As part of our How do you hire series? we spoke to 6 Marketing Leaders about their hiring process for junior marketers - from what they love to what's challenging, and their tips and tricks along the way.
In today’s digital world, marketing teams need to utilise the help of young and innovative minds. The rate at which the world is transforming requires a radical shift in thinking and skills for marketing teams to maintain a competitive edge.
Many forward-thinking companies that represent the new economy are lapping up the value of young talent in their team. “Every single day I’m blown away by my team,” says Sophie Pank, Director of Product Marketing at Deputy. “The thing that surprises me the most is how intuitive they are with technology and seeing how things work."
Junior marketers bring fresh perspectives and new energy that can be the missing link to unlocking the full potential of your team and their capacity. They won’t rewrite your playbook, but they can help fill in the blanks.
“They bring an attitude that encourages us to innovate and simplify the customer experience. While we train up junior marketers, we can ask the difficult questions about why we do, what we do, and if our priorities are right,” says Sean Blake, Head of Marketing at Easy Agile.
For marketing leaders, the tasks associated with hiring often fall on top of an already busy workload. “Hiring can feel like 50% of your job depending on how important the role is to fill, how quick you need to fill it and how many roles you’re filling,” says Bree Bunzel, Head of Customer Marketing at Dropbox.
A junior marketer is a blank canvas. Start building your ideal candidate profile by thinking about the soft skills and traits that make anyone in your team successful.
“I look for passionate, enthusiastic and go-getters who get things done. High performers do their research, bring forward their ideas and are open to learning from others,” says Bree. “Skills are important, but many can be coachable over time.”
Attitude outperforms skills any day. Think about your company values and the behaviours that get rewarded and use those to create a candidate criteria. This will help you find a team player who’ll be a great fit for your culture and thrive in your work environment.
“We’re moving at a million miles here [Tyro],” says Lisa Vitaris, Chief Marketing Officer at Tyro. “They might be doing one thing, one minute, then onto something else in another minute. I need someone who’ll maintain a good attitude and go, ‘Okay, I’m happy to drop that even though I spent hours working on it and move onto something else as that’s what the company needs me to do'.”
Adaptability and agility aren’t just buzzwords when it comes to what to look for in your marketing hires. They’re essential traits. “Marketing is so fast-paced and constantly changing, you need to look for those people who are always like ‘What’s next?’. If you don’t have that mentality, you can get left behind, especially early on,” says Laura Johnson, Founder at Strivin and former CMO at Pass Technology.
Marketers can be pretty bad at ‘marketing’ marketing. It’s such a broad field that the job description can end up as a laundry list of activities.
For junior roles, looking for a certain amount of experience can make things more complicated than they need to be for both you and the candidate.
“When you want a junior with six months or even a years experience, it’s hard. If someone works in a job for six months, unless it’s a contract or volunteer role, they’re probably not going to want to move after that amount of time,” says Lisa. “And if they are ready to leave, you start questioning why; why did they leave? Did things not work out?”.
Liz Telford, Head of Marketing at Shippit, has had similar experiences. “With junior roles, it’s hard to find people who aren’t already looking for what’s their next move… oh, they want to be a manager.”
Your job description is the candidate’s very first exposure to the role and you as an employer. For junior talent without the experience and data points to know what roles would be a good fit, a thoughtful job description goes a long way.
“The job description is all about finding the balance between presenting a role that is attractive and appealing, that people are going to want to apply for, and not overselling it,” says Liz.
Bree agrees, “The biggest challenge I’ve had is that while I’m looking for the purple squirrel, the unicorn, the diamond in the rough, you’ve got to be realistic. It’s important to take a step back and create a clear and succinct role description that inspires, challenges and invites the right candidates in.”
Rein in the scope of the role by looking at existing roles in your team, where there are gaps, and build the role requirements from there.
“I’m not just looking at an individual candidate. I’m thinking about how they’re going to complement the other people in my team,” says Sophie.
Your company’s current employee base may also be a wellspring for candidates who already know the ins and outs of what you’re working on. For Lisa, this can simplify onboarding. “Because our product is quite complex, we’ve hired two coordinators internally from our sales team as they know a lot about our product which is great,” she says.
Laura’s found similar success with internal recruitment, adding, “Sourcing from other departments is great. Any junior that goes into a business should try and spend time in a few different departments. Customer Success into marketing is an interesting one as they tend to understand the customer pain points and who the customer is well.”
