How to Hire Effective Marketers

Handshake and Hiring Photo

Bonus: I’ve turned this entire post into a step by step checklist to hiring a rockstar marketer. It’s a beautifully formatted, concise PDF. Download it here.

Let’s play a game, you and I.

You’ll be the CEO of your business, I’ll be a person with magical powers. I’ll use these powers to grant you a look, at the life of one of your employees. Let’s say his name is Malcolm Marketer.

Pretend that you’re now observing what he does.

On any given day, you’ll see Malcolm do a plethora of duties. He may check reports on campaign performance, or write and edit copy for the company site. He might write a sales page or two, as well. If he’s heavily involved in digital efforts, he might have to check reports from apps like Google Analytics or CrazyEgg.

So now you can see he wears a lot of hats. You also see he drinks a little too much coffee.

The poor guy is way beyond his capacity.

Being a good CEO, you decide to hire someone to help Malcolm. Decision having been made, a new question arises.

“How the heck do I hire a good marketer? I need rock stars. That’s what all the blogs say – rock stars, right?”

Well, don’t worry. Aside from my magical life observation powers, I’ve still got you covered.

Here it is – the only guide you’ll ever need for how to hire effective marketers.

But, before we get to the meat of the post, first you need to understand why effective hiring matters.  Without a rationale, you have no basis for your decisions. Besides, in this post, I talk about a results-orientation being a key attitude for effective marketing.

So let’s talk hard numbers for a second, okay?

Some Statistics You Better Pay Attention To

  • According to a 2007 report in Training magazine, companies spend an average of $1200 annually for training one employee. Based on the simple inflation calculator provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, that would be $1450 a year for 2014. (See this article for full details.)
  • Based on this article by Joe Hadzima, a lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, an employee’s salary plus benefits usually totals 1.25 to 1.40 times the base salary. So, for an employee with a $50,000 salary, you’re talking total costs in the $62,500 to the $70,000 range.
  • A study from Mellon Financial Corp. also found something for you to think about: on average, it takes a new employee anywhere from 8 to 26 weeks to achieve full productivity. (The lower end is for clerical jobs, the higher end of that range is for executives. A marketing professional falls somewhere in between.) That same Mellon study also found that lost productivity, due to the learning curve of new employees, ends up costing between 1% to 2.5% of total revenues. (See this MIT Sloan Review article for the full details.)
  • According to the results of the 2011-12 recruiting benchmarks study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average cost-per-hire for a 0-500 person company is $7645.

“Yeah, pretty numbers,” you say. “What’s your point?”

Think of it this way: pretend you hire a new marketing employee.

Say you pay her $50K as a base salary. That would cost you $62-$70K in total, including benefits and taxes. Then you bake in almost $1500 in annual training costs, and the associated costs of a 10-week learning curve. Finally, add in $7600 for the recruiting costs.

That gives you $79,100 as a total hiring cost. That doesn’t even include specific lost-learning-curve-revenue.

But, wait! That’s assuming you get it right on the first try, and she stays with you.

Just imagine what would happen if she left after a year. (I’m being generous already, she could leave in 6 months.)

Are you ready to spend almost $80,000 again?

So really, you have a financial incentive to get it right the first time. That’s the entire point of this article.

If you can hire an effective marketer the first time around, your company is financially better off. I, for one, don’t like thinking about hiring, over and over again. You’ll lose both time and money if you have to go through do-overs.

Best you spend time on hiring now, instead of breezing through the process and paying for mistakes later on.

And since you now have the motivation to get it right, let’s pair your motivation with the right learning. Finally, here it is: your guide to hiring an effective marketer.

Stage 1 – Fundamentals: What Makes An Effective Marketer?

The first step to hiring, is to know what kind of person you need for the role. Marketing needs a wholly different set of skills than say, programming or operations. And since future steps depend on knowing who you need, we’ll spend major time in this section. Why? Look at one troubling stat in this summary, from a 3-year study by LeadershipIQ.

  • 46% of newly hired employees will fail within 18 months, only 19% will achieve unequivocal success.

The study goes on to say, “…26% of new hires fail  because they can’t accept feedback, 23% because they’re unable to understand  and manage emotions, 17% because they lack the necessary motivation to  excel, 15% because they have the wrong temperament for the job, and only 11% because they lack the necessary technical skills.

If you study the preceding statistics, it points to one truth: lackluster technical skills don’t cause most failures.

The biggest problem lies in the candidates not having the needed attitudes to succeed. And this is just talking general candidates, over a span of fields. Think about the implications for marketing: marketers need specific attitudes to succeed, not just a general list of traits like “able to manage emotions” or “has the necessary motivation.”

