How To Get A Job In Marketing

Apparently, it’s hard to find good people out there.

I have recently had several CEO’s and CMO’s tell me that they are frustrated with the candidates they are interviewing for various marketing roles, ranging from “utility player” marketing mangers to Senior VP’s . They tell me of candidates yawning during interviews, looking at their watches, being unprepared, dressing inappropriately, and overall just not seeming enthusiastic about the job. Over and over I hear that candidates just don’t “WOW” them.

Part of the reason is that many hiring managers have newly increased expectations for candidates – with the economy in it’s current state, they expect to hire only the most exceptionally talented and versatile people. Or, it may be fatigue on part of a candidate on their 47th interview – they may just be tired of the whole process.

So I thought this would be a good time to share some thoughts on things that I always look for when hiring great marketing people. If you want a job in marketing, here’s how to bring your “A” game:

  1. Back To Basics. First, lets make sure you have the small, but important details covered. No typos on your resume. Dress appropriately. Know who you are meeting with and research them on LinkedIn. Know what the job is about, and what the company does. Arrive early. Bring copies of your resume, samples of your work, something to write on and a pen. Cell phone off. I know this all seems elementary, and you would be surprised how many folks sabotage themselves by missing these simple steps of preparation.
  2. Show me you understand. I am looking for marketers who are also business people, so that means you need to tie together your specific area of expertise with the bigger picture. If you purchase media, I expect you to know how audiences consume media regardless of device. If you are a designer, I expect you to know how the overall campaign performed and how your design (or copy, or artwork, etc.) impacted the campaign results. If you are an e-mail expert, I want to see how you view communication in general and how you balance response with branding. It’s not enough to say that you faithfully executed your part of the program, but can’t share the results because “they” never gave them to you. I am looking to see your natural curiosity that drives your interest in the business.
  3. Show me you can learn. No hiring leader expects any candidate to have 100% perfect knowledge going into a new marketing role. So if you are skilled in a different tool than the one I use to measure my web site activity, I would expect you can learn a new system because you have a larger understanding of web metrics that transcends the specific tool. If you are a great DRTV buyer, show me how that expertise could move over to radio or even online media buying. If you don’t know my industry, show me how you can come up to speed quickly or how your inexperience may provide fresh insight because you are new to the space. I have hired dozens of people who did not fit the classical description of a marketer, but showed potential to grow and learn – and several have exceeded my expectations in their careers. So show me that you can learn, grow, and be more than what you are today – and convince me to invest in you.
  4. Ask great questions. First, lets define what a great question is NOT – it’s not about benefits, perks or pay (you can ask the HR folks about those things), and its not any kind of suck-up question (“Can you tell me all about those great looking kids in that picture?”). A great question shows your thought process beyond the specifics of the job and to the overall task of marketing, building market share, acquiring new customers, retaining old customers and the like. It shows your interest, curiosity, insight, desire to learn, and personality.
  5. Show me both sides of your brain. I expect marketers to be both creative and analytical. I subscribe to the ABC principle – Always Bring a Calculator. Even if it’s a creative meeting where we might be reviewing storyboards – Always Bring a Calculator. Because its part of your mindset that shows you understand that marketing is about much more than pretty pictures and clever prose – its about selling things at a profit and returning investment to the company. Analytical marketers who deal in paid/organic search or media buying need to demonstrate a creative flair for how they approach the role. Creative marketers should be prepared to discuss examples about how your programs performed and the impact they made – with real numbers to back you up.
  6. Show me you fit in. Your resume and initial phone screening interview most likely covered the basic job qualifications that got you to the point of having a face to face meeting. And there will certainly be some more investigation into your skills and background, but you need to remember one thing: as the hiring leader I want you to be right for me and my team. My deepest hope is that you are the right person and that I don’t have to look at any more resumes or meet any more candidates. At this point, its all about culture fit. I want you to be “the one”. Show me that you are, and you can have the job.

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4 Responses to “How To Get A Job In Marketing”

  1. Dave Rigotti on June 23rd, 2009:

    Great tips for any job interview. I’ve seen so many resume too with typos, formatting errors, and not well thought out sentences. That’s unacceptable. Back in November I wrote a post titled “You’re Not Dreaming: How To Get The Job Of Your Dreams In One Of The Toughest Job Markets In Years” at Might be worth a read to those looking for jobs. Thanks for the post!

  2. Mark on June 23rd, 2009:

    I always enjoy a good interview tip article.

    I have lost a dream job because I didn’t have a calculator handy for a phone interview, and I was asked to answer a math question on the spot. Wish you would have posted this about a year ago 🙂

  3. Dunrie Greiling on June 23rd, 2009:

    Timeless post. It applies just as much in 2012 as it did when written.

    A particular and vivid highlight is “ABC” – always bring a calculator.

    We have used an in-person exercise in some of our interviews and supplied candidates with pencil, paper, and a calculator to complete the calculations. One possible next step for us might be to give away a calculator souvenir to candidates. Food for thought!

  4. Stacy Lemonds on June 23rd, 2009:

    Hey! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!