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The Ultimate Guide to Hiring Effective Marketers

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millenial_interviewLet’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 be outlining a brand new campaign, or writing and editing 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 be knee-deep in his marketing analytics.

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 the data on 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 strong 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.

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.

It’s better to 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. So here it is: your guide to hiring an effective marketer.

Stage 1: Know 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 three 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 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%.
  • At ten seconds, a staggering 50% 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: 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 one to two 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 can 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 marketing books. Books on which she spent a fortune, all of it in the name of learning and continually staying up-to-date on her craft. 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.

dropbox-1

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 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 Indeed.com 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 should 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: since 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 (or download one of these job description templates), 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 three types of interview questions to ask.

1) The Situational Question

One type is exemplified by Noah Kagan’s Round Two 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 also discover past behaviors which migh