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Five Questions to Ask Before Hiring in Marketing and Communications

November 1, 2012

Most of our talented Marketing and Communications team at Concordia University Irvine. And yes, we like to eat.

In building a marketing and communications program, as Jim Collins says, it needs to be “First Who, Then What.” It’s vital that I get the right people on the bus and in the right seats.

Fortunately, over the course of my professional career I’ve been able to do just that with teams that came together and made it happen producing significant results and multiple lifelong friendships. I now have another one brewing.

It’s a joy to work with my marketing and communications team. They’re talented, they have winning and differing personalities, they’re producing excellent work, and they’re making a difference at Concordia University Irvine while developing further professionally.

The challenge for us is to sustain the momentum we’re experiencing as we add new talent. Making a mistake in hiring is not an option. Thus, I’m asking myself these five questions while reviewing candidates:

  1. Do you have talent and are you motivated to get better? There’s absolutely no substitution for talent. We’ll be mediocre without it at each position. But you need both talent and the motivation to keep learning and developing your skill set. For a marketing and communications organization moving forward, there’s no neutral gear. The market continues to evolve. Your talent needs to as well.
  2. Are you a team player? If you’re talented but not a team player, you may bring us some wins but you’ll miss other collaborative opportunities. As one of our team members said this week–it’s tough for anyone to take credit for an idea on our team because of how collaborative we are in shaping the idea. You need to be able to thrive in that type of creative environment.
  3. Do you have integrity? Building a team is building a community and a culture. Without trust, there is no community, and the resulting culture doesn’t promote collaboration and teamwork.
  4. Are you active in social media? In hiring our second communications director, we had three finalists, all with differing but impressive professional backgrounds. But in looking at Lindy Neubauer’s tweets and blog posts, by her style, tone, and content, I could tell that she’d fit on our team and that she clearly understood Social–an important factor since Social is integrated across our team. However, your personal Facebook activity doesn’t really count. I want to see how you’ve been building a brand or your brand as a professional. And while the importance of being active on social media depends on the position you’re seeking, no matter your role on our team, you’ll be participating in our professional dialogue about market and media developments. You need to be current.
  5. Do you have a healthy sense of humor? I believe God gave us the gift of humor to enjoy life and deal with stress. We all need to laugh sometimes. And think about it, how can you do communications, social media, web design, PR, etc. for a brand without having a good sense of humor? Like creativity, humor uses both sides of the brain. A healthy sense of humor is a good sign.

Building marketing strategies for higher education requires building a sustainable marketing and communications program, which requires a talented team to produce results day in and day out. I’m blessed to have one. I hope the same for you.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. November 5, 2012 4:09 PM

    Rick, this is an excellent testament to our dynamic team! You’ve done a great job of putting all the pieces of the puzzle together; I am glad to be a part of it. Thank you for your kind words about my communication skills and we all know about my ‘semi-healthy’ sense of humor!

    Keep up the good writing!

    • November 5, 2012 5:01 PM

      Thanks, Lindy. We’re glad that you’re on the team as well! And your humor? We wouldn’t have it any other way…

  2. Tom Voller-Berda permalink
    June 12, 2013 4:15 PM

    Thanks for the presentation today, Rick. Seems like a number of those folks who were sharing your comment today missed the important word PERSONAL in your Facebook comment. I’m sure you’d say the same for PERSONAL Pinterest and Instagram and most PERSONAL accounts aside from (I guess) LinkedIn and Twitter (because somehow the latter appears to have some sort of strange street credit with professionals). I do wonder what a person like Jeff Jarvis (Public Parts) might say about “professional brand” vs. “personal brand” … so little distinction in such a public world. Do we learn more about someone from their Twitter account (personal or professional?) vs. their Facebook account?

    • June 12, 2013 4:27 PM

      Tom, you are right. I want to see how a potential employee has managed a brand, personal or professional. I highlight Facebook because so many people are on it, which is fine, but they’re not really involved in social media in any professional sense. I use the term, “personal brand” here to describe someone who has used social media professionally to brand himself/herself as a professional in the business of higher ed, or another one, as opposed to just keeping in touch with family and friends. Facebook has more of that reputation than Twitter and the others.

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. June 13, 2013 9:39 AM

    Great questions, Rick! I dream of the day we get to add to our community college’s communications team (there are two of us), and when we do, the first question – especially the “Are you motivated to get better?” part – is going to be extremely important. We’re on the tail end of a huge leadership change that inspired our employees to go from a status quo mentality to one where we’re constantly improving and adapting.

    • June 13, 2013 12:14 PM

      Thanks, Traci. If your new leadership has accomplished such a change in culture, it’s been a transformative season for your academic community. Constantly improving and adapting is what we all must do in this highly dynamic higher education market. Best wishes for you and your team.



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