You likely know that feeling of urgency and frustration all too well. You want to scale faster, hit your revenue goals, and leave the competition behind, but you can’t find the right marketer to build your growth engine. You’re stuck.
We know the feeling too, and experienced it firsthand back when my company tried helping Foundr, and other companies, find this scarce talent—and failed. That was early on in our journey, and we’ve learned a lot since then.
Now that we’ve upped our game, we’re ready to share our experience gained from many successful (and unsuccessful) searches, and explain exactly what it takes to hire a growth marketer who will actually increase your customers, sales, and profits.
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You may already know that marketing has become one of the hardest positions to hire for. A recent analysis by Lever revealed that it takes 192 applicants to recruit a single marketing hire, far more than for a designer, engineer, or even a data scientist position.
Worse still, many companies invest time into the process only to find that their hire is not working out. A bad hire can easily cost your company over $100,000 in direct costs and missed growth opportunities.
The search for a growth marketer should not be so difficult, whether you use a firm or not. Here is our battle-tested approach to hiring for this critical position in order to ensure that you get the right person on board.
How to Find Great Growth Marketer Candidates
With so many companies looking for prized talent, to fill your hiring funnel with the right candidates, you need to approach the hiring process like you would a sales process. Here’s how:
Define Your Candidate Persona
Before you put pen to paper on a job description to hire a growth marketer, think through the goals and responsibilities of this position and clearly define what the right person for the job should look like.
If this is your first marketing hire, look for candidates who have had a few successful at-bats and are on the way up in their careers.
If you hire for potential and don’t place enough value on experience, you will end up spinning your wheels while you search for the right way to grow. On the flip side, going after someone too senior is a precarious strategy, as the motivation may not be there.
You also want a candidate with experience driving growth in a similar business, so they can better identify the right opportunities.
At an early stage, you are typically hiring a generalist—that T-shaped marketer who has a broad base of knowledge across marketing disciplines and in-depth expertise in at least one or two specific channels. A marketer who knows how to connect with an audience, has a creative mind, and lives and breathes data.
When hiring a growth marketer, look for someone who can not only scale and optimize what’s working for you right now, but who is also well-versed across the digital marketing space to identify new ways to grow. And if your new marketing hire does need specialist support, they can always bring in consulting talent to work on a project basis.
Hiring a growth marketer for your team with the right character and values is super-critical. You can learn the next strategy, tactic or tool, but personality traits are hardwired at a young age and don’t really change.
Some of these characteristics are strong predictors of success in a growth marketing role.
- Growth mindset: willing to constantly test assumptions and challenge conventional thinking to find the ways to grow
- Curiosity: demonstrates hunger to learn in order to meet new challenges and grow as a professional
- Grit: maintains determination and motivation to stay the course amid setbacks and adversity
Certain other traits are important to ensure alignment with core values at your company. Each company’s value system is unique, so take the time to identify yours in order to know what to look for in potential candidates.
Create a Compelling Job Ad
Proven marketers get pinged with job opportunities all the time, so you must give them a great reason to consider the role you are offering. Your growth marketer job description is a sales pitch that must grab their attention, and that’s where most companies fall flat.
Invest time into creating a compelling value proposition to potential candidates, because you’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Right off the bat, you need to tell the candidate what makes your opportunity exciting. Outline what you are doing, why you are doing it, what you want to accomplish, and how the candidate is expected to contribute to success. Here’s an example:
Source: Growth Marketer job posting from Neighborly
Goals and Responsibilities
Next, lay out what the candidate is expected to do and accomplish. A common mistake that we see is having an unrealistic list of responsibilities that covers several jobs in one. A growth marketer may be a versatile Swiss Army knife, but even they can handle only so many things and do them well.
Being specific with your goals helps frame the candidate’s expectations of what it means to be successful in this role. Another good example:
Source: Paid Acquisition Manager job posting from Grammarly
When describing responsibilities, it’s best to indicate what realms the growth marketer will own, since day-to-day tasks will likely change over time.
Source: Paid Acquisition Manager job posting from Grammarly
Now that you’ve set expectations, it’s time to specify skills, experience, and qualities that a growth marketer candidate needs to bring to the table. Instead of making a laundry list of nice-to-haves, only identify qualifications that your ideal growth marketer absolutely needs to possess.
