You’ve nailed your idea and now it’s time to bring it to life. Finding the right people for the job is the next big challenge. Getting it right can see you grow from strength to strength but getting it wrong can set you back months, deplete resources and impact relationships with investors. I’m sure you’ve read the news about the startups making large numbers of their staff redundant (we’re looking at you Klarna). And, while this is distressing for those affected there is certainly a lesson to be learned for founders at the beginning of their journey. So, if you’re looking to hire the right people and watch conversion and retention rates soar, pay attention as we unpick the do’s and don’ts of hiring top marketing talent.
The first and arguably most important thing to remember when starting your talent search is you’re not looking for a knight in shining armor. All too often startups (especially those in their early stages) think of recruitment as a solution to a problem. Looking to optimise your website? Hire a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Manager. Looking to improve your relationship with customers? Hire a Customer Relationship Manager. Yes, hiring specialists can help you to achieve success in time but what’s more important is their mindset.
That doesn’t mean an individual’s level of experience or skill set are unimportant, it simply means that their willingness to take risks and test different hypotheses matters more. Startups are built to grow quickly so hiring individuals with a lean mindset is essential. Think about it, your business is the first-of-its-kind - there are no rules or instructions about how to win big so hiring individuals who can help you figure this out is key.
So, how do you find them? Let's pretend you are on the hunt for a Performance Marketing Manager to superdrive conversion. Before you start the recruitment process you need to scope out the role, a process that involves identifying the hard skills necessary for success (e.g. knowledge of data analytics). Once you’ve identified these hard skills the next step - and one most startups neglect - is identifying the mindset required to succeed in the role (e.g. agency, leadership, curiosity). Taking time to consider these attributes prior to interviewing candidates can help you determine whether an individual is a good fit or not.
Here are some examples of the types of questions you could ask a candidate to determine if they are a suitable fit for the role and business (hint: they’re not as probing as you might think).
- Was there a time in your previous position when a project or situation didn't go the way you planned? How did you handle it?
- What are you hoping to learn from your next role?
- Do you have any questions for me?
- What do you do when you don’t understand the task at hand?
A Performance Marketing Manager, for example, should be eager to conduct their own research, analyse data, test different hypotheses and make business decisions based on their findings. Focusing on hiring individuals who are willing (and arguably excited) to take risks and learn on the job is the key to driving the growth you crave.
With this in mind it’s also important to remember that hard skills can (and should) be nurtured especially in a startup environment. First-time founders are often guilty of hiring candidates who have very specific experience over T-shaped marketers - individuals who have a broad knowledge of three marketing facets with in-depth knowledge in one. For example, an individual may be an expert Performance Marketing Manager but also have an understanding of SEO and content marketing.
Why not use the hiring process as an opportunity to engage with individuals who don’t tick every box on your job spec? T-shaped marketers, in particular, are known for their ability to create cohesive marketing strategies that drive growth. Afterall, strong growth comes from understanding and incorporating the different facets of the marketing mix.
Again, asking the right questions can help you identify whether a T-shaped marketer might be a good match for your business. Here are some examples of the types of questions you might want to ask individuals who have varied experience across marketing channels.
- What do you see as the key unknown in our business right now? And, how can you come to the bottom of them quickly?
- How can you add value to our team?
- How familiar are you with our target audience?
- Why are you interested in the role?
Sell the job first
Knowing what to look for when hiring top tier marketing talent is all well and good but having a strong job spec shouldn’t be forgotten about. Choosing the right person for the job starts with attracting the right people to the role. The trick? Think about your ideal candidate and their ideal job before creating a job spec (you want ambitious people, right)? Whatever you do - don’t start your job description with a summary of the company. Attention spans are precious so make it obvious what the successful candidate can gain from joining your team (and that doesn’t mean access to the beer fridge).
So while taking the time to hire the right people can be a lengthy process it will most certainly be worth the effort. Following the advice outlined above can not only help you to avoid the mistakes discussed at the start of this article but drive innovation within your team. Be smart with your hiring, it’s the biggest investment you’ll make.