How to Hire World-Class Marketers Using Skills-based Testing | Toggl Blog
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How to Hire World-Class Marketers Using Skills-based Testing

Mile Zivkovic Mile Zivkovic Last Updated:

Finding a good job is not an easy task. Finding good employees is even harder. Here’s our process for hiring world-class marketers, using Toggl Hire skills-based testing.

How to Hire World-Class Marketers Using Skills-based Testing

Unless your company is a marketing agency, chances are, you probably won’t be too skilled at marketing. Hiring a marketer is one of the most important decisions for a company of any size, and it should not be taken lightly.

The right hire could improve your marketing efforts by multitudes, while a wrong one will drain your budget and do more harm than good.

For someone who’s not into marketing themselves, it is not really easy to determine what makes for a good marketer. Unfortunately, there are many pitfalls awaiting you on your hiring journey.

These include hiring someone inexperienced, someone who has only one type of marketing skills or simply hiring someone who doesn’t fit into your team. Here’s how we hire marketing managers at Toggl.

Testing the candidates using skills tests

A few years ago, we realized that hiring is one of the biggest pain points at Toggl. Instead of outsourcing the problem, we came up with our own solution. Thus, Toggl Hire came to life – a skills-based hiring tool that simply works. We’ve used it to hire developers, customer support staff, Conversion Rate Optimizers – and now marketers.

We use Toggl Hire as the first barrier for hiring. The reason why is because it does most of the heavy work for us. Namely, the vast majority of the candidates who apply are not a good fit. By testing their skills from the start, we eliminate them immediately. In this way, we get to spend our time on those candidates that are worth it.

Why use skills tests instead of traditional hiring methods?

There are two main reasons. First, we don’t put that much faith into resumes anymore. As a hiring aid, they’re fairly outdated. They give an overview of what a candidate did and where, but not how they performed.

As such, you end up relying on the applicants’ honesty as the main basis of your hiring decisions.

As bad as this is, it’s even worse when you consider that you’re hiring marketers. Their job is to sell, and if anyone can present themselves in good light, it’s a marketing expert. For this reason alone, resumes aren’t a good choice when hiring a marketer.

The second reason why we use Toggl Hire instead of traditional hiring is the reach. When using job boards (or just our Jobs page), we were only able to get candidates who are actively looking for a job. Instead, we create a test on Toggl Hire and promote the page on social media.

Because you can put the test page on social media, you can use precision targeting to get to precisely those people you want. We decided to target people with marketing manager in their job title for this occasion.

When you put your job ad on social media in form of a test, you’ll notice something interesting happening. Plenty of the candidates that apply aren’t really looking for a job. You get plenty of passive candidates who wouldn’t consider applying otherwise. The majority of the 60+ people we hired at Toggl weren’t looking for a job at the time they applied.

How to do skills-based testing the right way

As you can see, we put a lot of faith in testing as part of our process to hire a marketer. In order to have this kind of confidence, we needed to ensure that the test is of adequate quality. In other words, the candidates are only as good as your test, and the test is only as good as your questions.

Using skills-based testing for a job position is no easy feat. It gets even harder if you’re testing for a position that’s not in your line of work, but it’s nothing impossible.

Remember, you save a lot of time later on in the hiring process by using skills-based tests from the start – about 22 hours per candidate. For this reason alone, it’s worth putting in a few extra hours to create the perfect test.

Here are the basics of how to create a great skills-based test for hiring a marketing manager.

  1.   Know the skills you’re testing for

In order to create a great skills-based test, you need to start with the basic elements – candidate skills. Before putting out an ad for a marketing manager, think of the qualities this person needs to succeed in that role. More importantly, think of the skills they need in their everyday tasks in order to achieve goals you set out for them.

Make sure that the questions test the skills of a good marketer: sales ability, creativity, communication, curiosity, adaptability, setting goals, public speaking, organization and many others. In fact, some sources list around 50 key marketing skills you need to succeed in this role. It’s up to you to decide what constitutes success for your individual case and test precisely those elements. Perhaps it’s creating landing pages, doing email outreach, preparing social media strategies or drafting up an amazing quiz to generate new leads – it’s up to you.

Here’s an example of skills that we were looking for our Marketing Manager position. Each skill is set up as a single choice, multiple choice, or a free text question.

Hire Marketers With Skills Test

  1.      Don’t use trivia questions

Toggl Hire skills-based tests are done online – of course. This means that your applicants can just switch to another tab and use Google to find out the correct answer to a multiple-choice question.

For example, asking something like „What does headless CMS stand for?“ brings very little value to the test results. The only skill you’re testing with questions like these is knowledge of how to use Google.

Instead, try to use single choice or multiple choice questions. This helps you quickly reject applicants who lack the basic skills required for the job.

  1.      Test understanding

Your ideal marketing manager knows more than simple facts. They’re able to analyze complex situations, adapt to them and quickly come up with solutions. In our case, we gave our candidates a typical task for a digital marketing expert – figure out the conversion rate of a landing page.