Luckily for us, Tatiana Liubarets has compiled this set of answers, from 9 top marketers, on what’s needed to be good at marketing. Putting it all would produce a monster article, so I picked four, mixed from the answers of Mark Schaefer and Scott Stratten.

Mark is the Executive Director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and has been hailed by AdAge as one of their Power 150 Marketing Bloggers. Scott is the President of UnMarketing, and the author of the book by the same name.

I’ll let them take it away.

1. Adaptability

Adaptability is more important now than ever. Not only because of the changing marketing landscape but also changing demands of the client/brand. – Scott Stratten

It seems like there’s always an endless supply of new marketing tactics.

Around the late 2000s, it was things like social media marketing, aiming to make use of sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Then, there came the explosion of content marketing, and now video/infographics are hot.

(Not to mention all the Google algorithm updates!)

With this dearth of shiny new possibilities, carrying with them new duties and new needed skills, how exactly do you keep up?

The answer? Be adaptable.

If a new technology or strategy comes up, study it. Evaluate if and how you can use it for your own efforts. Learn the ins and outs, and know how to roll with the changes. Because if one thing’s been proven, it’s this: the profession itself always evolves. So do client needs.

And as (no, not Darwin) Prof. Leon Megginson said in 1963, “It is not…the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

(Megginson, a management and marketing professor, gets the quote credit. He was just paraphrased. Details here.)

2. Patience

Patience is key for anything in business, but especially in this ADD-fueled business world. You can’t build a huge email list in a day, you can’t make things go viral, and five tweets do not build you an empire. – Scott Stratten

We’re an impatient lot.

Read this article from The Boston Globe, and you’ll find the most interesting things.

For example, Ramesh Sitaraman, a professor of computer science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, conducted this study, and this study on the viewing habits of 6.7 million internet users. How long were these users willing to wait for a video to load?

Two seconds.

  • At five seconds, the abandonment rate was 25 percent.
  • At ten seconds, a staggering 50 percent of the users were gone.

Even the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project confirms this phenomenon of impatience:

Their summary of a recent study on people under 35, goes like a warning label.

Discussing the effects of the subjects’ hyper-connected lives, the Pew Center said, “Negative effects include a need for instant gratification and a loss of patience.”

So how exactly do you combat this impatience?

The staggeringly simple answer is: simply do many small actions, consistently. If you read this candid article by Neil Patel, he makes the point that consistency is the key to growth. Hand-in-hand with consistency is patience. So, pick an action, do it over and over, and sure as heck, don’t expect overnight marketing success.

It doesn’t (most of the time) happen.

Want proof? This article has everything you need.

In it, top bloggers like Pamela Slim and Reggie Solomon talk about taking 1-2 years to get a decent sized audience. While getting featured on big media outlets can help, still, look at the hard truth. The probability and proof shows it: getting to nirvana will probably take years.

Best to buckle down. Effective marketers are patient people.

3. Restlessness

Good marketers cannot be complacent. You cannot be satisfied with past accomplishments. You need to be restless. – Mark Schaefer

I’ll talk a bit from my friend Bea’s experience.

If you look at the contents of her Dropbox folder, you’ll see a marketing folder filled with electronic copies of the marketing books. Books on which she spent a fortune, all of it in the name of learning, and continually staying up-to-date on my craft.

Dropbox Marketing Folder

Some contents of my Dropbox marketing folder.

As you’ll see in that photo, there are books on affiliate marketing, content strategy, inbound marketing, copywriting, social marketing, marketing essentials, marketing management, PR and branding.

She also has marketing for creatives, how to do good presentations, etc.

As this library shows you, being a good marketer means never resting on your laurels. She could have stopped after she read about copywriting and content strategy. After all, writing is her base profession. But she didn’t do that, did she?

She kept learning.

That dedication to learning and curiosity is important – every good person, every good marketer, is an avid learner. Complacency is the first step to a downward slope, leading to effects like shortsightedness in particular, or things like marketing myopia in general.

4. Results Orientation

Successful marketers will have a results orientation. Speak the language of the business. –  Mark Schaefer

Noah Kagan of OkDork (also CEO of AppSumo) encourages this results-based orientation.

If you see this post, he talks about marketing metrics and shows his accountability form.

The form is given out to those he works with. As he says in that post, his motto is, “You must track it or it didn’t happen.” If you study the form, it’s granular – down to number of tweets, sites emailed or replied to, mentions replied to, interviews emailed, etc.

