The agency’s guide to hiring marketing talent

Mishires cost the US economy more than 1 trillion dollars per year. As an agency owner, you need to be mindful of your recruiting processes. Continue reading below for the steps to successfully hire and onboard the right candidates who are responsible for the success of your business.

Ungated-ebook-hero-image-placeholder-v2-480x389 (4)

Continue reading to:

  • Discover the steps you need to take to plan your next hire before you ever set eyes on a single application
  • Access templates for crafting better job descriptions and offer letters
  • Gain insight into the right questions to ask candidates during the hiring process
  • Download our employee onboarding checklist to ensure a smooth transition for all agency new hires  

Grow without
increasing overhead

Want to scale your agency without worrying about the costs of hiring? Discover how with Vendasta’s white-label Marketing Services.

When hiring marketing talent, start by thoroughly assessing:

  • The current labor market
  • The economic climate
  • Your staffing situation and hiring needs
  • Your budget
  • The job to be done

If you can’t clearly articulate your needs, you run the risk of hiring and onboarding someone who doesn’t quite have the right skill set or isn’t a good fit. Alternatively, you might find yourself in a situation where a highly competent person doesn’t stick around because they didn’t get a fair impression of what the job entails during the hiring process.

A plan helps prevent many of these costly hiring mishaps.

Here’s exactly how to create yours.

Define your needs

You don’t need us to tell you that the agency environment can be very fast-paced. As your client list grows and your team gets busier, the pressing need for more digital marketing experts is felt by everyone. If your business is going to grow, you need more marketing talent in order to keep up with client projects and deadlines. You also need to be able to walk away from fulfillment yourself to make the time to pursue new clients.

It’s exactly in that busy, fast-paced environment that costly, disappointing hiring mistakes are made. In a hurry to fill the obvious need for more capacity, agencies often rush to hire creative talent or digital marketing specialists without understanding where exactly they need the most support.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and your marketing team in order to arrive at a useful description of your agency’s requirements:

  1. What are the tasks that existing marketing team members are struggling to complete or completing inadequately? It’s worth getting input from people engaged in different parts of your agency in order to get a full picture.
  2. Are any existing employees being underutilized because they’re stretching themselves too thin or working on the wrong tasks? In this case, it might make sense to promote them internally and have them help define the job of their replacement.
  3. Of the requirements you’ve identified so far, which are the most high-priority? You want to be able to articulate for prospective hires exactly which areas require the most focus.
  4. Do you need a short-term project-based contractor or a long-term addition to your marketing team? Sometimes, hiring a permanent staff member when you really needed shorter-term support can prove to be costly.
  5. What are your agency’s values and culture? It’s important to be realistic rather than idealistic here. The goal is to find someone who will fit into the existing culture.

The goal of this planning step is to honestly assess the gaps in your current marketing team, so that you can know exactly what you’re looking for and accurately communicate to prospects what the job will entail. Understanding your needs will help you write better online marketer job descriptions, identify well-suited marketing talent, and outline expectations more effectively than you would if you jumped right into creating a job posting.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Explore industry tips, tricks, and how-to’s in our weekly content update.

Develop metrics

Once you’ve identified your agency’s needs, it’s time to translate them into quantifiable metrics.

The more your expectations can be put in measurable terms when hiring a marketing team, the better you will be able to ensure that you and your prospective hire are on the same page about what they will accomplish in their role.

Another reason to develop metrics during the planning stage is so that you and your existing marketing team have a chance to double-check your expectations and make sure they’re realistic. If everyone who will be interacting with the new digital marketing expert on staff has a long list of poorly defined expectations, it may prove to be too much for one person to do effectively.

What’s more, a great hire may feel unappreciated and pulled in too many directions. Putting your marketing team’s expectations in measurable terms makes it easier to spot whether the expected workload is feasible, as well as make adjustments to the expectations if it isn’t.

5 Reasons to develop hiring metrics

  • When hiring a marketer, get on the same page with candidates about what they should accomplish in the role
  • Ensure your expectations are realistic
  • Make it easier to spot when the expected workload for a new hire isn’t feasible
  • Make it possible to identify when adjustments to expectations are needed
  • Hiring metrics can be translated into a performance plan post-hire

Finally, measurable expectations can be translated into a performance plan with key performance indicators (KPIs). Having clear goals and performance targets to work toward is motivating for most people. Not only will you be glad to have this to refer to once your new digital marketing specialist begins, but the best digital marketers will know to ask for this kind of information during the interview. If they ask you what your idea of success looks like a few months or a year after onboarding, you want to be prepared with a clear idea of what KPIs will be.

What do measurable metrics look like? This will vary greatly depending on what kind of role you’re hiring for. For example, if your digital agency focuses on SEO for small-business clients and you’re hiring an SEO specialist, some measurable KPIs might include:

  • Monthly organic traffic targets for key clients
  • Number of SEO audits completed for prospective clients
  • Creating quarterly reports briefing the team on updates and changes impacting SEO, such as algorithm and ranking factor changes

Establish a budget

You should have a budget in mind for the salary range you can offer. The best digital marketers can typically command top dollar, so your salary range may put some constraints on who you can hire. If you have a more limited budget, you may want to try working with a contractor for a fixed amount of time rather than hiring marketing talent permanently, for example.

