A Practical Guide to Interviewing A Growth Marketer
Now that you’ve gotten some promising growth marketers in your hiring pipeline, you need to decide which one is your ideal hire. Interviewing is the next crucial step in the hiring process that provides you with the needed insights to make that call.
An effective growth marketer interview lets you gain a deeper sense of who an individual really is, evaluate their skills, and see if they are aligned with the goals and values of your company.
What does an effective growth marketer interview entail in practical terms? We put together this post to give you a framework that you can apply to your interviewing process.
We first review general guidelines to shape the interview process and then dive into specific interview topics and questions that can help you get to the heart of whether a candidate is the right fit.
Guidelines for interviewing a growth marketer
The tenets of an effective interview are basic yet often ignored.
Set clear goals
Start with the end in mind. Ask yourself what questions you want to have answered by the end of your conversation with a growth marketer candidate. These could be some of them:
- Does the candidate share your values and mission and will they work well with people already on the team?
- Does the candidate have or can he learn all the skills needed to effectively accomplish what it is expected in this role?
- Does she have the right mix of creativity, analytical thinking, and curiosity to thrive in this position and deliver results?
- How does the candidate rank in terms of integrity, grit, and adaptability?
- Is this someone with a leadership potential who can build and manage your marketing team in the future?
Having clarity on what you want to accomplish with the interview provides you with the focus to keep it brief, yet productive.
Implement a structured process
A structured interview process – the one where every candidate goes through a similar set of questions and people – helps you make intelligent and effective hiring decisions. It provides you with a basis for reliable, consistent evaluation needed when you interview multiple candidates.
Most founders have not had any training on how to conduct interviews, so interviews often turn into conversations about life stories, industry topics, and non-work-related activities.
A structured interview that is based on a set of relevant questions ensures that all candidates are held to the same standard. Make sure every question you ask is strategic and delivers some level of insight. If it doesn’t, you should drop it or tweak it.
Interview scorecard, where you rate a candidate on desired outcomes and competencies, is also a tool you should consider adopting to help you score the candidates. It distills conversations with candidates into measureable, comparable results.
Source: The Sales Acceleration Formula, Mark Roberge
A structured approach also allows you to keep interviews as short as possible, while at the same time covering everything that you need to make an informed hiring decision. This doesn’t mean that the interview should be a strict Q&A session with the candidate. On the contrary, it should feel like a conversation.
Finally, a structured interview helps you tackle confirmation bias, which occurs when the person conducting an interview spends time trying to confirm the initial impression of the candidate, instead of objectively assessing her.
Sell while evaluating
You need to wow great candidates at each touchpoint in your hiring process; that’s why interviews with today’s growth marketing talent are as much about selling as they are about evaluation.
Startup founders are often arrogant. They believe they are building something amazing and expect candidates to be equally passionate walking into the interview.
It’s almost never the case. You want the candidate to demonstrate enthusiasm, but you need to build on that during the interview. It’s your job to get them excited about the opportunity and give them reasons to join.
Remember, talented growth marketers have plenty of options. Why are they going to choose you? Your interview is a two-way street: they are evaluating you just as much as you are evaluating them. Take the time to make it clear for them why the work you are doing matters and how they will contribute and make an impact.
Involve the team
When startups hire their first growth marketer, the interview process is typically led by the CEO who is in the best position to calibrate the type of talent that will fit well on the team.
But be sure to involve other team members as well. They can yield a broader perspective on how the candidate is aligned on your mission and culture and spot something you may have missed. They can also help selling the company to the potential growth marketing hire.
From a candidate perspective, involving the team lets the candidate experience the people they will get to work with and have a better appreciation for your culture.
Types of interview questions
When interviewing a growth marketer, a mix of fact-based, behavioral, and situational questions helps you form a full picture of the candidate and how he fits into the role.
Fact-based questions are central to your interview with a growth marketer.
- Give me a brief version of your professional journey
- What kind of growth have you driven for other companies?
They are important because they give you insights into the candidate’s experience and competence and the track record he is bringing to your role.
What’s more, questions that require factual, specific answers help determine candidate’s integrity because you can call past employers to confirm the facts given to you.
The purpose of these questions is to uncover how the candidate acted in previous positions and particular circumstances to reveal whether he has core qualities and values required to excel in the growth marketer role at your company.
