Looking to Hire a Marketer or maybe you are an online marketer looking for a job. It's a hard position to hire for! These HR tips are excellent for hiring managers but also super key for marketing resumes. This method will test your interview candidates to make sure they are actually adding value, not just using content marketing and social media buzzwords.

Lately, I’ve been hearing the same set of questions over and over again:

“Do you know anyone good for a demand gen role we have open?”

“I’m having a really hard time finding our first marketer”

“I need to build out my marketing team but am having a hard time finding good talent”

While most people might think that engineering roles are the hardest to fill, I think marketing roles have become even harder to hire for.

You can give software developers a coding test to tell whether they’re good or not.

But hiring for marketing is a little more ambiguous.

Education, resumes and even past performance have become bad indicators for future success in marketing.

For example, in marketing resumes you see things like:

“I grew site traffic at my company from x to y%”

“I contributed the highest volume of leads for my company”

“During my time at x company, our social media following grew from x to y

But what do those statements even mean? How can you REALLY tell if a candidate will be a good hire for your company and make an impact?

The reasons marketing roles are harder to fill stems from:

  1. Outdated hiring processes
  2. Ongoing change in technology and tactics
  3. And, yes, marketers themselves

There’s no clear cut test to indicate whether someone will be effective in their marketing role. So, in this post, I’m going to share some ideas from a marketers perspective, to companies, on how they can hire more effectively.

First I’ll outline the issues that make hiring a marketer a challenge, then I’ll give some suggestions to companies looking to hire marketers.

I created this hiring exercise template as a way to screen marketing hires. By using something similar to this marketing exercise for your business, you should better see how someone thinks strategically about marketing and how they would execute. It’s free if you’re on or join our email list:
Download the Sample Hiring Exercise here

The problems with hiring marketers

Marketers are good bullshitters

I’ll just come out and say it… marketers are good bullshitters. When hiring, as a marketer, I even have trouble deciphering whether someone knows what they’re talking about, or whether they’re just good at rattling off buzzwords and things they’ve read in articles.

marketing meme

A lot of the time, marketers will cite achievements on their resumes that they’re not entirely responsible for.

For example: revenue growth.

“I grew revenue from x to y in one year”

If I was looking at that blanket statement, the candidate better have a damn good answer to exactly how they did that. Because typically revenue growth touches multiple departments of the company – product, engineering, marketing, sales, etc.

I’ve found that in interviews, hiring managers don’t dig deep enough into what the person actually did at the company. This is especially true for marketers that come from well known companies. The hiring manager typically gets excited that they’re able to poach someone from a well-known startup or large company but don’t get into the weeds about how the person actually contributed to the growth of the company.

A name brand company doesn’t always mean a better candidate.

Education Doesn’t Prepare People for Success in Marketing

What school someone went to isn’t a good indicator of how successful they’ll be in a marketing role anymore.

It blows my mind when companies only want to hire Ivy League graduates.

While higher education is still important, for the most part, what marketers learn in University is theory. I’m not going to say that every school is like that, but most are.


For example: I graduated University in 2010 and didn’t take any classes in online marketing and didn’t learn about any of the online marketing specialities – inbound marketing, social media, e-mail marketing, etc. In 2010, when I graduated, most of the roles that companies were hiring for, were online marketing roles. When I landed my first role, I had to attend conferences, webinars, read, learn from my teammates, and get up to speed on the latest marketing trends.

School didn’t prepare me for my first role at all.

I don’t fully blame the problem on the education system, it’s more the fact that marketing is changing so quickly that it’s a huge challenge for any University to keep up with the rate of change.

I’d rather hire someone with real experience (and real accomplishments to show for themselves in marketing) than someone with just an Ivy League education any day. I’d also prefer a marketing candidate who goes through a program like TradeCraft over someone just out of University. I’d even rather hire someone who did a bunch of online training and then tried to execute on some of the tactics they learned in those courses, over people with just education.

The lesson is: practice and experience are much more indicative of someone’s success in marketing than someone with theory based education (and results are even better).

