How to hire marketers

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When hiring a marketer, there are key things you need to know and look out for. The hiring process can be hard regardless of the industry, but in the marketing industry… it’s a little different. Here’s the first thing to ask yourself when hiring: “what is the mindset of a marketer you’re looking for?” In this episode we take a deep dive into the difference of talent vs. passion and why looking for the soft skills are crucial in the hiring process and what else to look for in the marketer.


Ross: So something that a lot of people might not know is that while I’m a marketer in my day to day life, I also run a handful of different companies. And one of the companies that I run is actually a cleaning company. And in the cleaning business, you definitely have to work with a lot of different types of people from all different backgrounds. And for me, going into that industry as a marketer and as someone who literally has no cleaning experience beyond their own house, I was like a fish out of water. But I was forced to hire and recruit and attract people who had a skillset and had an attitude and a perspective that didn’t necessarily line up with what I was really good at. So the process for actually hiring people was a drag. It felt like a fish out of water just doing something for the first time or a kid being thrown onto a basketball court, trying to learn how to [inaudible 00:01:23] for the first time and not even knowing how to shoot.

I did interview after interview, after interview and at the end of these interviews oftentimes people would walk away and not even be interested in the job and I couldn’t figure out exactly why. But what it turned out was that I was interviewing like I interview marketers and what these people really needed was someone who would interview them with a deeper perspective into their world, the way that they work and also be genuinely interested in them as people, their family life, et cetera. And while I was doing that in my traditional typical interviews that I would do with marketers, I lost sight of that with the interviews with these people. And I was struggling to recruit people. But as soon as I made that shift and I started to get to know people, I started to really build that one to one human connection, I saw a complete shift in the amount of people who at the end of those interviews really wanted to work with us.

And it changed the trajectory of the company because we were able to attract some amazing talent and the company has been able to scale and be successful because of it. Now, I know our listeners are not probably in the janitorial industry. They probably don’t hire cleaners on a regular basis. So none of that will be too relevant to them, but they do probably want to hire marketers. And that is what both myself and you have done over the last few years. And I think it would be great for us to share with the audience some insights, some information, some actual tips on how they can hire great marketers and people to collaborate with. So I would ask you this question first and foremost, if you were to suggest what it is that you should look for when hiring, what is the mindset, what is the perspective that anybody needs to have when they go into that process?

Talia Wolf: Well, first of all I have to relate to this so much because I’ve only ever hired marketers. I’ve never hired for any other type of business, but I have to say that it has been a struggle. When I first started out, I built a conversion optimization agency. And at one point we were about 30 people. I’ve interviewed so many people and a few times I’ve hired people where we’ve ended up both being disappointed.

So I definitely can relate to the whole not knowing where to focus on and how to ensure that you are actually hiring people that will be good for your business, that will grow and develop and become better versions of themselves because as a CEO and as a founder I want my employees to feel that way. I want them to grow, want them to get better every day. So to answer your question, Ross, I think that the most important tip that I can give when it comes to hiring marketers is that skills can be taught, but passionate, dedicated people are extremely rare and they should be held onto.

Ross Simmonds: Right. I love that. I think to build on this a bit, it’s like a lot of this things that people oftentimes would call soft skills are actually the skills that are so important, especially when you’re talking about folks who are early in their career, like they might not have a bunch of skills in terms of knowing how to optimize landing pages, write great blog posts, manage a [PPC 00:04:35] campaign, or even write code.

But if they have the right mindset, if they have the right attitude, if they are good with humans, then they can go a long way and you can mold them and provide them with the resources that will help them kind of be successful longterm. So I think it’s great that you point that out because it is important to know the value and importance of hiring people based off of their attitude. It’s underestimated in terms of what we actually hire for as professionals but it’s so key to find great people who can thrive for years to come. So when it comes to some of these like “soft skills and personality traits” what are some things that you would look for in a person that you’re going to hire?

Talia: The first thing I would look for and the most important trait or personality trait in my opinion is passion. As you mentioned, Ross, it’s not about how advanced people are, it’s not about if they can set up a campaign and ad words or a variation and an [AB 00:05:30] testing platform, it’s about their passion to learn, to grow and to drive the company forward. For our consulting service, we don’t look for anyone who’s advanced or extremely experienced. We search for analytical, for creative people, for customer driven people who really want to continuously learn and optimize their surrounding.