And take note, it’s a DAILY form. It’s granularity taken to the limits.

The existence of forms like these is proof of the growing importance of metrics and results, not just pie-in-the-sky thinking. Even if Noah says in this post that marketing output isn’t always numbers-based, he goes on to say that hiring a good marketer still involves a search for people who are comfortable with metrics and can quantify results.

Mark Schaefer also makes another related point. In his section within Tatiana Liubarets’ article, he says, “Today it is important to have some strong analytical skills, specifically some competence in statistics. More and more, marketing is about math!”

That pairing – statistical competence with a results orientation – makes for a winning blend.

Now, since I’ve come to the end of the qualities mix, we can move on to the actual hiring process. I’ll give you concepts necessary for each part of hiring, from writing a great job ad, to conducting effective interviews.

At the end, you’ll get a step-by-step action plan for your next marketing hire. Sound good?

Okay – take a moment to make notes on what you just learned, and bookmark the stuff I linked to. Have you done that? You have?

Great. Let’s move on to the nuts and bolts of making your next hire.

Stage 2 – Writing the Job Ad

Writing is communicating, and the latter is a fundamental human skill. Absent any mental illnesses or physical injuries, theoretically everyone can communicate. The issue is, not everyone knows how to communicate well.

And if there’s one communication piece you should know how to craft, it’s the job ad.

According to this article by Justin Miller, a marketing manager at Motion Recruitment Partners, a job ad and its consistency/structure plays a bigger role than you might think.

In January of 2013, Miller and his recruitment team did a complete ad overhaul, instituting a common ad template, along with SEO guidelines, etc. He talks about the results as follows:

Our concentration on SEO helped our ads get found more on and other job sites, as well as organically…Our ads were more aesthetically pleasing and easier to scan and because of that we saw users applying to more jobs. And our job titles were descriptive and helped convert more applications. In the month of January after our ad overhaul we more than doubled our application rate.

And just think – those results aren’t from some world-changing strategy. He and his team simply ensured consistency across ads, spicing it up with some hard work on the SEO side.

The point is simple: crafting a good job ad gets results. So how exactly do you do it?

Well, Kevin Daum’s article at Inc. says that a good job ad is “a bit of a puzzle”. It’s structured to help evaluate candidates right off the bat, even before interviews. It’s the job ad itself that helps you screen incoming applicants.

His system advocates beginning with the usual – company, core values, and job duties. This is much the same format advocated by Guardian Jobs.

Where Daum deviates is with his instructions. He says in his Inc. article that he likes to instruct applicants to read a short PDF from his book first. Then his ad tells them to submit a cover letter in the form of a value proposition, and to include a joke.

Right off the bat, his ad format helps determine whether candidates can follow instructions, and whether they actually know marketing basics, like the value proposition concept.

Following that, you’d end up with a job ad that looks a bit like the one below.

Sample Job Ad

Hello from X company. We are a company that specializes in [talk about what the company does] and we’re a fun set of people. We value [what you value – imagination, execution, results, etc.] We’re looking for a marketer to add to our growing team, with the following job duties to be performed:

  • Duty A
  • Duty B
  • Duty C and so on…

We’re looking for a marketer who [what you’re looking for]….

Compensation will be in the form of [whatever your structure is]…

To apply, send us a short cover letter explaining why you’d be a good fit, and how you’d possibly handle the following X situation. Email your cover letter to [email] and use the subject line [whatever subject you like to make it easier for sorting.]

Please, don’t send [whatever you don’t wanna look at].

As you can see, the sample job ad conveys everything you want to convey about your company, while infusing the ad with a bit of personality and verve.

As to the application instructions, feel free to be creative. Some tech companies don’t ask for resumes, but for portfolios instead. Some ask for short videos to be sent, instead of cover letters.

The way you structure your job ad is up to you. The key is to make the ad do double duty.

You structure it such that it becomes an added evaluation tool. If your applicants can’t even follow the instructions, you can eliminate them from the pool and move on much faster. And considering the statistics: 250 people apply to each posting on average, you have a time incentive to eliminate candidates quickly.

Since I’ve included a sample ad, feel free to use that as a template, and fill it in with the appropriate details. Also, if you’d like some inspiration for how you can write a creative, slightly funky job ad, check out this list of 10 awesome job advertisements.

Stage 3 – Conducting Interviews

This section directly ties into Stage 1 of the hiring process. Remember the first part, where I showed you the needed qualities of an effective marketer? Well, I’ll be showing you some interview questions you can ask, in order to uncover whether candidates have the chops.