Source: Growth Marketer job posting from Memrise
Finally, a candidate needs to understand what’s in it for them. Summarize what the role offers in terms of experience and professional growth, give the candidates a sense of what it’s like to work at your company, and provide detail on the compensation and benefits.
Source: Growth Marketer job posting from Student Loan Hero
How can you increase the chances of your job description resonating with the right candidates? Here are three critical things that you should do when drafting a growth marketer job description.
Be clear: Writing a good job description is like writing good marketing copy. It needs to make it easy for ideal candidates to clearly see themselves in that role.
Source: Growth Marketer job posting from Canva
Be honest: Tell the candidates what they can expect at your workplace and what they won’t find. Include links to articles, videos, slide decks, or other types of content that can speak to your culture and employer brand. This is a nice video BambooHR put together:
Be unique: Write your job description in your own voice. Infuse it with your personality to get the right candidates to identify with you.
Source: Growth Marketer job posting from CXL
Find the Best Candidates by Going Outbound
If you are an early-stage company, your best candidates will not come through a job board. Companies that hire growth marketers from job boards typically settle for B-level talent.
The A-level growth professionals you are looking for are not active job seekers, so you have to go outbound to convince them to consider your opportunity. Here are a few tactics we have seen companies use successfully to reach these passive candidates.
Referral recruiting takes time and effort but can yield some remarkable talent at little incremental cost. To make the most out of this underutilized hiring strategy, you need to set up a system for generating leads by holding formal sessions with your team members, advisors, and other contacts, where you comb through their relevant connections.
Contacting growth marketers on LinkedIn is another possible option. The problem with this approach is that it takes a lot of time to identify relevant candidates and figure out who is the real deal.
You can look for success stories in your space or with similar businesses and find leads at those companies. Hitting them up directly with a job proposal usually doesn’t work, however. To get a better response rate, just ask them for a quick informational interview, so you can learn from their experiences. Use it to get a better sense of the candidate and later sell them on your opportunity.
A reputable recruiter with a developed network can help you find talent you likely won’t on your own. You outsource the heavy lifting of finding and reaching the hard-to-find candidates and only consider top-quality talent matched to your company’s specific needs.
How to Screen Candidates for a Growth Marketer Position
A well-designed evaluation process focuses on the things that are predictive of success in a growth marketer role. Applications, interviews, trials, and reference checks are all tools to help you figure out if the candidate is the right person for the job.
Turn the Application Into a Screening Tool
You want to weed out the candidates who don’t fit your role early on, so you can focus your hiring efforts only on the most relevant ones.
While hiring managers traditionally use resumes to screen candidates at this stage, they are actually poor at predicting how a growth marketer will perform on a job. Even if the candidate cites impressive growth achievements on their resume, you can’t really tell whether they drove those results or just rode the wave.
Instead of trying to filter candidates based on their backgrounds, ask the candidates to answer a few questions that directly relate to what the person would be doing.
Here are the types of questions you can ask in a questionnaire:
- Why do you want to leave your current role and work at our company?
- How do you decide if a marketing channel is doing well?
- What marketing campaign have you run that you’re most proud of?
- Given a list of 10 random growth tactics, how do you choose which one to do first?
- Look at our website and list five things you’d do to grow the business.
Ask them to be as specific as possible and evaluate the answers based on the depth of their reasoning. This alternative to a cover letter helps you learn about their motivation and thought process and saves you from interviewing people who are clearly not a fit.
Conduct a Thorough Interview
We know that interviews are not a perfect predictor of how well a new hire will perform, but they still remain an important data point in your overall evaluation process. The best growth marketers want to be in an environment where they feel challenged and your interview process should represent that. Here are the main areas you want to cover:
First, delve into the candidate’s track record to understand the kind of results they were able to achieve and specifically in situations with a comparable level of complexity and resources.
- What has been your biggest growth win to date?
- What types of results have you driven for businesses similar to mine?
Dig deeper with “how” and “why” follow-up questions to get to the root of what the candidate actually did and how much they contributed to the overall success. Look for candidates who can clearly articulate the process, rationale, and results.
When interviewing an experienced growth marketer, you want to focus less on testing technical knowledge and more on understanding how strategic, process oriented, and data driven they are.
- How do you research your target market and understand user behavior?
