How do I stop making this mistake?
I was sitting across from a startup founder. His brow was knitted, pain etched across his face. He'd had three consecutive bad experiences with growth marketing hires. He was interviewing five candidates for a new role, and he really didn’t want to make the wrong hire.
Hiring the wrong person is a resource drain for any company — it sucks energy, time, and budget.
Making a bad hire call can leech momentum from your business.
Not to mention it’s a terrible experience for the person you’ve just put in the wrong role.
So there I was sifting through what had gone wrong and how to bring in the right person for the next role.
In our conversation I realized that he had been ignoring some key red flags that come up in growth interviews. Let’s dig into a few to look out for, and how you can probe to get good answers from candidates in your interview process.
Three red flags to look out for in growth interviews
If you ask any good growth marketer a question about how a growth channel should perform, or what decision they’d make in a given circumstance— they should answer with an intelligent version of “it depends'." Plenty of factors can determine the success or failure of any growth channel. Budget, pricing, margins, competition, resources, list-size, data, seasonality, organic demand — at any time, a good marketer is weighing a lot of data points to make a good decision on how to grow your customer base.
If they tell you point blank that they know what will work and how fast, they aren’t displaying the thoughtfulness and aptitude a good growth marketer will bring to your team.
Blind confidence can display (at best) a lack of experience, or (at worst), arrogance.
To get a sense of this in your interview process, ask good questions about how your candidate thinks through challenges. They should be able to point to specific examples of times they tried things that failed, and what they learned from it, without trying to reframe the failure as a success. Experienced growth marketers have a deep well of failures, it’s the only way we find things that work.
Bonus points for specificity and the ability to recall good examples with rough data.
Ask questions that point to humility (or a lack there of):
- “Tell me about an experiment that was your idea, that completely failed. Walk me through how that played out. What did you learn?”
- “What do you think you would excel at in this role? What do you think you would struggle with in this role?”
- “What is some feedback you received from a leader on something you need to develop? How have you focused on improving?”
I’ll make this short: people who know what they’re talking about don’t need to abbreviate everything in unnecessarily complicated ways. The overuse of growth acronyms in an interview could be a way to appear more experienced — but if a candidate can’t explain something simply, they don’t understand it themselves.
Ask clarifying questions;
- “Can you explain that like you’re speaking to a toddler?”
- “Can you give me an example of how you’ve implemented that in your current role?”
- “Walk me through what that would look like in practice at X Company from day one?”
3. A lack of curiosity
Good growth hires are insatiably curious.
And if someone wants to work at your company, they should be incredibly interested in how you’re currently growing, what your customer feedback looks like, how specific channels perform for you, what is being tested, what resources are available to that role, and how their unique skillset could contribute to your success.
The biggest red flag is a lack of good questions. This tells me one of two things:
They haven’t thought about the business enough to have questions or worse, they don’t care.
If they display a lack of interest in your current product, customers, and growth— probe them with some thoughtful questions that can give them opportunities to show that they’ve thought about the role and the company.
- “What channels do you think are performing best for us today?”
- Give them an example of something that you did recently, launched, etc. “Talk me through what you think the growth plan was behind that?”
- “What about our mission and values resonates with you?”
Bonus red flag: “Have you thought of this?”
Ideas in interviews are so welcome.
When a candidate proposes ideas they should do it from a place of genuine curiosity, and not from a place of arrogance.
They shouldn’t assume you haven’t thought of different ways to grow.
You’re thinking about your business day in and day out, it’s likely you’ve tried a lot of things, and come up with a lot of solutions to existing problems— and assuming you haven’t thought about your business is a big ol’ red flag.
You want a team player, someone who will join and help elevate the entire organization.
Keep an eye out for these red flags as you build out your team, and probe deeper when you come across one. Giving a candidate the benefit of the doubt by asking follow up questions is key— but make sure you're watching for flags and taking them into consideration in your decision making!