Let's face it: Getting a job in marketing isn't easy these days. As more and more companies realize the importance of implementing a successful inbound marketing strategy, they're becoming even more selective about who they'll hire to take charge of their marketing efforts.
So how do you get a job in marketing?
To help you get a head start in your job hunt or quest for a marketing promotion, we've compiled a list of 17 qualities that managers look for when hiring or promoting an inbound marketer.
We've broken these qualities into 3 categories: Core Behavioral Traits, Key Marketing Skills, and Specialized Skills. Use this list to evaluate in which areas you excel and which skills you need to focus on developing further to set yourself up for inbound marketing success.
The online world changes every day, so it’s important that you have a natural inclination to question ideas, processes, and tactics -- both old and new. An inquisitive marketer will be helpful in revealing weaknesses, flaws, or even identifying additional opportunities in their work by asking the right questions about your marketing strategy and methodologies.
There are specific ways you can become a more inquisitive and more curious person, which my colleague Carly Stec wrote about in this post. A few of these include asking lots of questions, reading content that's outside your comfort zone, listening without judgment, embracing change, and learning how to actively change your perspective.
2) You're adaptable.
Being inquisitive and curious is one thing, but being able to actually adapt to that change (and even be psyched about it) is another. As we’ve discussed, the challenges that a marketing team faces will inevitably change. New challenges will come up all the time, and if you can't change how you work and/or what you're working on with a good attitude, then you won't rise very far.
As Scott Stratten wrote in his book Unmarketing, the ever-changing marketing landscape isn't the only reason adaptability is important; it's also because of the ever-changing demands of your brand or your client. For these reasons, you've got to be comfortable adapting to changes and be able to “roll with the punches” when necessary.
3) You're decisive.
Surprises are normal for most marketers. A campaign could unexpectedly underperform, or sales leads could suddenly plateau. A good inbound marketer can pivot quickly and make decisions on how to prioritize their time and capitalize on these surprises. You should recognize that making decisions involves taking risks, but it's almost always better to do something than nothing. Most companies want to move forward knowing mistakes will be made.
That being said, don't confuse decisiveness with rash decision-making. A decisive person still takes time to gather necessary information, encourages feedback from their team, and gains perspective from people whose viewpoints might be helpful or even critical, like HR or operations.
4) You get s*** done.
While this competency is ... direct, it is also quite simple: inbound marketing takes work. While outbound marketing is less about nimbleness and more about your budget, inbound marketing requires you to take control of your business' website and online presence. Inbound marketers today need to be a lot smarter and a lot more proactive when it comes to their marketing programs.
Sometimes, generating results means working harder, faster, or stronger -- big campaign successes often require a major effort. Businesses want a candidate that can face that kind of challenge with confidence. They also want someone who doesn't sacrifice quality for quantity; remarkable inbound marketers know how to strike a balance between the two.
5) You're transparent.
Being close-lipped and closed off doesn't just hurt the hiring managers -- it hurts the candidates, too. Some candidates feel like they have to keep it to themselves that they're interviewing at multiple places, for instance. Others feel as though they should act more aspirational and say they want to be a manager in the future. But it's totally OK to not want that -- or to not know -- if the role you're applying for doesn't call for it. If you approach an interview with the attitude that you just want to get hired no matter what, you're bound to be disappointed down the line.
Key Marketing Skills
6) You can write well.
The ability to write is one of the most important skills in the inbound marketing world. Every day marketers write ebooks, social updates, emails, website pages, and so on, that attract customers to your business and represent your company.
While most people can write, not many do it well -- and effective copywriting in marketer requires you to write well, and write with a marketing slant. You need to know how to produce scannable copy, whether it's by breaking down the features and benefits of their products for the web, or by breaking up blog posts with headers to encourage casual readers to keep going.
Here are a few resources to help you improve your marketing writing skills:
What good is a deep understanding of your industry if you can’t share that knowledge with your market? The ability to teach is integral to inbound marketing, especially if a business wants to create content that can establish your company as a thought leader and attract new customers to your business.
Hiring managers don't want to see your blog posts and ebooks crammed full of product content, for instance. Instead, they want to see a focus on creating educational content that runs parallel to your product or service offering -- and they want to see that you're able to break down any complicated concepts or terminology in a way that's easy for your readers to understand.
8) You're a quick learner.
Just as important as being able to teach is your ability to learn and understand new things. A marketer might need to create content, analyze metrics, and implement tactics that he or she may have to learn on the fly. A team can be more nimble when led by people who can learn and comprehend new strategies quickly. Show your hiring manager you're a quick learner by emphasizing your willingness and ability to experiment and adapt to new challenges.
9) You understand the industry.
You should have a firm understanding of your industry in order to teach its best practices and have context to draw from. The deeper the industry understanding you have, the more authority your content will hold.
If you're switching industries, showing you're a quick learner is even more important. Research and preparedness can, to a point, make up for your lack of experience. To get started, follow and read blogs on your target industry, follow key industry influencers on social media, research industry benchmarks, and so on.
When you're writing your inbound marketing resume, include goals and metrics that hiring managers can use to compare you against other candidates, and make sure those metrics make sense and aren't confusing. Examples include:
Drove 37% improvement in newsletter clickthrough rates by rewriting sales copy.
Grew ecommerce sales 23% in just 6 months by redesigning and A/B testing all landing pages.
Even if you don’t work on the product marketing team at your current company, your manager is looking for people who understand the business’s product or services in and out. Take time to truly understand the goals of the business as it pertains to the product or service it sells. If you know someone with access to the product or service and can talk to them about it or request a free trial, then go right ahead.
12) You're "T-shaped."
If you wear multiple hats at a business, you may be known as a “horizontal line.” While having the ability to tackle various projects competently is valuable, it can only take you so far if it’s not balanced with a specialized strength.
Excel is a powerful tool that we sometimes take for granted. With the right training and experience, marketers with an advanced understanding of Excel can create powerful spreadsheets to break down important metrics, and allow a marketing team to better understand the numbers behind the strategies.
Many marketers have the opportunity to give talks and present educational content to the public or for groups within their company. Whether that talk is a conference keynote or a presentation to a boss, public speaking is a valuable skill to add to your team dynamic -- and it'll also impress hiring managers.
With video content on the rise as a preferred method of media consumption, having a marketer with a background in video production can give a team a real competitive advantage. A skilled video producer on a team makes creating video content in-house on a regular basis possible.
User experience has become more and more focused on design and conversion, making it essential for marketers to have at least a base level of design knowledge. If a business prioritizes the design of ebooks, infographics, social images, or other visual content, a marketer who has experience with Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, or Illustrator can be a major asset to a marketing team and the company as a whole.
There's been a lot of talk over the past few years about whether coding is the next must-have skill of the modern marketer. After all, code is what lies behind so many of marketers' great marketing campaigns.
That's why marketers should gain a basic understand of HTML at the very least to understand the structures that bring their websites, apps, and tools to life. Even if you don't have to do a lot of hard coding yourself, knowing the basics will help empower you to make quick fixes, and help you communicate effectively with developers when you do need help with something.
Even if you don't have every single skill on this list, it doesn't mean you can't be a great inbound marketer. That being said, be sure to spend some time developing your weaker skills so you can put yourself in the best position possible to become an inbound marketing rockstar.
What other skills do you think inbound marketers should have? Share with us in the comments.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in April 2014 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
Originally published May 19, 2016 7:00:00 AM, updated November 30 2018