It’s Hard To Tell From a Resume if Someone Is Going to Be Good

I’m actually surprised when a company still wants a resume from a candidate.

Having recently hired for a role, I understand that there needs to be some way to filter candidates. But if all you’re looking at is a resume, then you’re likely missing great candidates.


Resumes don’t give a full-picture of what someone has actually done. And lots of times they’re misleading. They also don’t convey how passionate someone is about the role and the company – which is usually the greatest indicator of someone’s success.

Companies need to get with the times and start accepting side-projects, blog posts and other projects that show what people have done as an acceptable application.

For engineering roles, a candidate might show a company something they’ve built… Why has this still not become a widely accepted practice for hiring marketers?

If a company wants to judge people on resumes, I propose that for the screening process, they ask a challenge question to all candidates. This would filter out the non-serious candidates from the serious candidates, and would give a better idea of someone’s thought process before they sent over the resume. It would also keep companies from being biased about the company someone worked for or give preference to someone who went to the same school.

How Can Companies Hire Better Marketers?

Ask “The 5-Hows” During Interviews

In order to quickly cut through the BS in marketing interviews, I propose that companies start adopting the 5 hows framework.

“The 5 hows” is a take on the 5 whys process – a process made famous by Toyota to get to the root of any problem.

Instead of cutting to the root of any problem, your goal with “The 5 Hows” is to cut to the root of what someone actually did in their role.

Here’s how it would work in an interview situation:

Candidate: I grew ACME Paper Corp from $0-$100k in a year.

Interviewer: How did you do that?

Candidate: We grew through content marketing and guest posting

Interviewer: That’s really interesting. How were you able to grow that quickly?

Candidate: We published 3x a week and posted on sites like x, y, and z

Interviewer: So how did you promote your content?

Candidate: We shared the post on Twitter and Facebook.

Interviewer: How much traffic did that drive on a monthly basis?

Candidate: 1000 visitors

Interviewers: So how did you convert traffic to revenue?

Candidate: We put calls-to-action on our blog and then those people turned into customers.

By following this process, you quickly can see if someone is just using buzzwords or if someone knows what they’re talking about.


While it might look like the above example was a good answer, as a marketer, I would really question the legitimacy of the above answers from the candidate. These answers seem very vague and like the person has been reading a lot of blog posts on marketing.

As a marketer hiring another marketer, I’d look for specific examples of what the person did.

Here’s an acceptable answer to the 5 hows:

Candidate: I grew ACME Paper Corp from 0-100k in a year.

Interviewer: How did you do that?

Candidate: We grew through content marketing and guest posting

Interviewer: That’s really interesting. How were you able to grow that quickly?

Candidate: Well we started by posting two blogs a week on our company blog, then one blog went viral and we got 20,000 visitors from that one post. From there we went after industry experts to write content for us and we also located other blogs that had a high amount of traffic to do guest posts for, and we pitched our articles to them. This gave us massive legitimacy and let us use the experts’ networks to promote.

Interviewer: So how did you promote your content?

Candidate: We found communities that had our target market in them and then shared our posts within those communities. We also created a community on Facebook and tried to engage our target market there.

Interviewer: How much traffic did that drive on a monthly basis?

Candidate: When I left, we ended up with 20,000 visitors on a monthly basis.

Interviewers: So how did you convert traffic to revenue?

Candidate: We put calls-to-action that related to each post on our blog and converted blog visitors directly off the blog at 3%. That gave us 600 leads per month and then of those leads another 5% closed. Our average sale price was $3,500 and we closed 30 leads.

See the difference in responses? Most interviewers I’ve seen let the first example slide. But marketers that interview other marketers know how to tell marketing speak from real results.

Which brings me to my next rule…

Only Marketers Should Hire Marketers

Companies are finding it extremely hard to find the right fit for their team because people without marketing experience are hiring for marketing roles.

Let me ask you this:

Would you trust a marketer to hire a developer? An accountant to hire a product person?

If the answer is no, then why do CEOs and people without expertise in the field try to hire marketers? It’s a recipe for failure.

