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Strategy

8 Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring Growth Marketers

Published

January 8, 2024

Updated

Whether you’re hiring your first growth marketer or your hundredth, choosing the right skillset is equal parts art and science. Right Side Up has spent thousands of hours interviewing the best marketers in the business, and sitting in on interviews with founders, CEOs, and hiring managers to understand what makes a successful hire. And although there’s no one secret to finding the right person for your team, there are a few big mistakes we’ve seen play out again and again that you should avoid.

(P.S. If you or someone you know is looking for help hiring the right growth marketers, Right Side Up can help. We offer free growth consultations, with no strings attached.)

Looking for Someone with Every Skill Instead of the Right Skills

We’ve lost count of how many times we’ve seen a founder or hiring manager looking for someone who can do it all. They’re seeking a unicorn marketing generalist who can flawlessly execute across paid media, organic, lifecycle, content creation, and analytics. But what these hiring managers fail to acknowledge is that there is always a tradeoff.

A generalist will be able to execute across a range of core channels, but will likely lack deep expertise in any one area. And a highly specialized expert will likely struggle with working across all channels. There are certainly cases where either option might make sense for your business, but we typically recommend prioritizing a few key skills based on where you’ve seen traction in your growth and what your competitors are doing.

How do you identify the skills that are most important for your growth hire? It’s easier said than done, but here are a few questions to ask as you evaluate the job description and potential hires:

  • What does the greater team look like? Are there skill gaps that need filling? Are there full-time employees who can stretch into additional tasks or roles?
  • Where has growth come from so far? What channels and strategies are your competitors leveraging to drive growth?
  • What have your biggest challenges been so far? Where do you see the company a year from now?

Asking questions like these can help you narrow down your job description to the highest priority skills required and the right channel expertise to look for, while taking into account future growth.

Expecting a New Hire to Know Everything Before They Start the Job

Some skills can be learned on the job, and others cannot. And knowing when to make a line item on your job description required vs. nice-to-have is key for ensuring the person you choose is set up for success. There are three big categories that deserve extra consideration about whether the candidate has the skill or can learn the skill:

  • Industry
  • Hard vs. soft skills
  • Speed vs. perfection

Industry: B2B and B2C operate under different selling motions, which means the marketing channels and best practices differ wildly. We recommend looking for candidates with direct experience in whichever sector you’re in, to ensure you pick someone who can speak to the challenges and solutions of that audience. Additionally, we recommend taking specific industry experience into account when working within a more complex industry, like healthcare or fintech, which requires an additional level of expertise to navigate regulations and red tape. It’s also important to consider the scope of the role when making this decision. Is this role in a highly strategic part of the business? Will they need to rely heavily on previous experience? Or will they have the opportunity to learn from other employees?

Hard vs. Soft Skills: When it comes to technical skills such as analytics, video design, and pixel implementation (to name a few), we suggest hiring specifically for those skills as they tend to be harder to come by. Softer skills, such as lightweight copywriting (e.g. ad copy), data entry, and project management, may be easier to pick up. If you’re looking to fill a role that requires both hard and soft skills, consider prioritizing hard skills and then focus on training softer skills on the job.

Speed vs. Perfection: Particularly for early-stage generalist roles, we recommend looking for someone who can take things from 0 to 50%. This means your hire will come in and build from the ground up, advancing efforts as far as they can go given their skills and your current growth landscape. As we covered earlier, a generalist will rarely be able to take something from 0 to 100%. They will instead move quickly, test across a range of initiatives and channels, and identify the opportunities that warrant being taken all the way to 100%. This balance between moving fast to test and learn quickly, and getting things as close to perfect as possible, is one of the most important considerations when hiring early-stage growth roles.

Spending Too Much Time in the Interview Talking Instead of Listening

A meme showing a car speeding toward an offramp - representing a hiring manager going on a rant instead of asking about the candidate's experience

An introduction into who you are and what your company is all about is a great way to break the ice and get an interview off on the right foot. But we often see founders and CEOs get deep in the weeds in a 30-minute interview, spending half or more of the allotted time on their own background and business before even giving the talent a chance to speak.