Based on the premise that past behavior serves as indicator of future performance, these questions focus on ascertaining role-specific attributes in a candidate, such as growth mindset, leadership potential, soft skills, and grit.
These types of questions often make up the majority of questions asked in an interview because it is difficult to discern these qualities in a candidate any other way:
- Give an example of a goal you set and how you reached it
- Tell me about a time when you worked effectively under pressure
- Describe a time when you had to solve a problem with very little guidance
Make sure you follow up with ‘what’, ‘how’, and ‘why’ to get to the bottom of how your growth marketer candidate makes decisions.
There are no ‘correct’ answers here; you are looking for behavior patterns and the candidate’s reasoning. And with behavioral questions you also get to judge the candidate’s storytelling ability.
Situational questions help you see how a candidate’s thought process runs. They help you evaluate critical thinking, creativity, and analytical capabilities.
- What would you do to optimize our funnel?
- How would you leverage YouTube in order to reach our target audience?
- How do you think about your presence on social networks?
The goal here is to understand whether they can think through problems and come up with workable, creative solutions.
Interview questions to help you hire the right growth marketer
Other than some ice breaker questions, every single question you ask should be testing for one of the target attributes that you want in a growth marketer. Strong growth marketers want to feel challenged, so don’t be afraid to ask tough questions.
Experience and competence
Knowing marketing strategies and tactics theoretically is important but having outstanding results differentiates the best growth marketers from the others.
Start by asking what Lou Adler, a thought leader in the recruitment industry, calls the only interview question that matters:
What single project or task would you consider your most significant accomplishment in your career to date?
Asked differently in a growth marketer interview: What has been your biggest growth win to date?
Your growth marketer should prove her worth by providing examples of how she crushed it.
Probe deeply and ask follow-up questions to gain further insights into the candidate’s competence, behavior, and thought process:
- How did you come up with the idea?
- How did you execute it?
- What made it successful?
- What you could have done differently?
Don’t settle for factual information. Get to the ‘why’ behind the candidate’s answers. Strong candidates will give you a detailed answer with specific metrics, a step-by-step process, and the reasoning they followed.
Ability to see bigger picture is a valuable quality in a great growth marketer, so look for people who don’t just describe what they did but can articulate how their performance tied into the overall company strategy.
In your interview you also want to explore the level of the candidate’s foundational marketing knowledge as well as the expertise in specific channels.
- Take me in detail through your most compelling PPC campaign
- What do you do to understand behavior of your target customers?
- How do you prioritize your experiments?
You can also get practical. For something like email marketing expertise, Hiten Shah suggests pulling up an email from your inbox and asking the candidate to critique it on the spot.
Rand Fishkin of Moz shares some other great questions you can ask to test a candidate’s technical competence:
- Draw and explain company X’s marketing funnel
- How would you rate these ranking factors in Google?
- What are the three metrics that matter most to your favorite site’s success?
Building Great Digital Marketing Teams
You can look for evidence of creativity of a growth marketer candidate in the past, but previous experiences can easily be embellished. What’s more effective is to throw new situations at the candidate.
Make this part of the interview into a working session. Put your company’s or a hypothetical funnel on a whiteboard and ask what they would do to improve it.
- How would you acquire more users?
- How would you increase engagement?
Look for those candidates who are able to keep coming up with new, actionable, and relevant tactics to exploit, rather than those who are pulling from the list from a blog article in the back of their head.
Keep pushing the candidate to explain his line of thought behind each strategy or tactic chosen and look for those growth marketers that can take a stand. Hiten Shah highlights the value of having an opinion for a growth marketer:
To test in an interview the candidate’s ability to process, interpret, and make decisions based on data, you can use case-style questions.
One way to do it is to describe to them a real-life situation and set a goal to achieve.
- How would you conduct A/B tests?
- How would you evaluate results?
- How would you choose a course of action?
Another way is to show them a report of an ad campaign or an email campaign you are running. How do they look at the data? Listen for an ability to explain data clearly and draw insights to move forward, rather than focusing on the ‘right’ answer.
Throughout the interview, watch for the language on outcomes and metrics to give you a sense of how numbers-oriented the candidate is.
