Many hiring managers quickly breeze over the education section when writing job descriptions or reading resumes for marketing positions. They think that a marketing job requires a marketing major, so they use this degree as a filter to sort candidates quickly. Oftentimes, though, this results in marketing managers weeding out applicants who have skills and experience that would be valuable to their marketing team.
By discouraging brilliant strategists from other disciplines, they risk missing out on applicants who can adapt to this quickly changing field. For this reason, it’s worth it when hiring your next marketing team member to look beyond their educational background. In many cases, professionals from other fields can benefit your team in unique and unexpected ways.
What Is Marketing?
Before diving into hiring for a marketing position, we should first take a look at the many components that comprise this career. Marketing is a bit two-faced. On one side, it entails communications, writing, design, the arts, and a host of presentational elements. These are the client-facing attributes, the ones that convince an audience and clarify a brand.
On the other side is an in-depth understanding of this audience. This includes research, quantitative data, and qualitative insights, all of which have to be integrated with social sciences such as history and behavioral psychology. In other words, it can’t just look nice; it has to be effective. It’s a tall order, which is why a career field this intricate requires a team with diverse skills and perspectives.
What a Marketing Degree Can’t Do?
As the field itself becomes more complex, many companies are looking beyond degrees for new ways to assess talent. Whether this assessment is in the form of rigorous case study interviews or a universal test for marketing, experts hold dozens of opinions about the best ways to sort applicants. One thing that many agree on though is that holding a degree in marketing is no longer a fast pass to getting the job. It’s no longer a reliable indicator of the mindset and skills needed to succeed in the field.
A degree in marketing offers theory, not grit. It can’t guarantee an insightful, curious, adaptable attitude. More important than a curriculum in advertising is the ability to be inquisitive about consumers and our changing world. What gives certain marketers an edge in the industry is putting themselves out into the world and exploring different paths. So while a marketing degree still has value, it can no longer single-handedly provide the tenacity necessary to thrive in the industry.
The Multidisciplinary Model
Marketing is comprised of multiple areas of study, so not only are contributions from other backgrounds valuable — they’re vital. From copyrighting to data analytics to project management, take note of areas where your team might have talent gaps. Say, for example, you have plenty of data analysts to support your campaigns with numbers. While you might think these statisticians are the superheroes of your team, don’t forget that every hero needs a sidekick.
Maybe the sidekick you need looks like a historian, able to make sense of these trends over space and time. Or maybe your company needs a sidekick who looks more like a sociologist to give those numbers human meanings. Whichever is the case, someone who can apply specialized experience or unique outlook is more valuable than an extra person to recite textbook marketing practices?
The different careers within marketing are often more specialized than hiring managers to realize. For example, someone with a niche data science background will have a more in-depth understanding of market research than someone with a general marketing degree. More tailored knowledge is often more useful than general knowledge. That being said, choosing a marketing hire with a beneficial academic or career background is rarely cut and dry. Your marketing team knows best where there are opportunities and gaps to fill, so consult them first when deciding the skill sets to look for. Also, consider seeking guidance from a marketing recruiter.
Recruiting firms exist for this exact purpose. They know how to scour resumes and cover letters for skills and experience geared towards the specialized roles in marketing.
What Non-Marketing Majors Can Provide
Perspective: Marketers who come from different backgrounds can step outside of the traditional business model to show a new side to a problem or approach. They can expand your team’s point of view to solutions that you had not seen before.
Each academic discipline has a slightly different process. While the marketing methods are tried and true, incorporating aspects of other methodologies can help campaigns run more smoothly. For instance, an advertising campaign can benefit from the scientific method. While you don’t always think about gathering materials or employing t-tests to evaluate progress in marketing, practices such as these could add much-needed structure to the planning phase or insight to the evaluation phase of a campaign.
Attention to Detail
Having an eye for detail holds a different meaning in each academic context. English majors can evaluate linguistics, syntax, and connotation to maximize audience impact whereas design and fine arts majors can evaluate the composition and presentational elements to achieve visual impact. When it comes to influencing consumers in the buying process, your team could benefit from having someone who can offer this level of specificity.
Diverse professional backgrounds also make for productive brainstorming sessions. People with varied educations have been trained to see the world in distinct ways.
Digital gurus will offer up suggestions that are unique from those of creative writers. That’s how innovation occurs. That’s how teams achieve detailed productions that naturally differentiate themselves from the typical marketing campaigns. Pulling talent from various sources is the best way to protect against stagnation.
So, if you aren’t screening for marketing education, how on earth do you complete first-round screening?
While hiring for marketing position is not as clear cut as for position for other industries, there are a few key elements to look for on resumes and cover letters.
- Adaptability — Other industries prefer consistency in a resume, but marketing urges flexibility. A candidate who pursued multiple majors or participated in organizations outside of their field knows how to apply their talents in different contexts. They can put their skills to use in unconventional ways. Also, a varied background shows that they were curious and daring enough to step out of their comfort zone, which marketers should be willing to do daily.
- Initiative — Look for examples of times applicants have been proactive in their academic and professional careers. Taking the initiative to explore new career paths or lead projects shows that they can see the bigger picture. It demonstrates that they have experience charting unfamiliar territory.
- Curiosity — More important than what a candidate learned in school is what they sought to learn outside the classroom. Do they make a conscious effort to learn new skills and widen their horizons? If they are just entering the marketing field, look for initiatives they’ve taken to familiarize themselves with the craft. A degree in marketing is not essential; however, making the effort to learn the customs of advertising, whether through an online class or a club, shows a willingness to learn as well as respect for the field.
Of course, it would be easier to file away non-marketing majors when looking for recruits to your team. But it will only save time in the short run. If you simply need another helping hand, then this straightforward method will suffice.
On the other hand, if you want an asset for your team, someone who can contribute unique knowledge and methodology, then it’s worth the extra effort to look beyond their degree. In the long run, it will help your marketing team climb to new heights.