How to Hire for Your Digital Marketing Team

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As a marketing manager, you’re likely to be an expert in marketing, not recruitment. However, team management and the assembly of a team will fall to you.

It’s Not You, It’s Me. Your Bad Hiring Is Usually to Blame for Bad Work Breakups

There’s no cookie-cutter way to assemble a marketing team — no marketing department is the same as the next.

And since there’s no single right way to hire for your digital marketing team, it makes it difficult for us to give you a definitive answer or a step-by-step guide. It’s not baking cookies and there’s no family recipe.

Where can you turn to make sure you’re not to blame for bad work breakups?

Follow this advice and avoid subsequent mistakes:

Advice #1 — Look for Specialists Not Sub-Par Talent

Common Mistake: Hiring someone who seems to know a bit of something about everything.

Try to avoid hiring all-rounders and instead, look for specialists who don’t know everything but know enough about something.

Let’s be clear — when we say specialists, we mean those who hone a particular digital marketing skill. Masterchefs and therapists are irrelevant in digital marketing (though they would be handy to have around the office).

In a traditional marketing team, you could have got away with a few jacks-of-all-trades among your ranks.

In digital marketing, you need people who are laser-focused on a given topic — SEO, PPC or social media, for example — with the time, drive and energy to keep up with their topics’ ever-changing nature.

It’s unrealistic to think an individual can be well-versed in Google’s mysterious mind games, Facebook’s latest antics and the ever-adapting journey of paid advertising. For a marketing team to thrive, it needs people who are unashamedly nerdy about specialist subjects like these.

Advice #2 — Ask Creative Questions, Value Creative Answers

Common mistake: Wasting time asking candidates where they see themselves in five years.

Like treasure, talent won’t automatically appear without someone searching for it.

During the interview process, you should arm yourself with the right tools to figure out where — or in who — X marks the spot.

This is the part where you’ll have to get creative and ignore everything ever written in blogs about generic interview questions. Instead, ask about obscure scenarios that will tell you everything you need to know about how a person processes, reacts and feels about relevant topics.

I mean, HubSpot actually did write a blog that’s worth paying attention to, showing 15 examples of weird questions asked by firms like Amazon and Yahoo to determine candidate value. Allow this text to get you warmed up but try to think of your own problem-solving dilemma that your prospects won’t have prepared for in advance.

The result? You’ll get non-scripted dialogue that shows you how well potential employees work under pressure.

You might even get to hear some truth — a rarity in job interviews.

Value answers don’t take a traditional route and give you something new to think about. They might lead you to pick an individual who’s not as qualified for the role on paper but shows promise given their natural ability to think about things in a different light.

After all, marketing is a creative practice and the technical skills needed for it right now are likely to change in a few years.

All candidates need to be able to learn new software, processes and approaches, making adaptability and resilience the most important attributes for marketing team members to possess.

Advice #3 — Be Careful What You Wish For; Figure out What You Need

Common mistake: Asking candidates to have a degree in marketing but not a single brain cell.

When hiring others, we often feel in a position of power and sometimes forget to check ourselves.

Are we really prepared for the interview process?

Do we know what we are looking for?

And what’s not currently present in our team?

If your ideas about who will make you successful are vague, it might be time to halt the hiring process and go back to the drawing board. While it helps for candidates to have experience, relevant degrees and software skills, these things aren’t enough of a differentiator to help make your decision easy.

If you’re having an issue with gaining traction on Instagram, you might be looking for a social whizz with a keen eye for influencer marketing, viral concepts and short-form content.

If you lack technical skills on your team, you’ll want to seek out software-focused souls who answer most of your problems with program-related solutions. Plus, they’ll definitely have a strong opinion on the Apple vs. Android debate.

Advice #4 — Conduct Multi-Stage Interviews

Common mistake: Choosing people who you think would be fun to chug tequila with.

While you can’t expect your prospective employees to start working for free before you hire them, it’s a good idea to do a short practical test as well as to conduct a verbal interview.

This will help to put their claims to the test and ensure you don’t just go with the person who can shout the loudest or make friends fastest.

Testing skills like typing speeds, problem-solving and spontaneous thinking can give you quantitative results that also remove bias from the recruitment process.

Try to limit your interview process to three stages, so you don’t alienate and bore potential suitors. But don’t make the process too easy.

