I recently spent 4-5 months interviewing applicants for marketing manager and digital marketing specialist positions. I interviewed more than 100 applicants, reviewed hundreds of resumes, and even went outbound looking for qualified candidates using tools like Dux-Soup to search LinkedIn for growth marketers using keywords like “Facebook Ads,” “CAC,” or “churn.”
If you’re in the same boat, I thought it’d be helpful to outline how we approach the hiring process at Ramp Ventures and Web Profits, and even give you the specific interview questions we like to ask.
Hope you find it helpful in your own hiring processes.
Our Interview Process
First, I should mention that I don’t just post a job when I realize I have an opening. According to Glassdoor, the average interview process in the U.S. lasts 23.8 days, so you can’t afford to wait until a vacancy arises to start the hunt for new talent with these recruitment challenges.
Usually, I’m trying to work at least 4-6 months ahead. That way, when I’m at conferences or networking, I’m able to start building relationships with interesting people well before I need to have a position filled.
That’s actually how we found one of our most recent hires. We were both at a conference in Europe, and we formed a connection. I gave him a test project then and there, and wound up hiring him.
I don’t always get that lucky, but the point is that hiring isn’t something I only think about when I’m desperately in need of people. Plan ahead and keep an eye on the big picture, and you should never find yourself scrambling to fill a position. You can always implement an applicant tracking system to help with your recruiting and talent acquisition efforts. An offer to someone should only come because they are the best possible fit, not because you’re pressed for time and need someone to start tomorrow.
When my process gets to the interview stage, I don’t usually get to meet with candidates in person, since most of my companies are remote. These posts on what to look for when hiring remote employees and how to hire remote talent have been a useful resource for me. So instead, we’ve built a process that saves everyone time, but still gives us all the details we need to determine whether an applicant will be a good fit:
- We start with an email interview that has 3-4 questions. This prequalifies applicants and weeds out those who don’t have the necessary skills. We lose a lot of people at this stage, as digital marketing skills change and evolve rapidly. It’s not a one-and-done scenario. Digital marketers and those hoping to break into the field need to constantly maintain and upgrade their knowledge and skill set to remain on the cutting edge.
- Then, we advance those candidates we’re still interested in to a 15-20 minute phone interview where we’re asking high-level questions and telling them more about the position.
- Next, we’ll do a video interview with myself and my business partner, Alex. The questions we ask here – which I’ve outlined below – get a lot harder and really tell us a lot about the remaining applicants.
- Finally, we’ll give people we’re still interested in a homework assignment that takes a few hours to complete. It’s a great way for us to separate out the people who know their shit from the people who are just full of shit.
If a candidate makes it through the homework assignment, we’ll do one more video interview that’s much more casual and off-the-cuff. This one isn’t as much about marketing knowledge, since we’ve already measured that thoroughly by this point. Instead, we want to see what they’re passionate about, what stresses them out, and how they’ll fit into our culture. That’s just as important as whether they have the skills to do the job. Someone who has excellent knowledge is not the right candidate if you can’t see yourself working with them every day.
The 18 Interview Questions We Ask
I’ve interviewed a lot of digital marketers over the years. I quickly ditched standard questions that don’t tell me anything about a candidate – you’ll never hear me asking about five-year plans or dream jobs. Instead, I’ve devised a list of 18 questions that deliver in two key areas:
- They give the best candidates the opportunity to show off their marketing chops
- They give me the confidence that I’m definitely hiring the right person for the role
Not every interviewee gets all 18 questions. If we get a few minutes into the interview and realize the person we’re talking to isn’t the right fit, we’ll cut it a lot shorter to save everybody time. But if it’s clear that a candidate is a bit special – someone who can add real value to my business – I’m genuinely interested to hear how they respond to the following questions:
1. How would you explain a sample company’s marketing?
Before the interview, I’ll think of a couple of websites – places like Square, Salesforce, or Slack. Then, I’ll ask the candidate to break down the site’s marketing strategy. What I’m looking for is their process. I want to understand what kinds of questions they’re asking and how they’re thinking about it. Be sure to examine it yourself beforehand, too, and don’t immediately dismiss something they come up with that you didn’t consider … they just might have a better approach than you (and that’s a very good thing).
