In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about the process of hiring marketing people. They are two things they look for in potential marketers and Steli and Hiten show you how to assess for both traits. They also share a few tips from the marketer’s side so that those looking for a job are not only prepared, but competitive.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 00:03 – Today’s show is about how to hire marketing people
  • 00:59 – Some things are universal in terms of hiring people, like being a fit to the culture of the company
  • 01:12 – There are also specific things to look for in certain types of people
  • 01:27 – “What are some of the key things when you think about hiring marketing people that you are looking for?”
    • 01:58 – Hiring individual contributors, people who are “doing the work”
    • 02:03 – Hiring marketing managers
  • 02:39 – Regardless of who the marketer is, they really need to understand marketing
  • 02:57 – There are people who say marketing is bad
  • 03:07 – Great marketing can help businesses thrive
  • 03:14 – There are people who are in marketing that hate to be in marketing
  • 03:34 – It is important to see if a marketer has a level of curiosity about how marketing works in the world
  • 04:06 – Hire people who know their role and what they do with it
  • 04:23 – In hiring juniors, it is okay if they may not have all the skills, but they should have an opinion regarding marketing
  • 04:35 – A lot in marketing is opinion driven, at first, then it will progress to analysis and experimentation
    • 04:43 – Creativity versus analysis
    • 05:01 – “I want someone who is great at both”
  • 05:18 – A lot of marketers are creative—it can come from within themselves, from brainstorming with others, or from understanding customers
  • 05:35 – The best marketers are also hyper-analytical
  • 06:10 – You can assess their creativity by asking “How do you generate ideas for marketing?”
    • 06:20 – There is no right answer here
    • 06:35 – Look at where their creativity comes from
  • 06:55 – For the analytical side, just show them analytics
    • 07:14 – Try to understand how they would measure in optimals
  • 07:37 – If you are hiring a senior marketer, expect them to understand the data more thoroughly and in greater detail
  • 07:44 – High level two things to watch for: creativity and ability to analyze data
  • 08:33 – People will be surprised by how many people are in marketing, but do not like it
  • 08:37 – There is also a case where a person has a lot of positive traits and experience, but is not interested in the product
  • 09:46 – You need to be good at marketing and be able to show it
  • 10:18 – Do I get a sense that this person understands how to market an idea?
  • 10:45 – You can assess someone before they even come in by checking their social media or LinkedIn  
  • 11:03 – In the pre-contact side, look at the assets they have online
    • 11:18 – If you are a marketer, you better know how to market yourself all the time
    • 11:25 – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram posts matter, as well as the email you use
  • 11:44 – Lars Lofgren started as a marketing analyst and is now the head of growth at “I Will Teach You to be Rich”
    • 11:56 – His resume shows all his accolades while at Kissmetrics
    • 12:09 – He knows how to frame himself as a marketer and talk about his successes
  • 12:38 – Ask them why they did certain things on their social media
  • 12:48 – While Instagram is a personal thing, a lot of people think about a post before they put it up
  • 13:22 – On the second stage assessment, the best thing to do is make them do an assignment
    • 13:41 – One to two pages on what we should be doing about email marketing
    • 13:59 – Or ask what they would do on their first 90 or 30 days once hired
  • 14:18 – If looking at multiple candidates, have a quick write-up or story about a situation relevant to the company
  • 15:30 – After a talk, a woman said she wanted to work for the company
    • 16:20 – She looked at the opening jobs in marketing and was passionate in her email
    • 16:40 – Sidenote: if you are in marketing and want to work with an awesome team, email me
    • 16:57 – Her CV showed different job positions, but did not show a story of how it fit the needs of the company
  • 18:08 – A lot of people forget that their own CV is a marketing document to draw the employer in
  • 18:34 – Customize your CV to fit the needs of the company
    • 19:05 – Do not send a CV that does not relate to the openings
    • 19:28 – Customize your CV to tell a creative story or how the jobs you had can relate to what they need
    • 20:02 – When you send a document that does not communicate a message to me, that is a bad signal
  • 20:44 – The best candidates are inbound hires and are always specific about why they want the role
  • 21:17 – Anybody who assesses the company, first, are taken more seriously
  • 21:33 – Marketing is an appealing area of work because of the opportunities, but there are people who are truly not passionate about it
  • 22:04 – Would you hire someone who truly LOVES marketing or someone who just likes it?
  • 22:29 – Look for those who can really make a difference and are passionate about it
  • 23:06 – That’s it and good luck hiring!