When an interview focuses on personality, we sometimes compromise on prowess.

Google has one of the most famous multi-stage hiring processes, interviewing their candidates in a number of different ways to rate them on not just the capability, but how well their personality matches with the Google way of life.

Advice #5 — Use Other Senior Staff Members as Sound Boards

Common mistake: Having a boss complex or hiring the next available person because you’re time-poor.

It can be tempting to rush the hiring process and keep the responsibility within your remits.

This is especially true when your workload is debilitating and there are plenty of candidates on the table. But, you’ll get the best long-term fit when you take the time to confide in other senior staff members.

Share your recruitment notes with them, assess applications together and get them to help with a pros and cons list just like when Ross got Chandler and Joey to give a helping hand in listing Rachel’s bad and good traits.

Hopefully, this one will be more professional and won’t result in Rachel — the candidate — finding out.

Asking for help isn’t about being amateur. Some of the best digital brands do this.

Google is famous for holding multiple interviews before committing to a candidate. Senior managers might interview the same individual and give them a score to form an average later. And while we aren’t suggesting you emulate Google’s 12 interview track record, you shouldn’t be afraid of asking for a second opinion now and then.

Advice #6 — Focus on Retention, as Well as Recruitment

Common mistake: Following the Hollywood classic, “It all started when…”

If you’re staring at your labour turnover and wondering where it all went wrong, the beginning might not be the answer.

That stagnant middle bit and the bitter end can often be the reason your marketing team won’t gel and they just keep on handing you those resignation letters.

Pay attention to your marketing team’s dynamic at all points in an employee’s lifetime. You can always reinvent a toxic team by doing some reshuffling, team bonding or extra training.

Remember, recruitment should focus on both the skillset and cultural fit. Does a candidate reflect your values? Will they work well in your environment? Even the most knowledgable of people are rendered useless if they’re sad and demotivated. A scenario that deeply fails both parties.

Finally, you should also give some air time to your onboarding process to stop new employees feeling bewildered.

How to Attract Masterful (Not Mediocre) Candidates

Competitive Pay Trumps over Ping Pong Tables

Don’t be the sort of company that calls a team “a tribe” and thinks a built-up bonus package is a fair swap for financial compensation.

Ultimately, no amount of shopping vouchers, distracting games rooms and unpaid holiday are going to make an independent skilled workforce who know their worth willing to work for you.

Understandably, not every company has a huge staff budget to recruit top-level candidates but if you do have a spare sum of money, please — we’re begging you — don’t spend it on a ping pong table.

To boss boomers, motivated millennials and game-playing Gen Z’s this gives off all the wrong signals, turning off every generation in the labour pool.

Provide Detailed Task-Oriented Job Descriptions

Make it clear you’re looking for masters in your job advert copy.

Being specific about your expectations will help to weed out the strong from the weak and make your task of sorting through applications that much easier.

Job descriptions that focus on tasks — instead of personality traits — do well in the gig economy, appealing to the new age of workers who revere skill, not social status.

Plus, if you’re writing that you want a new team member who’s bubbly and full of life, you’re pretty much ruling out every intellectual introvert who could be a real asset to your team.

If You Can Offer Remote Work, You Should

Widening your labour pool will help you catch some bigger fish who fulfil more important objectives than being able to catch the bus to work.

Remote workers are usually self-motivated, expertly skilled and highly organised.

Trust us, we’re speaking from experience.

If you’re unsure about the idea of hiring from afar, you could always start by employing people on a freelance basis. This way, your working relationship will develop slowly until it comes to a natural conclusion — either they’ll stick with you or they won’t.

Digital marketing is an arena that attracts plenty of location-independent people. That said, you could be shooting yourself in the foot by ignoring their existence.

Consider Outsourcing to an Agency (and Skip Training)

It’s that age-old question; should I hire a marketing agency or a marketing person? And, we’ll be honest there’s no right answer.

It largely depends on your workload, business needs and budget. Our happiest clients use agencies because it saves them time and money, not because it simply seems easier than hiring in-house.

Essentially, marketing agencies — at least the good ones — do all of the work for you.

None of your time or money has to be spent recruiting, onboarding and training marketing team members. Plus, an agency can bring fresh ideas to the table, new knowledge and an objective look at your firm’s marketing performance.

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