I recently helped a not-for-profit organization hire a new marketing director. That position's responsibilities span many marketing sub-disciplines. The skill sets we were seeking were extensive - corporate communications, PR, crisis management, blog and newsletter content creation, graphic design, videography, marketing plan development and execution, marketing research, brand management, collateral material development, social media marketing, CRM, marketing automation, guerrilla marketing, etc. That person would become a marketing department of one person, with the ability to craft winning marketing strategies while also executing all of the supporting tactics. He or she would work with outside marketing agencies, influence other staff members, work with volunteers and insure that the sales force was following through with leads.
A large number of people applied for the job and we interviewed a smaller number of them. As an experienced marketer I was both surprised and not surprised with our selection. There were number of candidates with MBAs. We did not hire any of them. There were candidates with bachelors degrees in marketing, communications, journalism, and graphic design. We did not hire any of them. Most people had worked with the Adobe suite of graphic design software, CRM platforms, marketing automation software, Facebook advertising, Google Analytics, SEO, etc. We also bypassed several people with the most extensive of these skills.
Who did we hire? We hired a person with an associates degree in business administration who started out as a wine buyer and store manager. Why did we hire him? Well, he did attend Google Analytics Academy. He has used the Adobe suite of software products and created and edited very successful videos. He has conducted marketing research. And he has managed press releases and public announcements. He created a very successful viral marketing campaign. He has also developed and executed comprehensive marketing plans. But this is not why we hired him.
Here is why we hired him. He has great interpersonal skills. He is very good at building rapport fast. He has a lot of common sense. He is an out-of-the-box thinker. He isn't afraid to try something new. He has an intuitive sense of customer needs and behaviors. He is curious and a lifelong learner. He is self-taught in all the of the marketing skills he has acquired. He watches YouTube "how to" videos and listens to marketing skills development podcasts. His first inclination is to create inexpensive media attracting events and other low- or no-cost marketing tactics. He is curious and wants to continuously grow professionally. He is honest. He tells you when he doesn't know something. He has a strong work ethic. And he was very concerned about not letting his current employer down during his job transition. The bottom line? He is a natural marketer. He has a great emotional intelligence. He is humble. And he is constantly growing professionally. I am convinced that he will pick up what he needs to know as time goes on.
So, why have I written this piece? I have learned over time that it is better to hire for personality and character than for specific skill sets. We can teach skills. We can't as easily change personality, character and the capacity for thinking and continuous learning. And some people are out-of-the-box thinkers, while many are not.