Adding marketing positions can be a tough choice for start-ups and small businesses. In many cases, founders like to personally manage sales and marketing—or else, they designate someone else on staff to handle marketing even if that person has no prior experience in the field. When it comes to hiring a marketing staff, experts recommend that entrepreneurs reach outside of their comfort zones, and find a marketing director with experience in the industry—but also a very different pedigree.

"You might want a few people who come from a different perspective and can challenge you," says hiring expert Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of the Human Resource Solutions, a consulting company. "If you end up with eight Harvard guys in one office, they may be brilliant, but if you are marketing a product to the rest of the country, it might not work."

The ideal new hire should bring to the table a slate of fresh ideas, new uses for technology, and contacts from the industry. But before starting your search, it's important to identify exactly what the position entails. The simplest method: Take the time necessary to carefully craft a job description and clearly define what you're looking for.

"Sometimes when you think you need a sales manager, you actually need a marketing manager, and vice-versa," Matuson says.


Hiring a Marketing Director: The Job Description

The first item under the job title should be a summary overview of what the position entails. Depending on what your company needs in a marketing director, that list could include identifying opportunities to launch new products or to enter new markets; managing marketing budgets; projecting revenue and growth potential; identifying technology and marketing partners; conducting necessary market-research studies; and building and overseeing the company's marketing staff. Bullet points work best for organizing these responsibilities.

It's important not to forget a catch-phrase line to include additional "duties as assigned," just in case the job morphs over time or a meaningful duty is accidentally omitted. "Basically, it's so a hire doesn't come back and say 'that wasn't in my job description," Matuson says.

When the job description is clearly laid out, it's time to decide the budget for the position in term's of compensation.


Hiring a Marketing Director: How to Determine Compensation

To arrive at a competitive salary, an entrepreneur should check out the latest HR salary studies and look at information on sites such as or Browsing current job listings posted online by companies you consider to be in your peer group can help to paint an accurate picture of what candidates are expecting.

That said, it's perfectly acceptable to ask applicants about their salary expectations including whether they expect some sort of bonus or incentive compensations. It's also worth asking what sort of salary scale the candidate expects for the rest of his or her staff.

And don't ignore the power of benefits to affect a marketing director's decision to join your company. In small companies, benefits send important signals about culture and stability. "If you're like Google and have incredible benefits, then you might not need to pay that much. But if you don't offer health insurance, you might need to pay more," Matuson said. 

Location matters, too. Workers living in or near urban centers will demand higher salaries to cover their much higher living costs, while those in rural areas will demand less. An experienced marketing director would likely expect a base salary of between $140,000 and $208,000 in New York City; in central Wisconsin, a salary range between $113,000 and $170,000 is more common, according to

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Hiring a Marketing Director: Attracting the Right Applicants

When the job description is clearly laid out and agreed upon by management, and a salary range is set, it's time to write and post the job listing. In addition to the overview and list of responsibilities found in the job description, a great job listing highlights the behavioral characteristics you hope to find in a candidate.

For a marketing director, admirable behavioral traits could include self-direction, motivation, high energy, financial ambition and persuasive communication. Lines in the resulting listing might read: "Ideal candidate will couple strong managerial skills with detail-oriented research ability, and will work well in a fast-paced, energetic environment while striving to meet high goals."

You must also consider how to convey what kind of candidate will be a strong cultural fit. Performance-management expert Jamie Resker, president of Employee Performance Solutions, suggests looking for characteristics that already exist in your office.  "It's not an exact science, but you want to find out whether this person is going to be a good fit culturally in the office is important," she says. "For that, you just need to tap into the best qualities your existing employees share."

Next, include at least a paragraph detailing minimum qualifications, including preferred educational background and experience. Being detailed will help narrow the applicant pool, and this is another place where you can underscore key behavioral characteristics. Instead of writing a bullet point that says "10+ years experience required," consider something along the lines of "Team player with strong leadership skills and 10 or more years of demonstrated ability to manage effectively."

If you fear getting a flood of applicants, listing a salary could narrow the pool. Otherwise, experts suggest it is not necessary. With the listing complete, post to your company website, and supplement that with listings in targeted trade publications and specialized media and postings on online job sites. If sites such as and seem too general-interest, don't worry. In the era of spider-search sites such as and, your listing will be crawled by search engines, and qualified candidates will have the opportunity to find your post.

Once applications start coming in, it's up to you to sort through them, and to find out who fits your qualifications and with whom you'd like to talk. Even the experts say this process is always subjective.


Hiring a Marketing Director: Interviewing Applicants

Once you've narroed down the applicants you'd like to consider, it can be useful to add a step before beginning the formal interview process. Conduct brief phone interviews with the top dozen candidates who you like on paper. It's always easier to end a 15-minute phone interview with "thank you very much; we're just making calls right now" than to risk wasting an hour on a bad face-to-face interview.

When you get into the interviewing stage, keep in mind that your key objectives are to learn the following: Can this applicant truly do the job? And will they fit into my company's work culture? Depending on the size of your business, you also want to screen for flexibility and nimbleness.