2. How do you keep up with digital marketing?
There are a lot of candidates out there who look good on paper, but who are actually rather dated in terms of their experience. To weed these people out, I want to know what blogs they’re reading, what websites they’re visiting, what conferences they go to, and so on. A candidate not actively keeping up with the industry is not the right candidate. Period.
3. Have you ever managed social ads?
This is another question that weeds out the dinosaurs that aren’t relevant anymore. Social advertising is a huge part of digital marketing these days. I want to know if they’ve done it, and if they understand it. Facebook ads are used by 72% of marketers, followed by Instagram ads at 31%.
4. What makes for great content?
It should be immediately obvious to anyone who wants to work with me that content is a huge part of what I do. I don’t do it just for the fun of it. Marketers who make blogging a high priority are 13x more likely to generate positive ROI from their efforts – in other words, if you’re prepared to put the time in, you can achieve great results. So it’s vitally important to me that candidates understand the value of content. As with many of these interview questions, I don’t necessarily have a “right” answer in mind. I just want to understand that the candidate is serious about content too, and knows what they’re talking about.
5. What’s your favorite email newsletter?
I always ask not just what they read, but why they read it. This gives me a ton of insight into what makes them tick. A few well-chosen marketing newsletters guarantees they’ll never miss a breaking story or trend.
6. What’s your strongest channel?
When I’m hiring for a high-level marketing position, I want to understand what they think about different channels, because generally these marketers are T-shaped or have worked on multiple channels. Not only does this tell me how relevant their experience is, it helps me figure out how they’ll fit into my businesses. Whether T-shaped or the more recent I-shaped, it’s all about having a wide breadth of knowledge and at least 1-2 areas of specialization.
7. What’s been your most successful marketing campaign, and why?
I use this question to get a sense of how awesome they are. I don’t care that they grew a company’s Facebook fans by 3000%. I want to know that they grew revenue. I want to hear them using terminology that’s appropriate for the industry, like CAC or LTV.
8. What’s been your least successful marketing campaign?
When I make a hire, I’m not looking for perfection. After all, I’m not perfect – no one is. We make mistakes and bounce back stronger. You can learn so much from a candidate by asking them about a campaign that completely flopped. Not only do you get the opportunity to find out what they took away from the experience and what they’d do differently next time, but you also discover if they’re prepared to be accountable for their actions. Did they take responsibility for the mistakes and move on, or did they try to shift the blame?
9. Ask them to fill out a T-shaped marketer outline
I use this template from Buffer, and I ask candidates to fill out where they fit and how strong they are in different areas. I need to know where their strengths and weaknesses are so that I can a) help them improve and b) make sure they’re in alignment with what our companies need. Consider it a modern marketing blueprint.
10. How do you change a client or CEO’s mind if you feel they’re wrong?
I’m a CEO, and I have strong opinions. But often, I’m wrong. Our clients are too, which is why I need to understand how candidates will communicate with them and win them over to our way of thinking. Persuasion and influence are necessary skills, as is the ability to clearly articulate ideas and opinions.
11. What business models do you have experience working in?
What’s your favorite business model? If someone has worked in more than one business model, they’ll have a favorite. But if they say ecommerce, and we’re hiring for our SaaS company, that’s kind of a red flag. It’s not a dealbreaker, but they have to prove they’re relevant to me. On the agency side, we can have a broader range of experiences, but even there, this question helps me gauge where they’re strong or weak, and where their true interest lies.
12. Have you ever worked in sales? How?
In this day and age, marketing isn’t just marketing. You have to work with sales, support, product development, and more to actually grow a business. That’s why I always look for marketers who have some level of sales experience. It’s not a strict requirement, but it is important to me.
