Let’s not beat around the bush: Hiring a marketing team is hard.
While most roles can be filtered efficiently based on advanced degrees, knowledge about certain programming languages or theoretical concepts, or Github repositories, marketing roles don’t have such clear signals or filters. Anyone from a scrappy high school dropout to an established marketing exec from a large company could be incredible or horrible on your team.
Additionally, each role on a marketing team is different. If you’re growing your marketing team by 5 people, you’re usually not hiring 5 people that have similar profiles, like you might for full-stack engineers or data scientists. (This may not apply to much larger marketing teams.) Instead, you’re hiring a SEM (search engine marketing) manager, then a paid social manager, then a data analyst, a copywriter, a graphic designer, etc. Each role is unique and has to be designed from scratch.
But these challenges bring with them the joy and opportunity to craft every role on your team in a fresh way. To thrive in the noisy hiring environment, I recommend carefully curating your hiring and development funnel to attract and cultivate a diverse team.
Figure out what you’re looking for and why
I like to start my job searches with a pretty intense hiring brief. These briefs usually end up being about 20 pages long, though I’ll acknowledge that H1 font and bullets take up a lot of space. My hiring briefs have a few components to them, including:* Job description (the only part shared externally)* Evaluation criteria (tied to our internal performance evaluation rubric): This section explicitly distinguishes between need-to-haves and nice-to-haves* Interview plan: I define each interview’s objectives and its interviewers up front; interviewers are even given suggested questions to accomplish their objectives* Companies that might have my ideal candidate, other roles and job descriptions that are close to what I’m looking for (creating a “seed audience” for my recruiters, if you will).
The primary beneficiary of the hiring brief is actually me. Going through this exercise helps me clarify the scope and expectations for the role.
Besides helping me define the role, hiring briefs help each interviewer understand how they should be spending their time and how their interview fits into the broader evaluation of the candidate.
Develop a portfolio of recruiting channels and resources
Depending on the resources available to you, it might be helpful to implement multiple recruiting channels. At Upstart, I’ve worked with RevelOne, Resolute Staffing, and Golden Gate Recruits.
RevelOne is a well-oiled machine that helps define roles and identify experienced growth and marketing talent. As ex-marketers themselves, they deeply understand the user acquisition and performance marketing needs of tech companies.
Resolute is smaller and more nimble. They’ve been great at supporting a variety of different roles, ranging from content marketing to growth modeling.
Golden Gate is less traditional: Golden Gate specializes in placing ex-consultants and ex-bankers into tech companies. Their focus is not on marketing, but if you need a high-achieving generalist with a strong toolkit of analytics, project management, strategy, and communication skills, Golden Gate can be a great resource.
If working with external recruiters is too resource-intensive, there’s a plethora of job-posting platforms available to you: Hired, AngelList, LinkedIn, Dribble, and Behance.
Craft an intentional interview process to maximize signal while minimizing bias
Once you’ve figured out the expectations for the role, be intentional about your interview process to ensure that you’re looking for the skills you want and minimizing bias. Each interview should have a clear purpose. Once the interview is over, the interviewer should have an evaluation of the candidate’s ability at a skill defined in the hiring brief. They should have evidence to support this evaluation.
Design different types of interview styles to allow candidates with diverse strengths to showcase them in various contexts. Not everyone is great at the conversational interview, which typically favors extroverts and verbal communicators. A take-home assignment might be better for people who prefer to spend more time thinking before speaking.
Continue cultivating diversity once team members have joined
Cultivating diversity doesn’t stop once the offer has been accepted. The way your team interacts and promotes growth all contribute to maintaining a thriving ecosystem of different styles and perspectives.
At Upstart, our Growth Team has separately defined tracks for individual contributors and managers. We also work with short-term consultants (who audit strategies), long-term consultants (who work part-time on the team), contractors, interns, and employees on a temp-to-hire program. It can add complexity to work with these different employment types. However, having the flexibility to do so can allow you to test into different risks in the hiring process, or accommodate certain lifestyles that don’t conform to a traditional corporate setting.
There’s no one right way to structure your team. I’ve found it helpful to talk in detail with VPs of marketing and other team leaders about how their teams are structured. This post by Andrew Chen is a helpful place to start.
Beyond org structure, we try to foster a culture of empathy and feedback on the team. We debrief almost everything together and are constantly asking each other for feedback. We even have an internal debate club in which team members are randomly assigned to a side to empathize with positions that may not naturally be our own.
This field is changing quickly. The marketers of 10 years ago are not the marketers of today, who will be different from the marketers of tomorrow. If you’re clear and intentional at every stage of the funnel, you’ll both identify and attract the right candidates that will help your team flourish. Starting with a clear brief, developing a portfolio of recruiting channels, carefully curating the interview process, and sustaining that diversity through culture and talent management will help you design your ideal team.
I want to emphasize that hiring isn’t a discrete process from managing talent. Talent management philosophies and hiring philosophies should be aligned, but I rarely see managers try and connect the two. You should hire the people that will actually succeed on your team, and your performance rubrics should reflect the skills that you actually value!
Hiring is the most leveraged way that you as a manager can have an impact. So be intentional.
Jungwon is the Head of Growth at Upstart, where she oversees all of Upstart’s user acquisition strategies across performance marketing, analytics, partnerships, design, and content. Upstart is an online lending platform powered by machine learning. Sixty percent of Upstart’s loans are fully automated, and the company has originated more than $3BN to date.