Growth positions are some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid marketing roles at startups. The problem when it comes to interviewing for a growth-focused position (whether it’s growth or marketing) is that it’s hard to develop the experience companies might look for in a growth hacker quickly, because the role involves so many different skills.
I’ve used the Iceberg Analogy to depict this:
A good growth hacker is a Swiss Army knife, ready to deploy a particular expertise — e.g. paid advertising or landing page optimization or product development — at any moment. But that means you have to be good enough at all of those things. And that often only comes only with lots of experience.
So in lieu of experience what can you do? I’ve identified three things:
1. Specialize in one or two areas of growth hacking
If you want to become really good at something quickly, the key is to narrow down the focus to as small of a thing as possible. Doing this lets you consume and exhaust most of the existing resources around that topic fairly quickly and gain a lot of the knowledge.
Here’s an example: Rather than trying to become knowledgeable in all aspects of growth hacking, pick one area — like user onboarding, referral, or retention — that you’d really like to focus on, and learn everything you can about that thing.
If you’re familiar with the Lean Marketing Framework, you’ll realize that each of these is just a tiny piece of the puzzle. User onboarding, for example, is just what you do between when someone clicks the “Sign up” button and when they’re actually using the product.
Of course, there’s still the question of how you acquire those users in the first place, and what to do with them after they’ve signed up. Don’t worry about that stuff.
If you want to get really knowledgeable about user onboarding, I would read through all the onboarding teardowns on useronboard.com, I would read all the questions on Quora and topics on GrowthHackers.com related to user onboarding. I would study the onboarding flows of some of my favorite products. And I might even reach out to a few growth hackers through Twitter or over email and ask them their thoughts. I’d probably also do some reading on UX/UI and landing page optimization and build out a few onboarding flows myself.
Following these steps, you could get pretty knowledgeable about user onboarding in a matter of weeks.
Just as the best products don’t try to do everything for their users – they focus on doing one thing really well – you shouldn’t try to be a growth hacker for everything. It’s easier to get a job if you’re good at something that would be very useful to a small number of companies rather than not be very good at something that a larger number of companies want.
2. Rocking the growth hacking interview
As a beginner, you should try to avoid letting the interviewer focus on your past experience, because you probably won’t have much to talk about.
Instead, recognize that any company looking for a growth hacker has a specific problem: They need more users. In order to get the job, you need to you convince your interviewer that you can solve this problem for the company, because you know what they’re doing wrong and you know specifically what you would test to fix it.
When you interview at a company for a growth-focused position, make it very clear what you know versus what you don’t. If you don’t know something, don’t pretend. It will become blatantly obvious to them very quickly anyway.
If they ask you about paid advertising and you don’t have the experience, say, “I’m not a paid ad person. If you want paid advertising, that’s not me. But you need to optimize your onboarding flow. And that’s something I know a lot about.”
Then walk them through the steps you would take for them. Give them your ideas for free. The ideas are not your secret sauce. What they’ll hire you for is executing those ideas.
It can be helpful to walk them through the Lean Marketing Framework for their product. Ask them: “What’s your activation rate? Retention rate?” etc.
If they give you a specific problem and ask what you would do, instead of trying to come up with an answer immediately, it’s perfectly alright to say, “I don’t know. It depends on what your numbers show. Is that something you have available?”
Your goal is to convince them that they’re safe in your hands, because you know what approach to take and what to test.
3. Flip the tables
My biggest piece of advice that people rarely follow is to put yourself in a situation where companies can fight over hiring you.
When applying for a job as a growth hacker, you’re just one applicant or resume out of dozens. That puts you in a pretty weak position.
I unintentionally stumbled onto the solution to this problem when I started teaching classes about growth hacking on places like Udemy, Skillshare, and at General Assembly (and now One Month). Professionals paid money to sit in a room with me for an hour while I taught them everything I had studied and knew about growth hacking.
Each time I taught a class, there were 40 or so people in the room. And every one of them needed a growth hacker (otherwise why would they be there?). And so I regularly had 5 to 10 people come up to me afterwards asking if I was looking for a job or taking on clients. “This was great stuff,” they’d say, “but it seems like a lot of work. Could we just pay you to do it for us instead?”
When I give beginners looking for a job this piece of advice, they often say, “But I’m not an expert in anything!”
First, see point #1. You can become fairly knowledgeable about something small very quickly.
Second, you don’t have to be an expert in order to teach a class or start contributing to a topic. When I first started talking about my experience learning to code, or even growth hacking, I was not an expert at either. I said, “I’m just a beginner who taught myself how to code, but I can tell you about what mistakes I made and what I learned, and I can save you time in not making those same mistakes.”
It turns out that beginners who are a few steps ahead can actually be better teachers than experts, because they’re easier to connect with, and they have a better understanding of what a beginner does and doesn’t know.
When teaching about growth hacking, I always admit up front that a lot of the techniques and case studies I mention come from other growth hackers. I’m just relaying the info.
So hopefully these three tips can help you on your way to getting a job as a growth hacker. Got any additional advice or tips for snagging that interview or getting that job? Or seen anything else unique work (like this guy who got a job by running $6 worth of Google Adwords for people searching their own names)? I’d like to hear about them! Post your thoughts in the comments below.
Mattan Griffel is cofounder and CEO at One Month.