Even successful companies occasionally make bad hiring decisions. With digital marketing’s rapid growth, companies don’t always put enough thought and time into the up-front hiring process, instead opting to find an able body to fill a role as quickly as possible so it can scale its operation.

But with a shaky economy and a lack of qualified professionals working in digital, it’s in our best interest to retain employees — especially the right employees. Investing in the hiring process not only benefits financially in the long run, but it also helps create a distinct company culture.

Below are some steps to ensure a thorough, strategic hiring process.


Agree on expectations

Once a company determines that it needs to make a new hire, management must first determine responsibilities, accountabilities, and goals for the position. This sounds obvious, but it’s always good to gut-check these things and keep them at the forefront of every hiring decision. Internal communication is key, especially at the beginning.

Establish an interview committee that will uphold the company’s standards through every hire. This will help create and maintain a distinct company culture and set of values. An interview committee should determine who conducts an interview, which questions to ask, and the company’s interviewing style. The committee will also establish the determining factors for continuing the interview process with any given candidate.


Compile a list of potential candidates

Where to begin looking for top talent to recruit? In the interactive ad space, top candidates are likely already working for a competitor and have little time to interview. It’s important to stay a step ahead, so prepare a story that tells the company’s vision and strategy. Be prepared to explain how the opportunity could present advancement, more money, a better lifestyle, or a greater challenge. One thing that’s paramount to understanding a candidate’s level of interest is to ask open-ended questions. This provides better insights into a prospect’s career objectives, personality characteristics, and skill sets.

Begin the search by exhausting internal resources. Ask colleagues, friends, and family, and explore the company’s extended network. Then, put together a target list of companies to recruit from. Usually it will be direct competitors, but many times it is related businesses — don’t be afraid to think outside your own industry! Of course, there are the search firms like mine that help recruit.


Create a dynamic interview process

Now it’s time to establish an interview process. The most effective strategy is “Extreme Interviewing,” also called “Behavioral Interviewing.” This type of interview strategy is based on the premise that past performance in a similar situation is the most accurate predictor of future performance.

Behavioral interview questions usually ask the “how” and “why” while challenging the candidate to describe a situation.  For example:


    • How do you manage your time?
    • Describe a situation where you were not successful. Why? What did you learn from this experience?
    • Describe your management style.


Face-to-face interviews are ideal, but sometimes, first interviews can be conducted via phone or Skype to save time and money.

For next steps, it’s a good practice to require candidates to write part of the behavioral interview. This process of oral and written screening is a great indicator of a candidate’s communication skills and can also be an indicator of the candidate’s interest level, since there is quite a bit of effort involved in the process. It also reassures the candidate that the company takes the hiring process seriously.

There are no wrong or right answers to a behavioral interview. Listen and look for effective communication and thought leadership skills. A successful interview structure should be able to determine how well a candidate would fit into an organization, how he or she handles stress, a candidate’s creative abilities, and if the candidate demonstrates leadership potential.  In short, the behavioral interview process should help to determine how this person thinks.


Sell the role and the company, no matter what


An important thing to remember is that during the interview process, it’s essential to sell each candidate on the position, the vision, and the culture of the company. Even if a particular candidate isn’t going to work out, it’s still important to sell them on the company. Why? Simple: The online ad industry is a small one, and candidates always talk to their friends. Even if it’s clear a candidate won’t work out, the interview process should always be positive.

Interviewees should help create positive buzz in the industry. In recruiting and networking, it’s typical that top-candidates know others who could fit into the role. Make sure the door is always open.

Don’t fall into the trap of the quick, convenient hire. Establishing a thoughtful, effective hiring process will not only help a company find and retain top talent, but it’ll also save the company money and avoid a revolving door culture.



Erika Weinstein is the co-founder and president of Stephen-Bradford Search.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.