3 Key Points:

  1. Creativity and analytical skills are the two IMPORTANT attributes to look for in a great marketer.  
  2. Excellent marketers know how to market themselves all the time; assess their CV and social media for evidence.
  3. Look for people who are PASSIONATE about marketing as they are the ones who will make a difference in your company.


Hiten Shah: Cool. Hi. This is Hiten Shah.



Steli Efti: And this is Steli Efti.



Hiten Shah: Today on the The Startup Chat we’re going to talk about how to hire marketing people.



Steli Efti: Yes. I’m glad that I have you on this podcast, but, of course, I’ve also hired a bunch of marketing people in my life.



Hiten Shah: Yeah. Yeah. Take credit. Take credit for what you’ve done, man.



Steli Efti: Gee.



Hiten Shah: You’ve hired marketing people and your company does great marketing.



Steli Efti: Okay, so first of all maybe one Interesting way of thinking about this or talking about this, and kind of unpacking it for the listeners is to, I think there’s some things that are universal in terms of hiring that we both agree on, or that you’ll look for in every single hire, right? Being a culture fit is the first thing that comes to my mind, but then there’s things that are specific to certain type of people that you want to hire.



Hiten Shah: Absolutely. Yeah.



Steli Efti: Hiring a CEO is different than hiring a head of marketing is different than hiring the head of product, right? You’re looking for different type of personalities and personal profiles.



Hiten Shah: Yeah.



Steli Efti: What are some of the key things when you think about hiring marketing people that you’re looking for? Both looking for in terms of these are the type of things I need to hire somebody as a marketing person, but also this is the way you successfully find marketing talent? Maybe there’s specific places or ways of approaching that talent pool, or that group of people that’s different from others?



Hiten Shah: Yeah. There’s a couple things there. I’m going to start with there’s sort of two things basically in my mind about it. There’s hiring individual contributors, so people that are doing the work. Then there’s hiring sort of more our marketing managers or CMO’s, VP of marketing, director of marketing, or just a general marketing manager that’s managing a bunch of stuff. I’m going to start with what applies to both categories, and then we can get into kind of like the other sides of it because I’m assuming, you know, you have experience hiring a bunch of individual contributors for sure, right?



Steli Efti: Yeah.



Hiten Shah: And probably less experience hiring senior marketing people I would assume?



Steli Efti: That’s true.



Hiten Shah: So, let’s break it out like that. Okay, so first of all one of the things that I believe in today’s world when it comes to marketing is that regardless of who the marketer is they really need to understand marketing. It doesn’t matter if they’re senior or a individual contributor. There’s a bunch of basics of marketing, right? Like you wouldn’t want to hire a marketer that hates marketing. I know that sounds weird, but there are a lot of people out there that say, “Oh, all marketing is bad.” Right. There are even marketers out there, or people that could be marketers, that walk around with that attitude and that’s no good. You have to believe that there is great marketing that can be created, and with that great marketing that businesses can thrive. I’ve met people who are in marketing that really don’t want to be in marketing. They care so much about customer support, or they care a lot more about sales that actually doing marketing, and testing, and experimentation, and figuring out the positioning of the company, and all these kind of things aren’t really in their DNA. Ideally, the things I look for in any marketer is they have some level of curiosity, and they have the ability to look around the world and see great marketing, and understand what it is. For example, if you’re an email marketer and you’re not able to tell me who’s email marketing you love, and when I interview you, you’re probably not a great email marketer, or if I pull up an email in my inbox and I show it to you, and you can’t critique it on the spot, but yet I’m hiring you to do our emails, I don’t want to hire you. Right?