"In an interview, you want to go over job responsibilities and skills, and then the other component is behavior," says Resker. "Especially at a start-up, the entrepreneur typically wants someone who is like moldable clay, not someone who has the personality of a steel rod. Will they go with the flow? Because a small business works a lot different than a big company."

As you craft questions to ask candidates, think about how best to knock them off guard--and therefore, draw them out. For example, asking a candidate whether they function well under pressure is likely to elicit simply a "yes." Asking him or her a question that directly applies pressure, such as "What makes you think you are better for this job than all the other candidates?" or "Which co-worker at your last job did you not get along with well and how did you handle that situation?" is more effective, and will likely yield a telling answer. Hypotheticals about a candidate's future employment at your company can be even more revealing.

As you ask these open-ended questions, listen not only to the content of a candidate's response, but also to the voice and manner behind it. Matuson says: "Are they pretty lethargic? Are they being honest with you? Did they do the right thing? Did they ask for help when they needed it? After a while it becomes really obvious this person is a go-getter, or they work hard, or they make good decisions."

Especially when hiring a managerial position, schedule at least an hour for an interview. If you're still interested in that candidate, hiring experts advise inviting them back to meet other managers and for a second interview within a couple days.


Hiring a Marketing Director: Checking References

Checking a candidate's references is the most overlooked part of the hiring practice, but experts say it is absolutely essential. Many employers also ask that applicants agree to credit-history checks and pre-employment drug screenings; those are optional, and often depend on vocation.

Of three references, have a phone conversation with at least two, and pay attention to the tone of a reference's recommendation, not just its content. Most people feel that it is not wise to hamper future employment for a past employee, so savvy references won't say anything negative. One tip: Leave a voicemail message that says, "I would appreciate a call back only if you feel this candidate is exceptional." If a reference truly believes in the candidate, he or she will return the call quickly. If you don not hear back from them, you can read into that, too.

And when you have a reference check on the phone, what should you ask? Resker, president of Employee Performance Solutions, says: "A question I like to ask is 'if the person could have been more effective, what could she have done differently.' Rather than asking one weakness, which can make them uncomfortable."

Human resources experts also recommend trying to check a reference that's not recommended by the candidate: Hunt down a person at the applicant's most recent workplace (on LinkedIn, for example) who should have known him or her well, and ask for an opinion.

"I work hard to find someone who worked with the particular person, but who wasn't their recommended reference," says Ellen Rudnick, the executive director of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. "Through one or two phone calls, you can usually track somebody down to get an unbiased opinion."


Hiring a Marketing Director: Other Best Practices

• Great candidates should naturally follow-up on an interview with a phone call or e-mail, making it easy for you to invite them back for a second meeting. Do so, and allow other managers to meet with potential candidates during a second-interview process before offering a position. A second or third opinion is valuable.

• Set up a program that rewards current employees for referring qualified job candidates. People within the organization can recognize others who would fit in well, and are unlikely to recommend someone who wouldn't pull his or her weight.

• In both the job listing and in the interview, be mindful of the legal strictures governing your conduct. As an employer, you are not permitted to ask questions about a person's age, race, creed, sexual orientation, or marital status.

• Despite a good gut feeling, never hire on the spot. Take time to review all candidates interviewed, both so that you have a chance for reflection and because you want to be in a strong negotiating position when discussing compensation.

• Once you identify your top prospect, make a prompt offer. Never forget that the best candidates may well be weighing multiple offers as well as a counteroffer from their current employer. Speed and decisiveness is especially important when you're seeking managerial candidates.

Hiring a Marketing Director: On-Boarding the New Hire

The buzz-word right now is "on-boarding" for making sure a new employee is up-to-speed and productive as quickly as possible. 

Before the new employee even walks in the door, there's much to be done. Resker sums up the mindset for managers to embrace: "Employers forget that it's very scary to start a new job. Thinking about it from an employee's perspective – they don't know where things are located, even – how are they to know they're meeting expectations." 

The first objective should be to make sure their work station is set up and clean. The computer should be ready for use, and business cards should be printed and ready to go. 

More important, managers should make it a priority to be in the office to help direct the new hire over their first day or two. Be sure to ask pointed questions about how they're feeling and what they feel would help them out in their job that hasn't been provided. 

"When you work in these small companies, you are always understaffed, you never have time," says Ellen Rudnick, the executive director of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. "But it's really important to take the time you don't have to get a new employee up to speed."

One thing that helps is to have in place written employee guidelines and procedures—even if you don't have in an HR department. Consider including in your policies expected work hours, presence in the office, and acceptable personal use of company electronics and space. Your best bets are to bind these policies into a formal employee handbook or posting them on a company Intranet.

Looking ahead, a company intent on keeping its new employees should schedule regular check-ins. Matuson suggests a manager checking in with a hire after 30, 60, and 90 days, just to ask what changes they might suggest and allow them to ask any lingering questions in a low-pressure manner.

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