5 Interview Questions to Ask Your Next Marketing Automation Hire

By Natsha Ness

Published on 9 Nov, 2021

Most people hiring for marketing automation experts don’t have the platform expertise to uncover a true expert from a poser. While we advocate that strengths are more important than skills, if you cannot afford (in time or money) to hire someone and teach them a platform, then we’re here to help. We’ve hired and trained hundreds of marketing automation experts. These questions will help you sniff out a junior resource from a highly-skilled expert. Just be sure you’re willing to pay them for that expertise. 

For our questions, we’ll use Marketo and Salesforce.com. There are nuances, especially in answers, for other marketing automation and CRM platforms, but 80% of what you see below will be applicable.

  • Tell me about how you track lifecycle stages using Marketo and Salesforce.com (SFDC).

Answers you don’t want are vague ones. Or explanations how the business they’re coming from doesn’t have a traditional sales process or leadership wasn’t on board with the technology. The lifecycle is absolutely key to getting value from marketing automation and CRM working together. So, failing to implement it means the person you’re hiring hasn’t yet had the practical, on-the-job education your business needs.

Good answers will include the creation of the Marketo lead lifecycle program or the ability to use simple points, like lead conversion and opportunity creation, to develop lifecycle numbers.

Great answers will include specifics. Proficient Marketo users should use a program, with statuses that align to stages in the company’s funnel. In SFDC, there should be a report and the person you’re talking to should specify the object to which the report runs off. A real Marketo expert should understand that Marketo’s value is ultimately about pipeline creation and influence. Without the SFDC reporting, you’d only be able to tell half the story. The visibility of marketing influence across the organization would also be, frankly, stifled.

  • Tell me about the optimization of your lead scoring model.

Answers you don’t want, like in the lifecycle question, will be vague or blame previous business leaders for not understanding the value of the solution.

Good Answers will highlight the creation of the scoring campaigns and use of scoring tokens.

Great Answers will include systematic sales feedback. If your candidate only looked at Marketo to see the scoring distribution, it’s again only half the story. Without sales feedback, scoring cannot truly be adopted. You want your marketing automation expert to understand the importance of cooperation throughout the organization to invoke change.

Special bonus points go to candidates who implemented lead scoring, found it ineffective and transitioned to more robust prediction tools. Specifically, this looks like a tool that gives insight into third party buyer behaviors, like intent data.

  • Tell me about your nurture strategy.

Answers you don’t want involve the candidate mentioning they sent two or three emails after an event.

Good answers will talk about segmentation and, likely, how a lack of content led to stalled progress. Listen for the words “engagement program,” since it indicates you have an avid Marketo user in front of you. 

Great answers will include a deep cataloguing of current content, including mapping it against personas and funnel stages. Bonus points should be added for identifying content gaps and filling them with smart content pieces, likely repurposed from existing assets. In fact, if you hear this and don’t hire the person, send them to apply for one of our open positions because this is one of our favorite skill sets!

  • Tell me about the mechanisms you employed to keep your data clean.

Answers you don’t want are “none” or “I don’t own the data.” Someone who runs a marketing automation platform must know the data inside and out, which is the only path to ownership.

Good answers will include simple data maintenance programs in marketing automation to facilitate things like blocklisting competitors, populating “Job Role” off “Job Title” data and other simple marketing automation workflows.

Great answers will include the terms “Data Governance” and “Documentation.” This sort of documentation will include who owns data at every step of the way, specify where data originates, what adjustments to the data happen and who owns each step of the data manipulation process. It would also have explicit rules around duplicates, and managing them.

  • Tell me about the amount of pipeline marketing influences monthly. How did you get that figure?

Answers you don’t want will contain some variation of, “We don’t measure that.”

Good answers will include actual numbers and an understanding of the methodology behind those numbers. They will mention sourcing data (e.g. “Marketing generated a lead from a webinar and that lead eventually became an opportunity”). They should demonstrate that they understand their role is to increase revenue to justify marketing spend.

Great answers will incorporate sourced information, in addition to influenced revenue. It will entail a sentence such as, “In 2020, marketing sourced $500,000 in opportunities and $2.4 million on top of that were influenced by us.” A great answer would also talk about how complex this is in general.  Anyone who has worked through attribution will have scars where they’ve been told by sales the numbers aren’t accurate, or had campaigns picked apart. Anyone with experience has war stories.

Marketing campaign reporting tools, like Bizible, are aiming to provide advanced weighting options for influence, but still, issues with spend on brand persist. And, in our humble opinions, that’s okay. Regardless of your philosophical stance here, knowing that your MA expert is thinking about this critically is what you’re after.

In closing

To hire and retain top marketing talent, it’s important to interview for these specific skills. And, while hiring the right people is critical to your company’s growth, encouraging them to continue their education through the various types of marketing training that are available is how you keep the game-changers empowered to change the game. If they’re really a top-notch marketer, they’ll want to ABL (Always Be Learning) anyway.




We couldn’t just give you five questions to ask! Here are more to include in your interview.

  • Tell me about a time when you took on the leadership role, end-to-end with a Marketo project.
  • Which Launchpoint apps have you integrated?
  • What did you design and scale within Marketo?
  • Do you have experience with Revenue Cycle Explorer?
  • Do you have experience with workspaces and, if yes, to what capacity?
  • Rate your skill set from 1 to 5 on the following: Adobe CC, HTML, CSS, etc.
  • Can you give an example of an issue that came up with Marketo and how you solved it?

Happy hiring!

Written By Natsha Ness

Natasha Ness leads the go-to-market team at Shift. She has a blended background in marketing, product, design, UX, and sales where she's helped both small, mid-size and enterprise companies launch new solutions and optimize their existing. When she's not dabbling in the latest technology or building a campaign, she spends her free time with her two girls and husband, likely watching an anime together.
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