5 Interview Questions to Ask Marketing Candidates (and the Top Traits to Look For)

March 20, 2018

Steve Jobs was one of the most legendary marketers of our time. He was able to advertise products in a way that made everyone want to have them. And, it was his creativity and savvy that helped create one of the most iconic brands: Apple.

Now, we can’t hire a Steve Jobs everyday. But, we can hire great marketers if we know what to look for. And in a constantly changing industry, what makes a marketer successful is having the right soft skills.

To find out which soft skills are most important, we surveyed hundreds of marketing hiring managers on LinkedIn. According to them, these are the five core soft skills that top marketers share:

  • Collaboration: Marketing professionals typically work cross-functionally, so being able to delegate, organize, and channel zen-like patience is a must.
  • Storytelling: The best marketers are storytellers, capable of telling a compelling, eye-opening story.
  • Adaptability: Since the marketing landscape is always evolving, a great candidate is one who can roll with the changes and adopt emerging tactics.
  • Creativity: Exceptional marketing leaders are big-picture thinkers who don’t get bogged down by the nitty gritty.
  • Cultural Fit: 89% of hiring failures are caused by a poor culture fit. If your candidate is a good fit for your company culture, chances are, they’ll be able to thrive.

While predictive assessments and other tools can help you uncover soft-skills, asking the right interview questions is also essential. Below are the interview questions our respondents say are most revealing, as well as what to listen for in candidates' answers.

1. Collaboration: “Tell me about a challenging project you worked on that required cross-functional collaboration. What did you learn?”

This question is designed to tell you two things about your candidate: how well they work as part of a team, and whether they can steer that team toward achieving its goals.

Listen for answers that indicate that this candidate is a planner, has strong organizational skills, and can coordinate or lead a project plan. Assess if they’ve been instrumental in setting out goals and priorities early, and in measuring impact.

You can also listen for cues that they feel comfortable delegating tasks. Here’s a great sample answer which does all of the above:

2. Storytelling: “Tell me a story on a topic you care a lot about.”

You know a good story when you hear one. It pricks up your ears and piques your interest. By asking this question, you can determine how effective a candidate is at advocating for a topic—the cornerstone of good marketing.

To spot a natural conversationalist, look for clues like conciseness, polish, and passion. If they sound really engaged in what they’re talking about, their story will be exciting to listen to.

Here’s a sample answer that shows the candidate knows and cares about the topic and wants you to know and care about it, too:

3. Adaptability: “Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you had never done before. How did you approach the situation?”

A marketer who’s flexible and curious is a great asset to their team. This question gets down to brass tacks about whether your candidate is willing and eager to evolve their skill set over time and adapt to new situations.

Listen for signs that your candidate is a constant learner, curious and engaged in exploring new trends, processes, and technology. They might say things like “it gives me an excuse to keep learning” or “I’m always interested to learn new ways of doing things.”

Great marketers are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and tackle an unfamiliar challenge head on, so your candidate’s answer should reveal how that approach led to a successful outcome. Here’s an example:

4. Creativity: “If you had $100,000 to market a new business of your choice, what would you do?”

This question tests for more than just creativity. It also uncovers whether your candidate has the financial expertise to manage a budget and run a successful campaign.

The ideal answer will show a strong awareness of the big picture. Listen closely to how the candidate lays out priorities—find someone who sets them out in a clear, linear fashion with the aim of accomplishing an overarching goal.

Take a look at this example of how an experienced candidate might propose spending the budget:

5. Cultural fit: “What are 3 words your manager would use to describe you? How about your best friend? Your parents?”

Okay, technically this is three questions. But each one reveals a lot about whether a candidate is a good fit for both the culture at your company and the job itself.

Some candidates might settle for giving you the sort of default adjectives they’d tell any recruiter (hard-working, self-starter, and so on). That’s not necessarily bad, but others might surprise you with more unique and thoughtful answers, making them particularly memorable.

Whatever they say, pay attention to whether they go into detail about why those words best describe them. If they don’t give specific examples, gently press them to explain why they chose the words that they did.

The exact kind of answer you’re looking for will depend on the nuances of your company culture. But here’s one example of an answer a strong candidate might give:

Whatever role you’re hiring for, you can tailor your interview questions to uncover the exact soft skills you need from your candidates. To discover the most revealing interview questions for sales and product management roles as well, download our new ebook: The 5 most revealing interview questions and answers.

*Image by Kazuhiro Shiozawa

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