What You Need to Know When Hiring a Marketing Professional in NI


Light bulb image - guide to hiring a Marketing Professional

Are you looking to recruit for your Marketing Department?  Whilst this blog post may be useful for anyone in this position, it is primarily geared towards those with limited experience in Marketing and/or those looking to hire a Marketing professional for the first time in Northern Ireland.

I’ve previously written about what marketing is and the challenges around explaining it to those that aren’t familiar with the profession.  I would highly recommend that you take the time to read it first – click here.

For someone with little experience in Marketing, hiring a Marketing professional can seem like a daunting task.  How can you advertise, shortlist and interview successfully if you don’t really know what you are looking for?  The aim of this article is to provide you with a guide to understanding the Marketing requirements of your business in order to recruit a Marketing professional with a skill set to match.

How to Assess your Requirements

Now that I’ve given an overview of what Marketing is, hopefully this will have given you some ideas on what you would like to achieve from a Marketing department.  Which of the areas do you think your business needs?  If the answer is all of them, then I suggest you prioritise your top three initially.  In most cases, but not all, developing or refining the corporate identity is usually a good place to start: align your Company ethos and vision with your external perception.

As I said above, this article is not aimed at anyone with a Marketing Department already in place – maybe you are replacing a previous recruit or adding to an existing team.  This blog post is specifically aimed at those taking their first steps into hiring a Marketing professional for the first time.  If it is your first time recruiting a Marketing function, you will undoubtedly be nervous about the prospect of hiring the right candidate and getting return on your investment.

Below are some considerations that you might want to think about:

Organisational Structure

Where do you expect this person to sit in terms of organisational structure?  The experience level of the person you are seeking and the value that they will add to your business will very much depend on their entry level.  If you need a full Marketing strategy developed and implemented, then you will most likely be looking for a Senior Manager that can advise you and that can have strategic decision-making authority.  Of course this will also dictate a higher salary level.  Alternatively, if you have a robust strategic plan in mind that just needs to be implemented you could consider a lower level of candidate, as long as you are willing to mentor and guide them.

Marketing Department structures can vary significantly depending on the organisational size.  For the purposes of this exercise though, my guess is that you will be expecting a lot from the successful candidate.  You will require someone that can manage all aspects of Marketing, rather than have someone from a specific Marketing background.  I can’t think of many other professions that have to be ‘specialists’ in so many areas and it is not uncommon for one person or a very small team to be responsible for all areas of Marketing in SMEs, so this should be achievable.

The Candidate’s Qualifications

It is typical when recruiting for this type of role to request a third level qualification in Marketing.  Personally, whilst I think this gives a good grounding, I would be open to other possibilities so I would suggest that this is a desirable requirement, rather than essential.  For me, attitude and experience are far more powerful.  You might find someone that has a strong Marketing background who has worked their way up in their career without having a degree in the subject.

The Candidate’s Experience

Depending on the decision made regarding the organisational structure, I would suggest specifying at least 3-4 years’ previous experience in a similar role.  Any less than this and they probably won’t be experienced enough to make the difference that you require.

Regarding industry specific experience, this can go one of two ways.  The person could come in to the business and hit the ground running.  They will already have industry contacts and be familiar with your industry terminology and the challenges that you face.  On the flip side of this, you could find someone disillusioned with years spent in the industry and in this case the better option is sometimes to go for someone fresh into the industry that can see it with a completely new perspective.  This could lead to much more innovative solutions to your problems.  The down side, of course, is that it will take them much longer to ‘bed in’ so you will have to be patient and not expect results overnight.  My advice is to be open-minded and assess applicants based on a wide criterion, regardless of their background.

The Candidate’s Skill Set

Below are the top skills that I believe any successful Marketer should possess:

  • Ability to Embrace Change

“Marketing’s job is never done. It’s about perpetual motion. We must continue to innovate every day.” – Beth Comstock

The ability to react quickly to changing market conditions is imperative.  Someone that resists or fears change will never survive in a Marketing role since there is no constant in the profession.

  • Continuous Learning

A Marketing professional must be willing to continually learn.  New technologies emerge, markets develop, customer behaviours change and so Marketing techniques have to adapt.  It is not possible to keep on top of these changes if one does not read widely and study or self-teach.  Questions at interview stage that uncover how the candidate keeps abreast of new technologies, techniques and tools are essential.

  • Multi-Tasking

This leads me to the ability to work on a number of projects simultaneously, and similarly the ability to switch between tasks seamlessly.  The candidate must demonstrate that they can handle a fast-paced environment and can work to deadlines.