The reality is, good talent comes prepared—they’ve likely already scoured your website and maybe even scrolled through your LinkedIn profile. An interview should be an opportunity for you to hear directly from candidates, to challenge them on how they would approach your problems, and to understand the way they think. The best interviews we see begin with introductions and a quick lay of the land, and then delve into a deep discussion on the challenges and opportunities of the specific role.

Not Knowing the Right Questions to Ask (or the Correct Answers to Them)

Most of us have lived through interviews with seemingly out-of-the-blue questions that left us wondering how being able to calculate the number of windows in New York City has any correlation to the job we’re applying for. But the reality is, many hiring managers don’t know the right questions to ask, let alone what a good or great answer looks like. We recommend leveraging subject matter experts within your network to help identify questions and associated answers, based on the job role.

Building your confidence and knowing that you’re asking for and receiving the right information strengthens the entire hiring process, and helps you avoid other common pitfalls, like wondering if the grass is truly greener with another candidate.

Taking Too Long to Decide on Talent

A meme showing a hiring manager looking toward random talent with unrelated experience instead of focusing on the talent being interviewed

One of the most frustrating mistakes we see is when a hiring manager has met great talent, wants to proceed with hiring them, but then decides to see a few other candidates first. There is undoubtedly value in exploring your options, understanding the market, and making an informed decision. However, if you waste too much time looking for greener pastures, you'll often end up dragging your talent down the line for weeks with no clear decision being made, and then when the hiring manager finally decides to move forward, the talent has already accepted another offer.

Particularly for a short-term and contract gigs where risk is low, moving quickly is key to securing great talent. Plus, if you’re hiring through Right Side Up, we can easily move talent in and out depending on your needs, at no additional cost to you.

Committing to a Full-Time Hire Too Early

Ultimately, we believe the best work is done in-house, and contractors are there to play key roles like plugging gaps and providing flexibility within your business. Early-stage businesses need to be mindful of run rate, and full-time hires can be a risky investment. Instead of paying for the hours you use—flexing them up, down, and canceling as needed—you’re committed to paying your talent full-time, regardless of output or success.

Additionally, many startups need to pivot early and often to survive. If your full-time hire doesn’t possess the skills necessary to succeed through each pivot, you can easily be left in a difficult (and expensive) position. Right Side Up can help you ensure you find the right growth hire for your specific stage, industry, and set of challenges.

Requiring Excessive Interview Round

We encourage our clients to consider the scope and hours-per-week requirements of the role they’re hiring for, and calibrate interviews accordingly. We often see great talent lost because the client wanted them to interview with several leaders on the team who all had busy and challenging schedules to work around, leading to weeks of back and forth. Consider cutting interviews if they are too difficult to coordinate in a reasonable timeframe, or combining multiple interviewers into one call.

If you’re having talent meet extremely busy executives, consider working with your point of contact at Right Side Up to prepare questions ahead of time to ensure you get the most out of that interview.

Prioritizing Flashy Brands Over Actual Experience

Recognizable brands are badges of honor on a marketer’s resume, but they don’t mean everything. We commonly see startup founders prioritize big names on resumes over industry, skill set, and company size. Hiring talent who has been with a company that has experienced massive growth is great, but it’s important to be sure that person can operate in your environment, too. For example, if you’re founding a social media company, hiring a growth marketer from Meta may seem like a perfect option.

But make sure you look closely: was this person working at Facebook during the early days? Were they in a role that was directly tied to growth? Did they stick around for a while and see it through? Skill set, experience (including company stage), and even personality are all important factors to consider over a flashy brand name when making a hiring decision.

If you or someone you know needs help hiring marketers, Right Side Up can help. We offer free growth consultations, no strings attached.

Bridget is a growth marketer with deep performance marketing and analytics experience. Prior to joining Right Side Up, Bridget ran the international marketing team at Zulily, where she managed user acquisition and retention across paid social, paid search, email, and onsite offers in 70+ countries. Bridget also led incrementality testing and measurement that led to significant improvements in the company’s attribution model.

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Let's talk growth

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