But first – how do you conduct an effective interview?

Well, the first step is of course, to know who you’re after. But the top part of this post already showed you that, so you’re covered. A part of the effort is already dealt with.

Through your job ad, you’ve also weeded out those who can’t follow instructions, or pay attention to detail. So really, your only remaining job is this: uncover the competence and experiences of your selected candidates. That is the heart of effective interviewing.

How can you do this “uncovering” process? Here are 3 types of interview questions to ask.

1. The Situational Question

One type is exemplified by Noah Kagan’s Round 2 interview form.

If you study it, most of his questions are what this Inc. article calls “situational questions.”

For example, he asks:

How would you respond to this? “Hey guys, Really upset with this deal. They asked for my credit card during registration and I already had to give that once to you. Plus my code is not working for the discount. HELP! – Sam”

There is also this one:

If you could coordinate any AppSumo deal/bundle. What would it be and why?

Now, these situational questions help you see how a candidate’s thought process runs.

They help you evaluate whether they can think through problems, and come up with viable solutions. If you notice the two questions I quoted above, they’re also different. One is more geared towards conflict resolution, the other one deals with sheer marketing competence.

Why did I mention that?

Well, if your situational questions are different, and deal with varying aspects of marketing, they help you uncover 1) a candidate’s adaptability and 2) a candidates ability to clearly articulate their ideas. And remember, adaptability is one quality you’re looking for.

If they can’t switch on demand, or are much too slow to respond, you have a red flag.

2. The Behavioral Questions

There’s also another perspective on interviewing, aside from asking situational questions. This is the behavioral interviewing camp, which holds that a person’s past behavior is a good predictor of future behaviors, and by extension, future success.

So you ask those questions which are called “behavioral” or “behavior-based.”

This is the realm of questions like “Tell me a time when you did X” or “Tell me about a project where you…”

The objective of this type of interview is to uncover past behavior, and to show you patterns in how they perform.

If in the past they performed several projects out of their own initiative, it’s a safe bet that initiative is something they don’t lack. You get my point.

In tandem with situational questions, behavioral interviewing allows you to not only see how a candidate talks about past performance, but you you also discover past behaviors which might tip the scales in their favor or otherwise.

For example, if they don’t talk about any results of projects, only job duties, they might not have the results orientation which I just taught you to seek. If they often speak in muddled, fuzzy language about how much professional development they’ve been up to, they might not be as dedicated to  improvement as they let on.

3. The Fact-Based Question

As the name implies, asking this question is simply about discovering plain facts about their performance.

Here, you ask questions like, “How many years did you work at X” or “How many were you on your old marketing team?”

These kinds of direct, fact-producing questions are central to most interviews. Another upside to this type of query, is that it helps determine candidate integrity. Why? You can always call references to confirm the facts given to you.

“Okay, I get it,” you say. “What’s your point with all this question-type talk?”

The point is, I want you to integrate all three types into your marketing interview. Ask all types, in order to best evaluate candidate competency. If you’ve noticed, I’ve even sprinkled in sample questions you can already use.

(Come on, you were paying attention, right?)

The ones I mentioned  aren’t the only questions you should ask, but definitely find space to include them. And for more tips on how to conduct a kick-ass interview, see the bottom half of this article from LeadershipIQ.

You’ll find more details on the interview question types I just discussed above, plus notes on do’s and don’ts for effective interviewing.

Anyway, I did promise a more comprehensive list of interview questions, specifically geared to uncovering whether candidates have the needed qualities we talked about. Here is where I deliver.

