The Ultimate Headhunter’s Guide to Recruiting Top Digital Marketing ProfessionalsIf you are in business, managing a business, then you already know how invaluable digital marketing is to the survival and success of business in this digital age. You might have already taken a stab at doing some digital promotion of your business by yourself.

You saw how effective digital marketing is in boosting sales and leads. However, to be super competitive, you need a professional to handle the given digital marketing role. The worst thing you can do is try to be Jack of all trade; you will be a master of none.

While you are at it, your competition will have a professional promoting their business, and they will leave you in the dust.

Thanks to Adam Smith’s vision of ‘Division of Labor,’ in 1776, we know the holistic organization becomes more efficient, productive, and profitable when the entire workload is divided into departments, and each department driven by a specialist within the specific field.

How to Headhunt the Top Talent in Digital Marketing

Therefore, it goes without saying, you need to hire specialists for the various digital marketing roles. The next big question follows, how do you identify top talent for a given job? Well, below we have some few pointers:

  1. A Specialist Focused on the Given Field

This point is a no-brainer if you are looking for someone to design your multimedia content for posting on social media. You don’t want someone who does web design, social media management, copywriting, and everything else. No, you want someone who dedicates all their might on graphics design.

The challenge most businesses have when it comes to getting a specialist is that they want someone readily available when needed. Often, that requires the business to hire someone full time, and they start giving them all types of digital marketing roles from copywriting, social media management, and everything digital marketing related.

The greatest pitfall with that is the person hired may have general knowledge about a specific field of digital marketing. However, when it comes to the really deep stuff that could give you the edge over your competition, their knowledge is simply not that deep. Those are the dangers of hiring a generalist.

You also need to have a look at their portfolio; previous works they have done. So you can be sure they not only have the specialized skills within the given field but also have some experience. Most professionals in digital marketing will have a portfolio on hand to showcase their prospective new clients — something they will use to pitch to get hired.

That is if you decide you want to hire the specialist full-time, have an in-house specialist at your beck and call. Hire for the digital marketing activity that is most critical to your organization, where you need someone readily available and working on your project full time.

If you decide to go for a digital marketing agency, you need to understand that although they may have a specialist for every marketing activity. They are working for multiple clients sometimes that may include your competition.

Of course, they are expected to practice some professionalism, and whatever work they do for you remains exclusively copyrighted to you. However, there is a chance they will spin one product and share it between you and your competition.

To avoid such a scenario, always ensure you keep tabs on your competition and be on the lookout for any signs that you could be sharing the same content from the same marketing agency.

When it is all said and done, hiring the service of a digital marketing agency seems to make more sense. As you get different talents specialized in various fields of digital marketing. The work is in finding a reputable and ethical agency that will not be playing on both teams; yours and that of your competition.

2. Continuous Learner

Digital marketing is a very dynamic space; changes happen often and quite fast compared to other industries. Something might be working perfectly today, and some little changes occur in the underlying technology and come next week, what worked no longer works.

The dynamic nature of digital marketing is squarely attributed to the fast-pace nature at which technology is developing. The algorithms behind the software and the functionality behind the hardware. These changes can have a profound impact on your digital marketing efforts.

It, therefore, follows if you are looking to hire a digital marketer to work for your company. A key trait to look for in the candidate is their capacity to continuously keep up with the changes happening in the industry.

The good thing with digital marketing is that there are a plethora of avenues one can keep up with the latest trends in the market. There are online classes one can take in the evening or weekend, and short courses running less than six months or a year to certification.

So when interviewing a candidate for a position in digital marketing, be sure to check out when was the last training they took and in what field. Doing so will give you the assurance you are hiring a specialist with market-relevant skills needed to help you achieve your bottom line.

The job candidate must also be in active practice of their trade. We see in a lot of industries where professionals graduate from training institutions and can go for months, even years, before securing a job. In digital marketing, the last person you want is to get someone, though professionally trained, has not been in active practice.

To a large extent, there is no reason why they should not have been in active practice of their trade. For instance, if you are looking to hire a copywriter, they could be doing their own blogs on the side as they wait for the opportunity to land a job. A graphics designer could be creating artworks and sharing them on Instagram and other social media.

Such projects done as one awaits to do them for payment from their employer or client serve two purposes. First, they keep honing the skills of the practitioner while also increasing the depth of their portfolio. Something they can use to show a prospective employer or client how much they have been able to deliver on past projects.

The danger of hiring someone who is not up to speed on the current market trend is that they will have a longer learning curve. That while at the job, and you will be paying them as they train themselves on the current trends in the market.

3. Polished Communication Skills

Communication skills are essential to just about any role any individual can hold in any organization. In digital marketing, the person you will hire will be a cog in a bigger gear-wheel, driving the organization’s communication to the outside world.

Therefore, they must be able to coordinate and collaborate with other ‘cogs in the system.’ Meaning they need to work in synergy with other employees and departments in the business, to ensure the organization is moving in the right direction.