Steli Efti: Yeah.



Hiten Shah: You should definitely hire people who know their role. Who know what they can do with it. Now, the caveat here is if you’re hiring someone junior, and you’re seeing the potential in them, and you think they can do it, that might be something where you can let it slide. That being said, I want to know they have an opinion about the job they’re going to do. I want to know that they have an opinion about marketing. The reason is a lot of marketing, and I hate to say this because I’m a marketer, I’ve hired marketers, and I talk to marketers a lot, a lot of it’s opinion driven at first, and then it turns into analysis experimentation. You have to have some opinion. A lot of people divide this up into creativity versus analysis, so are you a creative mind and are you coming up with lots of creative ideas, or are you analytical and are you really thinking about the data? One of the things that I’ve seen if I were to look for a marketer today regardless of what role, I actually want someone that’s great at both. I want someone that actually can be creative to some extent, or has hacks for being creative like they really know how to run brainstorming sessions or get the best ideas to bubble up from the team, which is totally fine if they don’t feel like they’re creative. I know a lot of marketers that are like that where no matter what they have this skill set of creativity whether it’s in themselves, or they’re able to align a team, or do brainstorming, or even pull it from the customer. That’s all good. Then the best marketers regardless of level or style, they’re also hyper-analytical, and that could mean either they know how to use the tools really well, they at least think of the numbers and understand that all of marketing is really experimentation against your creativity, and sometimes I mean really against it, and those two things are how I assess. Are they more creative themselves? Can they get creative somehow whether it’s through brainstorming or pulling data from the customers, and also what is their analytical prowess? Are they able to look at the data and make some decisions? It’s pretty easy to do that by, like, if you were interviewing them and really wanted to assess that, by just on the creative side you just ask them, “How do you, how do you generate ideas for marketing?” and you just listen to what they say. There is no right answer really that I would say, “Oh, they have to say this,” because what I’ve learned is that if I go for a right answer I might miss out on someone who’s really creative, and they can get the creativity out of the team, but they’re not necessarily creative themselves, or their creativity starts with other things like looking at other people’s stuff, and then they really are able to grok it, and understand the differences and the nuances between one email and another email and things like that, but then they pull the creativity out of there. It’s really just asking people, “How do you come up with new marketing ideas?” if you really want to understand how they think about creativity. Then on the analytical side just show them some analytics. Just show them something. Show them a Google Analytics report. Show them a email report of a few campaigns you’re running, or show them a ad campaign that you have going on or a hypothetical one, and try to understand how they would measure and optimize. A lot of times some people, especially more senior people, might be like, “Oh, I have people on my team to do it. Here’s how I think they should be.” Which is totally acceptable if you’re hiring a senior role. If they’re running a certain part of your marketing whether it’s your blog, or your social media, or your email marketing, or even ad campaigns I would expect them to have a lot more detail, especially in their core area if nothing else, about how they look at the data. These are sort of my high level two things: creativity and ability to analyze data are the two things I would weigh on and find those two questions. One is, again, “How do you come up with marketing ideas?” and that’s for the creative side. Then for the analytics’ side is how do they think about looking at data? Give them an example, and let them tell you what they would do with that campaign or with that set of data.



Steli Efti: I love that. The first thing you said I had to smile so much because I could imagine some people thinking, “Well, who is in marketing and doesn’t like marketing?” or, “Who-“



Hiten Shah: Yeah. Sorry.



Steli Efti: Yeah, or “Who does, who does, ah, counter-marketing, but i- isn’t really reading a lot of counter-marketing. That seems like such a, a weird, unique case.” You’d be fucking surprised how many people are in marketing who don’t like marketing.



Hiten Shah: Yeah. Yeah.



