How to Hire a Great Marketing Person

January 18, 2011 - Get free updates of new posts here

I got this question asked and figured others might be curious on how I do it.

The challenge about marketing output is that it’s not always numbers based and the ROI isn’t immediate. With that being said I think it can be and here’s how I would solve how to find and how to know if someone is good.

Magnifying Glass for Marketing Hire

How to find?

  • Look for advertising, marketing tactics, and qualities of a good marketer you like and look backwards to see which marketer did them.
  • Look back into your own community / customers / users to see if there is anyone who gets it. I find this most helpful.
  • Look at specific companies you admire and check LinkedIn for their marketing folks.

Those have been my best ways of finding marketing people. Word of caution: most marketers suck.

How to know if they are good?

  • They Love your product. I did at Mint so marketing was easy.
  • Objective based. Easiest way to test someone on marketing is give them a challenge and see if they ask whats the objective. Most will just start rambling bullshit or ideas. Others will start with what do we want this to accomplish. I like them.
  • Metrics. I personally like people that can quantify and prove what they are doing is backing out to numbers. (Then we we hire the right person we use a Daily Accountability Marketing Metrics Form.)
  • Personality. This is general but just want to say it.
  • Relevance. If they are already in your industry it’s a bonus cause they’ll have the connections, it’s ideal, not required.
  • Questions. Are they asking the right questions about advertising? And about the overall value of marketing?

Here’s a test I gave someone to help run AppSumo, has a few marketing related questions and ideas to see how people think through things.

One of my fav questions for marketing is just giving them limited budget questions and a # of people to reach. See what they come up with, hear their thought process and if they provide #s related to their decisions.

Hope this helps.

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31 responses to “How to Hire a Great Marketing Person

  1. David Reply

    I would add to “how to hire a marketing person”: Do it in person. Sure, find them through the various means mentioned above, but forget about the resume. You’ll get more out of a conversation than you will from a resume any day. Plus, if they are a marketer, they’ll likely (hopefully/should/don’t bother if they don’t) have more than just a resume to show you… a blog(s), company websites, twitter feed, projects, etc. Plus you’ll get a better sense of their attitude and passion for what they do.

    Love the quiz. I’m STILL thinking about the $1000 to reach 100K people. Hmmmm….

    Thanks Noah.

  2. Sean Reply

    I really like the online interview quiz. It’s a smart and efficient way to get deeper.

    Also, I like that you lead with, “The have to love your product.” In the end, everyone has access to the many of the same marketing tools and mechanics, but it’s the passion for the product that drives the hustle and best results from a very personal place.

  3. Daniel Kuperman Reply

    Great ideas Noah, I especially like the test you use. I’ve always given candidates a test and it is amazing how it helps differentiate the really good marketers from the really good interviewees.

    I would also add a couple additional points.

    – Ask them what do they read and how they keep up with the industry.
    – Have the team who will be working for or with the candidate to interview the person (very important if you want good team work and to get other perspectives).

    Another great post I came across about hiring good marketing people is:

  4. Josh Reply

    Any advice on how to test if someone is right for your brand? ie a marketer who is helping maximize different components of a marketing strategy versus a marketer who wants to weave themselves within the brand and help push the company in general. While both can help achieve desired ends, the latter I feel would be more ideal.

  5. Katy Roth Reply

    I love this. Let’s take a step back. What are the business goals? Why are we doing this? How long is the runway and what is the budget? What resources do we have?

    I just read your piece on Mint’s success via Quora and loved it. I am constantly steering my clients towards creating more authentic, relevant content to drive traffic instead of buying more and more AdWords.

    On a personal marketing note, I spend my limited time helping my clients and not keeping up a blog of my own, so thanks to David for mentioning that you should look to client work to speak for your results. However, most of what I do is behind the scenes; almost all of my clients are referred to me from my past or current clients.

  6. Carrie Reply

    Someone with great marketing skills can market anything because s/he is able to get from the people who have the product knowledge and passion the key elements and differentiators and then take those and use them as the basis not only for the marketing activities but also for determining which marketing activities will be successful. Sometimes being a passionate supporter of the product can actually get in the way of great marketing because it clouds your judgment of what the target market(s) need to hear, especially for acquisition, which is different than usage.

    A great marketing person for your company is someone who can still get the key people to provide the key information even though s/he is passionate about the product.

    And a really great marketing person for your company is someone who will insist that no matter how much overlap there is between him/herself and the target market or between others in the company and the target market, you can’t really know how to market or what to build (if you include product marketing) without getting real input from the real target market. Because no matter how much you are in the target market, you have a state in the product being successful while your potential customers do not.

