Attract Top Talent: A Step-by-Step Guide to Interviewing Product Marketers
By Charlotte Dickinson. Charlotte is an Associate Consultant at Zeren’s London office, working within our Marketing divisions for Zeren’s clients across EMEA and the US.
Given the dramatic uptick we have seen in product marketing positions in the UK, I wanted to investigate from a candidate’s perspective what is the best recruitment process to secure the best talent.
For this article, I’ve interviewed 15 product marketing specialists in my network and have put the question to them “from your perspective what is the perfect product marketing interview process”
Having spoken to varying levels of product marketers there were different opinions on the ideal interview process, the topliner being:
Product Marketer Manager
- 3 interview stages
- Stakeholders: hiring manager, a peer and someone from the C-Suite
- Task stage: yes and no
- Duration of process: no longer than 3 weeks
Senior Product Marketing Manager
- 3 or 4 interview stages
- Stakeholders: hiring manager, other colleagues from different teams (mixture of sales, CS, product) and someone from the C-Suite
- Task stage: yes
- Duration of the process: no longer than 4 or 5 weeks
Head/ Director of Product Marketing
- 4 or 5 interview stages
- Stakeholders: hiring manager, other colleagues from different teams and someone from the C-Suite, potential to speak to investors or advisors
- Task stage: yes
- Duration of the process: no longer than 6 weeks
As we all know, an interview process can make or break the opportunity at hand, whether it be the duration, the format, or the feedback from such a process.
At Zeren we work with many clients who have different methods of interviewing product marketers, but ultimately the goal of such an interview process is to find an ideal candidate who can:
1) execute the role correctly and 2) fit into the team/company.
To ensure these 2 factors are achieved, it is vital for companies to ensure that their interview process is thorough and efficient. Therefore, I thought it was important to highlight 5 key considerations companies should factor into their interviewing process after speaking with my product marketing network.
How many stages should an interview process have?
This question is of course dependent on many factors, such as:
- The urgency of the hire
- The size of the business
- The seniority of the hire
However, the consensus ranged from 3 stages as the minimum to 5 stages as the maximum. Yet it is vital to ensure that no matter how many stages there are, each stage is structured and thought out thoroughly.
Which stakeholders do you want to meet/expect to meet during the interview process and why?
1st stage: Everyone I spoke to stated that they expect to meet the hiring manager, the person to who they could potentially be reporting. It is an additional bonus if the candidate gets to meet another stakeholder at the first stage such as the CEO or the CMO (which we have seen happen at earlier stage businesses).
2nd stage: At this point of the process, candidates expect to meet someone from the wider team or executive level of the business. A key point that was raised, was that given product marketers work cross-functionally, with different teams on a daily basis, many product marketers would ideally want/expect to meet with peer colleagues from the marketing team or product team as well as adjacent teams they could be working very closely with (sales or customer success).
3rd stage: The further candidates move through the interview process, the more people they expect to meet. All candidates stated that at this stage, they would ideally what meet someone from the wider team or executive level of the business depending on who they met at the second stage.
4th/5th stage: Final stage interviews are usually reserved for more senior members of the company (depending on the size of the business) yet most candidates stated that at the final stages, it is important for them to meet someone from the C suite because they would want to get a sense of the leadership team and their approach to marketing.
With each stage, what should be the theme of that stage and what do you want to gain from that meeting?
1st stage: The first stage should be more of a “get to know” session, where the company and the candidate test for motivational alignment and for each party to sell themselves and see if there is enough of a match to move on to the next stage of the process.
2nd stage: The consensus of the second stage, was that some sort of technical assessment or discovery of key skills should be involved, where candidates can showcase their capabilities to meet the job specification.
3rd stage: Dependent on the second stage, for instance, if a practical task has been given to candidates, i.e. a hypothetical/scenario-based task where they would complete the task in their own time, then the third interview should they would expect to be a presentation of some sort. Most candidates felt that it was important to demonstrate how they would execute the role if given the job.
4th/5th stage: Towards the final stage(s) of the interview process, it was clear that most product marketers I spoke with, expected a panel interview of some sort. When asked if this would be their preferred final stage, most answered yes, as they have not experienced anything different at the final stages. Yet I think it is important to emphasise the final stage should always be viewed as a seal of approval not just from the hiring manager but from the wider team.
Should there be a practical task involved in an interview process for product marketers?
Some candidates answered this question hesitantly and voiced that they would prefer no practical task, as they felt most practical tasks are time-consuming and require a lot of effort which they don’t think is necessary when they are not guaranteed the role.
However, some thought that submission of previous work should be more than adequate to determine their suitability for the role that they are interviewing for. The reason for this was that they felt this would be more time efficient. One candidate shared their experience, which they highlighted as preferable, as on one occasion during at the “task stage” of the process, they were sent a document that had been time-boxed, which they felt was very effective and beneficial to both parties.
Yet all candidates I spoke to, highlighted that the task should always be given at least a week before the interview. Frustrations arise when tasks are given just days before the next interview where the task needs to be presented or submitted.
What do you believe is the ideal duration of the interview process and when do you expect certain feedback loops?
The final consideration in which businesses should always factor into an interview process is the duration of the process. Having worked in various roles at different levels, I have seen interview processes be as quick as two weeks or as long as 6 weeks, depending on the factors mentioned in the above considerations. Yet the ideal interview process many answered should be conducted over the course of 3-4 weeks. Candidates stressed this is important as it keeps momentum, engagement and excitement about the opportunity. I have witnessed the length of an interview process, resulting in candidates withdrawing applications and dropping out at the final stages as they feel the company is not serious about the hire or that they do not value or appreciate their interest in the business.
As most candidates who are interviewing at one business or more, timing is of the essence. Therefore, one way to ensure that engagement is high and to reduce the likelihood of losing great candidates throughout the process it is important to keep feedback loops with candidates as often as possible. When asking candidates when they expect to hear back from an interview, the most common answer was within the first 24 hours after the interview. Even if the feedback is not positive, candidates ideally do not want to be kept waiting for a long period to hear if they have gotten through to the next stage or not.
To summarise, many factors come into play when perfecting the ideal interview process; the seniority of the hire, how many stages to incorporate throughout the process, which stakeholders should be involved, whether a task/what type of task should be given to candidates and the duration of the process. All of these considerations should be factored into designing your interview process. If you would like to discuss in more detail how to create and implement the ideal interview process for your product marketing team please feel free to get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org.