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How to Hire A Conversion Rate Optimization Specialist? Qualities to Look for

8 Min Read

By now, most companies understand the impact that data-driven marketing has on their bottom line. C-Suite Execs need real numbers backing every decision, so marketers must become revenue-oriented to prove their worth. Have we entered a golden age of customer-centric, revenue-driven marketing powered by CRO? Perhaps. 

One thing we know for sure—Conversion rate optimization (CRO) has become a highly valued, integral part of not only the digital marketing landscape but the customer web experience as a whole.

If you’re planning to hire a CRO specialist for your team, then look no further. 

In this article , you’ll learn:

  • 9 qualities that the very best CRO specialists possess
  • Interview questions to separate the wheat from the chaff
  • Best-in-class CRO tools to help your new CRO specialist hit the ground running

So let’s start with that. Having a suite of powerful web experimentation tools is paramount. It will help you understand visitor behavior, build testing pipelines, and run experiments that generate pipeline and revenue.

Your new CRO specialist will thank you.

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Now that you’ve got the perfect web experimentation suite, let’s hire a CRO specialist to maximize your conversions.

This is what a good CRO hire looks like

CRO is a Jack of All Trades Position
Image source: Lifehacker

While CRO specialist is a Jack-of-all-trades position, there are several skills, abilities, and personality traits very few marketers have that’d make a successful CRO. Smart companies understand that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all resume for this work, so instead, look for specific characteristics when hiring for CRO positions.  

1. A polymath

The best optimizers are not only multi-disciplinary but also non-stop learners. Effective CRO can only happen when copywriting, design, digital analytics, and testing come together, and it helps to be comfortable with all four and do them well. Basic coding skills in JavaScript, JQuery, HTML, and CSS are prerequisites here.

2. Curious and empathetic

CRO, at its core, is based on adapting to people’s behaviors and wants. The way people buy today has changed alongside their needs and wants. To succeed, you must have a strong sense of curiosity that pushes you to read, ask questions, research, and dig deep into what makes people tick. Even more critical is having empathy. Understanding customers, including what they’re thinking and feeling, helps the optimizer to determine how to deliver the right message in the right way.

3. A data-led critical thinker

Anyone can look at a website design and say, “this is terrible.” 

But a CRO should articulate precisely what isn’t working and what could be better, and why. The key is using data to examine how visitors and prospects are using the site, what problems or bottlenecks they face, and how to overcome these issues to enable successful conversions.

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4. Discerning mind

A good CRO specialist knows that you don’t have to track and analyze every change. If you’re debating the use of a single word, it may not be worth a full test – or, it may be that this word is the lynchpin to conversion you’ve been waiting for. A good CRO can spot the difference and be judicious with their time.

5. A student of humankind

Conversion rate optimization is, at its core, the study of what people want. 

Therefore, an interest in psychology is helpful since many of the things we know about motivations and desires come from that discipline. But even more critical is having people skills and empathy. Talking to customers and understanding what they’re saying, not saying, and hoping for, are all part of finding out how to deliver the right message in the right way.

6. A flexible wordsmith

Good copywriting is critical for high conversions, but “good” changes for every target audience. CROs should have a feel for customizing tone, diction, style, and format to each buyer persona, which requires writing that isn’t just good but flexible.

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7. The trifecta: Research, analysis, and people skills

Setting up successful tests requires getting into the minds of your target audience, which takes research, analysis, and people skills. As president and founder of Creative Thirst Bobby Hewitt says, “It’s more than just curiosity, it’s empathy + curiosity + psychology + data + … so the single most important tool is ‘you.’”

8. The turtle (not the hare)

It can take many experiments to find winning tests. Some of the best CROs experience months of failed experiments and statistically insignificant tests before hitting the jackpot. With each test, they learned something valuable, and by continuing to experiment, they eventually achieved the wins they were looking for.

9. The unicorn

Mastering CRO and getting hired for it requires a skill set a cut-above above and beyond most other marketing disciplines. In today’s world, this is often described as the ‘M-shaped Marketer.’ Finding all of these skills and traits in one person is a rare combination. 

