6 questions to ask hiring your first marketing employee

There reaches a stage in a growing company’s life time when as the manager/ owner you can’t do everything yourself anymore and still have time to eat and sleep. A lot of people in marketing are good at selling themselves (as you’d expect I suppose), and making themselves appear better than they actually are.

In a large team, this can be absorbed, however if they are going to be your only marketing team member, hiring the wrong person could be a disaster.

If you are on the other end of the process and looking for your first job in marketing read my guide to starting a career in marketing.

Here are some essential questions to help you avoid making any costly mistakes if you are looking for your first full time marketing employee.

What size budgets are you used to working with?

People used to large budgets find it hard to scale down to the restrictions small budgets place on them. If they are used to being able to build campaigns with budgets of £10,000+ per month using paid search, affiliates, link building, magazine adverts, direct mail and banners, are they going to be able to have the imagination to create a campaign with a budget of £1,000 per month?

What experience do you have of our industry?

You need someone to hit the ground running and not take 6 months to a year getting their head around your industry and customer segments. The more they understand about your industry the quicker they will have an impact on your business.

Give me examples of when you…

Always ask for real world examples and never theoretical “What would you do if…”, you’ll only ever get a perfect answer to those. Make them give examples of their achievements and how their work experience fits in with what you need.

How are you leaving your current company in a better way than you found it?

You need someone who can make changes and with a strong enough character to build something great. As your first time marketing team member they will set the tone for the job for years to come, so you need to know they can initiate positive change.

How would you improve our current marketing?

If they have anything about them a candidate should have looked at your company in some detail and instinctively made notes about how they could make your marketing better. This includes (where relevant) your website, brochures, magazine adverts, yellow pages advert, press releases, paid search adverts, affiliate program, banners, sponsorship and so on. Bonus points if they suggest new ways to market you, you hadn’t thought of!

2nd stage: Make them do a small project

Talking about yourself is easy, but can they apply that theory to a real world task? I’m a big fan of project based 2nd interviews (and I’ve done a few myself over the years) because they force people to show what they can do without being able to hide. What I tend to do is ask them to pretend we are launching an existing product and put together a 5 – 10 minute presentation about how they would publicize the launch, including their reasons why.

A final note about experience

One of the decisions you’ll have to make is to go with experience that costs a bit more, and a first time/ second time jobber who is a bit cheaper.  There are no hard fast rules on what is best as it depends on the person, so try to get a feeling of their personality if they don’t have much experience. If they have strong ideas, they are passionate and they have an active interest in your industry they could be a star in the making and worth a little investment in your time to train them.

2 thoughts on “6 questions to ask hiring your first marketing employee

  1. These are really useful tips since I am someone who is going to look for a marketing job soon, so thank you!

    There’s only one thing I wanted to ask about. You mentioned that person would get bonus points if they suggest new ways to market, which you hadn’t thought of. Well, from what I know about marketing, I think the quality of marketing trumps the quantity. Also, to really create a good marketing campaign (or idea, at least) you need to understand both the customer and the company really really well and to do that one needs to ask really good, specific questions. So wouldn’t it make more sense to ask a person how he or she would improve the best current campaign of the company or at least see what kind of questions a person would ask instead of seeking for brilliant ideas on the spot?

    1. Fair points. I’d be impressed if someone gave constructive and critical feedback on how our marketing could improve.


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