So, you’re looking to hire a new team member at your marketing agency. Where do you begin? The interview process, often by phone or face-to-face, is crucial to determining whether the potential hire will be a good fit. Anyone can beef up a resume to make it look impressive but how a hiring candidate acts and thinks on the fly will most likely be the determining factor for your final decision. Here are some of the best questions to ask when hiring for a marketing agency.
1. What do you know about our company and why do you want to work here?
Has the candidate done their research on your company? Do they truly want to work for you or do they just like the title, pay, or other benefits? Are they just looking for any old job in the marketing field? Are they willing to take any job, period? Never settle for someone who’s only knowledge of your company can be skimmed in your Indeed job listing.
This first question will weed out those who are dedicated to the perks of the job over the growth of the company. Someone with less experience but a fierce desire to work for you over others in the industry may be a more desirable pick for your team.
2. What are five strengths and five weaknesses of yours?
To be honest, you really only want the candidate to list 1-2 comprehensive strengths and weaknesses. Why ask for 5? Because the first 1-3 answers, particularly in the “weaknesses” category, are probably canned. You’ll hear plenty of “I have a hard time delegating” and “I get too involved in a task,” which are really just poorly disguised humble brags for “I work too hard.”
When you force the candidate to think beyond what they are prepared for, you will come up with more honest, creative, and interesting results. You will learn how they describe themselves when it is not staged and how good they are at marketing themselves on the fly.
3. What is one of our competitors doing in the market that you think we should emulate?
If you’re hiring for a marketing agency, you’re going to want someone who is deeply engaged with their industry of choice. Someone who pays attention to what’s trending on Twitter isn’t good enough anymore. The right marketing candidate will see what others are doing and will have opinions on how to emulate their success and leverage incoming trends before they become oversaturated.
This also demonstrates that they know enough about your company to understand who some of your biggest competitors are. That means they really did their research to the nth degree. Some of it is just common sense, but a good candidate should have that in droves, as well.
4. Think about X marketing fail [use something current, like the SFX-less trailer for Tom Cruise’s The Mummy]; in an ideal world, how would you have handled a publicity crisis like this?
Case studies make people think. It’s not something they can really prepare for so it shows you what they are made of down to the core. You will also want to test how they would react in a crisis, whether their creative problem-solving skills can be honed on the fly, and what they understand about different audience types.
If you want to give them a bit more leeway, ask them to discuss what they see as a current marketing blunder and how they would have improved the scenario with unlimited resources. Any question that shows they a) pay attention and b) think critically, will be useful to you when making your final marketing decision.
5. You’ve seen our [website, newsletter, blog, product]—what is one thing you like about it and one thing you think we could improve?
This is a good test to see whether or not they have spent time with your content. It is also a check in to see how they deliver constructive feedback to potential colleagues. If their criticism is helpful but brutal, will they antagonize their team? Would you prefer someone who tells it like it is, or lightens the blow with positivity?
What you want out of this question will be subjective and will depend on the kind of team you want to build. No matter what you are looking for, asking for preemptive feedback will definitely tell you a thing or two about how your potential hire acts in a collaborative role, which is very important when you’re hiring for a marketing agency.
6. Tell me about using [any project management software for marketing agencies]—how did you use the tool to enhance or supplement your workflow?
Marketing agencies nowadays have to be tech-savvy and competent with up and coming software solutions. From Hootsuite to Synergist, there are always new systems emerging and changing the game. Ask a potential hire what project management software they are familiar with, how they used it, what they would recommend, et cetera.
See how they have, in the past, navigated project management tools for resource planning, time and/or expense tracking, digital asset management, and customer relations. Even simply checking whether they can list 3 or 4 reliable project management tools is a good indicator of their relevant experience.
7. What was the most interesting project you got to work on at your last job? Explain what appealed to you about it.
This is a sly way of asking a potential candidate to pitch a project to you. Listen for their enthusiasm, their comprehensiveness, and their professionalism. Not only can this question reveal their inner passion for marketing (or lack thereof) but you will get to watch their elevator pitch in action. Prepare to ask some follow-up questions to get a good sense of how deep their expertise goes.
If they can’t sell—really sell—a project with which they are already intimately familiar, how are they going to thrive in a new environment? If their most interesting project involved graphic design, but your work is primarily data-focuses, will they be the right fit? If they love social media campaigns but have no stats to back up their work, will they be able to actualize your goals?
8. What is your favorite subreddit and/or Twitter account to follow?
Slip in a question that shows that the candidate is involved in online culture. Someone who doesn’t at least have a cursory understanding of how Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook work internally will not be a huge asset to digital marketing efforts in today’s day and age. Some applications will even ask candidates to list a couple websites or blogs they frequent, just make sure they are absorbing information in line with your brand’s personality and style.
This goes hand-in-hand with checking out the aptitude of their personal and professional social media pages. Do they understand the basics of sponsored posts, hashtags, tagging, spam laws and other e-marketing musts? All the ideas in the world won’t mean much if they don’t know how to properly execute a campaign online.
9. Do you have any questions for me?
And be wary of anyone that says “No.” Some candidates forget that having good questions to ask at the end of an interview is just as much a part of the interview as, say, listing your soft and hard skills. And we’re not talking about “What salary are you offering?”, which can be considered a bit of a faux pas at this point. Look for questions that show preparedness and thought.
It’s a good rule of thumb that any potential hire should have one or two good questions to present at the end of an interview. If you’re hiring for a marketing agency, this is even more important. Anyone who isn’t constantly asking thought-provoking questions is probably not a good fit for a dynamic, creative industry such as this.
You’ll notice that we skipped over some of the more obvious points of interest: How do take constructive criticism? Talk about a time you used problem-solving. Do you work best alone or in groups? These are all important topics, as well, but the questions above are meant to elevate potential marketing agency hires that go above and beyond in their field. If your interviewee nails the resume, cover letter, and this barrage of uber specific questioning, you’ll be well equipped to make a final decision. May the best candidate win!
Ben Aston is a PM and Founder of The Digital Project Manager, an online resource with PM tips, guides, and project management tool reviews. He’s been in the industry for more than 10 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe, and DDB.