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Six Hard and Six Soft Skills to Look for When Hiring Your Next Marketing Employee

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The number of B2B organizations struggling to find trained content marketing talent has grown 220% (from 10% that said so in 2013 to 32% in 2014), according to Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs research.

And the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that the number of marketing research analysts and marketing specialists will increase more than 30% in the 10-year period leading up to 2022.

So what should companies screen for when identifying marketing talent? Should hard skills like social media experience and an analytical background be the main factors considered for a marketing role?

The best marketing candidates have strong hard and soft skills that will allow them to succeed and add value to the organization from day one.

Six Soft Skills


1. Emotional intelligence. EI is a buzzword for most HR practitioners right now, but it truly is a great indicator of whether an employee will be exceptional or just ordinary.

Emotional intelligence is the skill of perceiving, understanding, and managing emotions, and it's been shown to be a powerful indicator of success. Marketers with EI are better able to connect with customers, and they know what moves consumers to buy, share, and promote a product or service.

During an interview, candidates with emotional intelligence often raise insightful questions. They own their failures and are comfortable in their own skin. They are reflective, thoughtful, and descriptive in their language.

2. Collaboration. Although marketers may not touch every part of the organization every day, the best candidates know that marketing cannot be done in a vacuum. To be an effective marketer-to highlight the company's best features-it's crucial to understand every aspect of the business.

The best marketers develop strong relationships with their teammates and colleagues. They share ideas and critique projects in a healthy environment.

Collaborative candidates often favor the word "we" over "I" during an interview, and they ask how the marketing department interacts with other departments within the company.

3. Initiative. According to a recent Careerbuilder study, 66% of employers rank self-motivation as one of the most important soft skills in candidates.

Marketers with initiative are hungry. They learn about new trends and developments in the industry before their peers do. They are often early adopters, helping the company stay ahead of the curve on new software or social media tools.

Candidates with initiative will be proactive in their preparation for interviews. They will go beyond what is expected and over-prepare for interviews. To gauge initiative, ask candidates about their job search and how they prepared for the interview.

4. Work ethic. Skills can be taught, but-almost always-work ethic cannot. Work ethic is typically ingrained in people by the time they're adults.

Candidates with a strong work ethic care about the quality of their work. They will stop at nothing to get the job done right.

Screening for work ethic isn't foolproof. Recent graduates with strong work ethics typically worked throughout college, they were involved in extracurricular activities, they had a strong GPA, and they were a well-rounded student.

With more seasoned professionals, discuss their accomplishments in their previous marketing role and how they achieved them.

5. Culture fit. Candidates who fit the culture of a company share the company's mission, values, and vision. Fit is crucial, because marketers help to create and promote the company's brand; they need to understand what the company stands for and why it's unique in the marketplace.

To gauge culture fit, have candidates meet with multiple employees, including their potential manager, teammates, and peers. Use the airplane test: If an employee can't say they would truly enjoy spending three uninterrupted hours with this candidate on a plane, they aren't the right fit.

6. Accountability. Candidates with accountability make themselves, their company, and their peers better. They accept responsibility for their actions and decisions. They learn from their mistakes, and they continuously improve.

To gauge accountability, ask candidates about a mistake they made in their previous role and how they handled it.

Six Hard Skills

1. Analytics and research. Candidates should be able to look at marketing with an analytical eye-from research to data to content-and they should be able to draw meaningful conclusions and plan next steps.

During the hiring process, give candidates research and ask them to analyze it and explain their thought process.

2. Digital savvy. From SEO to pay per click to social media, the online landscape of today is constantly changing. Marketers need to have a basic understanding of the various tools available and how they can apply them.

To gauge digital savvy, ask candidates about experience managing social media, including their personal accounts, as well as their experience with digital marketing. Get specific examples of what work was done and the results achieved.

3. Brand-building. Company branding is a differentiator in the marketplace, and good marketers understand that. They know their personal brand and they are also able to recognize strong company brands in the market.

Ask candidates what brands they believe are doing well, and why. Have them evaluate the company's brand and present suggestions for improvement.

4. Strong writing and editing. Candidates for a marketing role should be able to adjust their tone and style, and they should be able to edit others' work. Thought leadership and content creation is crucial to building brands today; they add credibility and help consumers trust the product.

To gauge candidates' writing and editing abilities, assign writing prompts and ask them to proofread a press release.

5. Selling. In an interview, candidates should be able to sell themselves-from the way they present to how they articulate accomplishments. That ability translates to the workplace: Great marketers understand how to sell a service or product, they know the nuances and the points of differentiation, and they can clearly articulate them.

6. Understanding of target markets. Much of marketing is about knowing your audience. Even though a candidate may not understand all the intricacies of the business, they should still be able to speak to who the customer is after learning more about the product or service.

Ask candidates to identify the company's target market and explain how they identified this group or groups of people. Have them explain how the company is currently marketing to the target demographic.


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Krisi Rossi O'Donnell is vice-president of staffing and recruiting at LaSalle Network, a staffing and recruiting firm headquartered in Chicago.

LinkedIn: Krisi Rossi O'Donnell

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  • by Vasu Jain Fri Sep 4, 2015 via web

    Fully agree with your views...really help full

    Thank you

  • by Kate Duttro Fri Sep 4, 2015 via web

    I'm with you on everything but the advice on "Selling." In my experience, there's a gender difference. I know tons of women who can't sell themselves, but are fabulous marketers of their organization's products. And, I have seen it over and over in many years of experience. (I began to notice it when I first saw it in myself, and had to work at modifying the way I presented myself.) I wish it weren't so, but I still see it in women. That said, I think that organizations which are judging female marketing candidates on their ability to sell themselves are missing many exceptional marketing employees.
    Please note that I am not saying all women are incapable of selling themselves - but some who appear less able to sell themselves are totally and fabulously capable of selling your products. So, try not to judge the book only by its cover....

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