It sounds crazy, yet I see it happen all the time! And it’s frustrating for both parties.


When non-marketers try to hire marketers, especially at startups, the companies look like they don’t know what they’re doing. They ask the wrong questions in interviews, focus on the wrong metrics for success, and focus on the wrong types of candidates for the role.

This makes the good marketers not want to work for said company and good candidates get passed on all the time because the hiring manager isn’t able to recognize the good from the bad.

I’ve been asked questions like “how many golf balls fit inside a 747?”

And how many cups of coffee are in Manhattan?

…In marketing interviews.

While some might argue that they test for certain analytical skills or they test someone’s thought process, they don’t pertain to the role you’re hiring for… so stop asking them.

If you want to test for those kind of skills, at least create a question that has something to do with marketing.

You should have marketers hire other marketers because:

  1. In order for the five hows framework to work, you have to know what questions to ask AND you have to be able to know if someone really knows what they’re talking about.
  2. To know what questions you need to ask, you need to know about marketing and more specifically different specialities within marketing.
  3. Theory is much different from practice. Reading blogs posts and asking interview questions that are derived from them is going to lead you down the wrong path. The first example from the five whys framework sounded like a good answer, but practicing marketers can recognize marketing speak from results.

If you don’t have a marketer in your company to help you with hiring, call in a favor to friend or reach out to someone to help. You’ll be a lot more successful at finding a quality marketer if you can have another marketer help you hire.

Have Candidates Complete An Exercise, Show You A Side Project, Blog Posts They’ve Written, or Create a Plan

As I mentioned above, it’s become a widely accepted practice in other fields to show something you’ve done as an application for a role.

So why hasn’t this been adopted in marketing?


It’s a better indicator of the person’s talents when you’re able to see a blog post the person has written, a side-project they’ve created, or a case study from a candidate. That would give me better insight into their thought process and show me how well they can execute.

Ryan Hoover made the case that blogging is the new resume. I agree. In fact, the last role I applied for, I sent in a word document as my resume that just had links to every blog post I’ve written in marketing. That landed me an interview. However, that was at a progressive company. Most companies would say this form of a resume isn’t acceptable.

A side project also shows me how passionate someone is about marketing and shows me how well they can execute. If the person has a site they’ve built, a Facebook campaign they’ve run for someone, or a software product they’ve helped grow, that’s a lot more valuable to me than a resume.

If the candidate doesn’t have any of those things, then I typically have them either complete a short exercise or create a plan so I can see how they think.

An example exercise that I might give as an early test is this:

Describe a little bit about the company

Challenge: If you had $5k to spend in any way you wanted, how would you spend it and why?

Here’s a sample template of the exercise I’d give a candidate:
I created this hiring exercise template as a way to screen marketing hires. By using something similar to this marketing exercise for your business, you should better see how someone thinks strategically about marketing and how they would execute.
Download the Sample Hiring Exercise here

I’d much rather have candidates complete an exercise rather than see their resume. Having someone answer a question like this, quickly weeds out the people who know what they’re doing from the people who don’t.

Or if you’re hiring your first marketing hire, have the candidate create a plan that outlines how they would approach the role. But only do this for candidates that are far along in the hiring process. Use the challenge question early on and then have them complete a plan at later stages in the interview process.

Ask Marketers Who They Know

Lastly ask great marketers if they know other great marketers to hire. Marketers know the good ones from the bad ones and typically run in close circles with people that are at their same level.

If you’re looking for great candidates, just like you’d do in influencer outreach, ask the best marketers if they know of anyone who’d be good for the role that you have open.

Hiring Marketers Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

In conclusion, hiring marketers doesn’t have to be hard. However, companies need to change their approach to hiring to adapt to the new way of doing business.

In order to be successful hiring marketers, companies should rely less on resumes and vanity metrics like past companies they’ve worked for, and focus more on results that they’ve driven for themselves or other companies.

Your opinion is welcome in the comments below 🙂

P.S. Marketers, don’t think you got off so easy… Here’s my other post about how you should be applying for jobs these days.

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