13. What platforms do you use to track sales, revenue, traffic, etc.?
Are they using Google Analytics? Kissmetrics? Adobe Analytics? Clicky? How they use their chosen platform is important, but the actual platforms they choose matter to me as well, because it shows me how dated or current they are. Much like marketing skills themselves, the tools we use are in a constant state of flux, with old ones dropping away while new ones rise to prominence.
14. If you had a $10K marketing budget, how would you spend it to get the highest ROI?
Someone I’m interviewing for a lower-level position might not have a great answer for this, but I can still judge their thought process based on what they say. But at higher levels, candidates should be able to give a breakdown of what they’d do and keep rolling with the exercise as I ask clarifying questions or pose different challenges. I want to see my money is not going to be wasted.
15. Imagine I know nothing about digital. I’ve got a tight budget. How are you going to spend my money?
As we all know, marketers aren’t always handed big budgets by clients with a deep understanding of digital. Often, we have to battle for every cent and justify every decision. I want to know what a candidate would do with a limited budget – how are they going to deliver results? Would they put all their eggs in one basket – potentially increasing the risk of failure – or take a multichannel approach and risk spreading themselves too thin?
16. What digital trends are you most excited about?
I don’t just want to work with someone who views digital marketing as a way to put food on the table. I want them to be passionate about it. I want them to be genuinely excited at the cool new things they’ll be able to work on. Whether they’re eager to leverage the power of chatbots, invest in hyper-targeted advertising, or immerse themselves in next-gen SEO, I want to know about it. And I want to know why it excites them.
17. You’ve only got budget for one digital marketing tool. Which do you choose and why?
Digital marketing tools take a lot of the legwork out of labor-intensive digital marketing tasks. I’d expect anyone interviewing for a digital marketing role to have a solid understanding of multiple tools – and to be able to pick a favorite if pushed. What’s more, I want them to justify that choice. Are they a big advocate of Ahrefs? Can’t live without Buzzsumo or Mailshake? This is their chance to show off their expertise.
18. Which digital thought leaders do you follow?
On a similar theme, it’s important that candidates are taking steps to stay ahead of the curve. I don’t just want to hire someone who’ll do the same as everyone else; I want someone who’s prepared to take risks and try something new. Following digital thought leaders is one of the best ways to keep your finger on the pulse.
19. What was the most responsibility you had in a marketing role?
I want to know how much responsibility they have had on their plate to deliver results. Did their prior clients or colleagues entrust them with the reins? (It’s okay if not, but I need to get an idea for their experience level).
Also, just because someone was mainly in a lower level position, doesn’t mean they weren’t doing great work. I want to see how the candidate views the importance of their work, regardless of whether it’s “sexy” or not. Pride in your work often correlates positively to work ethic.
20. Where do you see digital marketing headed in the next few years?
This is a similar question to some of the others, where I’m looking at how they keep up with trends and skills. Someone who is truly immersed in the industry will constantly be learning from blogs, conferences, new tools, etc.
I don’t need them to be a fortune teller. But I do want to see their ability to integrate different ideas and creatively market toward the future. Do they have some unique perspectives on SEO, or social, or PPC? Or do they just want to clock in and clock out.
21. What are the pros and cons of paid vs. organic marketing?
Within digital marketing, there are several specialties. I don’t expect someone to be an expert in all of them. But digital marketers should have a larger perspective and understand how different strategies work together on a basic level.
SEO and PPC are different in their execution. However, they weave together by supporting the overall goal of growing a business. So when someone is working on a campaign, they should keep that in mind.
For instance, a content marketer may not know how to create a paid ad. But they should understand that every Google search result is competing with paid ads. How do that come into play when executing a campaign?
22. How do you measure the results of your work?
Digital marketing allows us to track our results to a very granular level. And I want to hire marketers that know how to tie their work to real ROI. If they don’t have experience using some kind of analytics or tracking, then that’s a bad sign.