    So, if in a job interview, you were ask me how to spend $1000 to reach 100K people, I would have to first know who the target market is, how much penetration you already have and what the product’s USP (unique selling points) and key features are before I could begin to give you a legitimate answer as to what direction to take.

  7. Brent Reply

    Well the latest appsumo blog post definitely took your approach a step further, without knowing much of what you guys even were working with as far as prospective budgets/traffic, etc.. writing a blind pitch via email… ouch.

    I wonder if i’ll regret writing it at 3am

  8. Sharel Reply

    Gr8 analysis…
    I loved the part of “They Love your product” i think its a key metric for anyone in the company.. especially marketing 🙂


  9. Web_Man Reply

    In the ways of finding if a marketer sucks or not, you mentioned Personality, I have a question. What kind of personality is good for marketer? Specifically extroversion and introversion? Personally I believe introversion is little bit better since: 1. I am a introversion, 2. They tend to good at Objective based and know how to dig in Metrics.
    What do you think?
    Thanks for the good advise!

    1. Mike Reply

      I think you’re kinda missing the point of the question. It’s more like, do you enjoy being around them? Do they pass the airport test? I think making a decision based on being introverted or extroverted is a gross oversimplification of personality and won’t really tell you much either way.

  10. Paul McArdle Reply

    Hi Noah,

    Thanks for these notes.

    Will refer to these, and other notes, when we start the process for hiring our GM for Identifying & Attracting Clients, and meeting their Needs.

    In a late response to Josh’s comment, I’ve learnt the hard way (i.e. wrong people on the bus) that a “right fit” needs to include all of the above:
    1) Alignment with Mission, Vision & Values.
    2) Compatible temperament (in terms of how they like to work) – hence alignment with culture
    3) Ability.

    To do this more effectively, we’re evolving a series of tests, conversations and other methods all aimed to provide a richer set of data from which to select the best candidate.


  11. Richwell Phinias Reply

    insightful. great advise. there is nothing as bad and demotivating as realizing three months down the line that you hired the wrong person. especially when you are launching a new product and you are using venture funds!!!!

  12. David Braun Reply

    That’s a really great approach. I really like it. I usually give the person the real-time task to see how he behaves in stressful situations.

    For example, I can give him phone number of a client and ask to conduct a survey with that client in front of me. You will be amazed with the result.

  13. Sandy Albaytar Reply

    Whew… Thanks for the great insights. The opening certainly hooked me. This is definitely a morale boost for marketers who are working to death and are yet to see the fruits of their labor – which will take time. Sometimes it’s hard to decide whether to hold on to a strategy when things (numbers, ROI, etc.) don’t happen in an instant. Thanks for the great tips!

  14. Jonathan Wu Reply

    I have never seen an interview like that before, but I really loved it. Really gives a sense of personality in your interview process, and also made me start thinking what the responses would have been for the marketing people I was looking to hire.

    Thanks for the tips!

  15. Kathy Ver Eecke Reply

    Oh for the love of all things holy. Did you really have to give me a link to a typing test? Can’t stop trying to beat my own score. Honestly thought I’d finish it the first time and message pop saying it was a joke…that you could give a hoot about how fast anyone typed. But no. It’s real. And it will suck away valuable time from my days for the foreseable… forseeable… crap, for the near term. See, that there, that would have lowered my score!! Damn it.

    Oh, and love the ‘how would you reach these people’ question. Nice stuff.

  16. Jacqueline Drew Reply

    Great insights! I’m a marketing consultant from Calgary, Canada, and I find that good marketers will do a ton of homework and ask a lot of questions. If you try to “snap out” a quick answer, you’ll be wrong anyways! And I agree about “LOVING YOUR PRODUCT” – you can’t just whiz out creative work….you have to be INSPIRED by it!

  17. James Will Reply

    Interesting article, just to ask. If we are not that great at marketing & yet want to hire someone who is better at it, how would one recognize the marketing actions taken will work for us & that the person will be the right one to hire.

    I would think that the hirer may need to have a certain level of knowledge before he can make the call

  18. King Reply

    Hey Noah!

    Great article- I have to admit, I completely sucked on your marketing test. Other than the obvious questions, I wasn’t sure on how to answer any of them. Can you (or anyone that might read this and knew how to reply to Noah’s test) recommend any books on where to start learning the basics?

    I’m working through your 18 book recommends, “22 immutable laws” is first up. Both you and Tim Ferriss have recommended that book, so high expectations.

    Thanks for sharing the knowledge.

    the guy who owes you 8 burritos (and counting)

  19. harrist Reply

    well if some one ask me, they have limited budget for marketing, the answer actually are quite simple! use Adwords 😀 but if someone said its to expensive, the answer would be, that’s my jobs, how to make cheaper 😉 lol