5 Must-ask Questions When Hiring a Marketing Automation Pro

AMA Staff
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Key Takeaways
​What? You aren't going to get away with not hiring a marketing automation professional, according to Marvel Marketers CEO Maneeza Aminy. 

So What? It's a difficult process to hire and retain these professionals, as marketing automation skills are rare and in demand. 

Now What? Ask potential employees touch questions, such as "How did you learn your skills?" and "How long do you plan to stay with us?" 

April 11, 2016

​Hiring—and retaining—marketing automation professionals may be one of the toughest things that a company does. Here’s what you need to know.​​​​​

​​In 2015, marketing automation and strategy consulting business Marvel Marketers grew from a staff of five to a staff of 40 people. It wasn’t easy, says CEO Maneeza Aminy, as those with an actual skillset and interest in marketing automation systems, such as Marketo and Oracle Eloqua, are hard to come by and even harder to retain. 

“It’s a very, very tough market,” Aminy explains to a room of industry professionals at a March 31 marketing automation training session that was sponsored by the American Marketing Association. 

In a labor market that includes 40% mill​ennials and 40% of people who say that they want flexible jobs, how can a company looking to hire on a new marketing automation professional make it less painful? Asking the right questions goes a long way, Aminy says. “The industry is tiny. All you have to do is ask a few questions to surface information.”

Here are five questions that companies must be sure to ask when hiring a new marketing automation employee:

1. “How did you learn your skills?”

Aminy will often ask applicants to rate their automation skills from one to 10. Often, people give themselves a nine or a similarly high score.

“I think I’m not even a nine,” she says with a laugh.

Some applicants will say that they taught themselves when their organization asked them to take on automation tasks, just picking the program up as they went along. This may be a positive, Aminy points out, as it shows that they still have desire to learn and do the work, but they will likely have knowledge gaps that will need to be addressed via training. In that scenario, the individual has worked in one instance, one environment or one adoption of marketing automation. They often don’t know what they don’t know.

Getting a sense of how someone has learned their skills can illuminate their skill level, what platforms they’re proficient in, and perhaps even allow hiring managers to gauge their desire to learn more. Even if they haven’t used the platform that the specific company uses, the skills could translate into that particular platform with training.

2. “How long do you plan to stay with us?”

This is where managers can suss out how long the applicant plans to stay as an employee, where else they are applying and what their level of knowledge is about working in the industry. 

Aminy says that there are often candidates who will be interviewing for multiple different kinds of jobs, including positions within automation companies themselves. Asking how long they plan to stay and who else they are interviewing with can give a good indication of what their long-term plans are.

This is an honest conversation between the hiring company and the applicant, Aminy says. It is much better to have a frank conversation to get a sense of commitment in a labor market that seems to reward short-term employment across multiple employers.

3. “Can you perform these tasks in front of me?”

This is where the applicant’s technical skills can be put to the test. Others can learn from Aminy’s mistakes, she says, as she once hired an individual who had five years of marketing automation production experience across two platforms but could not perform simple tasks after starting the job. She called him into her office and had him perform tasks in front of her, something he could not do proficiently.

“I don’t know what it is [this person] did for five years across two platforms but it certainly was not leveraging the system,” she says. It goes to show you that the skill of candidates is completely limited by the sophistication of marketing automation adoption of the organizations where they worked. 

Hiring, on-boarding and training the wrong person, and then finding out that she isn’t up to par is painful and disruptive, Aminy says. Seeing candidates do the tasks before they’re hired can help avoid a lot of headaches.

4. “Who are your references?”

This may seem like an obvious question, but at one point of her career, Aminy says that she got too busy to check references. She does not skip this step anymore, as references and LinkedIn connections can tell key information as to how a potential employee works and acts.

“The industry is really, really small,” she says. Colleagues in the industry are always willing to give references and feedback on potential new hires. Finding the right fit is essential both for your success as an organization but also for their success as a candidate. 

5. “How long have you been using automation?”

This goes hand-in-hand with finding out how someone learned her skills, but can be an indication of whether she has the experience that the role demands. 

It may also be important to ask how many iterations of any given marketing automation platform they have worked in. If it’s a single system, it may not translate to the company’s current incarnation of the program. 

However, training the right candidate is always an option, and the right candidate doesn’t always have all the skills that a company might want.

Aminy believes that it’s always better to hire someone who wants to be there, so no matter the skillset they come in with, companies need to strive to find someone who enjoys the work. “In our organization,” she says, “to be the best in the business, the first criteria is actually wanting to be in the trenches with us doing amazing things.” 

She ended the session on the labor force by reminding professionals in the room that even beyond big systems like Marketo, marketing automation is becoming very necessary​. “You’re not going to get away with not dealing with automation,” she says.

Learn more on this topic at the AMA's 2016 Marketing Automation Training Series on June 7-8 in Philadelphia.

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