Even before salary considerations, there are costs associated with hiring. The average cost of hiring an employee is about $4000. Having a budget in place for the hiring process, and for expenses apart from their salary, will ensure you’re not taken by surprise when these costs are incurred. Some of the expenses to consider when hiring a digital marketer include training resources and career development.

The-average-cost-of-hiring-an-employee (1)

There are many job posting sites out there that offer a free tier or trial period such as Glassdoor, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter. However, you’ll get access to improved features and visibility with the paid tiers. Once you know how many sites you want to list on, go through the various tiers to figure out roughly how much it will cost to list with each of them.

You may wish to work with a firm that specializes in recruitment for digital marketing in addition to (or instead of) traditional job posting websites. This is typically more costly, but they can sift through lower-quality candidates and present you only the best digital marketers who are highly likely to meet your requirements. They might also be able to fill your position faster. If you plan to go this route, consult with a recruitment firm to determine their pricing and build it into your hiring budget.

Implement a remote, flexible or hybrid work policy

It’s important to remember the world of work has changed and, in a competitive labor market, giving prospective employees the flexibility to choose where they work from can help your agency stand out. Additionally, such a policy can help you attract the best digital marketers with skill sets that may not otherwise be available in your local area. In fact, it’s one of the top tips for hiring marketing talent

Jack Pires, Founder and CEO of New Jersey-based SocialJack Media, says a fully remote policy has helped him attract and retain digital marketing experts.

We’ve adapted to the market and for us we’re a 100% remote and we’re seeing it as beneficial for our business.”

Jack Pires

A clear remote, flexible, or hybrid work policy should specify when and how employees can work from locations other than the office or on a flexible schedule. It should include other important considerations such as the tools and technology employees receive and how they’re required to keep information safe.

On-demand webinar

Weatherproof your agency


Combat labor shortages and discover how to adapt and endure changing market conditions. Hear from SocialJack Media CEO and Founder Jack Pires and Vendasta COO Jacqueline Cook on the importance of adapting your hiring strategy to fit the current economic climate.

Define your onboarding plan

Creating an onboarding plan may seem like something best left until after you’ve selected a candidate. However, there are benefits to both your agency and the new marketing hire to having an onboarding plan in advance of the interview stage. 

Firstly, starting out at any new organization can feel like getting thrown into the deep end. Things that are second nature to existing marketing team members won’t immediately be understood by the new hire. Plan in advance exactly who in your agency will be responsible for each step of onboarding. This will ensure your new digital marketing specialist will have the best chance of getting a good handle on how things are done early on. 

If you wait until after hiring a marketer to create this plan, you’re more likely to have to rush the process. You may have a harder time getting availability from other members of your team who could be instrumental in showing your new hire the ropes. 

Separately, at the interviewing stage, sharing a bit about what the onboarding process will look like demonstrates that you’re a well-organized agency that is committed to the success of its marketing team. 

Download the agency new hire onboarding checklist

Download the agency job description template

Common mistakes in online marketer job descriptions

Candidates-typically-know-if-theyre-going-to-apply (1)

Here’s an unsettling statistic: Candidates typically know if they’re going to apply for a job or not within 14 seconds of reading a job description. Avoiding these common job description mistakes can help you avoid landing in the “no” pile with top marketing talent. Make the most of those 14 seconds by steering clear of these frequent mishaps:

  • Making the description too long. Job posts in the under-300 word range perform significantly better than longer posts. Say what you need to say briefly, clearly and concisely for a boost in response rate of about 8.4%.
  • Using language that isn’t in line with your culture or goals. We’ve talked about avoiding jargon, but it can also be detrimental to use language that doesn’t reflect your culture. An agency that likes to keep things very formal shouldn’t use laid-back language, since they’ll provide a misleading impression of their workplace atmosphere. Candidates looking for a casual environment will drop off anyway, so it’s a waste of everyone’s time to mislead them.
  • Writing a laundry list of tasks. While you want to provide a sense of what the candidate would be working on from day to day, a long uninspiring to-do list is unlikely to appeal to the best digital marketers. It may even scare them off. Instead, focus on the bigger picture, such as longer-term projects they will be working on or skills they will develop.

Choosing the right salary range

When hiring a marketing team, whether or not you choose to include the salary range in your job description is up to you. There are benefits to including it, but it all depends on your agency’s policy.

If you’re comfortable having your agency’s salaries out there, including a range in your online marketer job descriptions can help eliminate underqualified candidates who may not be comfortable applying for jobs above a given range. Candidates with salary expectations above your budget will also be unlikely to enter the competition. This can save you the time of going through tons of applications for candidates who ultimately wouldn’t have been a good fit.

Even if you don’t include a salary range in your public postings, you should have a realistic range in mind so that you can productively discuss it with candidates. The appropriate range will depend primarily on the economy and going salaries for the role, experience required, workplace location, perks like paid time off, and the size of your agency.

