Lately, we’ve been given an interesting opportunity. And not just on one occasion, but on a few. In short, clients are asking us to help them vet candidates for an internal marketing hire.

Knowing that about 50% of new hires fail, this always makes us nervous. The last thing we want to do is to point a client in the wrong direction – especially for a decision that can be as expensive as a bad hire.

In this article, we’ll detail some things that will give you the best possible chance for success as you look to hire a marketing lead. Is it a guarantee that you’ll nail your hire? Of course not. That’s an impossible promise. But we do know that you’ll at least have a great shot at a great hire.

This is not a comprehensive list. And there’s definitely room for improvement (I’d love if you’d email me anything you’d add). But it’s reflective of our process, and overall, we’ve done a good job of hiring at Gorilla. Employees are happy, clients are happy and our turnover rate is low (0% in 2020!).

Build your pipeline

This is obviously big. And we could probably write a book about it at this point. But in short, if you don’t have a good pipeline of candidates, you’re going to be facing an uphill battle from day one.

While your industry is totally different than ours, we do know how marketers operate and how they go about looking for jobs. So when it comes to building a pipeline, we have a few thoughts that should help you in your process.

First, we keep all of our jobs open at all times. This doesn’t mean we’re actively hiring for them all (or any) and we clearly explain that on our careers page. But it does mean that we’re always collecting resumes and applications. Then, when it’s time to actually hire, we’ve got a nice pool of folks to pull from. We’re vigilant about staying on top of all applications and responding to each submission we get. In our correspondence with all applicants, we also encourage them to check us out on the social channels (especially Instagram and LinkedIn), so that they can start to see what our culture is like. It’s similar to nurturing contacts in your sales funnel – and we’ve found it to work well in hiring.

We also pay careful attention to the online job forums/channels. Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn — the usual suspects. Ensuring our company is well-represented in those places ensures that when it’s time to hire, we’ve got our ducks in a row.

And of course, we’re always making notes of impressive folks we meet in the industry and community. While there might not be an opportunity now, there’s always a chance that something could line up down the road. And no – we don’t go to many networking events. We’ve already served that sentence early on. We’re simply always on the lookout for educated, driven, interesting people. Often those make great marketers.

Background of ideal candidates

What I’ve learned in marketing, especially recently, is sometimes the best candidates do not come from the traditional marketing background.

For instance, we hired someone this year who was a barista before working at Gorilla. However, in his downtime, he was teaching himself everything there was to know about digital marketing, writing for the web, and the ins and outs of strategy. We loved his initiative and his drive to grow. Now, he’s a full-fledged marketer contributing much to our company’s success.

But, as we know in the business world, the best indicators of future success are often told on a resume in the form of previous experience and educational background. So finding someone with five-plus years of relevant experience and a degree from a good business or journalism school is ideal. These are folks that have likely known, for a long time, that they have a deep interest in marketing, advertising, writing and business.

Strong writer

Your future marketing lead must be a strong writer. It’s the foundation of all communication. And marketing, well, it’s a lot of communication. With the exception of designers and developers, there’s no room for poor writing if you’re a marketer. And even these positions still must be able to communicate clearly.

As candidates apply, look for errors, big or small, in their resumes, applications and in any communication they have with you. If they’re sloppy early, they’ll likely be sloppy later on, and for this role, that’s a big risk to be taking. Additionally, look for writing that’s easy (and even enjoyable) to read. We all know the difference at this point so hire accordingly.

Clear, concise, error-free writing is a non-negotiable, as it will provide a better, more efficient, more effective process. I’m proud to say that all of our employees are strong writers…and only four of whom are required to be such by job title.

Wanted: strategic critical thinkers

At Gorilla, you’ll notice that all of our positions have the word “Thinker” in the title. This wasn’t an accident or just some quirky agency thing – it’s something we simply have to have in all of our employees.

No matter the role, all of our employees must be able to think strategically first and foremost. We of course want executors and doers, but it’s a dealbreaker if someone doesn’t think before they act. What’s the old adage – measure twice, cut once? Yep, that applies to the marketers of the world as well.

As you evaluate critical thinking skills, observe the questions the applicant asks of you. We always tell people we’re interviewing that it’s a two-way interview. They need to be interviewing us as much as we’re interviewing them. If they don’t, it communicates that they might not be critical thinkers. And that gives us major pause. After all, how do we get better for our clients, our employees and our community if we’re not thinking critically?


If you have someone that’s going to truly be guiding your marketing efforts and related sales efforts, they need to be a self-starter and need to be thinking far beyond what you’re asking of them.

Look for candidates that are challenging themselves in different ways. Maybe they’re training for a marathon, maybe they’re contributing regularly to a blog, maybe they’re taking course upon course to make themselves smarter. Regardless of how it manifests, you need to find someone that is looking to always improve. Anything less, and you’ll be putting the wrong person in the wrong seat. What books have they read? What marketers do they follow? What podcasts do they listen to…and do they really listen to them?

We need folks who are hungry. And to be successful in marketing, this is a non-negotiable. Marketing is always evolving. If you don’t have someone in the role that is constantly wanting to learn and to stay on top of trends, you’re not in a position for success. Self-starter or bust for this role.

…and constant learner

As Mark Twain once said, “If you don’t like the trends in marketing now, just wait a few minutes.” Or was that his quote about the weather? Either way, you get the idea.

Literally, our industry is changing by the day. I could hit publish on an article tonight and tomorrow it could be irrelevant. That’s probably a little drastic, but it could happen. New products, new tools, new updates from Google, new social channels – the marketing world is evolving at an insanely fast pace. If your marketing hire can’t stay on top of it all, you’re up a creek without a paddle.

Being a constant learner is frankly the number one thing we’re looking for. Anything less, and you’re hiring a dinosaur. And they’re extinct.

The importance of tactical experience

No one is going to be a one-stop shop when it comes to a marketing skillset. In fact, that’s why agencies like ours exist (more on that and why you should hire an agency shortly).

Often, we see job postings trying to attract someone that can design, write, code, manage a PPC campaign, think…

STOP. It ain’t happenin’.

These people don’t actually exist. They’re unicorns. But, finding someone that understands these components at a base level, and maybe even has experience managing a few of them, is a must. If they can’t walk the walk, they won’t be able to talk the talk. So some tactical experience is a huge plus.

Regardless of the actual tactical experience they do have, they must be tech-savvy. No, they don’t have to be able to code a website from scratch. But if they’re asking for help logging into Facebook, their time may have passed. The digital marketing world will not be kind to them.

Works well with others…

Meaning, “Will they want to work with Gorilla or an agency like Gorilla?” Some internal marketing folks simply aren’t comfortable working with outside help which can make things tough. Sure, in a perfect world, you have an entire agency in-house: strategist, developer, writer, designer, project manager, the works. But, those salaries and benefits start adding up fast. And what might cost you $100,000 to $200,000 in agency fees quickly turns into $350,000-plus in employee costs. Oh, and did I mention you have to manage it all?

Obviously we’re in the agency business, so our opinion might be biased. That said, the math, and quality of work, doesn’t lie. Agencies are cheaper and almost always do better work. Having a marketing director that can work well with an agency is a must. It’s important that you trust their ability to do such — and you need to grant them the power to give approval and make decisions.

Let us help

By no means are we hiring experts. But, we have had a lot of success in this area. The employees we have are outstanding and we’ve gotten a ton of interest from others wanting to work at Gorilla. If we can ever give you an opinion or talk through your process, please let us know. Hell, we just might even have someone in our system who could be a good fit for you.