In my opinion a true optimizer isn’t just someone who can optimize a funnel, but someone who’s constantly optimizing their life, right? So passion is something that cannot be taught. [inaudible 00:06:05] huge decision factor in terms of, are you right for the team? Are you going to be the person who’s going to be passionate about learning new skills, developing yourself, interested in client work, learning new things, reading new stuff, taking courses. At the end of the day it’s about looking for those people who have the willingness to learn, optimize themselves and want to take the company forward.

The rest will follow. Like all those skills will then follow. So this isn’t something that you can teach yourself to be. It just needs to be bedded within you as part of your personality, which leads me to the next two important personality traits, teamwork and agility. A productive team is one that helps each other out and motivates one another. So you’re looking for a team member that compliments the rest of your team. Someone that will be able to take on their own responsibility, but also be aligned under the same goals [inaudible 00:07:06] everyone else. You want to be able to create a winning team that’s connected beyond just the workspace itself, whether you’re working remote or in house. So I think especially when it comes to marketers is even more crucial, because there’s just so many different parts of the team. Sometimes it’s to do with running campaigns.

Sometimes it’s writing content. Sometimes it’s analysts. Sometimes you’re one person who’s doing it all, but many times a lot of moving pieces. So working well with everyone shows that you can generate valuable insights and everyone can feed off each other and learn from each other and continue to grow. So I feel like teamwork is super important. And then with agility, change is constant in this digital world. And as a marketer, you must be able to adapt and move fast. It doesn’t matter if you’re like early stage company or large corporation. You want to focus on learning and implementing as quick as possible. So whatever you put forward, whatever campaign you launch, whatever landing page you put up, whatever data that’s coming in, you need to be able to look at it and immediately be able to shift your view and constantly look for new data to come in and constantly be able to learn new skills. What about you Ross? What are your thoughts? Are there any other traits or how do you feel about this teamwork and agility?

Ross: I love it. That makes perfect sense. I 100% agree. I think those are the skills that if somebody has them and they’re listening to this podcast, they’re probably going to have a very successful career just because those traits can take you far. The one interesting part about agility that is oftentimes challenging is the fact that it really comes with experience in some ways, right? You can definitely move quickly and adjust. And that is a core element of someone. But I find when it comes to being able to move quickly, the more experience you get the faster you can look at a problem and come up with a quick solution that is going to be okay. It’s kind of like a mathematical equation where the more and more times you do it, the faster you’re going to be at being able to respond and be able to give that right answer.

So if you’ve never seen an issue before on a website, or you’ve never seen a certain thing in analytics before, you’re going to have a hard time moving quickly. But I think just by having a mindset that when you do see a problem, you have to be agile and you have to move quickly and be resourceful and be relentless at finding an answer, I think that at its core is what you should be looking for and in terms of traits. I think you’ve nailed it in terms of some of the skills that everyone should be looking for. And in addition, I’d throw in just good old fashion curiosity as like the top of the list is if you’re not curious then you’re probably not going to continuously be looking for ways to improve and optimizing your life like you were talking about earlier.

Like you need to have those people who are willing to do the things that are required to continuously improve. It’s kind of like that growth mindset. So to figure these things out about someone though, it’s not always easy. You have to get to know people, you have to do research into their history, et cetera. What are some of the things that you would do to figure out if somebody has some of these traits and what many would call soft skills? What would you do to figure out, okay, does this person have it? Is this person going to be a good fit?

Talia: My go to is always research. People that we have in common research on the LinkedIn profile and of course their CV. So if I have noticed that I know someone that we have in common, that I would reach out to that person, but once they have come and they’ve stepped into my office or into this zoom session, and I’m about to interview them, most of my focus is going to be about getting them to tell me their story, to tell me about their life, to tell me about their personality, to tell me about what they’ve done and who they are, because I feel like that’s how… When you do the listening and it’s an open question, you can learn a lot about people. What do you think?

Ross: Yeah. I love that. I always like to ask that question. So what is your story? And then that gives you their ability to kind of answer that as they see fit. And by giving them an open ended question, like what’s your story, they get to tell you clearly how they view themselves and how they view themselves in their journey over the last few years. It’s definitely one of the most valuable questions that I have come across. It gives you a lot of great insight into people. I think the reference checks and background checks couldn’t be more important. I think this is something that is true, whether you’re in marketing or you’re any other industry I can tell you firsthand from the cleaning company we used to… We didn’t do background checks on some folks, and when we found out that some people had police records, it did not go well.

