Finding good marketing talent can be a doozy.
Finding good marketing executive talent is even more of a headache because there’s a shortage of great marketers out there.
“The Valley skill set that should be in highest demand and greatest scarcity is neither engineering nor design, but rather internet marketing.” – Dave McClure
So when you come across someone that has fantastic credentials and references, it’s hard not to just invite them dinner, have them meet your team and sign them as soon as possible.
We’ve all heard the mantra ‘hire slow, fire fast’ over and over and yet I still see eager companies being impatient (mine included).
But if we can all just slow our roll a little, we’ll reduce our stress exponentially.
So just take a step back and breathe.
I’m going to make your life a little easier when you are talking to higher tier marketing prospects.
In this post, I’ll give you some situational interview questions intended for potential superstar marketing hires. Feel free to adapt them however you like to your company.
By taking a more methodical approach, you’ll be able to make a better decision that will pay dividends down the road for your company.
Q: Let’s say you are tasked with running online marketing for a education company. This is an old company that hasn’t done a lot of online marketing in the past and you would be tasked with building up the division on your own. What would you do in your first 7 days on the job?
Why: This is a super broad question and there’s really no de facto right or wrong answer. What it does is show you WHAT type of marketer you might be talking to (link to Tomas Tunguz post around different marketing executives). If you need a more user acquisition focused executive, you probably shouldn’t be talking to a brand marketer. The first 7 days question shows you the thought process of the individual. Are they just going to start running campaigns off the bat? Are they going to assess the company before moving forward (I’d hope so)?
Q: Your first 30?
Why: Now that they’ve gotten past the first 7 days, what happens in the first 30? Gears should be turning by the 30 day mark and a lot of action should be in place. Assessment/auditing will always be an ongoing thing. The question is if this individual is spending too much time on planning vs. action.
Q: The following 60?
Why: What happens during the next 60 days? Data should be rolling in at this point and new hires are either at the end of the hiring funnel (link) or already on the team. You can ask follow up questions like how onboarding should be handled and how performance should be tracked. You can also inquire about how she’d communicate/manage the team.
Q: What roles would you consider critical to have on your team?
Why: Chances are you already have an idea of what the marketing team might look like. But perhaps the prospect has a totally different perspective which may or may not be wrong. It’s always good to have a deeper conversation if both sides have different thoughts. Marketing is never that black and white.
Q: Where would you find the talent to build up your team?
Why: If this person is a solid exec, they know where and how to find talent. It could be relationships they’ve built up in the past with other executives or even recruiters. Maybe they have a solid process they can share around hiring. Perhaps an internship process as well?
Given the information you have, what would the org chart for your ideal team look like? (assume you can build any team you want and there are no constraints)
Q: What would be your process for assessing the market?
Why: How big is the market? How do you analyze key competitor strengths and weaknesses? What tools are used? What’s the approach used here and are there any gaps with it? This question will demonstrate expertise and critical thinking skills. Don’t think you got enough? Keep saying ‘tell me more’ until you’re satisfied.
Q: How do you determine how much advertising spend you would need?
Why: How much should we spend to hit our goals? What’s the logic behind the number you came up with? In your opinion, is this number far too low or too high? Is there rebuttal
Q: What are some potential key performance indicators you think you might be responsible for? Why?
Why: Key performance indicators vary for different reasons e.g. stage of business, industry, etc. A candidate that has done her research should come to you with a data-backed answer as to why these metrics are important for the marketing team. Could it be qualified lead growth rate? Conversion rates? MRR growth? Something else? First try to figure out what YOU think is important and then compare notes.
Q: How would you go about assessing which marketing channels make the most sense to start with?
Why: Another question to demonstrate critical thinking and research ability. Is this person going to come into the meeting with a solid case for what channels to go with first? How deep is the presentation/thought process going to be? Are there any holes? For example, a SaaS company that is entering a new sector without much demand is going to have a hard time via Google Search. Perhaps Facebook, Google Display, YouTube or Twitter ads might be a good spot to start for demand generation. After looking at the numbers, it might make sense to go with Facebook first because the the audience is more receptive to the new product.
The key is to have some kind of thought out plan.
Q: Would it make sense to start with an abundance of marketing channels at once or just a select few? Why?
Why: There’s no right or wrong answer here. It’s more about asking this question first then diving into their mindset/philosophy.
Q: What is your biggest marketing win? Tell me more. Why do you consider this your biggest win? What role did you play in getting to this win? What would you have done differently if you could do it again? What were the key contributors to this success?
Why: What someone has done in the past is a real validator and the most effective question in my opinion. First, it demonstrates what level the individual is at. If i’m looking to hire an marketing executive, I want to hear about wins that are relevant to the role I’m hiring for. I want to hear something that impresses me. For example, Neil Patel has helped multiple Fortune 500 brands build their businesses online. He’s also a top rated young entrepreneur by Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine. He has also successfully built 5 businesses. That’s impressive.
Ask yourself if you’re impressed after their initial answer. If you are, dig deeper with the questions above. Are you still impressed? If not, why? Get to the bottom of this because this question will move the process along.
Q: What’s your biggest marketing failure? Tell me more. Why is this your biggest failure? What would you have done differently if you could do it again? What were the key contributors to this failure?
Why: Spectacular success includes spectacular failure as well. Everyone is going to face adversity. How does this potential hire deal with adversity?
Q: What are some new marketing trends you’re excited about? What are your favorite marketing blogs, why?
Why: How up to date is she? Marketing is changing all the time so your exec needs to be a motivated and hungry learner. Ask yourself again if you’re impressed by her answer. Bonus points if you learned something new by asking this question.
Q: What marketing tools, if any, do you use?
Why: Lots of noise out there with tools and only a handful are relevant to your business. Hopefully you’ve done some homework and understand what some of those tools might be before asking this question.
Q: What’s the last book you read? When did you read it?
Why: Again, are they a motivated and hungry learner? The follow up question tells you if they are or aren’t. I don’t know any really successful entrepreneurs that don’t read.
But Eric, i’m not hiring entrepreneurs!!
All great VPs are entrepreneurs at the heart.
Q: What do you do for fun?
Why: Everybody needs to recharge. What are some commonalities this person might have with your culture? At the end of all these questions, you’ll also want to run the ‘beer test’ suggested by Treehouse CEO Ryan Carson.
Asking poor questions is a productivity killer not just for interviews, but for anything in general. Pick any of the questions that you like above and implement them for your business. They’re battle tested and ready to go.
What are some other effective marketing exec interview questions you can recommend?