How to Interview for Digital People

How to Interview for Digital People | The Sterling Woods Group

We’ve written at length about the need for businesses to undergo a digital transformation. But enacting change is easier said than done! Adjusting your business model to be more digitally-focused means you need to recruit a digitally-focused team, too.

Of course, if your organization exclusively interviews recruits from tech startups, you’ll have a team of digitally-savvy employees. But, if you’re like most companies, you need to hire marketers, salespeople, and other positions beyond your IT and tech team. Naturally, these roles can be filled with hires from a variety of industries and backgrounds.

Still, you want everyone you hire to be aware of the importance of moving the entire business towards digital. How do you pick the people who best understand the implications of digital disruption across all industries? And how can you be sure they’ll bring fresh and innovative ideas to the table?

Here’s how to screen resumes and ask interview questions that will help you discover the best digital people for any job in your organization.

How to Screen for Intellectual Curiosity

One of the most important characteristics to attempt to quantify during the interview process is intellectual curiosity. According to Harvard Business Review, there are three main factors that affect a person’s ability to manage complex situations: their IQ, their EQ (emotional quotient or intelligence), and their level of curiosity. It’s their strengths in these soft skills that make it possible for them to serve as problem solvers, original thinkers, and strong managers. Plus, curiosity helps them keep pace with the ever-evolving digital space.

One barometer for a curious mind is to look for any additional training or continuing education on their resume. Do they have an advanced degree or have they taken online courses to add specific skills to their toolbox? A desire to seek knowledge and opportunities for growth is a strong indicator of a curious mind.

There are plenty of questions you can ask to suss out which candidates embody intellectual curiosity. Ask them about their aspirations, what they do or don’t enjoy doing professionally, or what industry conferences they’ve attended recently. Inquiring about their current reading list or the podcasts they subscribe to can give you some insight as well.

How to Screen for Business Acumen

A certain degree of business acumen is important for any work environment. But the digital landscape, in particular, is unique. It presents unprecedented challenges and opportunities for teams. So, it’s important to hire people who have an in-depth understanding of that landscape and how it will affect your company’s outcomes.

Does their resume include stats about how their role directly impacted their previous company’s bottom line? If you’re hiring for a digital marketing associate, for example, the inclusion that they have used paid retargeting ads to boost digital subscriptions by 200% is a big deal. If they make it to the interview stage, ask them to articulate how their projects fit into their last company’s overall goals.

Going digital is always about anticipating the next big thing in your industry. Consider how forward-thinking each candidate is by asking them what industry trends they see as ones to watch over the next year. You want to hire team members that will help your company progress, rather than lag behind digital trends.

How to Screen Working Style

Many teams today are co-located, have remote team members, and work across various time zones. This can present unique challenges for management. That’s why it’s important to screen your candidates’ style of work and make sure it’s congruent with how you manage. There are no right or wrong answers, of course, but there might be answers that are better suited to your company’s culture.

Scan their resume to see what tools and online systems they’re familiar with. Have they used Slack or Basecamp before? Do they know how to manage a website online through a system like WordPress?

In the interview, ask if they like to work remotely (or ever have before), prefer synchronous or asynchronous communication channels, and how they like to give and receive feedback. Digital-savvy team members should be comfortable using a variety of online tools and methods of communication to meet the myriad needs of your business.

How to Screen for Technical Smarts

Finally, here’s how to match inquiries against your business’s need for technical know-how. This is the greatest measure of your prospective team member’s hard skills.

There are two types of questions you can ask candidates: behavioral (“Tell me about a time when…”) and technical (“Define X industry concept…”). Look at the job description for the role you are trying to fill and make a list of the tools and industry-specific knowledge needed for the position. Then, ask a series of both behavioral and technical questions that speak to those requirements.

For example, if you need a content editor who is familiar with WordPress, try the technical question, “What features of WordPress frustrate you? Which ones would you change if you could?” Or, try a behavioral question. “Tell me about a time when you needed to publish a guest submission that was below your publication’s quality standard? How did you edit it and communicate the changes with the writer?”

Focus on Soft Skills to Find Your Digital Match

If you’re ready to undergo a digital transformation, it’s time to surround yourself with a digital team. For some positions, this will simply mean training your current employees. But for others, you’ll need to recruit and hire for entirely new roles. And screening for digital-savvy can be tough to do if you don’t know what qualities and skills to look for.

When it comes to finding the perfect digital people, focus your resume hunt and interview process just as much—if not more—on your job candidates’ soft skills rather than their hard ones. You know how to find a marketer who can write a brochure or website copy, you’ve done that before. But finding a marketer who understands the backend of your website, or how to use your virtual office software, or knows how to manage complex digital problems is a little more difficult.

If you evaluate each candidate’s curiosity quotient, business acumen, and ability to work in a digital environment, you’ll find your digital match in no time.

About the Sterling Woods Group, LLC

The Sterling Woods Group’s mission is to help clients make sense of their data to predictably grow sales. We apply data science to help you optimize your sales funnel, improve your marketing ROI, launch new products successfully, and enter new markets profitably.

We use a hypothesis-driven, data-supported methodology to discover insights that no one else is paying attention to. Then, we help you assemble the right sales strategies, marketing plans, technologies, and resources to seize this opportunity.

About the Author

Rob Ristagno, founder and CEO of the Sterling Woods Group, previously served as a senior executive at several digital media and e-commerce businesses, including as COO of America’s Test Kitchen. Starting his career at McKinsey, his focus has always been on embracing digital technology and data science to spur strategic growth.

Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors and is a regular keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and Digiday.

He holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College and has taught at both Harvard and Boston College.

Rob lives outside Boston, MA with his wife, Kate; daughter, Leni; and black lab, Royce.