Cheapest is not necessarily the best

As the saying goes: buy cheap, buy twice.

If your salary range is too low or you intentionally seek an inexperienced or junior digital marketer for a role that requires experience, you’re likely to get lower-quality results. You’ll also pay for it in other ways, such as by investing a significant amount of time in training them or needing to replace them if they aren’t delivering.

Chris Montgomery, CEO of California-based Social Ordeals, points out that local businesses are often jaded by the number of digital products and salespeople approaching them. That’s why he pays up for sales talent to get the job done.

I only hire seasoned sales representatives now, and I spend the extra money for it. I want the person that’s going to bring me results. I don’t have to train them how to sell, I just give them a good product that they can stand behind.”

Chris Montgomery

Explore the case study: Entrepreneur earns $4.7M in revenue with Vendasta

Other factors that attract top marketing talent and creative talent

Salary is certainly an important factor in attracting top marketing talent. In a labor climate that currently favors employees, many of the best digital marketers are in a position to be very selective about where they work. However, salary isn’t the only selling point you can offer when hiring a marketing team.

Consider Pew Research’s findings about why workers resigned en masse in 2021: 37% cite low pay as a major reason, and only slightly fewer—35%—cite feeling disrespected as a major reason. Another top reason cited by 33% of respondents was the lack of opportunity for advancement. Clearly, the appeal of a job goes beyond the salary.


Source: Pew Research

We spend much of our waking lives working, and even a fantastic salary can’t make up for bad working conditions and poor work-life balance. The non-monetary factors that attract marketing talent aren’t things that can just be talked about in an online marketer job description; they tend to be cultivated over time. 

One example is the reputation your agency has in your industry. It takes some time to build a reputation as a fantastic workplace, but by caring for the needs of your employees, you can develop a positive reputation that precedes you and attracts top marketing talent. 

Most people also want to get a sense of purpose from the work that they do. They want to feel they’re an important and appreciated part of the markeitng team and that they have a role to play in the agency’s success. The more you foster these values with your existing staff, the likelier it will be that top creative talent will want to work for you. 

Other benefits to promote to your ideal candidates include:

  • Respect for their time off
  • Opportunities for professional development and advancement
  • Medical and health benefits

These are also likely to be considered by candidates making a decision about working for you.

Ideas for mini projects when hiring a marketing team

  • Writing or editing a blog post (for writers, editors, content strategists, content marketing specialists)
  • Analyzing the SEO elements on your website’s homepage (for SEO managers, SEO specialists, content marketing specialists, content strategists)
  • Designing a digital ad or logo (for web designers)
  • Providing a short list of suggested promotion ideas for a client’s upcoming event (for demand generation managers, communications roles, public relations roles)

Factors to consider when making your final hiring decision

Throughout the interview process we’ve outlined, you’ll discover which candidates seem to have the right skill set, attitude, experience, and general cultural fit for your agency. 

Apart from their answers to your specific questions, keep an eye out for additional cues about whether they’ll be a good addition to your marketing team:

  • Are they timely in their communications and do they arrive at interviews on time? At this stage, you’re both trying to impress each other. They should be able to show that they respect your agency by being timely.
  • Do they ask good questions? The best digital marketers out there will be engaged in the process and ask plenty of questions. They will likely have options in terms of where to work, and they will know what they want out of a workplace. If they’re engaged in the interview questions and asking plenty of good questions about what it’s like to work for you, take that as a positive sign. 
  • Do they blame current or former colleagues and employers? They may have had some bad experiences in the past, but a true professional takes responsibility for their situation and either tries to make it better or moves on. If they have nothing but disparaging things to say about previous workplaces, they may soon be blaming challenges and failures on their colleagues at your agency. 
  • Do they have learning ambitions? Look to hire a marketer who is open to learning and improving, rather than someone who is sure they already know all there is to know in their field. 

While you don’t want to rush the decision-making process, be mindful of the fact that the best digital marketers may be getting offers from other employers, so if you’re really enthusiastic about someone, you may have to move quickly with an offer.

Closing the offer

If all has gone well up to this point, you’ll have settled on an amazing candidate you’re enthusiastic about. The next step is to inform them that you’d like to offer them the position. Especially for agencies that are smaller and don’t have a big sprawling HR department, a personal informal call can be a nice touch. Then, follow the call with a formal letter.

Your offer should lay out a start date, a brief description of the job and its responsibilities summarizing what you’ve already discussed with them, the terms of their employment, their compensation, and any other benefits.

If they accept, you’ll be ready to dive into the onboarding plan that you already set out before posting the job.

Download the job offer letter template

Frequently asked questions


How much does it cost to hire a marketer?

A marketer’s annual salary in the US is $78,931 in United States. On top of the marketer’s salary, you’ll need to add on the costs of hiring, which is around $4,000 USD.

How to hire a marketer?

You can hire a marketer by working with a recruitment agency dedicated to digital marketing, posting on job boards and social media sites, adding a job posting to your careers page, requesting referrals from your network, or directly contacting marketers you know, such as marketers at other companies or your contractors, to see if they’d be interested in the role.