Recruiting Marketers: What’s the one weird thing you need?

When I’m talking with entrepreneurs or recruiters who are looking for advice on how to recruit the right marketer for a position, I always tell them that there is no perfect candidate, or perfect place to find them. Inevitably, it’s a lot of networking, LinkedIn and sweat.

But, you can narrow the pool by better articulating exactly which kind of marketer you need. The key is to ask yourself: what is the skill that I can’t afford to have this candidate to learn on the job in the first 3-6 months? In order words, what’s the one weird thing that you need?

I recently finished Ben Horowitz’s book about being a CEO, The Hard Thing About Hard Things. In one of the chapters, he gives the advice to hire someone who will have the skills necessary to help the company for the next 18 months. After that, it’ll be a completely different company.

That advice applies to a company of any size and really gets to my point above: If you’re hiring someone with an 18 month horizon, then they need to hit the ground running in the first 1/3 of that time (<6 months).


Types of Critical Skills

What matters in a marketing candidate is entirely dependent on your product, customer type, existing marketing team, company stage, etc.

Here are some examples:

  • B2B marketing vs B2C
  • Media buying vs. unpaid marketing
  • Direct response vs. brand
  • Early vs. growth vs. mature stage companies
  • Acquisition vs. Retention/CRM
  • Channel expertise: Digital (SEO, SEM, Email), Offline (TV, out of home, catalog)
  • Skill expertise: Product marketing, PR, partnerships, business development, conversion rate optimization, etc.
  • Domain expertise: Retail, flowers, small business, etc.
  • Business stage expertise: startups, growth marketing, etc.

You can cut the field a thousand different ways. You must identify the essential few skills that are going to have the greatest impact in the near term. You may find that a more junior candidate who has deep product marketing experience can grow into the role and is more easily hired.

I had a great conversation with Jared Hecht at Fundera, a First Round Capital company. He’s hiring a Head of Growth.

So many of the skills above apply to the role, but there’s one thing that really stands out to me: marketing to small businesses. They are a particular group with different needs that are hard to find. Someone who understands that customer is going to have a distinctly easier time to develop a solid marketing plan than someone who just happens to be good at B2B or media planning.

Chances are that you’ve seen a lot of resumes, LinkedIn profiles and screened many candidates. But, really, what’s the one weird thing you need the most?