Steli Efti: We had this case once where we had this person that seemed like a great marketer, and great energy, and great culture fit. A lot of things were positive about this person, but very soon as we started working with her, we realized that although she was experienced in doing counter-marketing and in SaaS, she was not a consumer of SaaS counter-marketing, and she had no interest in it. When you would ask questions like, “What is your favorite blog? What’s your favorite newsletter to be on? Who’s a great writer in the SaaS content space that you like?” There were no answers to these questions because there was no interest. Well, it’s very hard to be really amazing at something if you have very little interest in that broader area. I find that to be an example that is surprisingly common, and not as rare as you might think of it the first time you hear it. Here’s another thing that I look for, and this is a little weird one, but honestly if you want a marketing job I want to see, so, obviously, I want to talk to you about your marketing experience, and I want to hear what you’ve done, and I want to discuss some ideas with you and all that, but I also want to see that you were good at marketing. Right? I want to see and hear it, and I look for clues everywhere. Like, “How do you write emails? Do you have a … What’s your social media accounts look like if you have a Twitter account, an Instagram, or a Facebook, or LinkedIn, or whatever?” You don’t need to be good at any one of them, but do I get the sense that here’s a person that understands how to market an idea themselves? How to build an audience? How do direct with a broader community or group of people? Yes, you want to say something?



Hiten Shah: Yeah. I was just saying that I love that you said that because a lot of times when you hire people you think about, “Okay. First interview or first pass, and then second pass,” and I think the things I talked about are like basic questions, and what you’re getting into is basically assessment, right? You can assess someone before they even come in into the role.



Steli Efti: Yeah. Yes.



Hiten Shah: Right? I’m sorry, not into the role but into the interview. I love that you mentioned looking at their own social media, their own Facebook, even their own LinkedIn, right?



Steli Efti: Yeah. Yeah.



Hiten Shah: I wanted to riff on that for a second. On the pre-hiring side of it. I’m sorry, pre-contact side of it meaning like they might have contacted you, but you haven’t talked to them yet. The things you set a perfect. Look at all that stuff. Look at all the assets they have out there that they’re creating for themselves which honestly is also they’re marketing. We’re in a world today where if you’re a marketer you better be marketing yourself all the time if you really want to say it like that, right?



Steli Efti: Yeah.



Hiten Shah: Like, your Facebook’s posts matter. Your Twitter posts matter. Your Instagram matters. The email you send matters. The resume you send. The LinkedIn you have. I mean, if you want an example find on LinkedIn one of the colleagues I used to work with that I actually hired at Kissmetrics. His name is Lars Lofgren. He started out as a marketing analyst, and now he’s the head of growth at I Will Teach You to Be Rich, my buddy Ramit’s at these organization, and his resume talks about all his accolades while he was at Kissmetrics and the way he essentially in Steli’s words, “Crushed it.” If you looked at his resume you’d be like, “Oh crap,” like, “I want to hire this person.” He knows how to frame himself as a marketer and talk about his successes. You know how like a salesperson puts like their quota? You know how they exceeded quota and all this crap, right?



Steli Efti: Yeah.