So we had to start implementing a process where every single person we hired always got a background check. And I think you have to do the same thing in marketing. You have to do a background check. You have to actually call the references. Don’t just make the fake call out to the people and say, “Oh, we’re going to call your references.” Actually do it. And when you do that, you can gain so much insight and information around the people who you’re talking to. If you pick up the phone and you call a reference and you say, “So I’m talking to X, Y, and Z about potentially working with us at foundation, do you have any thoughts on them?” And they say, “I plead [inaudible 00:12:39].” It’s probably not a good situation. It is probably because they didn’t necessarily like something about that person’s personality. So it is so key to have those conversations and call people who are on their reference list.

But don’t just call one either, right? Like somebody could have had a very bad experience with their last employer. That employer could also have been a very bad employer. So make sure that you don’t just rely on one bad apple for your information. Go to some of their past colleagues, go to some of their past managers, go to people who have volunteered with them on a board or a charity, et cetera, ask questions to those people. And while some people will say, “Oh, that’s so much work.” It’s more work to work with somebody who isn’t good than it is to find out whether or not someone is or isn’t good and it’s less expensive. So spend the time upfront to make sure that you do it right, and then you’ll be able to increase the likelihood of working with great people. What are your thoughts on that overall? Is there anything that I’m missing?

Talia: I love it. And I love every single thing you just said. And I have two things to add to this. So the first thing I’m going to say is before, if you’re going to call all these references after you have the meetings, so if after you interview this person, during the interview ask them what their past employer is going to say about them.

Ross Simmonds: Oh, that’s a good one.

Talia Wolf: If I call this person, what are they going to tell me? And I really expect people when I’m interviewing them to tell me the good and the bad. So, that’s an important thing and that’s one tip that I would add. The other thing I would make sure, and this is more like for people who are searching for a job. So if you’re a marketer and you’re listening to this and you’re searching for a position right now, let the people know, that your former employers, that someone’s about to call them for a reference.

Talia Wolf: I’ve had people call me and ask me for references for people that they were going to hire, that I was taken aback by the fact that they even called me. I had no idea this conversation was going to happen. I couldn’t prepare myself. And the biggest tip here is that you may not know the full stories. So when this person called me and said, “Hey, I’m calling to get some feedback about this person.” I did not have a good experience with this employee. And when they were calling me I had to think very hard about what I was going to say.

Talia Wolf: So whatever you do, let people know that you’re going to give them as a reference to make sure as you said, Ross, to call as many people as you can, get a better idea of who this person is. So when you are calling these references ask about personality. I love to ask questions like, tell me about a time where you didn’t see eye to eye, how did you solve it? Like what happened there? What happened between you? Tell me about a time where they came to you with a new idea or a new suggestion? So think about the different questions that you’re also asking the person that you’re calling for the reference and not just, “Hey, did you like working with this person or not?”

Ross Simmonds: 100%, I love it. So I recently put out a post on Twitter where I ask folks, what’s the best job interview question that you have recently been asked or that you consistently ask when you are conducting interviews? And I want to share some of the responses with our listeners, and I think they can pull out a pen, pull out a piece of paper and write some of these down and use them when they ask questions during their next interview. So let’s jump in. I’m going to go into a lightning round of some of the best ones that I’ve seen. So what’s your best memory from working with your past team? That’s a great question. When we call your previous boss, how will they describe you? That was one that kind of builds off of what you mentioned. What areas can your boss improve? And then ask this same question for the last three different bosses that they’ve had.

Ross Simmonds: Another great question is where do you see yourself in five years? Another great question is, tell me something about yourself that I can’t read on your resume? Another great question is, what is your current view of the role that our company plays in the evolution of your growth in your career? Why us, why now? What would you like to know about our company? And I think this one builds off of our discussion earlier around soft skills, but you could ask what is something that you’re learning right now, and that can show you whether or not they have that growth mindset. And then another question, and I will end it with this one that I think is definitely powerful, definitely valuable, and something that you can use consistently in your interviews and the responses will help you learn so much is, when was the last time that you broke the rules? And I think that is a great way to wrap this up as we continue to break rules with the format and style of podcast [inaudible 00:17:32].

Talia Wolf: I love it. I love every single question. Guys, give us a five star review because-

Ross Simmonds: Always five star.

Talia Wolf: … always five stars. We do not accept any less. And jump into our Facebook group to continue the conversation. Ask for any specific topic that you want us to cover, and you can find us at Bye.

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