Gut Feeling vs Hard Fact: What You Should Trust When Hiring a Marketer

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From pop culture to life coaching to business philosophy and more, you’ll find no shortage of platitudes advising you to “trust your instincts,” “go with your gut”, or “listen to your heart.” Those romantic ideas might work for a personal philosophy or social interaction guide, but they’re not nearly as useful when it comes to marketing recruitment management solutions and decision making.

Even very successful, legendary figures follow an instinct-first outlook, and advise others to do the same:

Billionaire Richard Branson explains ”I rely far more on gut instinct than researching huge amounts of statistics” in his autobiography that’s full of “just do it” decision making.

”Follow your instincts. That’s where true wisdom manifests itself,” Oprah once told her fans.

And Obi Wan Kenobi advises his pupil during his famous Death Star attack:

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Image from Star Wars GIFS 

Your gut feeling might be very valuable in many situations; but hiring a marketing professional is not one of them. Indeed, as marketing has become more analytical and empirical over time, trusting a fleeting thought over the evidence in front of you makes less sense than ever when working through your marketing recruitment management solutions. When you’re making a decision on hiring a marketer, your choice will impact the future of your business. That’s not something you should put in the hands of your own fallibility.

And fallible you are, not matter how smart and intuitive you may be. Even incredibly insightful people can be led astray by their gut, and your feelings can be influenced heavily by personal biases, the fluctuating chemical balance of your body, and even what you had for breakfast.

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Despite all the factors that can make an instinctive decision unreliable, hiring managers across the board still incorporate them heavily into their hiring decision. That can be justifiable when there’s evidence to back it up. But there are situations where a great candidate will be rejected or turned down because “things just didn’t seem right,” or an objectively average talent fit will be selected because “I just had a good feeling about them.” When that happens, you’re getting into trouble that not only has moral implications but can directly damage the bottom line.

How Instinctive Marketing Recruitment Hurts Your Business

The bottom line is that instinctive hiring decisions are bad for your bottom line:

  • Lower quality talent: Great marketing is needed for any business to succeed long-term in today’s fast-paced and competitive environment. Great marketing can only come from great marketers; and you won’t reliably hire them if you’re operating on instinct rather than objectively evaluating and comparing their credentials, experience and accomplishments. You could end up passing on an exceptional candidate, or prematurely hiring a mediocre one.
  • Being picky when talent is scarce: Top-tier marketing talent is at a premium right now; many businesses are struggling to find professionals with the right modern skillset to tackle their unique needs. There probably aren’t a lot of A-players that fit the exact skill and culture profile you’re looking for; so when you find them, you can’t afford to get caught up on inconsequential details.
  • Slowing down when you need to be fast: The best candidates for marketing jobs won’t be available for long; if you drag your feet on making a decision due to an arbitrary reaction, someone else who’s willing to make the right decision based on facts will pull the trigger and snap them up.

The Moral and Legal Perils of Relying on Your Feelings When Hiring

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Your hard-to-place gut feelings might actually be prejudices and biases you didn’t even realize you had. If you’re denying someone a great job opportunity based on them then you’re heading deep into moral ambiguity. If you reject a candidate (intentionally or not) based on factors including (but not limited to) age, race, gender, religion, nationality or disability, you’re also at risk of an employment discrimination lawsuit.

Distinguishing Unreliable Feelings and Useful Insights

The primary standards you should use to gauge a marketer’s suitability for one of your positions should be measurable, definite characteristics and results: education level, previous experience, analytical success metrics, etc. But there are some factors that are more difficult to objectively quantify but should still play a factor in your decision. Unfortunately, this is where many hiring managers start crossing the line between a meaningful insight based on what they’ve seen in resumes and interviews versus arbitrary thoughts with little justification. Here are some examples of similar thoughts that can be valuable or useless depending on their basis.



“His room-dominating personality might be too much for our highly collaborative teams.” “He was a little loud”
“The candidate’s reserved demeanor doesn’t match up with the high-energy, innovative workplace culture we’re cultivating” “Something just seemed…off”
“The job history lines up, but someone with more experience with an agency will succeed better in our work environment” “I don’t like their background”
“She didn’t come to the interviews dressed in a professional manner expected of our employees; I’d be hesitant to introduce her to our clients” “The candidate looked kind of weird”

What to Do When Things Don’t Feel Right

It’s wise to give your instincts a little attention; if you have hard-to-define inklings about one of your candidates, it’s wise to explore what the cause might be. But if you’re unable to ultimately tie your feelings to a root cause, than they should probably be overlooked in favor of what the hard evidence says.

One more practical solution is to bring on a professional that you have uncertain feeling about on a contract to hire marketing basis. This means that they work for you on a contract basis for a trial period–perhaps 3-6 months–and then you make the decision to hire them full time or not. During this “test drive,” you’ll have the opportunity to find out firsthand how this individual operates in your workplace, and look for additional evidence for or against your initial feelings.

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