While some in the workforce are just gearing up for the next fiscal year, many marketing executives and managers have already negotiated their annual budget and received approval on headcount requests. Now they’re ready to boost their ranks.
If you’re facing this challenge now – or if it’s racing towards you – then use these six guidelines to help you find the marketing rock stars you need for the journey ahead.
Hire people who are smarter than you
You obviously need to hire competent people. But when it comes to their area of marketing expertise, you ideally want your new hires to be a lot smarter than you. And if they are smarter than you in other ways, that’s even better.
After all, if you just want to onboard someone to validate what you and your colleagues already know, you can simply get one of those wacky drinking birds from eBay that will nod all day long.
Give yourself the confidence to hire not just good people but the very best you can find. Remember that A players hire A players, but B players often hire Cs rather than leave headcount open when there are jobs to be done – sometimes because they’re scared of hiring someone who may be perceived a threat. When it comes to smarts, be an A.
Find people who are eager to learn
In the Socratic tradition, competent people know what they know – and just as important, they know what they don’t know.
As such, these sorts of people are energized about boosting their awareness, skills and abilities. Rather than resenting the opportunity to learn more, they embrace it. On the flip-side, they’re happy to share what they know with colleagues and any other applicable stakeholders (e.g. consultants, contractors, vendors, customers, etc.).
Sometimes the best gift in an interview is when an interviewee trips up and says something both of you know is rubbish. This gives you a chance to dig in and probe around a bit – to call them out, nicely. Their reaction will tell you a lot about their coachability.
The best ones will smile, admit that didn’t go so well, and re-answer. The best junior marketer I’ve hired (so far) was clearly super smart, competent and destined to go far. However, he flunked his interview by failing to read up enough about the company and then trying to bluff his way through. He knew it, I knew it, and I called him on it to test his character – we all make mistakes, right? He handled it gracefully and came in the following morning to meet the rest of the team, the most prepared you’ve ever seen.
Remember, you can add an astonishingly smart and talented person to your team, but if they’re a classic know-it-all, they aren’t going to be part of your solution. More likely, they’ll add to your problems.
Save your forecast for those who are good in all weathers
When things are going well – i.e. when energy levels are high, resources are sufficient, executives and customers (internal and external) are happy, and so on – then everyone can be a hero. But when things go sideways and backwards and cohesion descends into chaos or in challenging times where you may have to turn a “no” into a “yes” to get the job done, that’s where the character of your new talent will reveal itself – either by its abundance, or its absence.
If it’s the former, then she’ll dig deep, find another gear, support the team, and follow through on commitments and promises when the going gets tough. If it’s the latter, she will likely give up instead of step up. Make sure you talk about this in the interview by asking each shortlisted candidate how they have handled difficult working conditions, not just successful ones. And dig deep into what they did to turn it around. How they talk about the past is the best indicator of what they’ll do in a crisis in the future.
Hire people who aren’t cookie-cutter culture fits
When organizations think about the link between recruiting and culture, they tend to approach it in terms of alignment. That is, they have a set of philosophies, preferences, approaches and styles, and they use these to calibrate their recruiting vision. Folks who fit the framework and remind you of other great team members in their outlook seem like good hires, while those that don’t seem like bad ones.
Although this seems to make sense in theory, in practice it can be counterproductive, because it often leads to groupthink. Everyone is so similar that there is no diversity of opinion, debate, or even meaningful discussion around key issues. Instead of ensuring harmony, lack of diversity creates havoc, because situations will arise that require new approaches.
Team diversity is an asset that you should cultivate, not a risk that you should mitigate. Unless you are the type who likes to hang out with your clone, it makes your team more fun to be around, too.
This end-of interview question can help you understand more about a candidate: Tell a story about a time when you had to spend time with a group of people who aren’t like you. Maybe they had different political opinions, or they grew up in a different situation. How did you feel, and how did you handle your differences?
Find those that have their creative juices flowing
You want creativity to be on your recruiting checklist, because sometimes the challenge isn’t about problem solving. It’s about figuring out what the problem is in the first place, and how to creatively incorporate new insights and developments.
At the same time, it’s important to go beyond conventional notions of creativity – because sometimes the challenge isn’t related to project and programs, but to budgets, technologies, systems, and so on. You want your marketing rock stars to help brainstorm solutions to these as well, and help your team find ways over, under and around obstacles.
The Bottom Line
Hiring the right people is both an art and a science, which is the way it’s supposed to be, because we’re talking about human beings here and not things. Only hire when you are positive this person is your best answer, and trust your gut feeling when it’s strong. If it’s not strong, pass.
Want some more ideas about how some great interview questions? This great article lists advice from over 30 successful business leaders including Richard Branson and Elon Musk. How many would you answer confidently?