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When it comes to determining how many candidates you should interview to find the best person for a job, it’s difficult to establish the “right” number. The quantity of candidates you interview for each role is going to vary largely on the quality of talent your external marketing search firm presents to you, your interview process, and how quickly you move through it.

Too often, organizations get caught up in interviewing “enough” candidates and guaranteeing that they have plenty to choose from. However, the challenge isn’t if you’re getting enough candidates – it’s ensuring that you’re getting the right talent that meets the benchmarks and requirements needed to succeed in the role.

In order to bring better candidates through the hiring process, you must properly gauge their skills against the KPIs and desired results you’ve set for the role rather than comparing candidates against each other. Doing the latter can lead you toward settling with the “best” candidate out of a mediocre selection.

There isn’t a magic number of candidates you must have during the interview process to find the A-level marketer you need. However, as experienced marketing recruiters, we believe you shouldn’t be presented with more than seven candidates to interview when working with a qualified external search firm. Realistically, you should be able to make a decision from fewer, as long as the quality of the talent is high. The best number for a quality process is five or six highly qualified candidates. You should be interviewing four in-person and taking two to final round interviews.

What to Look for in an Executive Search Partner

Partner with a Qualified Marketing Search Firm

As an executive level leader and hiring manager, it’s challenging to allocate adequate time toward identifying and hiring the right person to bring onboard. Unfortunately, when you’re in the hiring process, the business goals and KPIs you have to meet aren’t put on hold. So, how do you ensure that you’re getting the top-level talent you need while keeping your marketing team running?

Qualified recruiters will be able to narrow down the field for you. Skilled recruiters don’t just throw any candidates your way to see which ones work out – they thoroughly identify and vet for the skills and qualifications you need to find the best match.

When you’re hiring for a job in a demanding and complex industry like marketing, it’s important to partner with recruiters who know and understand marketing at a high level in order to find the talent that you need. This is what makes the difference in getting A-level talent versus B players.

In general, you shouldn’t be interviewing more than five candidates to make a hiring decision. Your recruitment agency should present you with five or six candidates the first round to get you two to three candidates the final round before a decision is made.

At the executive level, the process may require you to be more involved than filling a junior-level role. If you’ve interviewed more than five candidates and you still haven’t found the right person, you’re not getting a strong pool of qualified candidates.

You’ll know you chose the best marketing search firm when every candidate you’re presented with exceeds your expectations and gets you excited to bring them onboard.

Measure Candidates Against What Matters

marketing search firm marketing recruiters

As noted before, you should avoid comparing candidates to each other, but rather the skills needed to drive results in the position. You want to avoid negotiating or compromising the talent you need because you’re choosing from a slate of B-level candidates.

When you’re getting candidates from a skilled marketing search firm, you’re already getting a well-screened and well-vetted slate. When we’re identifying candidates to present to our clients, we don’t compare them. We structure our selections based on our interview questions that are specific to the needed marketing expertise for the role, leadership skills, and culture fit. Based on those areas, we create a benchmark that ensures candidates exceed the requirements in order for us to present them. We typically have 15-20 percent of the candidates we interview presented to the client, while 85 percent don’t meet the requirements.

If you understand the key metrics and results this person must drive, and you interview candidates against them, you maximize your chances of finding someone who can exceed expectations. This way of approaching the interview process leads to better results than comparing candidates against each other.

Your Hiring Process Needs to Be Quick

We’re in a candidate-driven market so you have to be able to move quickly throughout the hiring process. From the time you identify the candidate you want to hire to the time you make an offer, the entire process should be less than three weeks. If you take any longer, you’re likely going to lose top candidates to a company that’s moving faster.

Moving faster doesn’t mean you need to change your interview process or shorten it. However, the time between steps in the process needs to be condensed.

To get a glimpse of the process, it should take a week to get candidates you want to interview in for the first round, a week to get them in for the second round, and another week to make a decision and get an offer out. As an executive search firm, we’re seeing that companies that are moving quickly are the ones that are getting the best talent, even at the CMO level.

Thoroughly Understand Your Situation

The circumstances around your company and unique business needs can impact the number of candidates you get. If you’re in a smaller market or if the role is incredibly competitive and in demand, you may get less than five qualified candidates due to the low supply of top talent. However, it’s important to remember that more isn’t always better.

Understanding your situation, the non-negotiable skills you’re looking for, and the type of support your marketing search firm should offer are all critical in landing the hire you need.

Closing Words

Marketing is changing at a rapid rate, and finding the best of the best is becoming increasingly challenging in a competitive talent market. When hiring top marketers at all levels, quality trumps quantity. Don’t risk losing out on the talent you need to move your marketing forward – managing the process with the best marketing recruiters can ensure you get the best talent in the market to fill a critical role and stay ahead.

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