How to Try Out a Growth Marketer Before You Hire One
The way a hiring process typically plays out, you screen a slew of growth marketer candidates, interview a few of them, and have one that you are leaning towards. Should you just go ahead and hire that person?
And what if you have to choose from several high-quality candidates? How do you make the right choice?
Going with a gut feeling isn’t the best hiring strategy. After all, this isn’t how you make your product or marketing decisions, right? You need to get hard evidence to back your choice by trying out the candidate in an actual work situation.
A trial can help you remove uncertainty from your hiring process. It allows you to prove the growth marketer you want to hire is legit and determine whether he is a great fit on your team.
Trial can be as short as a day or as long as a few months. It can take the form of a full-time engagement or a small side project. Whatever the format you choose, the point is that you should not skip this step in your hiring process.
Reasons for doing a trial
If you are a small team, hiring the wrong person for a growth role can be highly detrimental to your company’s success.
In particular, if you don’t have prior experience with the growth process, making a full-time hire without trying out the candidate may result in a mistake that can cost thousands of dollars and months of wasted time. A trial helps you reduce the risk of making a bad hire.
Isn’t a strong screening process effective enough to help you make an informed hiring decision? Not necessarily. Resumes and interviews don’t always give you a true view of growth marketer candidates.
The ability to write a great resume has nothing to do with how the person performs on the job. And no matter how experienced you are at interviewing people, it’s hard to tell from one-on-one conversations how good the person is at doing the actual work and how they will jell with your existing team.
Trials are a win-win solution for everyone involved. If you don’t continue with the candidate after the trial or if the candidate has a change of heart, you will have avoided an expensive hiring mistake.
Having a trial allows you to be more open-minded in your hiring process. Some candidates may have a strong skillset but don’t interview well. A trial allows you to see them in a different light and prove their level of expertise.
The candidate benefits, too, by getting a chance to experience what it’s really like working with you. In this regard, having a trial as part of your formal recruiting process may even help you attract high-quality candidates who always want to test the waters before making a long-term commitment.
Be clear on trial goals
What you are trying to accomplish in a trial? The primary goals are to assess the candidate’s skills, both technical and non-technical, productivity, and cultural fit.
Assess skills and productivity
Many founders fall into the trap of focusing on growth marketer’s credentials to validate their abilities. While prior experience is an important data point, being in a growth role at company X isn’t necessarily an evidence of the actual skills you’re looking for in your growth marketer. And it’s often hard to ascertain how much of the company success in prior roles can be attributed to that growth marketer’s individual performance.
By getting them to do some real work, you are making sure the growth marketer you are hiring can actually produce the required level of output and has the skills needed for the role.
Evaluate cultural fit
Even if the growth marketer that you want to hire is among the best in terms of his skills and potential, it doesn’t mean they are the best for your team. To quote Lex Sisney, author of Organizational Physics:
Consistently great teams don’t scout and hire for talent. They scout and hire for talent that is a supreme fit for their system. They always think about building a team with a strong collective identity at a fair price instead of just collecting individual talent at any price.
A trial gives both you and the candidate a much better chance of understanding the fit. You get to observe how well the growth marketer works and communicates with your team. And challenging a candidate in a trial also helps reveal her personality and get a better sense of whether her values are aligned with those that define your organization.
Best practices for structuring a trial
There are a few ways to conduct a trial depending on your situation and hiring dynamics in your market.
If it’s not practical to do a trial in the office or if you want to quickly assess multiple candidates, make them do a home assignment. Here are a few possibilities:
- Ask them to give you a short write-up on what they would do in the first 90 days after they come into the role. By this point in the hiring process, they should have a good amount of information about your company to come up with a viable answer.
- Hiten Shah suggests to write up an assignment with a real-life situation that they would be working on once they join, say, optimizing performance in one of the channels, and include relevant data. Then ask for their thoughts and analysis.
- Provide a brief for a campaign in one of your growth channels and see what they’re able to propose.
This trial format helps you calibrate the person in terms of their understanding of marketing strategy and tactics, approach to prioritization, creativity, and analytical capabilities, specifically in relation to your business.
One day/half-day onsite trial
If your interview process is sufficiently rigorous, you may not need more than a day (or even a half-day) of working together to see if a potential hire has the skills, work ethic, and personality to be a good fit.
Having the candidate work in your office and around your team helps you gauge many things that you won’t get a feel for in a take-home assignment, such as how well the candidate collaborates with others, deals with uncertainty, and “hacks” his way forward.
Your growth marketer candidate most likely has a full-time job, so ask her to take a day off. Prepare a specific problem to work on, ideally a challenge currently faced by your business, and work together.
Ladder, a growth marketing agency, invites candidates after the interview for a half-day paid workshop in the office, where they do real client work. They make the hiring decision that same day based on the quality of the work and fit with the team.
At Canva, hiring process for a growth marketer starts with a telephone interview which covers the candidate’s work history, interests, and reasons for applying for the role.
If the candidate passes the grade, he is given a home assignment, consisting of growth marketing-related questions. Should the candidate do well on the home assignment, he is invited for a half-day onsite challenge.
Most startups think they don’t have the luxury of doing a one-week onsite trial with candidates, but if you consider what’s at stake, it may be something worth looking into.
A week can give you an even better appreciation of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and screen out those candidates that can’t walk the talk.
Weebly, the company behind a popular website builder, has been successful with a week-long trial. It brings candidates into the office to work on a project and throws them in at the deep end: candidates get about three weeks of work to complete in a week with limited guidance.
A week of in-office interaction and fun group activities also help both sides see if there is alignment on values and goals.
You can take an even slower approach to hiring a growth marketer by having him work on a project a small number of hours each week on the side of his current full-time job, usually at night or over the weekend. The trial period in this case can last a few weeks, and the work is, of course, paid.
This trial approach is used by Entelo, a maker of recruiting software, and CROmetrics, a growth marketing agency.
“Hire slow, fire fast” is the popular advice given to startup founders. There is a merit to not rushing it with a critical hire like that, but you need to be reasonable. Having a trial that extends for weeks or months sends a negative message about your hiring process and turns off great candidates.
There are some legal issues to keep in mind, too. The prospective hire is classified as an independent contractor during the trial, and you need to make sure the person does not fall outside this status. You also want to be certain that their engagement with you does not violate their current work agreements.
A bad growth marketing hire can derail you, so taking the candidate for a test drive before making the final decision is a sound hiring strategy.
Even a trial can’t guarantee that the growth marketer you will bring onboard will work out, but when combined with other data points in your hiring process, it increases your chances of making the right hire.
Think of it as dating before marriage. Hiring someone to drive the growth of your business is a huge commitment and responsibility, so it makes sense that you should try him out to make an informed decision.
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