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In the spring of 2011, I started regularly interviewing marketers. Having witnessed or been in marketing interviews before, I wanted to develop my ability to ask the basic questions that a candidate would have practiced and been ready to answer, and also have a few questions that would be hard to rehearse. Getting at the core of a marketer’s knowledge and exposing how truly comfortable they will be in the job is not an easy task.
 

“What’s a website that you visit very regularly?”

This is a common jumping-off question in marketing interviews – asking marketers where they get their information and how they digest it. A lot of the responses to this question are places like Mashable and TechCrunch for tech-focused marketers, or corporate sites with very active blogs. You can learn a little bit about what writing style or information appeals to them the most, and share something you both like about the website to build commonality with that candidate.

“Could you draw their homepage?”

This is a core question that is integral to how I interview marketers. It isn’t supposed to be a memory exercise, but a chance to see how comfortable the candidate is with the basic concepts of good B2B web marketing. I look for good comprehension of web marketing fundamentals – Did they include at least one call to action on the page? Is there a navigation bar and what links were important to include there? Did they mention or draw in a headline or title for the page? This is very helpful in diagnosing someone with varying levels of marketing experience, and finding out what they do and do not consider when looking at a page.

For example, the person who did not include any call to action elements has probably never been responsible for lead generation – it is an element that some people might miss, but one an experienced demand generation marketer would never forget to include.

One of the most successful results of this question was for an acquisition marketer, who chose Amazon as their site of choice. I winced when they suggested the site – it’s a very complex page. They went on to describe each ad block on the homepage and list the pixel dimensions. That sealed it for me that not only were they comfortable with acquisition marketing, but knew that they should view every piece of real estate as an opportunity.

“What is the goal of this page? What would you do differently, or test?”

Web marketers at all experience levels will look at the work done by others and wonder what decisions or tests were made that brought them to that conclusion. They should be able to look at a web page and identify the behavior the marketer was trying to create, and what other paths might encourage that behavior. A marketer familiar with A/B testing can always suggest a couple of ideas for altering a call to action or page layout to try and drive a goal higher.

Counterexamples – Look For Strong Thinking, Not Matching

Of course, you don’t want to recruit a marketing team of people who think just like you do. If you chose to start asking this question, be conscious to avoid looking for the same answer that you would give to a question. Instead, look for demonstration of web marketing principles and critical thinking. This is a field with multiple right answers, testing, and opportunities for opinions. Recruiting a marketing team that only works in one direction (yours) is a sure path to failure. You should be learning from each answer you get to these questions, not hoping they’ll match the pre-written answer in your head.

What questions do you regularly ask in marketing interviews? How have they evolved over time?
 

Brian Whalley
Brian is the Director of Marketing at business analytics provider InsightSquared. Prior to InsightSquared, he served as Director of Marketing at HubSpot, where he led all marketing efforts for the company's Sidekick product and consulted new customers on how to execute inbound marketing programs. Brian has over eight years of B2B SaaS internet marketing experience, having also served as Director of Marketing at Boston-area startups like Kinvey and Tracelytics/AppNeta.
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