The most common request for help I receive is where can a company find a growth hacker to hire. Leaving aside the rampant confusion on what is and is not a growth hacker, here are some tips on how you can find and hire a growth hacker.
First, we need a reality check. Since growth is a developing field, only a handful of people are credible and respected in the space. There are a lot of young (by experience) growth hackers looking to learn and put some wins under their belt. I am not commenting on their qualifications or skills but the obvious fact of inexperience. Most experienced growth experts are in higher demand than software engineers.
WHAT TO DO
Ask other respected growth experts for referrals
The best way to find a growth hacker is through recommendations from other growth experts that have a great reputation in the community. Since there is a lot of noise in the space right now, well-regarded growth experts are one of the best methods to filter candidates. Introductions from well-regarded growth hackers to candidates are a solid way to get a meeting.
Recruit from established growth teams
A great pool of candidates already exist in large technology companies with established growth teams. Facebook, Quora, LinkedIn, and Twitter have large growth teams. This method of hiring is common. Uber hired the venerable Ed Baker from Facebook. Elliott Shmukler jumped from LinkedIn to WealthFront. I was hired off the Romney 2012 Presidential campaign to join StumbleUpon.
Acquire a growing early stage company
Early stage companies are fighting for every inch of ground to grow. Successful early stage companies require hungry talent that has the same level of determination and myopic focus needed to be good at growth hacking. Hiring a thriving early stage company with the growth mindset could a great strategy to fill out a growth team, assuming you can retain the talent.
Create a growth hacker inside your company
There is no hocus-pocus or secret book for growth hacking. Growth is a relatively simple framework of understanding and breaking down problems. The growth mindset can be learned. The biggest misconception about growth is that it is a bunch of tactics ready to be copied. Growth comes from an attitude, not from platitudes.
Read their blog
Most growth people do some form of blogging. It is wise to read their thoughts and analysis about marketing and product. Read between the lines and parse out signals on their experience. Original ideas, deep analysis, and strong creativity are all marks of a good growth hacker. If most of their content is a rehash of the Chen’s AirBnb post or Hotmail’s dusty email signature tactic, pause and take a second look.
Meritocracy and ownership
A lot of growth people hesitate on joining a new company due to a past marked with promises that were never kept. Growth experts engender a positive attitude of meritocracy and opportunity towards product. Growth experts are not obsessed with their own name but helping the company and making an impact. At the end of the day, growth experts know their success comes from empowerment.
If a growth hacker does not feel empowered to execute and to move numbers, they will move on to other opportunities. After all, growth hackers are in the business of having a direct impact on the bottom line. When metrics don’t move and AB tests don’t get launched, we feel like we are not working.
WHAT NOT TO DO
Linkedin titles are not ground truth
Be wary of LinkedIn titles. There is a lot of demand for growth experts right now and a very small supply. Due to high demand, a handful of snake oil “growth hackers” appeared overnight to cash in on the irrationality of some. Be cautious and investigate recommendations and work history.
Growth teams are diverse
A growth team is made up of a wide range of talents and specialties. Not everyone on the growth team has the same level of knowledge or leadership to make an impact on growth alone. Typically, there is a single strong leader who guides the team forward on where to invest in the product for wins. It could be the tech lead, the PM, or VP of Product. It varies from company to company.
Hire for the mindset, not the toolset
Growth hacking is a mindset, not a toolset. Growth hackers that focus on tactics instead of the process to achieve outcomes and validate hypotheses will always be looking for the low beta wins. A strong growth hacker talks about the process of discovery and experimentation. Growth is not about ego but what works at the end of the day. Talking constantly about tactics aligns more in the spectrum of gut and ego, rather than data-driven and tested decisions.
Growth hacker ≠ growth team
Know what you want before you start looking.
A growth hacker is not the same as a Head of Growth or a growth PM. There are a handful of individuals who can operate in both worlds but a growth hacker as a greater emphasis on black-hat tricks and quick wins. A growth expert or growth PM is much more strategic and has a greater emphasis on empiricism. Growth PMs build a user base from a few million to hundreds of millions. Growth hackers tend to live and breathe the first million users.
By the looks of my email box, recruiters and companies are definitely confused by the growth space. I have offers sitting in my Inbox for a community position, a direct-marketing position, and a data-science position. Even if your company is interesting and has legs to be a billion dollar business, starting the initial conversation with a job description that is obviously not growth focused will lead to an “I am not interested” quickly. Do the due diligence up front and learn the lingo.
Reach out to me if you need help. Best of luck.