Hiten Shah: It’s a similar thing in marketing. You better be able to market yourself on your LinkedIn, or you’re not really worth your salt in marketing. I’m sorry. I don’t care. It takes too long to figure you out at that point. That’s one thing. When you’re in the interview I think the same thing. That the thing, I would say, that you were saying would be like,”Ask them why they did certain things on their social media.” Like, “Hey, I- I noticed, like, you get a lot of likes on your, on your posts on, on Instagram. Why?” Like, “We-, are you doing anything deliberate, or is that intuitive? Like, how do you think about it?” I know that’s a weird question because Instagram’s supposed to be a personal thing, but I want to know how they think about their Instagram posts because I know a lot of people think about their Instagram posts very craftily before they put them up even if they’re not marketers, so if you’re a marketer and you have a personal Instagram I’m actually curious how you do that. That could extend to Twitter. That could even extend to the email they sent you. Like, “Why’d you write the email the way you did?” Asking them questions like that really definitely help you understand them. Then I want to make one other point before we get into whatever comes next, but the other point I would make is on the second stage assessment, and I know you and I have probably shared this before, the best thing you can do is after that first interview, the first meeting, if you want them to continue make them do an assignment. Make them do a task. Make them do some homework. I really love the one to two-pager where it’s like, “Hey, can you write up a one to two pager on what we should now, what we should be doing about, uh, email marketing?” Let’s say we’re hiring an email marketer. That’s just the example in my head. If it was social media, it’d be social media. “I would love you to write up the strategy, uh, and/or the tactics you would use, uh, when, once you come in.” Another example would be, “Tell me what you’d do in the first 90 days, or the first 30 days of joining the company in this area, and if you need some data, or have some questions, uh, uh, uh let, let me know, and I- I’ll share whatever I can with you.” That works really well if you’re being loose. What works even better is if especially if you’re trying to assess multiple candidates is you actually have a write-up, a quick write up on exactly what the assignment is including data. Including a scenario, if you want to go there. A story about the situation. It should be a situation that’s actually relevant to the company and something they would work on once they join, and then you give that to like 10 candidates. Then, honestly, your job becomes really easy in figuring out who you want to hire because you just hire based on what you heard from them in the first interview, and then a lot of how they put that document together. You also make sure you give them guidance so like, “I don’t want you to spend more than an hour on this,” or, “I don’t want you to spend more than two hours on this, uh, and if I think you did then you’ve essentially failed the assignment.” You would include that in the write-up. That’s how you can formalize the process at least on that second stage. After that, the third stage, I think you should just be able to figure out who you want to hire if you take that deliberate process.



Steli Efti: Yeah. I love that. Okay. I’ll add one. Just a quick recent example, and then let’s wrap it up with some tips for this episode.



Hiten Shah: Yeah.



Steli Efti: This doesn’t just apply to marketing people, but it’s such a recent example that I’ll bring it out because it’s so fresh in mind. I was speaking at a marketing conference recently, and after the talk I was on my way out of the conference building, that a person stopped me and she was like, “Hey before you rush out of this place I wanted to say hi. I wanted to look you in the eye. I want to work for you. I want to work in your company, and, ah, the main reason why I’m interested is, you know, the culture that you described and the, the, the vibe that I got from you is that this is going to be the type of place I want to work at because right now I’m not happy about the culture. I’ll follow-up with an email.” I’m like, “Cool. I’m glad that you stopped me. I’m glad that you took that. I know it, i- it takes some courage to stop somebody and say hi. I appreciate that. I’m looking forward to your email.” Right? This is a marketing person, and what she did in the follow-up is she sent me an email. You could tell that it was really, really passionate and that she was really all pumped up and everything. She looked at the open job positions that we had in marketing, and then she attached her CD. The CD really killed me. This is a general tip. This goes for everybody, but for somebody in marketing especially. Here’s what killed me about the CD is we’re looking for a very specific type of marketing people. By the way, if you’re in marketing and you want to work with an awesome company, shoot me an email. It’s, but go check out our job postings first because her CD, she was describing very different job positions, in marketing always, in lots of different interests in companies, and each position and each thing she worked in had very little seemingly to do with the other. All of it was telling no story whatsoever on how this fits into what we want and need today. It’s like let’s say I’m saying I’m looking for a writer or an email marketer, and then you sent me your CD, and it’s like, “I was doing Pin advertising over here. I helped do a PR campaign over here, and then I, uh, I helped, uh, uh, did, you know, write up an e-book at that other company. I wanna work for you in email marketing.” I’m like, “Well, nothing here tells me that you have any fucking clue about email marketing, and also I’m struggling to see the story. Yes, it was all marketing, but seemingly you were working on totally different projects and always just once. So, you, you …” but a lot of people they don’t think about their CD, again, as a story, as a marketing document. Pitch me, and tell me, and draw me in on why you are the person I’m looking for. I’m pretty sure that if you, even in this example that I brought up, if you think about it creatively you could say, “Hey, you know, we did this PR thing and captured thousands of emails, and sent them th- these amount of sequences of emails, and got them to do something,” or “This e-book was really a lead method, a lead magnet, and we did a lot of email related stuff around it,” or whatever else. Just try to customize your CD to tell a cohesive story. Even if you can’t you could go, “Hey, I knew I, ultimately everything in marketing is, you know, writing compelling messages, so I was on the copywriting part of this PR deal, this book deal, this, this SEO deal, this other project. So, I’ve done copywriting, or I’ve done writing compelling copy in a multitude of, of different projects, but it’s always been, my thing has always been to come up with compelling copy, and I want to translate this now to email,” or whatever it is. Don’t send me a CD where I have to struggle to understand who you are, what your experience is, and I cannot see a single thing on this CD that relates to the open job positions that we have in marketing. That is, I think, a general piece of advice for people. When you look at your CD, customize the CD. Don’t lie, please, but customize the CD to tell a cohesive story, or to tell me how these positions and these jobs related to what we are looking for rather than just giving me a generic history of your job positions, and now I have to do the hard work of trying to figure out why this is appealing to me, or not how this relates to our position. Especially, again, if this comes from somebody that wants a support job I might be more forgiving because I’m like, “All right, that I’m looking for different things than marketing ability. So, storytelling abilities,” when I’m looking for somebody in support, but when you are in marketing, and you sent me a document to look at, and I look at that document, and I realize you didn’t customize that, and you didn’t look at it, and this document is not at all communicating a message clearly, that to me is a bad signal. That to me, I see this as something that I’ll bring up if we continue to talk, or maybe there’s enough red signals that might be the last thing on top of it that makes me go, “You know what, I don’t, I don’t think this person can move on in our process?”