You’ve got lots of candidates who are excited about the role and applied, now what?
An effective screening process will leave you with a shortlist of candidates you can move onto the next round. It sounds simple, but this stage of the hiring process is where hiring managers typically see all their time (and sanity) eaten up.
“Shortlisting is difficult,” says Sean. “How do we choose between candidates that are so similar? How can we send an exercise earlier in the process to help grade applicants?”
Laura agrees, adding, “You need a more holistic view of who someone is, especially at a junior level. It’s a lot more about what their potential is, rather than what their CV says about them.”
It’s a problem we’ve heard countless times. It’s why we built Hatch. We take screening off your plate, utilising our Matching Science to screen and assess in line with what you’re looking for, whether it's a Social Media Coordinator or Digital Marketing Executive. From there, you’ll receive a shortlist where you can check out the profiles of the best-fit candidates as we know there’s a lot of value in seeing who’s coming through your hiring funnel.
“I make the time to be hands-on in screening because I think it’s a really valuable time investment to be able to see what the market actually looks like and the talent out there,” says Sophie.
While a junior marketer's CV and application has limited experience to speak to, you can look for other indicators of behaviours you value. “I look for someone who’s been part of a sporting team or involved with charity work. These are people who get the benefits of being part of a team, and like meeting people from all different backgrounds and bringing them together,” says Laura.
By the end of the interview process, you want to be pretty confident in the candidate you’re choosing. But it’s not always that straightforward, and time can be a constraint.
“Sometimes you end up with a one hour interview, and it’s super hard to know from that one hour whether someone’s really suited for the role or not,” says Lisa.
To get the most out of your time interviewing candidates, think about structuring your interviews with the following in mind.
Coming up with a great list of interview questions is the first step in conducting an in-depth interview. This also assists in creating a structured interview process, which goes a long way in minimising bias and evaluative confusion.
Think about what’s important to you, your team and your company and use that as the basis to create foundational questions to ask. In Sophie’s experience, your company values are a great starting point. “I want to understand if they’ve looked at our values and if they can articulate what those values mean to them,” she says.
The second step is all about the follow-up questions you ask. As Lisa says, “Depending on how you poke and prod, you can begin to figure out what their motivations are.”
To do this well, pay careful attention to how they respond to your first question and then build on their answer. You can do this by asking your original question again, slightly differently.
For example, suppose your first question is “Tell me about a time where you collaborated with a team on a project”. In that case, you can follow up by asking, “What role did you play in achieving the goal of the project?” to further understand their contribution and how they perceive their skills and strengths in relation to others.
For a candidate fresh out of university, their expectations of what a marketing role entails don't always match up with reality, and if you aren’t in sync from the start, both parties lose out. “I want to see that they understand we’re here to grow a business, sell more and acquire customers. They need to have a commercial understanding of the marketing discipline. Yes - it’s fun and creative. But we’re driven by commercial outcomes. And if they only come in looking to create super fun social ads, they’ll be disappointed by the day-to-day reality,” says Liz.
You can give candidates an idea of what the role is actually like, and yourself a better read on their motivations, critical thinking and fit for the role through an interview task. It should reflect the kind of work they’ll be doing and goals they’ll contribute to, to see if they have the sort of marketing nous you’re looking for.
“We give people a case challenge to respond to,” says Liz. This is where I get the most value and where I’m the most surprised. Some people appear great when you first speak to them, and then when they do the case challenge, it becomes apparent that they don’t know as much as they implied. Then you have others, who’ve undersold themselves, and they blow you away with their level of thinking and the work they put into the presentation.”
The right questions and task should leave you feeling like you have a good sense of their abilities and who they are as an individual. For Sophie, the latter is vital: “When you get to know someone and learn about their interests, passions and what they do outside of work, that’s where I think we get the real value and can see what they’ll bring to the team.”
Let’s agree that interviews are a two-way process. You discover so much more about your interviewee and their fit for the role with this in mind.
“I make the first interview a two-way street as much as possible. I want candidates to come with questions about the company and what the role entails. I want to see how curious they can be and start to see their potential,” says Laura.
Sophie agrees, adding that you need to create an interview environment that allows for a two-way interview: “People starting out in their career don’t necessarily understand they have that opportunity.” Once you give them that permission, it will help you figure out who’s the right fit, “I don’t want someone that comes into my team and is like ‘Woah, this isn’t what we thought it would be like!’ I want to make sure that they’re as excited about joining as I am to have them on my team.”