Key Traits Employers Look For In Upcoming Marketing Stars

Finding the right talent to fill a certain role can be tricky. Columnist Sonny Ganguly explains how to identify candidates who go above and beyond.

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Since 2015 is the year Millennials will overtake Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, one would assume that you’d have a steady stream of fresh-faced candidates ready to be your next marketing star. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

Although competition for marketing jobs is high, 51% of human resource managers report that they have current openings for which they can’t find qualified candidates (PDF), and 46% say these positions go unfilled for three months or longer. Finding the right marketing hire to fill a particular role can be a difficult and time-consuming undertaking.

Of course, one must start with a solid evaluation of the candidate’s track record of success to date. This gives us a good gauge of what we might expect from a candidate based on their career progression and the degree of impact they’ve had in previous jobs.

When I think about finding and acquiring the right talent, I try to find candidates who fit within the center of three circles: skill set, work ethic and passion. Each of these circles is important in its own right. But a candidate who meets the criteria of all three is the “sweet spot” of the candidate pool and will drive success in the future.

Upcoming marketing stars have the skill set to enable them to succeed, the work ethic to push them forward, and the passion to keep them constantly innovating.

Often I find candidates that have the right skill set and work ethic, but lack the passion for the business.  Ultimately, we want our employees to love what they do, but also have a passion to drive success for the overall business.

These three basics will get you solid marketing candidates, but how do you know they are the right two-way fit for your company?

At WeddingWire, we take it one step further to find not only the best talent, but the right match to our unique environment. I try to ensure that each new marketer embodies our 5 Core Values:

  1. Delight Customers,
  2. Work Smart,
  3. Be Curious,
  4. Be Bold, and
  5. Fail Fast.

The Basics: Skill Set

The most basic qualifier for marketing candidates is their skill set. Many employers may view the skill set as what’s on a candidate’s resume or LinkedIn profile, but it goes beyond that.

When evaluating candidates for a marketing position, consider each of the following factors in a candidate’s overall skill set:

• Required skill set. The skills necessary for the daily tasks required of the position are just one part of the skill set. Most marketing positions require strong communication and writing skills, plus whatever technical knowledge they’ve acquired in past positions. These are all required for them to succeed at the very basic level.

• Preferred skill set. Beyond what the candidate needs to know to do the job at hand, the preferred skill set for the position may include an understanding of other areas of marketing, depending on the position.

A marketing associate you hire to update your website or blog may need knowledge of SEO/SEM, social media marketing, content curation and creation, email marketing, or more. Add to that ancillary knowledge like HTML, CSS, or graphic design, and your candidate has quite the shoes to fill.

• Adaptability. Marketing is constantly evolving; there are always new channels and opportunities to address, and it’s important that your employee be up to the challenge.

As marketing technology gets more and more complex, marketing stars are able to adapt quickly to deliver results without wasting time or effort. They enjoy learning and evolving.

Be Eager To Delight Customers

It’s time to recognize that customer delight is not only the responsibility of your customer service or sales departments. The desire to delight customers should extend across your organization, but it is particularly important for marketing employees.

With so many online customer touch points available today — your website, contact forms, social media accounts, etc. — it’s important that anyone who interacts with your customers has delight in mind.

Delighting your customers isn’t just a “feel good” initiative, especially in terms of your business’ growth and viability. It’s a generally accepted adage that it costs businesses six to seven times more to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one, so it’s a good idea to focus on keeping those customers that you have already won over.

Marketing stars who aim to delight customers are those who are willing to go above and beyond what’s asked of them to make each and every customer feel valued. No matter the channel or the interaction, your marketing staff should respond quickly, kindly and informatively to ensure the customer has nothing but great things to say about your business as a whole.