The candidate is given the total number of page visitors, the conversion goal (subscribe to a newsletter) and the number of visitors who complete the goal. The candidate has to choose between 4 different answers, with the conversion rate percentage.

In order to do the task well, the applicant needs to know the basic marketing terms, as well as understand one of the essential tasks of digital marketing. They don’t have to do too much calculation, as the numbers are pretty easy to figure out, if you know the process.

  1.      Don’t ask trick questions

Many of our applicants took the test as a way to challenge themselves. Even if they’re not really interested in the position, they get to see their marketing skills in action. However, do not take this as an excuse to fool around with the questions too much. Trick questions don’t belong in skills-based testing.

  1.      Test creativity

What’s a good marketer without the ability to come up with great slogans on the spot? One of the cool features of Toggl Hire is that it allows for open-ended answers.

In our case, we can test the creativity of our applicants. For example, we can give them a photo of a product and ask them to come up with 5-10 words of ad copy. Or we could ask them to come up with a value proposition for a landing page.

With a simple task like this, a candidate reveals a lot about themselves. First, they show off their marketing skills – a good marketing manager should know how to sell.

Think of the classic “sell me this pen“ task from a job interview, updated for the digital marketing age. Second, you get to see how they think, as they reveal a bit of their character. Finally, you get to check a little bit of the candidate’s English language skills.

  1.      Mind the test length

Candidates don’t like lengthy application processes. This holds true when they intentionally apply for a job – the attention span is even shorter for a test they took on accident. For the best candidate experience, make the test brief (10-20 questions) and make sure that each question doesn’t take more than 2 minutes to complete.

  1.      Set a passing grade

Toggl Hire allows you to set a threshold for candidates who go to the next round. The great thing about that is that candidates who don’t pass the grade will know right away where they stand in the process.

For example, this is the result page candidates below the threshold see after they take our test. All applicants will also receive the results via automatic email. This saved our HR Manager hours of work!

Hire Marketers With Skills Test

You can set the bar as high or as low as you like. For our purposes of hiring a marketing manager, we set it at 70%.

On one hand, we disqualify a large pool of potential candidates. On the other, we get the very best talent there is out there.

As the targeting for Facebook is set for people with marketing manager in their job title, we can set the bar higher than usual – these people should do fairly well in our test.

Give your top candidates a short take-home task

At this point, we have eliminated the majority of our initial applicants.

We are left with those that can perform the task at hand – about 10% of the starting amount of candidates. In order to truly put their skills to a test, we give them a short task that they can do at home.

The candidates can do the task whenever they want to (within a given deadline), but it is timed.

In our case, we gave our top marketers 3 hours to come up with a landing page for a made-up product. Toggl Hire page should include a basic sketch of the page wireframe, as well as the copy to go along with the design. The time frame to complete the task was 3 hours, and the candidates deliver their finished product within the Toggl Hire app.

The take-home task has two main purposes.

First, we get to see how the candidate performs in a real-life situation. We get to see their knowledge of copywriting and user experience in design.

Second, it’s a great way to weed out those who aren’t really interested in the job. If they can devote 3 hours of their free time for the task, they definitely want to move on to the next round.


Traditional interviews are a relic of the old ways of hiring. In most cases, it’s about who’s able to sell themselves really well, and not about their real skills. And who could market themselves better than a marketer?

Luckily, we already knew who could do great work, so it was all about discussing their results. At this stage of the hiring process, we talked to the top 3 candidates about the results of their home task and invited them for a test week at Toggl.

Paid test week

Would you buy a used car without taking it for a drive around the block first? We wouldn’t.

In order to ensure that the marketing manager is a good fit for our team, we invite them for a test drive.

Once we have the best candidates (1-3 people) for the role, we set up a paid trial period for them. It lasts 2 to 5 days, depending on the role – we settled on 3 days for the role of marketing manager.

The paid test week is completely optional, and you don’t have to go for it if you’ve already found your ideal marketing manager by this stage of hiring.

Note: Toggl functions as a completely remote team. This is why it’s possible to arrange a paid test week – there’s no physical presence required. At the same time, because we’re a remote team, it’s precisely the reason why a test week is required. We get a better sense of culture fit and if the new marketing manager has the right mindset to work remotely.

Once the paid test week is done, you can set up a final round of interviews or make an offer immediately. At this point, you’ll have enough information to make a sound, informed decision.

However, we decided to sit down and talk to our new marketing manager, discussing the results of their home task and how they feel working in the Toggl marketing team.

At this point, we have two experienced marketing managers ready to move into Toggl’s ranks. Once more, we were able to use Toggl Hire to source incredible talent in a matter of weeks, instead of months.

Give it a go yourself

If you’re looking for a great way to hire awesome people, check out Toggl Hire. Getting started is absolutely free.

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