Discerning whether the candidate has the optimization mindset, adaptability, isn’t afraid to fail, and knows how to take calculated risks can be tricky. These questions can help you better understand the mindset of the growth marketer you are speaking with:
- Tell me about the time you failed and what you learned from it
- Discuss a setback you have overcome in the last 12 months
You are trying to evaluate how well they handle adversity and how strong they can bounce back from failure.
Growth mindset is also about being comfortable with risk taking, yet you don’t want a growth marketer who will bring the company to its knees. So, ask questions around how the person evaluates risks when conducting growth experiments. Choose a risk manager over a risk taker.
A questioning mind and commitment to self-improvement are invaluable qualities for a growth marketer, so interview questions around curiosity and learning mindset can often provide red or green light on the candidate.
- What is an example of a new marketing strategy or tactic that you are excited about?
- Whose marketing strategy do you find particularly innovative or creative?
- What are you learning now and why?
- What sources of information do you use to find inspiration for your growth marketing activities?
If their answers are enthusiastic and detailed, it’s a sign of someone who is hungry to grow and learn. If the answers are muddled and fuzzy, they are not the voracious learners you want to bring on the team.
What does the growth marketer’s history of professional development tell you about his ability and desire to learn? When evaluating the candidate’s learning trajectory over time, place less weight on how much someone has achieved as an absolute measurement and more on the rate at which they have grown.
Another area that is often overlooked in the interview process is the candidate’s interests and non-work-related activities. Does candidate go deep on things outside of marketing?
If the candidate demonstrates the quality of needing to learn every single detail of the topic in front of them, it is likely they are going to reflect that level of engagement in their work.
How do you test the candidates for grit? Angela Duckworth offers a Grit Scale for self-assessment, but when you interview a potential hire, your best approach is to look at their past achievements and behaviors.
Zero in on their academic, professional, and personal activities. Have they done anything where they had to stick it out for a long time or are they jumping from one thing to another?
You can also ask:
- Tell me about a time when you relentlessly pursued something that you really wanted
- Describe a stressful situation you were faced with and how you overcame it
- Give me example of a goal that you have recently set and how are you progressing?
You are not necessarily looking for a heroic story here. Even if it’s a mundane technical matter, a top candidate will be able to go into detail to explain the motivation and how they persevered to reach their goals.
And what is the candidate’s motivation with respect to the role you are filling? Uncover what they are genuinely passionate about and whether it fits with your expectations.
Ascertaining if a candidate has relevant expertise, skills, and motivation is only half the battle. Equally important in the interview process is assessing whether a potential growth marketing hire is aligned with your company’s mission and core values.
Culture fit isn’t about hiring people that look like everyone else in the company. Instead, you should be looking to bring people who share your values but can bring diverse perspectives to add to your culture.
People’s values and character tend to be expressed longitudinally, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t probe for them in the interview. These are just a few examples:
- Integrity: Tell me about a time when you faced an ethical dilemma at work.
- Sense of ownership: Describe a situation where you made a mistake.
- Humility: What parts of this job do you think will be easy and which ones will be hard? Bonus: you get to see whether the person has the right expectations for the role.
- Self-starter: Can you tell me about a time when your work held little or no interest for you?
It is important to put your company values into the interview scorecard to make sure this area doesn’t get neglected.
Post-interview litmus test
After all is said and done, take a step back and ask yourself these questions about the candidate:
- Is this an amazing person?
- Will I learn from this person every day?
- Is this person passionate about growth marketing and the role at my company?
- Do I feel a certain level of chemistry and likeability for this person? Is this someone that I want to be around?
When making a decision whether to proceed in the process with the growth marketer you have interviewed, trust your gut. Don’t “give him a try” even though deep down you don’t feel right about it. “Maybe” equals “no”. It almost never works out, and you end up wasting time and money.
David Cancel of Drift relies on the “day after” test when hiring talent:
While an interview is not a perfect predictor of how well a new hire will perform once he joins your team, it still remains a valid assessment tool to help you sift through the candidates for your growth marketer role.
With today’s tight market for growth talent, many companies don’t put candidates through a thorough enough interview process and often end up with a bad hire.
By having a process that is rigorous and structured and covers all technical and non-technical areas, you significantly improve your chances of selecting the right growth marketer for your team.
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