In fact, Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner put it this way: “A talented CRO is a bit of a unicorn. Primarily because most of the people who would be good at it don’t self-identify with it yet, don’t put it as a skill or title on LinkedIn, making it impossible to find them. I believe we need more exploration of the skill set needed to be good at it, so we can start inserting CRO as a disciplinary choice in a career path.”

A Great CRO is A Unicorn

If you’re looking for a CRO specialist with these skills, a great place to begin your CRO talent hunt is on AngelList or Growth Talent Network.

How to hire a CRO who can blow the roof off your business

If you’re sitting on the other side of that interview table, you might be wondering how to find these growth unicorns – or at least how you can tell a unicorn from a regular old draft horse. 

Where can you find these talented individuals, and how can you identify them if they walk through your door?

CRO specialists tend to gain prominence on LinkedIn, Twitter, and marketing communities such as Demand Curve’s Slack Community. 

However, they may not call themselves CRO experts; they may work in analytics, product, or UX. Reach out to Product Managers and Growth Marketers who work for some of the companies you respect. 

Learn whether they have the interest and skills that might make them a great CRO. Some companies try to grow their own CROs – to which I say: CROs are unicorns, not sea monkeys. You can’t just add water (or send them to a few conferences) and get the results you want.

First of all, the prospective CRO must be driven to learn non-stop, following their curiosity and desire to find new and more profitable paths.

Second, even if they have that drive, it takes time to learn everything a great CRO should know.

Hiring an adept CRO consultant to train your talented staff can give you immediate results. Many CROs offer consulting services and can teach the basics in as little as a day. In addition, there are fairly standard guidelines for creating good hypotheses to test, interpret data, and know when to start and conclude tests.

Your guide to conducting the perfect CRO interview

I asked three CRO experts how they would interview to hire a new CRO. These questions seek to look past the resume and uncover thought processes and driving passions, biases, and peculiarities – in other words, and they answer this question—what makes a great CRO tick?

Talia Wolf, Founder and CEO of Conversioner

When one of our applicants or our clients’ applicants does have a CRO background, we put a lot of emphasis on their analytical skills but even more so on their marketing skills and strategic background. The hardest part of CRO is coming up with strategies, creating a good plan that can be learned from and scaled – which is why it’s important to understand their thinking process. One other important aspect we focus on while interviewing someone for a CRO position is their “true inner optimizer.” A true optimizer is someone who constantly seeks to optimize everything in their life – their hobbies and even home. You can learn a lot about a person’s fit for a CRO position by their hobbies and previous jobs. Look out for those times where they optimized something within their workspace, team, relationship or home.

Tiffany DaSilva, Director of Strategy for Powered by Search

I would want to get inside their head a little about how they look at a page and what types of things they look for. So, I would show them a landing page and ask their opinion. I like to know if they are more UX-based, psychology-based, or if they need data to make decisions. Either way is fine; I just like to see how they work. I would also like to see the types of things that interest them and what they would change. 

Oli Gardner, Co-founder at Unbounce

I would ask a list of questions, something like this:

  1. How would you go about creating a prioritized list of tests to run on our website?
  2. Can you share the criteria you use to determine whether a test has run for long enough or not?
  3. What would you do when a stakeholder or boss asks you to run a test simply because they think it’s a good/interesting idea?
  4. How would you approach optimizing a low-traffic site?
  5. What is your optimization toolset and in what ways do you use them for different types of optimization?
  6. What’s your biggest test win and failure?
  7. How do you measure conversion success when it lies further down the funnel than the A/B test level?

In conclusion

The best CRO specialists can combine processes with flexibility, data with wise iteration, and curiosity with perseverance. What other competencies do you feel are indispensable for a CRO specialist? Are there any challenges in hiring a CRO that haven’t been addressed in this post? Please share your thoughts with us at marketing@vwo.com!

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Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré
Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré SaaS Consultant & Customer Success Evangelist. Moderator at @ProductHunt & @GrowthHackers. Previously: Growth at @Inboundorg. INFJ. I am happiest in the company of foxes.
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