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Natalie Davis

By Natalie Davis

Oct 2, 2017


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IMPACT Stories  |   Hiring a Marketing Team  |   Executives and Leaders

Employee Retention is Only as Good as Your Hiring Process. Here's How We Fixed Ours.

Natalie Davis

By Natalie Davis

Oct 2, 2017

Employee Retention is Only as Good as Your Hiring Process. Here's How We Fixed Ours.

When I think back to how simplistic our hiring process used to be, it doesn’t surprise me that we had such severe turnover.

After a quick review of their resume, we’d bring people into the IMPACT office for a brief in-person interview. Then, for the most part, we’d ask a few questions regarding their experience, their taste in music, and then the most important question - when can you start?

Woah, slow down! At least take a candidate to lunch first, am I right?

I’d guess the whole process lasted around 30 minutes in total. Which would have been amazing if we were getting the right people, however, we soon realized our process lacked the depth (understatement) to truly understand if people had the skills and experience needed in the position and whether or not they would be a good fit working with our team.

As I’ve wrote about in the past, our talent retention was awful during these years.

At the time, we were mostly hiring fresh faces out of college (or still there), many of whom didn’t even have the experience to know marketing was their passion. While it’s common for start-up companies to be built on interns like these (I was one of them!), we still needed some stability.

We needed to know exactly who we were bringing into the company, with a thorough understanding of their skills and what they could bring to the team.

As we started looking for more experienced people to fill our roles, we knew we needed to make some serious changes -- from the process itself down to the marketing interview questions we asked -- to the way we evaluated incoming talent.

It was time to make a major revamp of our hiring process. 

Incoming Applications

I’ve gone into depth before about things we look for when evaluating a candidate’s application and how we decide to move them forward. In this article, I’ve decided to focus on what happens after the application review, and once they move forward in our process.

The following steps have drastically improved the level of talent we bring into the agency, and significantly lowered our turnover rates over the last two years.

Stage 1: A 5-10 Minute Phone Interview

During this stage, applicants are asked to self-schedule a 15-minute block for a phone screen. We book it in 15-minutes in case it goes over, but since we run so many, we generally try to keep them in the 5-10 minute range.

What We’re Looking For

On this call, we’re looking for some quick hits to move a person forward:

  • Do they sound good on the phone?
  • Are they fluent in digital marketing?
  • Are they passionate about working for our agency?
  • Can they provide specific examples of the experience we’re looking for?


5-10 minutes moves fast, but you’d be amazed how much we can uncover to determine how they stack up against the other applicants - and whether or not to move them forward.

Stage 2: A 30-Minute Video Call

In this stage, applicants are given a one-page information sheet about IMPACT. This includes a brief breakdown of:

  • Our Purpose
  • Core Values
  • The Types of Clients We Work With
  • Our Client Services Team Structure
  • Insight into how the role they’re applying for works within the team

The goal of this sheet is to answer the typical questions we get during this call so we can skip right to more important questions and information.

What We’re Looking For

During this video call, we dive deeper into an applicant’s experience to determine a few things:

  • Does it seem like they have the right experience to do this role effectively?
  • Do they fully understand what this role entails? And when they do, do they still think it’s the right role for them?

If things start lining up, and both parties are on the same page with the role, we’ll invite them to the next stage of our process.

Stage 3: Activity

In this stage, we provide applicants with an activity that makes sense for the role their interviewing for. For instance, a Consultant or Strategist would run a mock client call, while a designer would produce a landing page mockup.

In either instance, we provide the applicant with:

  • Background on the client
  • Information on one of the client’s buyer personas (the one they’re focusing on)
  • The client’s relationship with IMPACT
  • The client’s marketing performance
  • Instructions for their specific activity

From there, each activity has more specific documents they’re provided such as branding guidelines or a call agenda.

Our goal in each activity is to put the applicant into a situation they’d be in if they get hired for the role they applied for.

What We’re Looking For

In the simplest way to put it, no matter what the position, we’re looking to see if the applicant can actually do the job.

Based on our snapshot of them working in this role, do we think they’ll succeed? Our client’s expect (and deserve) a top-notch team and deliverables, so we make sure everyone who moves past this stage delivers that level of quality.

Aside from gut feeling, we have a very detailed scoring system that we use for each activity that puts weights on different aspects we’re looking for. Once completed, this rubric produces a score that the applicant receives for their activity.

In addition to what we’re looking for, we hope the applicant is looking for a few things too.

Most importantly, we hope they evaluate if the role is something they can see themselves doing and enjoying. As with any agency, clients won’t go easy on (nor should they) , and we aren’t easy in our critiques of these activities.

Is that the kind of environment they want to work in? Is this the right role for them? We hope they discover that in this stage.

Stage 4: An In-Office Interview


If a candidate scores well in the activity stage, we invite them to come into the office for a day. We book and cover their travel costs, and typically have them in the office all day, but we’re flexible with their schedule.

Prior to their visit, we thoroughly plan out their day so they can meet with a number of team members, departments, etc., and we provide the team members information about the applicant and their background.

Below are some of the typical people an applicant will meet with:

  • The CEO and COO
  • Anyone they’d be directly working with
  • A lunch outing with 2-3 team members
  • Our Creative Director
  • The Director of Client Services
  • Various people in the role they’re applying for
  • People working remotely
  • And anyone else we find most useful for them to chat with

Quite the agenda! But totally worth it.

What We’re Looking For

In this stage, we want to give our team, specifically the people that would be working with this person, the opportunity to meet them and get acquainted. They have the chance to ask and answer any questions to determine if they could see this person fitting in well with the team, and being successful in the role.

We ask all team members in these meetings to provide their feedback.

In addition, we want to immerse this person into our culture and environment see what happens. Are they keeping up? Do they mesh well with the team? Can we see this person working with us?

On the flip side, we want the applicant asking themselves similar questions. Is this a place I see myself working? Do I like this culture/environment? Can I see myself working well with this team?

We’re as transparent as possible during this interview because we don’t want to provide a false idea of what it’s like to work here. People aren’t prepped with anything to say, they speak openly about working at our agency, the issues we’re working through, etc.

In no way are we perfect, and we don’t want incoming people thinking we have everything figured out. I can’t imagine there’s any agency that does. (But if you’re out there - tell me your secrets!)

What Hiring Process Works for You?

What do you currently do for your hiring process that is working? Would any of these stages work for your company? Let me know your thoughts! 

Or know anyone you think would be a great match for the IMPACT team? We're hiring!

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