The Interview Questions You Should Be Asking

  • Tell me about a time when you had to adapt on the fly. – Here, you are aiming to discover whether they’ve ever been in scenarios where they had to abandon old plans and change direction. The question uncovers the adaptability quality.
  • What do you think of all the new marketing strategies and tactics popping up recently? – Again, for the adaptability quality. Shows you their mindset when it comes to the marketing landscape, and uncovers their skill at articulation.
  • Tell me about a time when you failed. – Still for adaptability. You are trying to gauge if they can bounce back from failure, and how well they can do so when needed.
  • Have you ever had to wait for success for a long time? Tell me about it. – This is for patience. See if they have the necessary mettle, and if in the past, they’ve had to wait and tough things out. Also shows you how hardy they are, in general.
  • Tell me about a long, very difficult problem you had to solve. – Double duty, for adaptability and patience. Chances are, if they’ve battled a problem, come up with many solutions, and slogged through until success, you’ve got an A-player.
  • What are you learning now? –  A test of the restlessness quality. If they give you enthusiastic details about things they’re learning, you can see if they’ve got the necessary learning attitude which effective marketing requires.
  • What are your interests, outside of marketing?  – Again, for restlessness, and also good for seeing culture fit. Ideally, you’ll look for a balanced mix of interests, that point to a certain drive to pick up new skills. Bonus if they like to read things. If they say that, ask how many books they’ve read, and why they did it.
  • Tell me about X project in the past. What were your results? – If they cannot even articulate results, red flag. It’s also a hybrid, a cross between a fact-based plus a behavioral question. The behavioral aspect lets you determine past performance, and the results part gives you something to possibly verify, for integrity’s sake.
  • What is your understanding of ROI? Is it important in marketing, and if so, how important? – This is a super question. First, it gauges competence. Do not even hire if they don’t know what ROI is. Second, if they say it isn’t important, say goodbye to a results orientation. All good marketers accept that while ROI isn’t everything, it certainly can’t be dismissed. Third, the last part of the question shows you their approach to marketing: is it hard, ROI-based, or a bit softer and more intuitive?

As I said, this is not the final, exhaustive list. You should probe about how they worked with superiors, colleagues or subordinates, as well as how they handle conflict and stress. My point is just to give you queries to round out what you probably already learned to ask.

That said, there is one final thing I promised to give you in this article. An action plan for your next hire. Since I’ve given you the interview questions, I think we can move on.

Stage 4 – Conclusion: Your Action Plan

I know. This was a long article. But considering the finances and the time at stake, it’s been worth it. Congratulations for making it this far. As a reward, here’s your action plan for hiring your next marketer.

This will be in the oldie but goodie list format. Get out a piece of paper, mind you.

  1. Review the qualities I mentioned in this article. Consider: what other qualities am I looking for in my hires, aside from those discussed here? (Think of your own company, and what stage it’s in. Hiring for different growth levels entails different skills. A startup marketer is not the same as a big-wig corporate marketer.)
  2. Cobble together the key pieces of your job ad. What are your company values? What responsibilities will your new hire take on? What is the compensation structure, and what are you looking for in a marketing employee? Also, how will you make the ad a puzzle? What instructions will you add to weed out the lazy?
  3. Come up with the interview question list. Include standard ones mentioned in articles like this one from Monster UK. And keep in mind, there are things you should never ask a job candidate. Don’t fall afoul of accepted practices. Of course, add in the interview questions I included in this article. (Wink.)
  4. Talk to the team. If this will be your first marketing hire, obviously skip this. But if there are existing team members you’ll be adding to, ask them: what do they want in a team member, and what workloads need sharing? Not only will you empower your team, they’ll also bring up points you may not have considered.

Remember, do not skip any of the steps. I don’t want you to sink more time into hiring than you need to sink. Not to mention, the thought of you spending another $80K for re-hiring? That turns my stomach. So do yourself a favor. Go through the steps with a serious commitment.

After all, you’re hiring for your company, and most founders see their companies as their babies.

Would you saddle your company-baby with a lackluster marketing employee? I think not.

So go through this. Plan out your approach. Then write your ads, and watch the rock stars roll in.

Bonus Area

I like a good bonus area. It’s like discovering a curly fry at the bottom of your serving of normal ones.

This exists to answer one question. That is, “What if I eventually need to hire another marketer?”

First of all, smart of you to think this early.

So, half of the answer is to go through this process again. Hopefully you’ll systematize certain steps, like the interview process and writing the job ad. Those aspects can be templatized (invented word alert!) to save you time. However, the other half of the answer is this: if you anticipate hiring more people in the future, have a funnel.

A hiring funnel, to be exact. (Your newly-minted marketers will do the sales funnel stuff.)

A photo saying, "Hire us!"

A funnel’s purpose is to make sure there are always people saying, “Hire us!”

Luckily, Growth Everywhere is like a one-stop shop. There’s already a post on that. Click below.

How to Create a Funnel for Your Hiring Process, AKA ‘Growth Hacking for Recruiting’

There’s a video on that page, watch it for even more context.

Bonus: Hiring a Marketer Checklist
Finally, I’ve summarized this entire post into a step by step checklist to hiring a rockstar marketer. It’s a beautifully formatted, concise PDF. Get it by clicking below.
Download it free here or by clicking on the image below:


Anyway, that wraps this up. May the Force be with you, and don’t forget to hire a Jedi marketer!

(Image credits to The US Army’s photo stream and Dita Margarita on Flickr.)

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