- How do you prioritize and run growth experiments?
- How do you measure success of your marketing strategy?
Use case-style questions to gauge their ability to come up with fresh ideas and draw insights from data to decide on the right course of action. Describe to them a challenge you are facing and ask what they would do to solve it.
Look for candidates who first want to understand your customers, your business, and your metrics to map out a strategy and filter out those who immediately jump to conclusions and prescribe tactics.
DNA and Culture Fit
The right candidate must also have the personality markers of success and be aligned with your company’s core values, and that’s what your interview process needs to uncover.
Do they have a growth mindset? Understand whether the candidate has stamina and the ability to quickly bounce back from failures:
- Discuss a setback you have overcome in the last 12 months
- What was the biggest mistake you’ve made as a marketer and what have you learned from it?
Are they curious? Get a sense of how hungry the candidate is to learn new things and put themselves in new situations:
- What new skill have you taught yourself recently and how did you go about doing that?
- Whose marketing strategy do you find particularly innovative or creative and why?
Do they have grit? Look in the candidate’s past for a history of persistence and refusing to quit:
- Tell me about a time when you relentlessly pursued something that you really wanted
- What is the toughest goal you’ve ever set for yourself and how were you able to achieve it?
Do they fit your specific company culture? Hiring to fit your clearly defined values helps ensure that your team remains strong and cohesive. Here are a few sample questions:
- Tell me about a time when you faced an ethical dilemma at work.
- Give me an example of when you had to work with a difficult team member.
- Describe a situation where you took a risk and it failed.
Make a Choice Based on Data, But Also Your Gut
So how do you make your decision? Here’s how to balance numbers with intuition.
Quantitative View: Interview Scorecard
An interview scorecard, used to grade candidates on must-have competencies and qualities, distills conversations with candidates into measurable, comparable results and adds objectivity to the hiring process.
Source: The Sales Acceleration Formula, Mark Roberge
A scorecard is designed to help you focus on strengths, rather than lack of weaknesses, and avoid hiring a less-qualified candidate. And it brings structure into the evaluation process, particularly if you have other team members involved in interviewing the candidates.
Qualitative View: Trust Your Gut
Take a step back and ask yourself these questions about the candidate you’ve interviewed:
- Is this person passionate about marketing and the role at my company?
- Do I like hanging out with them? Is there chemistry?
- Will I learn from this person every day?
When they reach out – email or call you to say ‘thank you’ – what’s your split-second gut reaction? Do you want to pick up the phone, email them or will you get back to them later?
Don’t “give them a try” even though deep down you don’t feel right about it: a “maybe” equals a “no.” Heed the advice of Mike Volpe, former CMO at HubSpot:
You always want to hire an A+ marketer, especially on an early team. If you can’t find someone like that, hire a consultant or an agency but don’t bring someone on your team unless you are like: “Wow, this person is hands down amazing”.
Always Put the Candidate Through a Trial
According to Laszlo Bock, former SVP of People Operations at Google, a trial is the best predictor of how a candidate will perform on a job. Here are a few possibilities for structuring one. Note that you always want to compensate candidates for their work.
If it’s not practical to do a trial in the office, have the growth marketer do a home assignment. You can ask them to give you a short write-up on what they would do in the first 90 days after they come into the role.
You can also describe a real-life situation that they would be working on once they join and then ask for their thoughts and analysis. Or you can use a service such as Headlight.
One-Day/Half-Day Onsite Trial
Ask your growth marketer candidate to take a day off, prepare a specific problem to work on, ideally a challenge currently facing your business, and work together. Having the candidate work in your office and around your team helps you gauge many things that you won’t get a feel for in a take-home assignment.
Most startups think they don’t have the luxury of doing a one-week onsite trial with candidates, but if you consider what’s at stake, it may be worth looking into. A week can give you an even better appreciation of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and screen out those candidates that can’t walk the talk.
You can take an even slower approach to hiring a growth marketer by having him work on a project for a small number of hours each week on the side of his current full-time job. Keep it reasonable, though, since having a trial that extends for weeks or months sends a negative message about your hiring process and turns off great candidates.
Reference checking is typically the last step before making an offer. Don’t skip it, even if your interviews with the candidate and the trial have gone well.
