5 Red Flags You Must Look Out for When Hiring Marketers

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Research today shows people have attention spans shorter than that of a goldfish. This means, your marketing efforts need to engage viewers quickly. You need to grab their attention fast and communicate your brand message in a clear and concise manner.

All this within 8 seconds or less.

So it is essential that the marketers you hire should be equipped to deal with this challenge. After all, they are the voice of your company, and are responsible for your brand. In this article, I draw on my experience of interviewing hundreds of marketers to share 5 critical red flags you should look out for.

#1: Poor Communication Skills

Take a quick look at the marketing job descriptions posted online. You’ll find excellent communication skills (or some variations of it), listed in most of them.

However, when it comes to actual hiring, we tend to overlook communication skills in favor of technical for almost all jobs. But the ability to communicate effectively is crucial for a marketer, regardless of specialty. The main role of a marketer is to understand the complexities behind the product or service they are promoting and communicate its benefit to potential customers.

If they can’t communicate your message effectively, your potential customer is either going to get confused about your offering, or worse, get the wrong idea about the product.

If they can’t communicate your message effectively, your potential customer is going to either be confused about your offering, or worse, get the wrong idea about the product.

Do they pass the followings checks?

  • Can communicate the benefits of your product/service in a simple-to-understand language.
  • Can speak about something outside of marketing they are extremely passionate about, for a minute. It’s clear they are passionate about the topic because their energy levels are off the charts.
  • Marketers who contribute written content can write clearly without slipping into jargon or making grammatical mistakes.

#2: Doesn't Measure the Outcomes of Their Action

Be it Engineering, HR, Sales or Ops, each team in a company has metrics that they need to focus on. Without tracking and measuring, it is impossible to benchmark and understand the outcome of your efforts. So when you are interviewing a marketer, do observe if they measure the outcomes of their actions.

If they can talk about the impact they brought to the team, for instance, increased traffic and leads, that is great. But if they can demonstrate how it tied to the company's overall targets, say in terms of revenue, it shows their ability to align team goals with that of the company’s.

If a candidate always talks vaguely in terms of results without any specifics, that’s a red flag.

E.g. I was able to increase Facebook traffic to our company website.

The above claim is not relevant without supporting data points. Here are a few follow-up questions to ask:

  • By what percent did the traffic increase?
  • What was the baseline before?
  • What did they do to increase website traffic?
  • Did the cost of customer acquisition remain the same or change?

If they can demonstrate how their impact tied to the company's goals, say in terms of revenue, it shows their ability to align team goals with that of the company’s.

Do they pass the following checks?

  • Knows the conversion rate of the activity they were last involved in
  • Did they do root cause analysis for campaigns that failed? Bonus points if they re-launch the campaign based on their learnings

#3: No Record of Growth or Adaptability

Here is an example of a marketer you will come across: Email marketing manager for 6 years. The job involved getting the email creatives from the design and development teams, uploading it to the email software, and sending out newsletters to all users in their database.

The red flag here would be if this is all the person has done for 6 years. If they aren’t able to demonstrate how they have experimented with it, using list segmentations, A/B tests or automations, they have been stagnant. More than 50% of emails are opened using mobile - yet, if the candidate hasn’t tried responsive emails, it is a clear indicator of their inability to think out of the box, take risks and adapt.

Similarly, with SEO marketers, if all you hear about are tactics like directory submissions and link exchanges, proceed with caution. Google has begun to penalize sites using these tactics, so the candidate is clearly not updated in their own areas of expertise. Smart SEO marketers constantly test and find out new channels for safer link-building, and keep up with Google algorithm changes.

With SEO marketers, if all you hear about are tactics like directory submissions and link exchanges, proceed with caution.

Do they pass the following checks?

  • They are updated in the latest technology, practices and methods in their area of expertise
  • They run experiments to learn something new and keep evolving

#4: Hyped-up Resume

During the interview process, I typically review the resume line-by-line, asking questions when I see something interesting. At some point, you will come across people who seem to have accomplished a staggering amount in a very short period of time.

It is common to mention accomplishments, even if they were a team effort. But it is also important that the person is honest and open about their role in these feats. As an interviewer, go beyond what is in the resume and understand what the candidate has taken away from these accomplishments.

Do they pass the following checks?

  • Can speak confidently about the activities and skills mentioned in their resume
  • Can speak with clarity about their contribution to a project
  • Gives credit where it’s due. It’s natural that you can’t do everything on your own. That’s why you have a team.

#5: Did Not Try Your Product

If you have a free product or a free trial (which doesn’t require a credit card), the candidate should try your product before coming for the interview. Or at least go through your website to understand what your product/service does. A candidate who shoots questions regarding your positioning, brand message and target audience on the very first call is someone you want on your team.

If they haven’t tried out your product, that’s a big red flag. Unwillingness to understand product and audience they are supposed to market to shows lack of enthusiasm and inability to take initiative without hand-holding.

Do they pass the following checks?

  • Tried your product beforehand and have ideas on how to market the product
  • The candidate has gone through your website and tried to understand your target audience and your business model
  • Bonus points if they tried to analyze your marketing activities

A candidate who shoots questions regarding your positioning, brand message and target audience on the very first call is someone you want on your team.

Evaluating a Candidate Who Wants to Switch Roles

Smart marketers constantly challenge themselves. A natural progression of the desire to better themselves is to switch roles when the current role becomes less challenging or the learning stops.

The best way to evaluate people who want to switch jobs is to understand the motivation behind the switch. Do they want to switch because the role sounds cool or pays better? Or is it because they are genuinely excited about the new role?

An important signal to look for is initiative. What have they done to show commitment to the switch? If they haven’t even read up about the role they want, understand the responsibilities that comes with it or taken no action towards their goal, it is a red flag.

What If the Candidate Hasn’t Worked for a While?

If a candidate hasn’t worked for a while, a good way to evaluate them, besides the other checks mentioned in this article, would be to check how current they are in their field of work.

Do they know what’s changed? How do they plan to adapt to the changes? Most importantly, get a feel for whether the candidate is ready to resume work.

Finally, there are two very important qualities that make a marketer, two qualities that maybe a little harder to test for - empathy and curiosity. Marketing as a discipline changes with your product/service, your brand and your audience. Which is why the next member of your marketing team should possess the innate need to question and learn along with the ability to truly connect with your audience. 

About the Author

Adarsh Thampy is an engineer turned marketer with 8+ years of marketing experience. Adarsh started out building niche websites and went on to do content marketing at scale. In his current role, he serves as co-founder and CEO of LeadFerry, an automated content marketing platform.

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