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Tips from a marketing headhunter

For some time now, I've admired Harry Joiner, a first-rate Marketing Headhunter and fellow blogger.

He has a high sense of ethics and has a very pithy way of stating the honest truth. I invited him to respond to 5 burning questions  in the minds of marketing recruits and here's what he had to say:

1) What are the top 5 things you look for in a person for any marketing job?

Business orientation.  Marketing candidates need to be able to think holistically about business.  They need to understand that marketing is a means to an end -- not an end unto itself.  No margin, no mission.

Humility.  If you have a massive ego, forget it.  I don't say this because I can't handle people with big egos.  I say this because marketing people with big egos always think they know better than their customers.  That's "death" in the marketing business.

People skills.  I do my job on the phone, which means that I am effectively blind.  Minus the corn rows, there's no difference between me and Stevie Wonder.  Therefore, if you aren't warm and empathic on the phone, then it's hard for me to imagine that you will be warm and empathic in person.  People, including my clients, want to do business with people they like, and they always do a phone screen before bringing a person in for an interview.  So relax and have fun.  Otherwise, you are wasting your time.  See the paradox?  Have fun or your dead!

An inquisitive nature.  Look, I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I have gotten by on my obsessive compulsive desire to learn.  Marketing is way too dynamic a field to be stagnant.  So, if you think you can skate by on the "Four Ps" you are wrong.  Learn.  Keep learning.  We are just in the top of the second inning of this Internet thing, and it promises to completely change not only marketing -- but the way we think about marketing.  Don't get attached to any one marketing model of one-size-fits-all way of thinking.  See note on Humility.

A track record of accomplishment.  You can't talk your way out of problems you behave yourself into.  If you have job hopped, or if you have not been promoted, or whatever, then no amount of my God-given sales talent is going to help you land a job.  If you hate your marketing job, stick it out until you generate a sensible alternative for yourself. Nobody wants to hire a diva or a baby.

2) Which, in your opinion, is more important - people skills or book smarts?

People skills.  I graduated from a really good international business program back in 1992. While there, I was required to take a class on business information technology.  How relevant do you think that material is today?  I rest my case.  The one, very major exception to this lies in the area of financial literacy (see my comment on "business orientation" above).

3) What are some qualities you find to be turn-offs for marketing candidates you're trying to place?

There are essentially two kinds of mistakes:  Mistakes of the head, and mistakes of the heart.  Mistakes of the head are foolish, unintended blunders like spilling marinara sauce on your shirt at lunch.  Mistakes of the heart are meant to deceive oneself and others.  Lying on a resume is a very common example.  If a candidate makes a mistake of the head in the interview process, it can be overcome.  In fact, sometimes it humanizes and endears the candidate to the client.  I've seen it happen.  However, if it comes out during the interview process that you are a prideful, greedy, envious, wrathful, lustful, gluttonous, or slothful person, then forget it.  I can't help you.  Moreover, you've got bigger problems than my not being able to help you get a job.

4) How can students best position themselves to potential employers so they stand out from the crowd?

This goes back to having a great track record of accomplishment.  Be a do-er.  Take stretch assignments.  Don't be afraid to fail (see note on humility).  Speak at conferences and trade shows.  Blog. Establish some evidence that you are a thought leader and a team player. Take another look at the list of five things, and then devise ways to establish clear evidence that you possess those five traits.

5) How do you find the candidates you are trying to place in jobs?

It depends on the job.  I handle searches ranging from $75K / year and up.  The higher the salary range and the more "marquee" the job, the more word-of-mouth and trade press matter.  Think of it this way : Some of my jobs call for talented minor leaguers.  Some of my jobs call for Barry Bonds.  Barry Bonds is not putting his resume on Monster, but the minor leaguer might.  Different horses, different courses.

An student should cover as many bases as he (or she) can, and that means getting his resume into the database of as many recruiters as he can.  Even lousy recruiters sometimes get great search assignments.


March 27, 2006 | Permalink


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