Research by SkillSurvey confirms that reference checks are critical for improving quality of hires. They can uncover things you may have missed when somebody is on their best behavior and help you avoid a costly hiring mistake.
When speaking with references from the candidate’s previous jobs, probe the exact details of what the goals were, what the person achieved, and how they achieved it. By focusing on fact-based as opposed to opinion-based questions, you can avoid personal biases of people who are friendly with the candidate.
Put Together an Offer That Seals the Deal
The market for growth talent is ultra-competitive, so you shouldn’t expect to hire an expert with a mediocre offer. Here is how to structure an attractive compensation package.
A growth marketer who wants to join your startup for the right reasons should be agreeable to something somewhat lower than a market-level salary, but you will need to make them whole as soon as you have raised additional financing.
To help you set the right expectations, we have benchmarked compensation levels for marketing hires at early-stage startups, designated as junior to mid-level roles in the chart below.
Offering equity serves three purposes. First, it aligns incentives for driving long-term growth and helps ensure the focus on building a process rather than going for quick, short-term wins.
Second, it helps motivate and retain entrepreneurial-minded growth marketers by empowering them with ownership and giving them a stake that could grow into something of significant value.
Finally, giving equity can help you compete with higher cash salaries offered by other companies. A typical equity offer for a growth marketer position is in the 0.5-2.0% range.
According to Glassdoor, almost 60% of job seekers rank benefits among their top considerations when evaluating a job opportunity. Which ones should you offer?
As an early-stage startup, you likely won’t be able to match generous 401k and health insurance packages from larger companies. Instead, your competitive advantage lies in being able to offer benefits that many other companies are unwilling to offer and that won’t cost you a dime.
By providing flexible work options, unlimited vacation time, and opportunities for side projects, you demonstrate to your potential hire that you are willing to accommodate their needs and trust them to take responsibility for their own time.
Close Your Growth Marketing Hire
You have to assume that the growth marketer you are hiring is looking at multiple opportunities, so if you only start thinking about closing at the end of your hiring process, it’s too late.
Here are some things you can do to make sure that you cross the finish line.
Sell, Sell, Sell
Startup founders believe they are building something amazing and tend to expect potential hires to be champing at the bit. That’s almost never the case. It’s your job to get them excited about the opportunity and give them reasons to join.
Professional growth, impact, the strength of your team, and your mission and culture will drive the decision for the right candidate, so those are the things you want to emphasize in the hiring process.
Create a Great Candidate Experience
While the alternatives the candidate may be considering are out of your hands, candidate experience is something you can control. Studies have found that organizations that invest in strong candidate experience improve their quality of hires by 70%.
Infuse a personal touch as much as possible to make candidates feel important. Take the time to answer their questions about the company, the team, and the role at every step of the process. Communicate promptly, schedule everything flawlessly, and give them honest feedback.
Listen to the candidate throughout the process to understand how they make a decision and what specific areas you need to address in order to have a successful close.
That’s exactly what tipped the scales in Help Scout’s favor when they hired Suneet Bhatt as their Head of Growth:
It came down to a handful of companies and in the beginning Help Scout was the company I knew the least about and by the end they had impressed me the most because they kept surprising me, kept delivering, and their values really shone through. They treated me incredibly well, they gave me a lot of time to transition out of [my previous job] and they were really thoughtful about my needs and my adjusting to being remote.
While you don’t want to be hasty with your process, you should move quickly and decisively. Whether it is scheduling an interview or making and communicating your decision, a fast-paced process sends a powerful signal that you are confident and value the candidate’s time.
Research indicates that the top 10% of candidates are often gone from the marketplace within 10 days. The longer you drag out the hiring process, the more time the candidate has to explore other opportunities and the greater the chance that they will go somewhere else.
Follow This Process, and You’ll Find an Amazing Growth Marketer
Hiring the right people is the key to scaling your business. Hiring a killer growth marketer, in particular, can be a game-changer, which is why startups and established companies alike are hunting for that scarce talent.
We’ll be the first to tell you that hiring a great marketer is tough, but it shouldn’t be a crapshoot. To find one who is a keeper, you need to follow the fundamentals of a high-quality recruiting process, plus a little extra, or risk losing both time and money.
What has been your experience in hiring growth marketers? Facing any challenges I can help you with? Share in the comments below.