Marketing automation skills in digital marketingRecently a Director-level digital marketing candidate I’ve been working with wanted to know if she should take classes to bring her marketing automation skills up to speed before she begins a serious job search.

Her question went something like this:

“Should I take classes to become a power user of specific marketing automation tools such as Marketo or Eloqua to sharpen my marketing automation skills to help improve my chances of landing a digital marketing job?

Good question. I think of all of us would agree that any marketer who wants to get ahead should know the basics of marketing automation, which as we all well know has been growing at an astonishing rate. But should you spend time and money becoming a hands-on ninja in a specific marketing automation tool, with which you’ve had no previous experience, to get a possible leg up in an interview?

My advice as a marketing automation recruiter: I wouldn’t rush into it.

Let me explain.

While I’m a huge advocate of continued learning and even look for it on resumes, digital marketing and ecommerce technology is moving quicker than a Ken Giles fastball. Whatever software version you learn today could be outdated technology in a few months because of new releases and updates. And when you consider the dizzying number of technology solutions that are out there, you’d be trying to chase a horse that just keeps on galloping faster. This snapshot below of a graphic by shows the sheer number of products that are out there, and this is only the top 5,000!

marketing automation tools

Is your head spinning yet?

Here are some other factors to consider:

-Even if you did take the time and spend the money to get proficient with a particular software tool- and let’s say it even helped you land a job- there’s no guarantee your new employer will stick with it. Priorities change, needs change, agencies change, applications change. The best platform for a company’s marketing needs today could be inadequate six months from now. Your marketing automation skills could become unneeded.

-All the software learning programs in the world won’t help if an employer really wants someone who has day-to-day, in the trenches, hands-on experience with a particular tool. You either have that specific expertise, or you don’t. If you don’t, but you still get hired, you can learn it, quickly. Chances are, you’ve had to learn plenty of other things on the job and on the fly. In digital marketing and ecommerce, it comes with the territory. You wouldn’t have made it to Director if you weren’t a good learner.

-Some of these tools are monstrously complex. Learning about them is one thing, but actually pulling the levers and pushing the buttons is another. Like anything else that requires practice to get good, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Bottom line: A certificate program or other learning that covers the fundamental topics of digital marketing or marketing automation skills will probably do you much more good than studying in-depth tutorials on the latest release of a specific marketing automation platform. Marketo and Hubspot, for example, offer entire libraries of free training videos, definitely good enough for interview purposes if you haven’t used those tools in the past. You can also check out my own directory of learning resources. If a hiring manager starts asking you to explain Eloqua’s contact database architecture, be glad he or she did because they’ve just handed you a red flag. At the Director or VP-level, they should be focusing more on cultural fit, how well you can think strategically, manage P and L, exert influence at higher levels, and how well you direct and motivate others who work with these tools at ground level on a daily basi, instead of your in-the-trenches marketing automation skills

Take it from a marketing automation recruiter: These are the elements that truly will determine your success.