Five transferable skills to look out for when hiring digital marketing graduates

The Drum 09 Oct 2019 09:00
By Elle Pollicott-09 October 2019 10:00am

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Hallam provide a guide so marketers can spot potential in recently-graduated students.

In 2017/18, there were 2.34 million students studying at universities across the country, yet 44% of these undergraduates were unsure of which career to pursue after graduation.

This is nothing new. For every student applying for university with a career in mind, there are several who are hoping they’ll work it out during university, but are still left feeling unsure after graduation.

Only 10.6% of senior digital marketing positions are held by people with marketing degrees

However, when we compared the subjects they studied, we discovered that only 10.6% of them had marketing degrees. In Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Liverpool, London and Sheffield, that figure was 0%. The highest concentration of agency owners and managers with marketing degrees was in Glasgow, at 40%.

What we did find, was that digital marketing specialists had graduated with degrees from just about every single subject possible. From journalism and creative writing, to zoology, politics, American and Canadian studies, and even electrical engineering - the range of subjects was practically endless.

So, what does this tell us? Whilst having a degree is undeniably important for a career in digital marketing, it doesn’t matter which subject graduates chose.

Instead, look for graduates who have these five transferable skills. Whilst they can be learned from a range of degree subjects; graduates with these skills are likely to make a much more positive contribution to your team than those who don’t have them.

Marketing is nothing without communication. It’s crucial that you, therefore, hire someone who will be comfortable speaking with customers, clients, colleagues, and stakeholders.

Grammar and spelling are key for written communication, and looking at a person’s LinkedIn profile or CV is a great way to assess their attention to detail. Another way to check their attention to detail? Seeing whether they spelt your name right when sending over their application.

Of course, the extent of creativity required varies from role to role, but everyone working within marketing needs to be creative to some extent - whether it’s coming up with new content ideas, logo designs, landing page topics, or social media campaigns.


From negotiating with clients on timing and budgets, to working with other departments - whether it’s SEO on content length, or designers on web design - negotiation is a real asset that will serve graduates much better than a marketing degree could.


Organisation is a crucial skill to look out for when hiring graduates. During the interview, find out how they handled timekeeping, budgeting and university deadlines.

Commercial awareness

When interviewing graduates, ask them what digital marketing publications they read, and interesting industry-related news they’ve recently heard. Someone who can confidently answer these questions is likely to be much more passionate about working in digital marketing than someone who can’t give you a straight answer.

Relevant experience > degree subject

That’s why it’s so important to think about the criteria you genuinely need, instead of just looking for someone with a marketing degree.

However, I’m not trying to say that a marketing degree is meaningless - after all, a full 10.6% of agency owners and managers have them. But when it comes to hiring graduates, you need to consider the whole package. Does the interviewee sat in front of you have the transferable skills needed to make it in digital marketing? That’s the most important question.

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UKElle PollicottHallamGlasgowLinkedIn