Over the years we have hired a small army of digital marketing professionals  (We even are hiring right now!).  In the process, we have interviewed innumerable candidates with a wide range of skills.  While we often get 100+ candidates for each opening, the number of quality candidates typically can be counted on one hand.

Part of the challenge comes from the fact that digital marketing is so new.  On the surface, it can be hard to set people apart when so many have entered the field within the past couple years.

Here are our five tips for landing a digital marketing job, whether it’s with us or with any serious online business:

#1 Position Yourself As a Generalist or a Specialist

The first thing you need to do is be clear about whether you are a generalist or a specialist.  This isn’t a hard question.  If you are a specialist, you will know it.  For example, if all you want to work on all day is SEO, you are a specialist.  If you like learning new things and being thrown into new problems all the time, you are a generalist.

This is key to understand because the requirements for a specialist versus a generalist are very different.  When we are looking for a specialist, we want someone who is best-in-class in that area.  If are you going to be a SEO specialist, you need to know SEO the way Yoda knows The Force.  You have to live it all day long, and you have to be able to demonstrate that.

On the other hand, if you are going to be a generalist, you have to be nimble.  You will be asked to work on projects and tools that you know nothing about.  As such, you need to show that you love being thrown into those situations.  You are the ultimate self-starter because you have to figure things out on your own.  You should have several examples of cases where you were thrown into the deep end and quickly assessed what needed to be done, and figured out how to use new tools in uncharted territory.  The more specific the vignettes, the better your chances of convincing us.

#2 Demonstrate Success, Not Certifications

Some candidates come in and spend a fair bit of time talking about the certifications they have (e.g., in Google Analytics) or the classes they have taken.  While that is all well and good, it doesn’t get you hired in any top notch shop.  For the record, we aren’t certified in Google Analytics but we use it three hours a day and know the product inside and out.

What matters is what you have achieved, particularly in terms of how you impacted the business.  What actions did you take that had a major impact on your company’s KPIs?  Examples could be:

  • Created a content strategy that drove a X% increase in leads.
  • Worked with the development team to roll out a new feature that increased the viral coefficient by X%, thereby driving Y new sign-ups per year.
  • Increased the conversion rate by X% by running several key AB tests.

When you walk through these cases, do your best to reference KPIs that are core to the business (to the extent you can without giving away any company secrets). Saying that you drove up Facebook likes doesn’t mean much. Driving X million dollars of business grabs the attention of the person you are interviewing with.

#3 Prove Your Aptitude to Learn

Digital marketing is always changing, so it is really easy to fall behind.  We will likely ask you how you keep up.  The specifics don’t matter that much as long as you demonstrate an insatiable desire to stay on the top of your game.  One great way to do that is to mention something you learned that day or a couple articles you read that week.  That is usually a good indicator that you are current.

Similarly, if you show that you became a master of some skill within a short period of time, it will go a long way.  If we are hiring for a generalist who sometimes will work in Pardot, it is perfectly fine to show how you quickly came up to speed on Marketo.  We just want to see that you can learn.

#4 Demonstrate Fluency in the KPIs

Most good digital marketing groups use roughly the same KPIs.  They may call them slightly different things or focus on certain metrics more than others, but in general, they are the same everywhere.  This industry or that, B2C or B2B, you still are talking about basic funnel management.  A few of the core metrics that we always talk about are:

  • CAC
  • LTV
  • ROAS
  • Churn
  • ASP
  • Conversion %

If you understand these and other core marketing metrics inside and out, you demonstrate a few things.  First, you show that you have the aptitude to learn (#3 above).  Second, it is a good indicator that you think about success in terms of how much you impact the business (#2 above).  Lastly, it shows that you have an analytical mind.  Even if you are more of a creative type, it is important to be able to correlate your actions to the business’ goals.

#5 Show You Are a Team Player

Digital marketing is a system.  For example, content marketing rarely works without great marketing analytics, SEO, retargeting, etc.  As such, you will need to work closely with other people.  You may have a week to launch some big new feature, and everyone just needs to jump in and split up the tasks as part of a mad sprint to the launch date.  Job roles may get blurry and titles won’t matter – the work just needs to get done right and get done quickly.  Everyone just needs to pitch in as best they can.  Can you survive in that situation?  Do you focus on the success of the project and of the company without worrying too much about who gets credit for which specific piece?  Again, bring your storytelling skills and describe specific situations from the past where you pitched in to make your company successful.