The Insider’s Guide to Hiring a Marketer
Written by: Ryan Flannagan

Chapter 35: The Insider’s Guide to Hiring a Marketer


So you’ve decided to hire a marketer as opposed to a B2C or B2B marketing agency, somebody to become part of your team and let everybody else see to their areas of expertise while he brings in the new business. This is a great move for a lot of companies, but only if you do it right.

Because doing it wrong can be a serious problem. Let’s look at the up-front costs of hiring a new employee at the level you would need even a junior marketing expert to operate from:

Best estimates from MIT’s Sloan School of Management put training and recruiting costs alone for a new hire at just north of $9,000, plus the approximately $8,000 you’ll spend on a professional salary and wages during the average 10-week time between a new hire coming on and that new hire coming up to speed.

46% of newly hired employees fail within 18 months of being hired, and only 19% are fully realized successes.

Put those two numbers together: it will cost you nearly $20,000 to hire and train a marketer with a 50/50 chance of failing before recouping the cost.

Hiring right actually makes your cost of acquisition higher, but it can really improve those odds of success. Hiring right means asking candidates the best possible questions, and knowing which questions not to ask. Though every interview, interviewer, and interviewee is different, here’s a format for interviews that has worked well for us when we hire our team of marketing ninjas and inbound content whisperers.


Stage One: Getting to Know You

I like to start with simple questions whose answers I already got the resume and cover letter. Things like:

  • Tell me about your favorite former client
  • What did you do in your last position?
  • How many years have you worked in marketing?
  • When did you first start working in this industry?
  • What are your favorite marketing techniques?
  • Which marketing tools and platforms are your favorite?
  • What’s the difference between marketing and selling?

This works well for two reasons. First, it puts the candidate at ease because they’re easy questions. Relaxed candidates interview better, and I hate to miss out on a great marketer just because he’s also a terrible interviewee.

Second, it can weed out liars early. If the answers he gives in the interview don’t match what he wrote on his application, it’s time to end the interview early and not waste anybody’s time.


Stage Two: The “What If” Game

Once we’re warmed up, I move on to questions about what the candidate does or might do in different situations. This explores how he or she thinks, and if his process and approach matches your team, product, and audience. Some examples I like include:

  • What resources do you use to stay up to date with trends and techniques?
  • What’s the coolest bit of marketing news you’re heard about this quarter?
  • If I hire you, what subscription will you insist I buy?
  • A prospect is coming in one hour from now. What benefits of our product would you use to prep him for our sales team?
  • If I told you to redesign the company logo, what steps would you take?
  • What about joining our team would make you happy?

Stage Three: Problem Solving

The next set of questions looks at your candidate’s past behavior, with a strong eye toward how he’ll handle difficult circumstances in the future. Body language, facial expression, and voice tone are important here since they’ll give you an eye into how the interviewee responds to good and bad situations.

  • What techniques do you use to work well with people who are very different from you
  • How successful are you at completing work on time with multiple projects
  • What project from the past are you most proud of?
  • Tell me about a time you really screwed up, and what you did to fix it.


Stage Three: Job-Related Questions

Going deeper, it’s time to assess how good the interviewee is actually marketing. You’ll ask a series of questions almost like an oral exam for a class. The goal here isn’t to trick somebody with a “Ha! Gotcha!” question, but to really understand what the candidate knows about his field, and what he thinks about key questions asked by most professional marketers.

  • What metrics do you look at to assess the success or failure of a marketing campaign?
  • Pick one of the metrics we talked about. Tell me what a failure by that metric might mean, and what steps you would take to improve performance.
  • What are the three different types of media?
  • What is your general philosophy of marketing? How would you apply it toward selling our product?
  • There are a variety of models for the journey for a customer from stranger to a client, or a marketing campaign from creation to release. Choose your favorite and describe it in detail.


The Second Interview

A marketer is too important a member of your team to hire based on a single interview. Instead, set up an appointment in a week and assign the candidate homework to bring back and share. Some homework assignments I’ve given in the past that helped me bring good people onto my team included:

  • Hypothetical marketing plan for our company
  • A marketing brief for a specific product, type of customer, or fictitious company
  • A sample of an advertisement, landing page and messaging for a fictitious company
  • An analysis of what our company could be doing better


Nuanced Media is a premier Phoenix marketing agency, and our experts are always willing to answer your questions about hiring a new member of your marketing team.

Ryan Flannagan
Ryan Flannagan

Ryan Flannagan is the Founder & CEO of Nuanced Media, an international eCommerce marketing agency specializing in Amazon. Nuanced has sold $100s of Millions online and Ryan has built a client base representing a total revenue of over 1.5 billion dollars. Ryan is a published author and has been quoted by a number of media sources such as BuzzFeed, CNBC, and Modern Retail.

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