How to identify, interview and hire a head of growth for an early-stage startup

The waters are never calm when scaling a startup. In fact, they are typically quite choppy. However, by making the correct hire in the head of growth position, you can navigate to shore much more smoothly.

The individual you’re looking for will create and execute growth strategies, manage marketing initiatives and, ultimately, drive revenue. My more informal take on this role is that it’s someone who deeply understands growth fundamentals, has significant expertise in one to two growth pillars and knows how to build an effective team.

I’ll walk you through when and how to hire your head of growth, their archetypes, how this role stands apart from other marketing executive positions, and what to expect from this hire during their first few quarters.

Head of growth archetypes

In my decade of growth marketing, I’ve seen quite a few growth leaders who began at various startups, all possessing varying levels of experience. To make it easier, I’ve grouped these candidates into three major categories, or archetypes:

  1. Generalists: Experience across numerous growth pillars.
  2. Specialists: Deep expertise in one pillar.
  3. Tertiaries: Data, finance/VC, VC or product background.

While I’ve seen members of each category become successful as heads of growth, I strongly advise hiring from either category one or category two for seed to Series B startups.

When building a growth function from zero, it’s vital to have someone who can drive the execution for your early channels and campaigns. When it comes to category three, I’ve only witnessed success after a growth team was already in place, with their efforts centered around optimizing efforts across data analytics and product.

Outside of these three major archetypes, there are two important flavors that are consistent across the groups:

  • B2B or B2C
  • Mobile or web

These two flavors can make or break the success of your growth efforts, as their type of marketing is so distinct. Someone coming from an extensive background of web acquisition at a B2B company like Rippling would not be well-suited to run growth at a B2C consumer startup such as Spotify.

Most growth marketers will heavily index in B2B or B2C, as their careers typically stay on that path. However, it’s quite common to see growth marketers who have experience in both mobile and web acquisition, and it’s absolutely acceptable to hire them.

You’ll occasionally find a unicorn who’s a generalist and has experience in B2B, B2C, mobile and web. If you do, recruit them immediately.

Heads of growth come in many flavors. Image Credits: Jonathan Martinez

How to interview

I’m fortunate to have been on both sides of the interview table for head of growth positions, largely at tech B2C startups, so I have a good sense of what makes for amazing interviewees.

Below are example questions to ask and a few case studies I’ve seen work well:

Interview questions:

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