How To Recruit Startup Marketing Talent in 2017

You don’t need a recruiting agency to successfully hire a startup marketer. Nothing against recruiters, I know they help find great talent. But not all startups have the resources to pay recruiting fees to an agency. Whatever your startup’s circumstances are, if you need to recruit your own marketing talent, here’s an outline on how to get started.

First of all, recruiting isn’t a quick and painless process. If you’re doing it right, it takes a lot of your time and effort. Even if you’ve got the budget to post on LinkedIn, reviewing resumes, conducting phone screens, and checking references is an exhausting and repetitive process. One mistake I’ve seen happen a few times is the hiring manager gets worn out doing the recruiting dance and settles on a candidate because they feel like they are running out of time. That’s not a good reason to hire someone. Don’t make that mistake. Be organized, patient and diligent.

I have a few suggestions on how to get started with finding good candidates. I also provided the notes I took while recruiting a marketer for my current startup. Those are listed later in this post.

Get Organized

Getting organized is somehow often underthought when it comes to recruiting candidates. Once applicants start submitting applications you need a system for tracking each one. You don’t need fancy HR software, all you need is a spreadsheet. Here’s an example of a spreadsheet I recently used, which you’re welcome to make a copy of, and use for your search.

A Tip On How To Write Your Job Description

The #1 most crucial component of an effective job description is honesty. Don’t oversell the role. The “perfect” job description accurately outlines the role, the responsibilities and the expectations. It’s easy to turn a job description into a fantasy note of everything you hope the marketer will be. But what you end up writing is fiction. Worse, you’ll end up hiring the wrong person for the role. Don’t do that.

One trick that helped me maintain focus on the right candidate for the current need of our team was re-reading the job description before each phone screen and interview. In doing this, your original outline for the role is fresh in your head before each conversation with a candidate.

Promoting The Open Position

Once you’ve written your job description, figured out how to track applicants and posted your description on your website, you have to promote it. Unless you’re Google, Facebook or an equivalent unicorn, you won’t get the right applicants by simply posting a job description and crossing your fingers. That’s how I started with my latest search: posting and waiting. The truth is in 2017, markets like Boston, San Francisco, Austin, New York, Seattle and elsewhere, are extremely competitive for high quality marketers.

A few places to start promoting:

  1. Leverage your own network (email your trusted contacts with the job description) asking for referrals. But don’t just email a few people and post on your Linkedin. Post the job in your alma mater’s LinkedIn group. Use LinkedIn to search for marketers with similar titles at prominent companies in your area (i.e. “marketing associate” in “Boston, MA” at “HubSpot”). Connect and message candidates that look appealing.
  2. Post the job on LinkedIn Jobs (for sponsored content you should spend $5-15 a day on). In April 2016, over 6.5 million open positions were live on LinkedIn. This is the main hub for job seekers, so don’t miss out on it for such a low cost.
  3. Your Glassdoor account (you can post jobs on their site, free for first 7 days). Glassdoor is becoming very popular: there are over 33 million users of Glassdoor as of October 2017.
  4. AngelList (although you’ll have to list salary and equity options if you post on AngelList). Here’s more on AngelList job recruiting. One major advantage of AngelList is that their audience is startup specific.

The rest of this post is a series of tips/ideas I wrote down during my most recent recruiting process. Be advised this is somewhat random (and there is advice for job seekers in here too).

1. As a hiring manager you can learn a lot from just exchanging emails with an applicant. How prompt is their reply? How eager do they seem to speak with you? Are they willing to be flexible with their schedule to talk with you? Are there links in their email signature?

3. My favorite interview question is "Can you give me an example of where you impressed your colleagues/boss with your work?" I find this question to be effective because a.) they are providing most likely their highest achievement at their current position which is something you want to hear about as the hiring manager b.) marketers love to talk about their achievements, so this is an easy way to detect if the applicant is overly boastful: do they credit other team members in their example? and c.) do they list performance data to support their achievement?

4. Always, always always request a writing sample. Writing is a vital skillset for all marketers. Hiring a marketer without good writing skills is like an NFL team drafting a cornerback without good hands (can’t catch a football) or a politician that’s bad at public speaking.

5. Review the candidate’s marketing analytics like they are a lead for your startup: what pages did they visit on your site, did they sign up for product notifications, did they follow your social accounts?

6. Check to see if your candidates have Linkedin recommendations. Just like when you look at a restaurant on Yelp with 4.9 stars or consider purchasing a product with 4 ½ stars on Amazon… social validation is a great aid in evaluating applicants.

7. How long a candidate has been employed at a company is very telling. I’ve received resumes with 3 month stints at various companies for the last 2 years. That’s a glaring red flag. I’m not saying job hopping is bad but there’s a happy medium (which is not 3 months).

8. Candidates that are very excited about the role are the most appealing. You’ll probably find that to be true, as well. But from my experience, these candidates are often the ones that do well in the role when hired.

9. I did not know cultural fit was such an important factor until I made the decision to hire one marketer over a few others because I felt like she was such a good cultural fit to our team. Now I know that’s a real thing.

Good luck on your search! Comment below if you have other questions or ideas.

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