How to interview and hire for entry-level digital marketing positions

It’s graduation season. For many college students, that means it’s time to get a job. 

There are plenty of open jobs in digital marketing – more than 20,000 jobs are listed for “digital media, entry-level” on LinkedIn right now. If your agency or brand is hiring, you can expect to get resumes from some of these college graduates.

This begs the question: what should you look for when hiring for entry-level digital marketing roles? What soft skills and hard skills matter? What questions should you ask? And are there any red flags should you watch for?

Here’s what to look for when hiring junior talent who may have little (if any) hands-on experience in digital marketing.

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What to look for in a candidate

Thriving in digital marketing doesn’t require a certain type of work or life experience.

Success comes down to the person – their aptitude and desire to show up and do the work.

I’ve hired English majors, chemical engineers, and everything in between. I’ve hired people from small universities, top five schools and those who didn’t get a degree.

Look for a candidate who demonstrates the ability to solve problems. You want to hire people who have done – and will do – the necessary work to succeed. Ask candidates to share examples of their experience and how they can relate that experience to the daily work your company does. Someone who can show you these elements is a strong candidate. 

Hard vs. soft skills

Hard skills are the easiest to spot. Candidates who have invested time in certification in a tool or technology (e.g., Google, Facebook or Amazon ads) have already built a foundation for success in this space.

It is a good signal to me, as a hiring manager, when a candidate knows the language being spoken on a day-to-day basis. It will help get this person up to speed and running more quickly.

Soft skills are more valuable over time, but harder to determine from a resume or an interview.

When it comes to soft skills, I always tell candidates to think through the story they are trying to convey.

Candidates who can boil questions down in the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) framework should be considered seriously. Too many candidates fail to provide enough specifics when demonstrating their grasp of the question or the skills needed.

Types of questions to ask

Keep expectations fairly simple when interviewing for junior positions. Nobody at this level has managed a Fortune 500 company’s ad budget. Experience in any kind of digital marketing work isn’t even necessary.

However, you should expect candidates to have a clear point of view and interest in digital marketing. Here are a few go-to questions to ask candidates and what to listen for in their answers:

  • Tell me about an analytical decision you made. Digital marketing has more data than most careers. I’m not looking for candidates to have used data specifically in digital marketing work. It could be anywhere. Maybe it’s how they figured out how to save money on a vacation or something they created as a school project. The goal of this question is to understand a candidate’s decision-making ability and how they break down problems. 
  • What makes you interested in digital marketing? Look for some passion in this answer. A good example would be someone who knows about some recent news in the industry and why it’s interesting. Strong candidates will tell you how they use personal time to get some experience or learn more. 
  • Do you have any questions for me? This is always the last question, but it is very important. Look for someone to show they have done homework on the company and leadership. If they have no questions or ask about vacation policy at this point, you will leave frustrated and have one less candidate.

Watch out for these red flags

You may have your own dealbreakers. Here are two for me:

  • Candidates who fail to do any homework: Good candidates will take time to research the job, the company, the people interviewing them or the industry. At a minimum, a candidate should have visited your social media accounts or website, or read some articles on Search Engine Land.
  • Candidates who lack passion or interest: Look, I get it. It’s just a job. I know we aren’t hiring anyone to cure cancer. A lack of enthusiasm during the interview or afterward, for the company or the industry, is a clear indicator that they aren’t capable or willing to do the job.

The need for digital marketing talent continues to increase

Our industry is growing faster than our talent supply. Hopefully, the advice in this article is helpful if you’re hiring for entry-level positions.

Who knows. You might just hire someone who is about to begin an exciting and rewarding career path for the next 20+ years. Let the search begin!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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About The Author

Jason is currently the CEO of Airtank and is an accomplished marketing executive and proven leader with over 20 years of experience growing strong and profitable teams, working for and with Fortune 500 companies in a variety of industries.
Prior to AirTank, Jason served as Executive Vice President of Product for BrandMuscle, an enterprise software and services company focused on Fortune 1,000 brands, where he led product innovation and strategy. He earned the company a Leadership Ranking in the Forrester 2020 Through-Channel Marketing Automation Wave.
He also spent 16 years working with Rosetta, Razorfish and Progressive Insurance, leading Paid, Earned and Owned media teams across health care, financial services and retail verticals. He was named a “40 under 40” by Direct Marketing News, has been a judge for the AMA Reggie Awards, and has been published in Forbes and many other publications as a subject matter expert.

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