There’s a very funny Bill Hicks sketch set in an American diner in which the gum-chewing waitress approaches him, leans over his table, sees he has a paperback open, and asks him “What are you reading for?”
Not “what are you reading”, but “what are you reading for”, as if reading was some form of unnatural act (unnatural acts being a subject that Hicks - as his fans will know - had more than a passing acquaintance with).
I was reminded of Hick’s sketch when I recently helped to interview a candidate for the Marketing Director position with one of my clients. I asked them what they read in order to get inspiration, and the answer disturbed me…
It turns out that the last book they could recall reading about marketing was several years ago and when they eventually remembered the title, it certainly wasn’t ever going to be a candidate for the “marketing masterpieces” shelf.
In the modern day and age, “reading” can take many forms - not just the printed page, but also eBooks, blogs, videos and all the many ways in which information can be transferred and learning shared.
I’ve always been an avid reader, and I’ll consume content in any form. My first sales job was even evangelising a subscription book club membership door-to-door, long enough ago to have been directly employed by Gutenberg.
Now, I can understand that some people may be a little less enthusiastic that I am about reading. But what I can’t understand is how anyone can hope to master a fast-changing field like B2B marketing without immersing themselves in the latest thinking.
Favourite interview questions
That’s why “what are you reading at the moment?” and “how do you keep up with the latest thinking?” have become two of my favourite questions when I'm interviewing candidates. Sometimes, as in the incident that stimulated this blog, the interviewee struggles with the answer.
I’ve thought carefully about why I find this so disturbing, and I’ve concluded that it’s because people who are not avid, enthusiastic and thoughtful consumers of content seem to betray a disturbing lack of curiosity or the desire to learn.
Readers are curious
This may not be a problem if you’re interviewing for a job in a diner (though not wanting to read the menu could clearly be an issue) - but I’m convinced that curiosity and the drive to always be learning something new are critical behaviours for any B2B sales and marketing role.
In the old days, when the pace of change was slower, B2B marketers and sales people might have been able to get away with implementing the tried, tested and long-proven formulae that have worked for them over the years.
Always Be Learning
The world of B2B sales and marketing is evolving so fast that you can’t possibly keep up simply through your on-the-job experiences. You’ve got to look outside for inspiration. You’ve got to be naturally curious. And you’ve got to Always Be Learning.
The fact that you’re reading this blog suggests that you fit into that category. Are you surrounded by similarly smart and curious people? If not, you could do worse than ask my two favourite questions when you’re interviewing a potential new team member.
So - what are your most effective interview questions? And what are you doing to make sure that you’re building an Always Be Learning organisation?