At some point, most financial institutions will find themselves in this boat: they’ve either lost their marketer (or someone on the marketing team) or have finally reached a point where it’s time to hire a marketer.

Eventually, you’re going to have to hire a marketing professional. When that time comes, it is useful to prepare ahead of time and have a few questions ready in advance for the occasion. Following please find a few suggestions for these important probing questions. The way the candidate answers could not only serve as a determining factor in hiring him or her, but also the future direction of your financial institution.

  • What is the last business book you read? If this is a fresh out of college hire, the response might be some sort of textbook. However, for more seasoned marketing professionals, expect a more current response. The probing question here is not so much how much of a bookworm they are, but if they are reading and staying up-to-date on current trends in the industry. If they are, terrific. If they are not, you might want to consider a different candidate. Serious marketers realize their education doesn’t end on the day they get a diploma. It only begins. Your bank or credit union deserves someone who cares enough to stay abreast of trends and topics in marketing. Tip: the goal here is to find a candidate whose most recent book is something in the business realm, not Fifty Shades of Grey. Look for a candidate who is up-to-date on current and relevant marketing books. Examples could include The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell and Grow by Jim Stengel.
  • What was your biggest professional disaster and how did you recover from it? Anybody can talk about their successes. Resumes are full of them. Where we learn the most, however, is often from our failures. By probing a candidate about a professional failing (and we’ve all had them) you can get to the root of their identity not only as a person but as a marketer and whether or not they are too prideful to share such mishaps. Those open to sharing how they screwed up and what they learned are probably a better match for your bank or credit union and someone whose hubris is too much for them to admit to mistakes. You can even argue that your bank or credit union will benefit more from hiring an individual that has made a big mistake and learned from it, than one who either hasn’t yet or can’t admit to it. Tip: find a candidate that is not shy about sharing specific answers with you. You want somebody in your marketing position with the guts to say “I screwed XYZ up really badly, but learned ABC from it.” Generic answers and non-specifics are not of much use to you or your financial institution
  • What is something about our brand that doesn’t work and how would you fix it? Here you are asking a candidate for somewhat of a mini marketing audit (and also discovering whether or not they took the time to research your financial institution before the interview). A candidate with the nerve to tell you what they like and don’t like about your existing brand may very well be the individual best to guide your bank or credit union into the future. Tip: choose someone that gives you great details about your brand, not something you already knew. Look for the individual that can dig deep enough to find out where you are making mistakes — for example: inconsistent logo usage, promise-service gaps and other branding mishaps.

When the time comes for your bank or credit union to hire marketing professional, having a few questions ready in advance is a not bad idea. By applying these (and other) questions during the interview process, you are more likely to find the individual best suited to take the lead in your marketing and branding efforts.