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How do you validate growth hacking talent?

Wondering how to best evaluate growth hacking skills. We're evaluating candidates to see if they really know how to iterate through marketing channels with a minimal budget (this is not a solicitation for the position). Outside of validating past results, any ideas for small tests, questions, etc to use?

5 Replies

Bob Graham
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Bob Graham Entrepreneur
Engineering and Software
Here's one opinion. Im not sure if it's right or wrong but could be worth a shot.
If it were me, here's what I'd do:

1) Identify what I mean by growth hacking
2) Set a goal for growth (Ie, I want 20 sales by Sept 30) or something
3) Set a small budget (5% of total maybe) and have them get 2 sales with it in 2 weeks
4) If they can't achieve a small goal with a small budget, I'd doubt their ability to achieve a big goal with a big one

That's just me.

David Albert
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David Albert Entrepreneur • Advisor
Founder & Principal at GreyGoo
It's all about track record. A good growth hacker can break down a specific challenge they took on for a client or employer and demonstrate results. If I was evaluating candidates, I would ask them to answer the following:
1. Provide 1-3 examples of products you've growth hacked in the past and outline the specific challenges and goals for each.
2. Highlight the overall approach (strategy) you took for each engagement.
3. List tactics you used that aligned with your approach and the goals.
4. Describe the results: what were the growth milestones and what tactics worked best? What were the best low-cost, no-cost tactics vs. paid ones? How did you measure the performance of each tactic and were the tactics tweaked or expanded on for improvements?

While candidates may not be able to divulge specific details due to confidentiality, they should be able to articulate their approach, methods and results.

When Noah Kagan approached Mint.com after being fired from Facebook, he gave them a specific marketing plan that detailed everything he would do to get 80K users in 6 months. And of course, mint.com went on to be huge success. If you can get a growth hacker who will tell you specifically how they'll help you reach your goals, that's a great find. While it's unfair to ask someone for a marketing plan without paying them, it's ultimately all about execution--a confident growth hacker will share specifically how they'll help grow your business/product.
Steve Robinson
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Steve Robinson Entrepreneur
Founder of Brilliant Metrics, Iterative Marketing Evangelist | Helping Clients Measure, Optimize and Automate Marketing
David makes great points. At the end of the day, it's about hard skills and ingenuity. For hard skills, you'll want to look for things like:
  • Google certification
  • Some code skills (HTML, Javascript)
  • Clear understanding of Growth Hacking (ask to define, ask what they read)
And for ingenuity, ask questions like:
  • Where do you see the most opportunity for our brand to raise awareness?
  • How could we bake-in a marketing component to our product or service?
  • How can we test marketing tactics/messaging in small ways before going big?
Paul Garcia
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Paul Garcia Advisor
President at TABLE
David is wrong (sorry David) but Steve is right. Yes, Growth hacking needs to be defined by you as to what you actually want to accomplish in specific, otherwise the name is just a buzzword, as Bob said. But candidate track record means nothing. THOUGHT PROCESS is what delivers results. Your interview questions should be targeted to learn what the candidate's thought process is. Ask them about the opportunities they see for your business. Ask about what challenges they see it facing, who they observe as your competitors, challenge their research of your company and see how much they actually dug into what you care about. If it's about them, if they say "I did this" or "I'm interested in" they're just looking for a job, not looking out for your interests. If they drop the personal pronouns and are talking about YOU and what you're doing and what your opportunities are and what you've done and where you're going, that's a big hint they're engaged and looking out for YOUR interests.

Do not give them theoretical problems to solve. Mostly it's annoying, you're asking them to work for free. What you want to encourage before an interview is that they do their research. Before you have a conversation they should learn everything possible about your company/product/service and future on their own. How deeply they dive (even if they're wrong about things) is what reveals the character of the candidate. Listen closely to the words they use when talking to you because this is how they will represent your company when they're out on their own. Don't waste your time asking the candidate to talk about themselves, it will come through naturally. Start with a basic, "What would you like to know about our company?" They should lead the conversation with question after question after question, and you should only guide them to ask more questions. It's a very different kind of interview than most people conduct, but most people suck at interviewing.

All you need to discover is whether they think like you do, if they are clever and observant, and how they motivate themselves. It does not matter one whit where they have worked before or on what other projects. A resume only tells you what someone has been asked to do in the past, and nothing about what they're capable of doing in the future. Do not request resumes. If you want anything in writing, request a narrative letter that describes your current place in the market. This will not only show you their ability to follow directions, but also to communicate clearly, and the amount they're willing to connect with your market.

Small market tests are terrible tests. Because markets reliably crack at a certain threshold of activity or spending, spending anything less than that dollar figure or amount of effort will not crack that threshold. You will always be disappointed in the test, but you're not looking for that, you're looking for a way to seep into the market, not blaze into the market. Or maybe you're looking to make personal celebrity connections (GBox) which is not going to happen with advertising. So how is your growth hacker going to use things other than money to be persuasive and to reach the individuals making decisions? Find out if your future growth hacker understands what the discovery and decision process looks like for your customer. If they do actually know, you're on the right path to growth.

David Albert
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David Albert Entrepreneur • Advisor
Founder & Principal at GreyGoo
I agree with Paul's statement that, "Small market tests are terrible tests" and that you should hire all-in or not at all.

I'll agree to disagree with Paul that candidate track record means nothing. Hiring someone who cannot clearly articulate their process and methods for past successes, or avoiding the topic of past growth hacking success is just irresponsible (at what point did the world become a place where experience has no value?). The individual's past accomplishments demonstrate their thought process and how they solve problems. This, AND discussing specific on how they can help you are both critical factors in bringing someone on board.
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