Marketing is not a blind guess. We want to use data to inform decisions going forward. That way, conversion rates and overall ROI go up. I’m looking for an explanation that demonstrates their understanding of how their role contributes to the bottom line.
23. Have you managed or supervised others before?
You need to work with other people to achieve powerful marketing results. No one can do it all by themselves. Not every digital marketer needs to manage others, but many will eventually.
If I’m looking to bring someone in, I usually want to see their potential for managing projects and other people — designers, writers, analysts, and more. How do they communicate the projects’ goals and keep everything on track?
This is also a sign that they have an intricate understanding of that marketing process. If you don’t know how it all works together, then you can’t delegate and scale that process.
24. What are some ways to determine the value of a lead to a business?
Marketing is meant to attract leads into the sales funnel. And part of a marketer’s job is to ensure that the leads are ready to move on to each step with specific pages, ads, and content.
I’m not looking for an answer that’s vague and inactionable like “a lead is valuable when their customer journey is aligned with the company’s mission.”
What I want to hear from the candidate in this question is a specific metric that would qualify a lead. For instance, a lead who signs up for your email list is more qualified than someone who was merely browsing a blog post.
A lead who purchases a trip-wire product for $7 is more qualified than a customer who doesn’t.
25. What kind of work environment do you prefer?
My team works remotely. Having a fully distributed team has its advantages, but it’s not the best fit for everyone.
For instance, having the ability to create your own daily schedule is a great perk for someone who is motivated and organized. But others may thrive in an office, with the socialization and supervision that comes with it.
I want self starters. I don’t want to hold anyone’s hand. If someone can’t be responsible for meeting their own needs in terms of discipline, socialization, and work ethic, they’re not a good fit — end of story.
Again, I want digital marketers who are students of the game. There are a ton of acronyms and strategies used by marketers. It’s impossible to know them all.
However, there are a few basic terms and concepts that any digital marketer who’s spent a few hours doing research should be familiar with.
26. What is AIDA?
One of them is AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action). And it’s the most basic explanation of the customer journey / sales funnel.
Someone who wants to work with me needs to understand each of those four steps at a basic level, and how they work together to move a prospect through the funnel.
27. Write an ad for a sample product
Not every marketer is going to be creating ads. However, this question is somewhat an extension of the previous AIDA question.
If I ask someone to write a Facebook Ad with a headline, description, and some body copy, what will they come up with?
What I’m really hoping to hear is a question from the candidate first, before starting on the ad. I want to see their process for determining the right messaging based on the product, market, and awareness of the target prospect.
28. Tell me about a disagreement you had with a coworker and how you resolved it.
I don’t like unnecessary drama. So the first thing this question does is to weed out gossipers and “drama addicts.”
If the candidate’s eyes light up when I ask this question, as if it’s the most exciting thing ever, that’s an issue.
What I’m looking for is an answer that explains a disagreement over process or strategy, and how this person resolved it with their team member.
Are they critical thinkers? Are they professional without being stodgy? Are they focused on results and solutions instead of drama and problems? The answer needs to be yes to all of those, or I don’t want that person on my team.
The Homework Assignment
As I mentioned above, I’ll give candidates who make it through this process a homework assignment to complete. Too many people can BS their way through the interview portion of the hiring process. My goal with the assignment is to give them something they can’t just make up along the way.
That might mean asking them to:
- Break down another company’s marketing strategy
- Complete customer research
- Find out how a company’s competitors rank and what they’re doing with marketing
- Plan a Facebook or Instagram or LinkedIn ad campaign
All of these tasks take a couple of hours at most to complete, but they’re the ultimate test for us to reveal the people who truly know what they’re doing versus those who just talk a big game.
Every position we have to fill looks a little different, so our process shifts between these stages to make sure we’re attracting and vetting the right candidates. But by having a process like this in place, we’re able to save time without compromising the quality of the people we bring on at the end. Consistency in our process guarantees we always end up with the best fit.
And that’s a win for us and them.
Do you have an interview process like this in place? If so, share what else you include in yours by leaving me a comment below: