Hiring A 'T' for Your Marketing A-Team


This post is part 1 of the Marketing Exec Success Series. Follow the jump to see Part 2, To Hire In-House or Agency.
Get the  rest of the guide here. 

Bringing a new member onto your "A team" is a big deal, and much like trying to find the perfect movie to watch on Netflix, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and end up hiring Caddyshack for the fifth time. But this time it’s special. Your team is sanctuary, your business is growing and you’re ready to start making unique business decisions that will boost your leadership and your impact.


So, before you start flipping through resumes looking for the candidate that has the college know-how and the field experience to back it up, forget what you know about your ideal employee and start making a new checklist.

What you really need is a T-shaped candidate. When you’re assessing the resume of marketing talent, you don’t just want someone who is "book smart" when it comes to SEO, but doesn’t have much to offer in other areas. Not ideal, especially if you’ve got a small team. You want a multidisciplinary employee with a breadth of skills, and a depth of knowledge about a few, specialized fields. This kind of person is described by job recruiters as being “T shaped.”

The analogy is pretty straightforward.

The top bar of the T represents the breadth of base knowledge that an employee should have that informs their other skills. The base knowledge that is most essential for a good digital marketer is their storytelling ability, their basic understanding of human behavioral psychology and their ability to research. 

Buffer t-shaped marketerOur favorite T-shape chart by Buffer

Below the top bar, our T starts to form its base around the foundation of marketing, and will shoot off into their specialized channel expertise. The foundations are you industry specific knowledge in things like copywriting, A/B testing, and funnel marketing, while the channel of expertise is going to be your employees highest skill set. This could be in something like SEO, content marketing, community building and the like. Though this will generally inform you on the position that is most suited for that person, a versatile employee will have multiple and often striking combinations of skill sets that will allow them to reach across the department and bring fresh perspectives to troubleshooting and campaign building.

An employee with multiple channels of expertise will look more like an M, with several depths coming down from their base knowledge.

A new hire that will make your A team shine and bring an energy that will propel your organization towards new heights, is going to have a long top bar on their T. You want to hire someone that has a big brain, someone that is adaptable and loves to learn. You want someone who will train themselves into a job with ease because of their love for learning and their strong foundation of base knowledge. You don’t want to hire someone that has the most striking marketing background. You want to hire someone who loves marketing and will bring that energy to inspire you and your team.