1. Showing Contempt for the Consumer: The best marketers are the ones who are in touch with your audience. So look for people who genuinely like the kind of people who buy your product - or who you're trying to reach. You can have the "best," "most qualified" candidate in the world, but if they think they're better than your customer, don't bother.
2. Screening for Industry Experience: You are trying to break the mold. Why are you looking for people who were born and raised on that mold? Who think the same way as everybody else does? Who don’t dare to question the conventional wisdom? Your subject matter experts are not marketers; the creatives can consult them when such expertise is needed. So stop looking for the same people everybody knows from the trade shows. Start looking where nobody dares to go, for people who can connect with your customer in ways nobody from your industry has ever dared to before.
3. Looking for a Drinking Buddy: People tend to hire people they like and feel comfortable with. But the truth is, great marketers have a talent that makes them diametrically different from you and from most people. They may be highly introverted, even antisocial, picky and fussy and obsessed with their own ideas. Good! They are there to make you money - not to serve as your substitute therapist. Similarly, don’t mistake “drinking the Kool Aid” for cultural fit. You want a candidate who will work well with your team. But this is not the same as hiring a yes-person.
4. Falling Victim to Fear of Change: If you had all the answers already, you won't need any help, would you? The point of the marketer is precisely to bring in new ideas, new approaches, to overturn the applecart in your favor. But then they show up and you’re "just not comfortable" with what they're saying; "that's sacrilege," you proclaim. Don’t do that: Take advantage of the gift of their talent.
5. Overemphasis on Education: Let's be honest: MBA's are overrated. Sure you would "feel better" if your candidate were a “perfect package,” with many years of education and training precisely geared to marketing your product or service. The reality however is that you are better off with a real-world professional. This is a person who comes across, who delivers, and who doesn't lean on a puffed-up resume to do it. Meeting them in person is how you will know if they have the kind of experience that supersedes an ivory-tower degree. You can't find this out on the telephone or on Skype.
All opinions my own. Photo by Andrea Black via Flickr (Creative Commons)