And now, let me get to my point. This article topic came directly from questions we get when talking to companies about using our software and adopting a more inbound approach to marketing. So if you're curious about the qualities to look out for in an inbound marketing manager, and how to evaluate and interview your candidates, this post will give you my two cents as a CMO. Feel free to take some tips from my approach and adopt them for your own hiring process. And if you find yourself sitting on the other side of the inbound marketing interview table, read this article on how to get hired as an inbound marketer.
What I Look for in an Inbound Marketing Manager
The perfect inbound marketing manager has a variety of different skills. At HubSpot, we like to use the acronym "DARC," which stands for digital, analytical, reach, and content:
- Digital means they live their lives online and are familiar and comfortable with blogging, social media, and the web in general.
- Analytical means they like to measure what they do, and they make decisions based on data.
- Reach means they have a knack for growing their network by creating a gravitational attraction to what they do -- and people want to follow their work.
- Content means they are naturally a content creator, and they're not afraid of it. (You’d be surprised how many people are scared of writing a blog article.)
Domain expertise can also be important. If you market to aerospace engineers, you want to hire an inbound marketer who can have something interesting to say to aerospace engineers. Don't overlook this. It can be harder to learn a highly technical industry than it can be to learn the fundamentals of inbound marketing. Because of this, you might be better off hiring the best blogger for your industry, even if they claim not to know anything about marketing. Alternatively, you could hire an inbound marketer who will interview your domain experts (e.g. executives, evangelists, product managers) and then create and publish content based on that research. But even in that case, you still need to make sure the marketer can at least grasp the basic concepts of your industry and become fluent enough to be a solid interviewer and journalist for your industry.
In addition to these specific traits, I personally like to look for a balance of of both creative and quantitative tendencies in the people I hire for inbound marketing. Not only do you want to hire an inbound marketer who has the creativity to come up with new ideas for content and think of new ways to use tools to get results, but you also want someone who knows how to measure what they do and is motivated by moving the metrics. If they love creating content purely for the creativity of it, they are motivated for the wrong reason (if you want them to be a great marketer, that is). The key thing to consider here is that the truly great inbound marketer knows what goals and metrics you want to move, and then figures out how to combine available tools in new and interesting ways to drive the business results you want. Often, they are the first to try something new; always, they measure their results and see if what they did moved the metrics.
An example of this combination of skills at work would be publishing a press release composed entirely of tweets to announce an acquisition of a social media company. When we did that at HubSpot, we generated over 1,200 tweets of the hashtag included in that press release, as well as a whole lot of media coverage, even though the acquisition was small (fewer than 7 people) and not extremely newsworthy. Another example is someone adding social sharing links inside a PDF ebook when it had never been tried before, and then tracking the amount of sharing as a result ... and then optimizing those links over time to help your ebooks spread more. Because one of our inbound marketers tested this out on our team, today we get thousands of downloads of our HubSpot ebooks just from social sharing alone.
How I Review an Application for an Inbound Marketing Manager
Before the interview, do some thorough “online stalking” of your candidate. Truthfully, I don’t look at potential job candidates' resumes much except to grab that person's name so I can type it into Google. As I'm searching for them, I look to see what their general web presence is like. How easy is it to find them? Do they have a blog? If they do, I will usually run it through Marketing Grader to see what their stats are. How often do they publish content? Is the content any good? I also take a look at their social profiles to see if they're active on sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Quora, Pinterest, etc. They don't need to be active in all of these places, but they should have a quality presence in at least one of them. If they're not still in school, I will also check out their current company, run that website through Marketing Grader, and see if their current marketing is any good. You'd be surprised how many people claim to have a lot of inbound marketing success on their resume, but in reality, have horrible Marketing Grader stats.
When I'm doing these initial audits, some of my personal pet peeves I look our for are (1) people who have an email address with hotmail.com, aol.com, or an ISP like Verizon or Comcast, and (2) people who don't have a personalized URL for their LinkedIn profile. While these things might not get a candidate eliminated for sure, they do indicate a lack of proficiency with inbound marketing. Similarly, I prefer when a candidate's resume is in a PDF file (not a Word doc), when the candidate includes a link to his or her LinkedIn profile in the email text, and when the text of their cover letter is in the text of the email -- not in an attachment. Those things indicate to me that the applicant is proficient in how people use the web and that they thought about making their credentials easily accessible to me. Finally, while a paper resume sent via snail mail to my office will get through the clutter (I do open non-junk mail), it's not ideal because I can’t forward the piece of paper or share it with others easily.
How I Interview Inbound Marketing Managers
First off, I like to interview people in person -- or, if geography does not allow for that, on Skype. I don't do many phone screens. I personally feel like the phone screen is a holdover from the pre-internet days when its purpose was to get some additional detail beyond the information on a person's one-page resume. Today, I can learn all that and more by doing some online snooping.
During the interview, I like to ask more “case-style” questions. I learned about this technique in business school, because it's how all the consulting firms interview. This question type got its name from how business schools use case studies as a teaching method. Case-style questions give the candidate an opportunity to show how they think about and work on problems, rather than just telling me the same prepared stories about the bullet points on their resume.
An example of a case-style question would be to draw a marketing funnel on a whiteboard, adding in some numbers for visitors, leads, opportunities, and customers. Then, ask the candidate to pretend those are the real numbers for your business, and ask them what they would do if they were the CMO. I like this question, because it makes the candidate do some analysis out loud, and then you can quickly get into talking about both marketing strategy and tactics. Or, if you're interviewing a potential blogger, you can show them the stats for your blog overall and for an average article, and ask them what they would do if they managed your blog. The key with these questions is to keep the overall questions broad, but then get into specific details by asking a number of follow-up questions ...
“Okay, you say we should blog more often ... how often? How do you know when it's too often? How would you create that additional content? What would you measure to know if your strategy worked or not? Let’s say you doubled the blog's publishing frequency. What would happen to the stats next month?” ( ... and so on and so forth)
Using these case-style questions allows you to not only evaluate whether the candidate has the DARC attributes, but also if they're a good balance of creative and quantitative in how they approach problems. Sure, you could ask them questions like, “Are you analytical? Can you give me an example?” but I personally feel like it is too easy to fake your way through questions like that. For more information about how to evaluate potential inbound marketing hires, check out our post about "How to Recruit and Evaluate Marketing Interns," and stay tuned for an upcoming article where I'll share some of my favorite marketing interview questions.