What Do Marketing Executives Seek in Ideal Candidates?
Whether you are an active job seeker, or just seeking a promotion at your current employer, the marketing job search process can be frustrating. It can often seem a mystery why you don’t get calls for jobs where you think you’re a match. And if you do get calls for interviews, then sometimes it’s a mystery why you don’t get the offer. What are they looking for in ideal candidates?
Well, I’m here to shed a little light on the hiring process from the perspective of hiring managers — CMOs, VPs of marketing and directors of marketing. Recently, I spoke to Russell Evans, CMO of OnCourse Learning. At OnCourse Learning, Evans manages a team of 41 that defines their overall go-to-market strategy across multiple on-line campus websites. His own expertise is in brand and product management and he has even developed three patents relating to marketing business intelligence for the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry.
Here is an edited transcript of our conversation.
Michelle Robin: What types of qualities do you look for in candidates?
Russell Evans: It varies by candidate. We follow a process called "Targeted Selection" which is a program put on by DDI (Development Dimensions International). We train our people how to interview using this method, and the specs for our jobs are based on competencies. Depending on the position, these might be things like strategic thinking, follow through and planning. We look for people that excel in those competencies tied to that specific job.
We have a pretty high standard on the quality of candidate we look for. In addition to the competencies, we also look at intangible qualities like teamwork. We want people who are good communicators, able to work through conflicts, can collaborate across different types of organizations, and then achieve break through results with that collaboration.
Robin: Where do you like to find candidates?
Evans: My best success has been through LinkedIn or referrals. I’ve been able to find top quality employees through people I’ve worked with over the years. Sometimes we use local publications like Crain’s Chicago Business and Careerbuilder to advertise openings.
Robin: Do candidates who come through referrals rise to the “top” quicker? Does OnCourse have an employee referral program?
Evans: No, even people that have been referred in go through the same process as everyone else. OnCourse Learning does not have an employee referral bonus program in place.
Robin: What is the most important thing you consider in assessing a candidate?
Evans: The most important thing is that they are able to give clear examples of things that they have done. We interview in teams of 3, as a panel, and look for past behavior, which is the best predictor of future results. Typically, we don’t ask hypothetical or theoretical questions. We are looking for people that can give solid examples of what they’ve done. Candidates that can give us a description of the actions they have taken and state clear results. They don’t have to have results that necessarily knock it out of the park, but they need to take us through the actions of what they have done and demonstrate a mastery of their competency.
Another thing is we’re all taught to be team players, right?. So, a lot of times people answer questions with "we." We’re actually looking for what they did as an individual, so it is okay to use “I” when discussing what you’ve done in the past.
Towards the end of an interview, we’ll use motivation fit questions. We want to know what type of work environment they enjoy or don’t enjoy. We ask these questions to try to understand if the person is going to be a fit within our culture.
Robin: How important is a person’s resume in the hiring process? How about a cover letter?
Evans: A cover letter is not important at all. Rarely do I see a cover letter, and I would never make a decision based on that. With a resume I’m looking for specific digital marketing skills like Marketo, Pardot, Hubspot, HTML5, etc. We want to know if do you have these certain types of skills sets. However, the more fact based you can be, the better. I like to see they did this and this was the result, for example the amount of leads generated or revenue.
I don’t have a ton of time to look at resumes, so ones with results will catch my eye.
I overlook resumes with just skills and no concrete career history. So, if there are no specific time frames for where you’ve done these things, I’ll skip over those resumes pretty quickly.
Robin: Do you check out candidates on LinkedIn before you speak to them?
Evans: I assume HR does. Sometimes my department posts a job, but the resumes come to HR. We then talk to HR about the competencies we are looking for. The HR person does look at LinkedIn because the post is there. I will then look at their profile.
LinkedIn is not like a resume, so I am not looking for all the terms as I mentioned before, but it would be nice to see their projects they have done. I do look for things that show experience with strategy, market research, brand launches, and brand management.
Personally, I don’t pay attention to the recommendations. I think just because someone doesn’t have any, it doesn’t pertain to their qualifications. It may just be your personality that caused you not to ask for recommendations. Certainly, it doesn’t hurt, but I won’t skip someone that doesn’t have recommendations.
I do look at what their degree is in.
Robin: What tips do you have for someone looking to further their career in marketing?
Evans: Marketing today is becoming specialized in certain areas. We have people on our team that are heavy on technology vs. others that are heavy on creative. For example, we have a channel team and brand team. You have very different types of skills sets.
Before, marketing was a bit more general. Today, you need to decide on the direction you need to go. If you like the analytics and the programming, then digital is a good route. If you’re not in digital today and want to go to that, I would recommend attending a boot camp before you jump into that. If you want more of a marketing manager role, I suggest getting skilled in market research. I think market research is a lost art. It’s hard to find people that do market research in a fact-based way. If you want to progress and lead a marketing department or become a CMO you need to get a flavor of all those areas.
Robin: What is your favorite recruiting story?
Evans: I have been using the Targeted Selection method for a long time. When I was at Nielson, I brought it there. We got a resume for an entry-level marketing job from someone who was currently a bar tender. She did have a marketing degree, and when you looked at her resume, you could see her competencies fit really well. Then she knocked it out of the park in interview. So even though we got a hard time for bringing someone in that was a bar tender, she worked out really well. Today she’s a mid-level manager at PepsiCo. I really believe when you find someone with the core competencies that match the role you can teach them the other pieces they need.
Robin: Do you have any favorite questions you like to ask in interviews?
Evans: I’ll answer this in two ways. First, I don’t have specific questions during the regular interview process because I stick to the process. The process is all about asking for examples to demonstrate the competencies we’re looking for.
Then, at the end of the interview when we talk about motivational fit, I’ll ask some specific questions. Something like, “Using adjectives, describe you most ideal (or least) ideal work environment.” This helps give me a sense of the culture they would like or not like to be in.
Robin: What is your best advice for job candidates seeking a marketing position?
Evans: I would say it depends on where you’re at in your career. If you’re still in school, get a marketing, journalism or communications degree. If you’ve started your career and don’t have marketing experience, get an MBA.
Sometimes what they call marketing is nothing more than sales, but it’s a different type of sales job. If you like being across the table from the customer, then go for a sales type of role. If you like the power of persuasion, create some presentations or decks or write some copy. Show people you have the ability to use words to persuade action.
Finally, the more fact-based you are, the better chance you will have in landing the job. Marketing is becoming more, and more, and more, a fact-based discipline.
OnCourse Learning earned a place on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies for the third year in a row this year. Perhaps it’s an organization you want to check out to help grow your career. Visit oncourselearning.com to view their open positions and learn more.
Are you a marketing executive who wants to share your hiring best practices? I’d love to talk to you. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The toughest marketing challenge of all is marketing you, and the purpose of this blog is to help marketing superstars, like you, conquer that challenge and excel in your career.
Passionate about direct marketing and helping people find jobs, Michelle Robin has translated her extensive B-to-B marketing background into a career focused on her true love: creating powerful career marketing documents that lead to interviews at her clients’ target organizations. As Chief Career Brand Officer at Brand Your Career, she works with executive-level sales and marketing professionals across the U.S., and helps them discover their personal brand and fast track their job search.
An award-winning and dual-certified resume writer (NCRW and PARW), Michelle’s work has been published in the book, Modernize Your Resume: Get Noticed...Get Hired.
Need help discovering your personal brand? Download Michelle’s free Personal Branding Workbook. Just launching your job search? Get 26 action-packed tips to accelerate your marketing job search. You can also connect with Michelle on Twitter, LinkedIn, or email.