  • Attention to Detail

For me, this is the ultimate must-have skill in Marketing.  Because the role is so fast-moving there is often little time for second opinions and in-depth proof-reading.  All applicants must have a very strong eye for detail and be able to self-edit on-the-go.

  • Balance of ‘Science’ and ‘Creativity’

Whilst not absolutely imperative, creativity is a welcome bonus in a Marketing position.  Many related roles, such as graphic design, do the majority of the hands-on creative work, however, having a certain level of originality helps immeasurably in Marketing.  From campaign idea generation, to cutting costs by creating artwork in-house, to writing effective design briefs when employing external designers, a creative mind, if tempered with analytical skills would be advantageous.  It would be acceptable to ask for examples of previous campaigns that candidates have worked on at interview (or perhaps second interview) stage.

I also mention analytical skills because more and more data and analytics are playing a role in Marketing. This is sometimes quite unnatural for Marketing professionals because traditionally the role has required creative and English language based skills, but you should expect candidates to have a basic competence with data as well.

  • Communication

Communication is also key.  The ability to convey thoughts both verbally and in written form is essential since so much of the job revolves around persuading, educating and influencing.  A natural flair for written communication in particular is essential, as this is not something that is easy to teach or learn.  In my opinion, you either have this ability or you don’t.  Mediocre content just won’t cut it.

  • Passion

Whilst this characteristic could apply to many occupations, it is of particular significance in a Marketing role.  As the person ultimately responsible for promoting the brand, your Marketing Department must be passionate about the business in order to be a true advocate for the Company.  If they do not love what they do, are not devoted to your Company, or do not live and breathe everything that your brand stands for, then they will find it difficult to excel.  Suitable interview questions might include “What attracted you to this position” or “Why do you want to work in this industry”?  You will easily uncover whether the applicant is truly passionate or if this just another job application for them.

  • Other Aptitudes

As well as the above general skills there are a number of other key aptitudes to consider that will separate the good candidates from the excellent ones.

Results Driven and Commercially Focused

There are some in the professional that give us all a bad name, and are likely part of the reason that misconceptions surrounding the job role exist – those that focus solely on the aspects of the job that could be considered ‘airy fairy’.  This might include things like branding, which of course are important, but not in isolation.  You need to assess the candidates’ ability to think strategically.  How do they plan campaigns?  How do they set targets?  How do they ensure that campaigns are properly targeted?  How do they measure the success of campaigns?  How do they co-ordinate with other departments, business development in particular?

Ability to Grow with the Role

As already touched on above, in a position where the successful candidate is going to be responsible for all aspects of your Marketing strategy, my advice would be to consider the person’s potential to grow with the role.  Even if their current skill set is not an exact match for what you require, if they can demonstrate that they have learnt new skills throughout their career and are willing to carry on doing so, then that is more important than their current knowledge or expertise.

Ability to Influence

Your Marketing Department will align closely with pretty much every other department within a business – finance, sales, customer service, HR, and so on.  In order to understand the true Marketing requirements of the business, the Marketing Department must seek to understand how the rest of the organisation ticks, what its strengths and weaknesses are, who the key influencers within the business are, and most importantly, what their customers want.

Marketing lies at the heart of the customer experience, is important in employee engagement, and of course has to work closely with Finance when setting budgets, assessing financial viability of projects and understanding cash flow.  Also, because Marketing can often be classed as a ‘back-of-house’ function, the Marketing team need to have two-way communication with those that are customer-facing, such as Sales personnel and service providers, in order to understand the customer profile.

Therefore, the ability to work effectively with others in your organisation is critical to their success.  Think about personalities within your business and assess how each candidate would ‘fit’ with others around them.

Hands-on Ability

One final capability to evaluate is the candidates’ ability to be hands-on.  In a small business, you want someone that will ‘muck in’ and get things done.  The last thing that you want is for someone to come in, devise a strategy and then outsource all of the ‘doing’ to agencies.  The successful candidate must be able to demonstrate a proactive approach and be willing and able to implement the strategy as well.

And finally…

Hopefully this article, derived from a mixture of my own personal experience and from observing and learning about other professionals in the Marketing industry, has given a broad view of the Marketing occupation.

My final advice is: do your research.  Do not take the candidates’ word as the be all and end all.  Always check references, and if anything doesn’t feel right, make sure to probe further until you feel comfortable.  Always trust your instincts.

If you are considering employing a Marketing professional, either for the first time, or are looking for additions to your team, Genie Insights can mentor you through the process to ensure that you attract the best candidate.  Do not hesitate to get in touch.

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