A Cheat Sheet for Hiring Your Next Marketing Professional

Hiring for your marketing team is hard. It’s easier to assess the quality of a candidate for an accounting, sales or IT position. Engineers have to be great at math; marketers give you a bunch of words.

That’s why Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh offers new hires $3,000 to leave the company. After the company’s intense four-week training program and a week on the job, Zappos makes what it calls “the offer,” $3,000 to leave the company. Hsieh knows that if a new hire is willing to leave for $3,000, then they don’t have the drive needed to make Zappos great.

Follow these 10 tips and you’ll successfully cut through the fluff.

Tip #1: Define the job before starting the recruiting process.

Start with a job analysis. What business objectives is marketing supporting? What does this individual need to do to accomplish those objectives? What experience and skills are necessary to get it done? What outcomes are expected? What personality types thrive in your culture?

Tip #2: Test candidates.

Marketers need to be excellent writers and researchers. However, no job interview questions can differentiate the great researchers and writers from the bad. The answer? Create a sample task similar to the type of research or writing project you need. Have weak copy on your home page? Need better subject lines for email campaigns? Need content for a customer educational piece? Ask candidates to conduct research and write the content.

Tip #3: Find a social media expert.

Familiarity with social media is not enough. You need someone who is adept at using social media to generate leads, which ultimately lead to new business. How do you assess a candidate’s social media prowess? Type his or her name into Google to start. Does it dominate the front page with social media profiles, his or her own website, or news? Can that individual share specific examples of using social media to drive response, not just “likes?”

Tip #4: Find an opportunistic marketer.

Memorable marketing moments aren’t always planned. Remember the Oreo tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl? The power went out in the Superdome and Oreo seized on the opportunity and tweeted, “you can still dunk in the dark.” Great marketers are always on the lookout for customer insights, creative marketing plays, and trends. What experience does the candidate have that demonstrates an ability to quickly seize an opportunity?

Tip #5: Pick a customer lover.

You need someone with a passion for your customers. Ask for stories and examples that demonstrate how he or she has delighted customers.

Tip #6: Identify a candidate who can distinguish pain from feature.

Great marketers are problem solvers. They don’t “sell” but rather they help customers understand how they can help solve their problems. How does the candidate define selling? If you hear a bunch of product features, then move on.

Tip #7: Attract a metric lover.

A smart marketer includes metrics in every project plan. How can you tell if a candidate appreciates the importance of measuring marketing activities? Ask the candidate to describe a process he or she used to develop a strategy for a new marketing initiative. If it includes metrics, that candidate earns another interview.

Tip #8: Find a candidate who gets the importance of testing.

You need a marketing professional who considers every marketing initiative to be a test. This mindset dovetails with establishing metrics and voilà, you’ve got data to make better decisions. How will you know if a candidate gets the importance of testing? Ask for examples of tests that candidate has conducted. What was the situation? What was the candidate’s task? What action did that person take? And, what were the results? (Yes, using behavioral-based interviewing is a must.)

Tip #9: Hire a direct response marketer.

It’s not enough to simply generate awareness. Sure, marketing initiatives must positively build the brand, but they also have to drive results. If a candidate shares a case study with rationale such as, “it was successful because it helped build our brand,” then it’s time to move to the next candidate.

Tip #10: Pick a candidate that understands that marketing and sales are one.

The marketing department as it existed 10 years ago is dead. A marketer’s job is to support sales to achieve the company’s goals. That means no functional silos. Ask candidates how they define the role of marketing. What’s the right answer? It’s about generating leads and sales.

Hiring is hard. That’s why luminary CEOs like Steve Jobs profess that hiring the best staff is an executive’s most important job. Use this cheat sheet and hire the best to propel your brand in 2017.

This article appeared on crainscleveland.com and in Crain’s Cleveland Business magazine.

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