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  • Writer's pictureEd Locher

Focus on these traits, not specific experience, when building world class marketing teams.

What do you look for in your candidates?

· 7-years of experience working with marketing automation platforms, like Marketo or Pardot, is definitely valuable. That much experience with a single platform can mean lots of things, anything from deep expertise to risk-aversion to lack of motivation.

· Leading teams across multiple geographies, definitely a skill that can help. Experience leading teams scattered around the world definitely means they’ve lost a lot of sleep thanks to time zones. As much as we want to believe this makes them wise in the way of foreign markets, unfortunately it’s no guarantee this is the case.

· Experience building Account Based Marketing programs, that’s a thing. ABM can mean just about anything to anyone.

None of which means much when it comes to uncovering true talent that can transform your team.

My experience suggests it’s very difficult, but not impossible, to find individuals that are high performers that create synergy across the entire team, marketing or otherwise. The examples above are merely superficial checkmarks masquerading as indicators of future success. They may be somewhat important, as familiarity with systems can shorten onboarding timelines, but they aren’t actually ‘required’ to be successful in the job. What is a savvy marketing leader to do when looking to fill gaps and wants someone better than your average bear to really drive results?

The answer is actually quite simple. Don’t hire based solely on direct experience. Hire for character. I don’t mean integrity or respect; those are table stakes. Any red flags in those areas, don’t walk, run in the other direction. No, what I’m talking about are two key characteristics that are the best indicators of future success that I have discovered in my career. The common threads of high performers are curiosity and determination. Here’s why.

Marketing as a discipline is rapidly evolving, and curiosity and determination will always be critical. An innate desire to understand how things work, an insatiable drive to figure out why things happen the way that they do, that is 10x more valuable than someone who knows which buttons to push on today’s platform. They are constantly asking questions, challenging the status quo, searching for better ways to get things done. I’ll take someone who took apart their toys as a kid over someone with a decade of specific experience every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Why? Because specific experience will get stale, and if they don’t care about figuring out what’s next, they won’t be able to keep up.

Determination is equally important. As today’s marketing challenges get bigger, expand across larger parts of the business, and drive more of an organization’s success, you’re going to need people who can get things across the finish line. New processes need to be established and optimized. New tools need to be sourced, implemented, and perfected. Process improvement is a game of whack-a-mole. To create efficiency out of the chaos, you need a determined and resourceful team, unafraid to tackle new challenges.

Put curiosity and determination together, and you’ve got an extremely powerful individual on your team. Pair them with someone similar, set the direction and you’ll be pleased with the results. Your job will be to create a vision and remove structural obstacles. Do that successfully, and there is no limit to what the team can accomplish.

So how do you find people with these characteristics? The good news is, they’re out there. The bad news is, we don’t do a good job as leaders of asking the right questions in order to find them. Rather than asking for 5+ years on this tool or specific experience with a certain activity, ask what books they read on the weekend or what was their favorite subject in school. Most importantly, why they liked it. You can tell a lot by the level of animation and passion in their responses. If their answer is a disinterested recital of the latest corporate best seller – YAWN. If they bounce in their chair with excitement as they share how their passions and interests have made them better at their jobs, don’t let them leave until they sign the contract.

The best example I can think of from my own experience is a recent interview I conducted with a candidate for a customer marketing job. We spoke a little bit about the requirements and the job itself, but most of the conversation ended up being about how he recently ripped out all of the plumbing in his house and replaced it himself. Bingo! Curiosity! Determination! Courage! Nailed it.

So next time you have a role to fill on your team, think about what you really want. Do you want a button pusher or someone who embraces the art of discovery and can apply that to improving a process? Do you want someone who may be great when things are smooth and easy but lacks the drive to push themselves? Or do you want someone who will inspire their colleagues with their positive outlook and will never give up until the job is done.

It takes a little extra work on your part to mine these gems, but you’ll get crazy high ROI when you find them. It’s enlightened self-interest at its finest. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

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