Work Smarter, Harder & With Passion

The old adage that hard work pays off is still in play in today’s digital world, but it’s evolved beyond that now. Modern marketers need to be able to work smart, not just hard. When evaluating candidates on their work style, look for the following traits:

• Smart Working. Upcoming marketing stars who work smart identify new processes and technologies to prioritize efficiency and multi-task across a number of projects. They’ve been trained to be creative and think like entrepreneurs, meaning that they are more likely to forge their own paths than stick to the conventional ways of doing things.

Marketing stars will complete their tasks and pivot quickly to the next priority.

• Hard Working. That being said, working hard is also still very important and always will be. An efficient employee who saves your company time and money with a new solution should also be productive with the excess time and money. Your next marketing hire should still give his or her all during each and every work day.

If a new technology platform or process does not yield results, there’s no substitute for hard work and a passion to deliver. Employers should look for candidates who possess both smart and hardworking qualities in order to ensure optimal results.

• Work With Passion. While all of the other areas described in this post are important, the impact of a candidate’s passion should not be understated.

Passionate employees go above and beyond what is expected of them to get the job done — and done well. They are driven by internal motivators, even when an incentive is not present, and believe in the value of their work.

Be Curious

The best marketing employees are often the most curious. Naturally curious people will look for creative ways to solve the problem at hand, but they’ll also be curious about the cause of the problem and how it can be prevented in the future.

Curious people question both successful and unsuccessful outcomes in order to understand why a project worked or why it didn’t work. Hiring a curious employee as your next marketing star will likely help your business open the door to the next big idea or innovation.

Especially if your business is in a competitive environment, hiring curious people should be a priority to help keep you stay ahead of the competition.

Be Bold

Today’s marketing stars are bold and courageous. They’re not afraid to take chances and confront reality.

Bold employees make decisions and move forward without second-guessing, and in this way they lead change within your organization. Hiring a bold employee will shake up the status quo and bring fresh ideas into the mix.

Boldness is a hard-to-measure quality, but it indicates an employee’s capacity for leadership and decision-making. Just be sure to set expectations so they stay within essential boundaries or follow key processes as they jump into their bold and exciting new ideas.

Fail Fast

Additionally, with the marketing profession increasingly growing to include new positions and specialty areas in the past few years, employers are facing the problem of identifying the right candidate for a position with no history.

A new position means that there are no established processes or predecessors — it’s up to your trusted marketing star to forge his or her own path without a guide.

Whether the position is new or not, any upcoming marketing stars you consider should not be afraid to fail; they should fail fast and learn from it. Employers should look for a candidate who can quickly pivot on a project if it doesn’t prove as successful as predicted.

Failing at a given project is not an indication of the candidate’s abilities; it’s how he or she reacts and continues forward that indicates a candidate’s capacity for success in marketing. Your next marketing star will be a self-starter who isn’t afraid to try new things, but he or she should also be ready to take responsibility for missteps and come up with new strategies to reach the desired goal.

Finding a good balance of skill set, work ethic and passion is the start to finding your next rockstars, but you also have to ensure there is a strong two-way fit with your organization. Our five core values help us identify the best candidates that will succeed in our unique environment. I am confident you can find a number of parallels in your hiring process.

What has worked best for you in your company? I welcome your thoughts in the comments!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Sonny Ganguly
Sonny Ganguly leads WeddingWire's B2C/B2B marketing strategy, customer acquisition, and community development. Today, WeddingWire is the leading marketplace connecting consumers with event merchants, with an audience of over 40 million visitors each month across its network. In addition, Sonny is a widely acclaimed speaker, giving over 50 presentations across the globe each year on technology, marketing and strategy. Prior to joining WeddingWire, Sonny was in a management program at Wal-Mart where he led marketing, sales, and retail strategy development. Before this experience, Sonny spent four years at Kraft Foods where he managed numerous consumer brands, including the JELL-O business with P&L responsibility for over $800 Million. Sonny holds a B.A. in Economics with a focus in Management and Marketing from The University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, where he served as President of the Marketing Club. Sonny is a founding member of NextGen Angels and an active member of the CMO Club, where he was awarded as a CMO Rising Star.

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