For instance, if you are hiring a graphics designer for your organization. They will be producing artwork and multimedia content for the organization. At times the direction of what content to produce will come from the social media marketing team, the accounts department, the HR department, among others.

The graphics designer needs to be able to communicate well with their colleagues and become a team player in the organization. They need to have each other’s back and willing to help one another. That can only happen if each member of the team has good communication skills.

It extends further to beyond just communication skills; to encompass the life’s soft skills. The ability to empathize with others, be courteous and generally have high emotional intelligence. They may have all the technical skills and hard facts nailed down but without enough emotional intelligence and soft skills. They will likely be on a coalition course with their colleagues.

The last thing any business wants is the team supposed to be steering it towards success, getting caught up with office politics. Something that could derail the entire organization and time that should be used on focusing on the business’s goals is used in conflict resolution and bickering.

During the interview, make sure you screen for communication skills among the available candidates. That is especially when hiring an in-house digital marketing specialist. If, on the other hand, you are outsourcing the work to a digital marketing agency. Much of that task will be out of your hands, as it is the agency’s management that will be responsible for hiring specialists in their organization.

Before we wrap up on this topic, it is essential to recognize that various roles require different levels of communication skills. For instance, a web designer does not necessarily need to have advanced communication skills like say, a copywriter, social media manager, or an email marketer.

Though it is still crucial for the web designer to have some mastery of communication skills, they are not required to be as proficient as the others mentioned. It is also important that while conducting an interview, not to disqualify the right candidate simply because they don’t have the desired level of communication skills, especially if their job description will not require such advanced levels of communication.

4. Time Keeper

A rather general requirement for all professions, isn’t it? Whether you are a doctor, a hedge fund manager, a CEO running Fortune 500 Company, a plumber, a garbage truck driver, or a digital marketing professional. Timekeeping is an essential life skill.

Digital marketing is a complicated world that demands constant attention, and things are frequently changing. It would be best if you had someone with time management skills, who can plan their activities to beat the deadline and not find themselves sinking in late deadlines.

There is a lot that needs to get done, and the specialist needs to organize their work schedule so that everything that needs their attention gets addressed. The old business intelligence adage ‘Time is Money’ is nonetheless true when it comes to digital marketing.

As an employer, it will be unethical for you to hover over your employees while they are working to ensure they are not wasting time on any one particular activity. You will have to trust they will be able to manage their time best on their own, and all you want is work well done, as will be seen in the end report.

Time management is very, which is why it is so surprising that there is no business training and focus on timekeeping. It is an issue that cuts across the industries, and often it could be what makes to break the company.

That is truer for small businesses, working with a tight budget. Time is money, and you cannot afford to waste any of that money. It would help if you had an employee that comes to work consistently on time and gets their work completed on time.

Failure to which, they may affect the general productivity of the organization. Since an organization is a system running by various parts working in synergy, if one part lags behind, it will delay the entire system.

Excellent timekeeping makes the business more efficient. When time, the organization avoid rushing to beat the deadlines, and execute the task at hand to the best possible level. If they are struggling to beat the deadline, work will be rushed, and quality may be compromised.

Good timekeeping not only enables the business to have time to reflect on work done, and plan for future work. It also allows enough time for the staff to rest and recover their energy. Lack of good timekeeping can lead to staff handing one project back-to-back without rest. That, in the long run, leads to lowered staff morale and possibly have adverse effects on their health.

It is critical that when considering job candidates for any digital marketing position. You also screen for their ability to keep time, because if they lag, they will delay other departments in the organization as well. The entire business operations will also go slow.

5. Strategic Thinking

Sometimes the tasks involved in digital marketing can be repetitive, so much so that the specialist can get caught up in the day-to-day execution. Then pay little to no attention on the long term and short term strategy that will steer the organization towards the desired goal.

When hiring, not just a digital marketing specialist, but any employee, especially ones who are occupying managerial roles in a given department, it is critical you screen for their ability to strategize towards the desired goal.

If we were to take a second and try to explain what strategic thinking is, we would say making a series of decisions on the kind of actions to take. That will guide us towards the desired goal.

From that definition, it is clear that a person needs to take some time aside and think about the long term prospects. They do that armed with analytics, metrics, and reports of previous and current business performance. Out of this, they come up with insights to better their day-to-day activities that will propel the business towards the desired goal.

In digital marketing, the specialist must be a strategic thinker. Mainly because the industry is operating in an environment that is continually changing, new technology emerges, rendering old tactics irrelevant, and the strategies need to be rethought afresh.

If the specialist is caught up in the day-to-day activities, they will be like an ostrich who has dug its head under the sand. Only to raise the head and realize the surrounding environment is hot on fire, and in the next couple of seconds, the fire will burn it.

Other than the changing environment, strategic thinking helps when you are working with limited resources. More often, you will find a couple of departments not getting the full facilitation they need to execute their mandate, and the marketing department can also fall victim.

