Hiring health care digital marketers

Put a premium on passion when hiring digital marketers and consultants

This is part 2 in a 3-part series about the role of digital marketers in health care.

In Part 1, I discussed the shortage of digital marketing talent in health care. Having been on both sides of these interviews over the years, I’ve learned that the hiring and onboarding processes make a big difference in how well a digital marketer succeeds.

Today’s digital marketers are interested in influence and impact. They have a clear idea of how their efforts can boost their whole team. They are motivated by the fact that, at the end of the day, their efforts are improving patient care.

Consider the following ideas when preparing for, hiring and onboarding digital marketers:

Preparing for the Interview

  1. Use the hiring and onboarding of digital marketers as impetus to evolve your culture. If your organization has resisted change, take advantage of this opportunity. Identify ways that a new hire can help bring about desired changes on your teams.
  2. Determine which department Digital will live in. An associate of mine was a talented Web content coordinator at a Fortune 500 health care company. He had a reputable background and was highly responsible and capable. But he had five bosses in less than four years because of constant reorganizations, placing him on different teams and different reporting structures. Determine whether Digital belongs to Marketing, MarCom, IT, PR, Creative Services, etc., before posting a job opening, and stick with it.
  3. Be prepared to address questions about available career paths. Ideally, you should be carving out a senior-level digital path in your organization (VP, Chief Digital Officer, etc.), so be prepared to show your desire for a candidate’s long-term success by identifying possible paths upfront.

During the Interview

  1. Provide an accurate, thorough job description. Include particular areas of responsibility and the proportion of their time that they will be spending on strategy vs. tactics.
  2. Look for passion. I would argue that passion is the most essential trait, but it isn’t a keyword that will show up in your recruiting database. Which candidates are energized by talking about how digital marketing can benefit your business? A candidate with passion will be self-motivated to keep their skills fresh and explore new solutions. Look for this character trait and weigh it highly when narrowing candidates.
  3. Put a premium on new ideas. Get a sense of how a candidate is able to develop and adapt to new ways of doing things. Also consider giving extra weight to strategic knowledge, continual education, and being a generalist rather than a specialist.
  4. Ask how they keep up. What blogs do they subscribe to, what conferences do they attend, and how many Twitter followers do they have? They should be able to tell you off the top of their head.
  5. Don’t devalue experience from outside health care. There is a lack of homegrown digital talent with extensive healthcare experience, so ask them to explain how their out-of-healthcare experience will help them.


Once on board, the manager or supervisor’s role is crucial to the digital marketer’s success. It is crucial to develop a relationship of authenticity and openness where you can ask candidly about their strengths, how they are spending their time, and which areas need improvement. This helps to identify where you may need consultants to come in and fill the gaps.

The following are ways to develop that authentic relationship:

  1. Minimize interference. Empower them from day one, and help them succeed. Once you hire a digital marketer, show them trust and avoid inserting yourself or trying to put your stamp on their projects. An effective digital marketer will be able to indicate which projects are improved by lots of input and which ones are better done heads down, independently.
  2. Be the example of valuing new ideas. It’s too easy — and dangerous — to maintain the status quo. Don’t use the excuses that health care is a laggard industry or that “We always do it this way.” Rather than micromanaging, make a habit of asking, “How can I help you accomplish those objectives?”
  3. Recommend them for opportunities on interdepartmental committees and task forces. The dividends are two-fold: (1) they raise the profile of your team, and (2) other departments see and respect their contributions to shared business objectives.
  4. Reward them for research. Recognize that keeping up with trends is key to their success, so support them in spending a portion of their time (suggest 5-10%) reading blogs, posting questions to online communities, and engaging in dialogue about their craft.

When do I consider a digital marketing consultant?

A digital marketing consultant identifies ways to reach your objectives more quickly, more effectively, or in new ways (or all three). Even after onboarding the right talent, your team may benefit from working with an independent consultant who can objectively connect the dots of your digital strategy.

A consultant might engage in activities such as:

  1. Mapping your user experiences
  2. Auditing your digital brand
  3. Providing new tools and resources
  4. Benchmarking against competitors
  5. Diving deep into analytics and recommending decisions based on data

It typically makes sense to engage with a consultant when:

  1. You would benefit from an independent, external perspective
  2. You are seeking new approaches and strategies outside the skill sets of your team
  3. Your team dynamics would be better suited by not increasing headcount
  4. Your strategy would benefit by insights from industries outside health care
  5. You need to fill short-term gaps

What has been your experience hiring and onboarding digital marketers? How do you know when to engage with a consultant?

Part 3 will address retaining digital marketing talent.