A wise mentor told me early in my career that I should always hire people who know something I didn't know. Considering how much I respected that person, I started following that philosophy right away, and it has stayed with me over the past 25 years.
One of the first times I used my mentor's advice was when I was managing a product development group for a new consumer service and I had a team of creative, editorial staff that was critical to our launch. I quickly realized that we were missing the discipline of a classic marketing person and added one to the team.
Today, as CMO of a B2B marketing department with a diverse range of talents, we are light in the area of ad concept development and creative. The same advice I was given 25 years ago applies, but with a twist: It's not necessarily about hiring people who know something I don't know but, rather, about getting them on the team—whether via partnerships with agencies or working with consultants and freelancers.
When looking for the missing piece in the quilt of talent on my team, I search beyond the a good marketer's traditional skill set—typically the list of skills and experience outlined in position descriptions or marketing job postings. Those skills are an important consideration in the hiring process, but there are traits that set apart the good from the best. Some of those most-important traits are behavioral, some are attitudinal, some are inherent, and some are learned and honed.
Every great marketer doesn't need to have every single skill or trait. Rather, it's the mix of each marketer's skills, experience, and traits blended with those of others on your team that produces success for the business. (Think Yin and Yang, micro and macro, parts and then the sum of the parts.)
Here are the four traits that, in my experience, the best marketers have in common.
What distinguishes a smart person from a brilliant person? Curiosity. What questions does the candidate ask? When given a challenging task in past jobs, what was the candidate's initial approach to the task? That approach is a good indication of curiosity: Did they ask questions, do research, talk to the right people, or did they dive right into the tactical plan?