If, however, headed by a strategic thinker, the limited resources available will be divided among the pressing needs. These are critical activities that must be done to keep the organization going.

On the other hand, if the person heading the marketing department lacks strategic thinking. They will find themselves using the limited available resources on activities that could wait, while not being able to make headway on the very critical activities.

That is how you find two similar institutions with almost equal resources, one being able to remain in business for years. While the other burnout quicker, because it failed to support the very critical activities that make up the lifeline of the business.

6. Institutions of Training

It is said that students at Ivy League schools get jobs even before they graduate. The same goes for digital marketing; job candidates from prestigious institutions of training will secure jobs more readily than those from less prestigious institutions.

Like we featured in our earlier posts, there are colleges and universities offering courses in digital marketing. Now, we do know these learning institutions are not all the same; there are those that command a lot of respect and authority than others.

If among the job candidate, there is one from such a prestigious institution. That will give them an edge over the rest of the candidates. The same goes for their affiliations. Those affiliated with reputable brands in digital marketing; perhaps they used to work for an established and seasoned digital marketing agency.

They will elicit a lot of interest from you as the employer. As you will be looking to tap on some of that great knowledge they were getting from the institution of learning. It would be best if you also remember that not all great digital marketing professionals need to go to prestigious learning institutions.

There are a plethora of online platforms where one can take courses and just as qualified as someone from a prestigious institution, if not more.

In such a case, look at clout of the given online e-learning platform, they undertook their training. The more respect the platform commands in the job market, the higher the ratings for such a job candidate.

7. Referees

This tip is another no-brainer tip. If you are going to hire someone for any position, collective business wisdom dictates that you check in with their previous employers. They ought to include several referees with contact details in their application letter.

All you need is to reach out to these referees and skillfully check on the quality and integrity of their (job applicant’s) workmanship. However, you need to be very careful if the referees are only singing praise songs for the applicant. It could be their opinion is compromised because they might have a very close relationship, or the applicant asked (even paid them) to say nothing negative about them.

To safeguard yourself against being duped by the referee, it is always prudent to have a thorough scrutiny of their portfolio. That is the previous works they have handled, and as we said earlier, the beauty of digital activity is that they are easily measurable.

You can look at the numbers of their previous campaigns, the engagement, the leads, conversions, sales attributed to their actions. The higher the numbers, the more appealing the candidate for the job position; because numbers don’t lie.

8. Internship Position Before Hiring

Some digital marketing tasks are quite sensitive. A one-minute mistake can erode your market position that you have been working on for years.

Take, for instance, SEO ranking. It takes a lot of time, hard work, and investment to appear at the top of search engine result pages. It is often a slow and painstaking process, and the last thing you want is to give full control to a new person on the job.

You are safer off hiring them under an internship program, where they get to work under the stewardship of someone already experienced with your system. That way, you minimize the chances of them making a catastrophic mistake that will take your SEO ranking down the drains.

So when job hunting for someone to fill a vacant digital marketing position at your firm. Be on the lookout for someone willing to take up an internship position while they familiarize themselves with your system.

Finding such a candidate can be a tall order, especially if the internship position will be less paying than were they to be given a job. Think of it as taking insurance against potentially fatal employee mistakes. Although on their side, they may not be interested in the job upon learning it is an internship position, especially if they feel they come with a lot of skills and experience on the job.

If the candidate passes through the internship period without any major mishaps, then you can proceed and give them the job. That way, they will have had time to go through the learning curve, and maybe made some mistakes but with minimum repercussions.


During the interview process, it is not enough to go over the candidates’ qualification certificates to confirm they meet the required qualifications. It would be more prudent if you gave them a test during the interview and see how they perform.

Some tests can put to task the traits mentioned earlier, and you will be in a better position to know the really qualified candidate. As the saying goes, this is where the rubber meets the road. Forget about the paper qualification; you need ‘demonstrated successes of qualification.’

Tests such as the aptitude tests can give you (the recruiter) an idea of the candidate’s skills in things like strategic thinking, communication skills, and timekeeping, among others. Then again, you can always outsource your human resource function to a reputable HR service firm.

The advantage of doing that is they handle recruitment often (it is the service they sell), and have seen numerous pitfalls, learned from the mistakes, and perfected the process. Something you may not be in a position to have since you hire every once in a long while. Unless you have high staff turnover, which is another problem on its own.

Wrapping Up

Much has been said about the ideal candidate for a digital marketing job, but at the same time, a lot has been left out. The bottom line is, it all depends on what your target is, and what qualities do you look for in a candidate with regards to achieving that target.

The above is just a general guide towards identifying the right candidate, but you should have a clear picture of the job description, and the qualities needed to fill those shoes. No two roles are the same.

The scale for the measurement of a candidate’s suitability as a graphics designer is worlds apart from that of an SEO expert. You can’t use blanket criteria to vet candidates for both positions.

Article provided by, The Digital Marketing Recruiter – a recruiting firm focused exclusively on filling digital marketing positions throughout the USA

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