysis in Marketing in 6 Steps

2. Draw the SWOT framework

To perform the SWOT analysis, create a large box divided into four squares. In the top-right square, you record strengths. In the top-left square, you record weaknesses. In the bottom-right square, you record opportunities. In the bottom-left square, you record threats.

If you are doing a personal SWOT, feel free to draw it on a notepad or work in an online doc or spreadsheet. If you are doing a SWOT with a team, it might be helpful to draw the frame work on a whiteboard or project the SWOT so everyone is able to see and contribute. You can also forego the framework if you feel it would be easier to simply write them down in order on a document.

Related: How To Create SWOT Analysis in Word

3. Work through each square

Take time to work through each square considering internal strengths, internal weaknesses, external opportunities and external threats. If you are doing this exercise with a team, it can be helpful to have everyone participate. This can bring various points of view to help provide a more holistic understanding of the SWOT.

4. Draw conclusions and key takeaways

After completing the square, take time to understand how the recorded information helps inform your analysis. For example, if you are performing a SWOT on a job candidate, you can ask the following questions for action items:

  • Does it appear that they are a good fit?

  • Do their positive qualities help fill a major skill set gap at the company?

  • Are the weaknesses or threats able to be overcome?

After completing the SWOT, it can be helpful to revisit after a certain amount of time. For example, if your SWOT revealed certain weaknesses you are working to improve for a promotion, you might revisit your SWOT after working on those areas. This can help you gain a better understanding of how your work has changed after working towards certain goals.

SWOT analysis example

Here is an example of a completed SWOT analysis using one of our examples above. While this example contains only three bullet points per section, you can include as much or as little information as is helpful:

SWOT Analysis: Social Media Marketing Strategy

Strengths:

  • New procurement process speeds up output

  • Team dynamic makes collaboration easy

  • Diverse strengths allows many areas of expertise

Weaknesses:

  • Many people with similar or overlapping responsibilities

  • Many different team goals

  • Difficult to get market research

Opportunities:

  • Platform's real-time analysis allows for fast strategy changes

  • Audience interested in video content

  • Market trends show certain platforms more popular than others

Threats:

  • Main competitor has better brand awareness

  • Other, similar products being introduced to the market

  • Audience attention span increasingly short


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