Hiten Shah: Yeah. I think that’s killer. I’m going to give my tip. It’s basically the same thing as said. Kind of the opposite or different way, but it’s basically like the best candidates that we’ve hired they come inbound, and they come very contextually, and they’re always, always, always very specific about why they want the role, and they’re very contextual to our business. It could be as simple as actually reading the job postings and aligning with that, and talking about your skill sets around that or your passion around it, or better yet maybe you’ve broken down something for us and you know we suck at it, and you’re talking about how you’d like to help. You believe that you can because … Anybody who does that deep of a job of actually assessing our company we’re going to take a lot more seriously. It’s as simple as that.



Steli Efti: I love it. All right, so my tip on top of that, this is also building on some of the things that we said earlier today, but is marketing is such an appealing area of work that I think it attracts a lot of people that are not truly passionate about it, but that have chosen it as like a good career path. Because it’s interesting, because it is appealing, there’s a lot of opportunities out there, it sounds like a good thing to do, but they’re not truly passionate about marketing. They’re not people that are truly hard-core passionate about the job of marketing. I would just try to figure out when you think about hiring marketing people is this somebody that truly loves marketing versus somebody who likes it? I think the differences are just humongous. People who’ll truly love marketing they can’t but help become really great at marketing and do really great marketing. People who’ll like marketing they’ll do fine. They’ll do a good job, but there’s a difference between doing a good job and making a real difference. The people that you want to hire in marketing for your startup should be people that can make a real difference. The easiest way for them to do that is if they’re truly passionate about marketing, if they’re consumers of great marketing, if they have a great taste level in marketing, and if they’re really honestly passionate about the area, and not just chose it, and liking it, and thinking, “This is a good job, and I’m doing okay.” I would really try to figure out explicitly and implicitly is this somebody that truly loves it? I think that’s it for us for this episode.



Hiten Shah: Yeah. Until next time.



Steli Efti: All right.



Hiten Shah: Good luck hiring.



Steli Efti: Good luck hiring great marketing people. Bye-bye.



Hiten Shah: Bye.