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In the course of a week, I talk to about a dozen new people who are intensely interested in growing their product and bringing on a growth hacker.

In each of these conversations, the all too familiar question comes up..

“How do I find a growth hacker?”

Actually, screw the phrase growth hacker. I’ve heard some people call this person a “mystical unicorn.”

As you might already imagined, answering the question isn’t easy. There isn’t exactly a standardized test for how to evaluate both a diverse skillset and a set of traits most needed to scale a product.

Remember when your career counselor told you to specialize? The person you’re looking for probably didn’t take that advice.  The nature of the growth role, especially for a first hire, is you’ll be bringing someone on who’ll touch a cross-section of functions – from marketing to design and development.

To find this person, you’ll need someone who’s deeply analytical, but can also be creative and flexible. Basically, a generalist.

One fun question to ask yourself is: what would Facebook do?

Well, if you look at the traits from the founder of Facebook’s growth team, Chamath Palihapitiya, you’ll notice he doesn’t exactly talk about a particular skill. Instead he looked for people with:

  • Very high IQ
  • Strong sense of purpose
  • Relentless focus on success
  • Aggressive and competitive
  • High-quality bar, bordering on perfectionism
  • Likes changing and disrupting things
  • New ideas on how to do things better
  • High integrity
  • Surrounds themselves with good people
  • Cares about building real value over perception

The point is, you’re looking for someone who will have to evaluate and constantly adapt to different or new marketing channels – all areas the traditional marketer or even experienced online marketer won’t want to go. It’s only someone who’s willing to learn and who can get technical if needed that can best take advantage of this.

In fact, what you’ve learned in only the past couple years is probably all you’ll need to start. Sean Ellis, who led early growth at companies like DropBox, EventBrite and LogMeIn has a great post on this and even suggests hiring a complete rookie.

Why? Sometimes lack of experience is exactly what will lead a younger marketer to try new approaches, which is where you’ll find truly awesome results.

To add to that, recruiting someone earlier in their career will also probably be easier. As long as you think they can punch above their weight class, they’ll be more willing to take on more risk, and an earlier stage product.

Once you’ve identified and are deep into a channel, then you can worry about bringing on specialists.

While all this is great, how exactly do you identify someone who’s a fit? Beyond testing out the relationship with a smaller project, look into someone’s experiences for a background in entrepreneurship. If they’ve started there own products that have succeeded or even failed, you know they can handle or thrive on the pressure of growth. You’ll also know they’re entrepreneurial and can function independently.

One thing to keep in mind is growth skills tends to translate well between industries, so don’t get too caught up on finding someone with domain expertise.

Now that you know what you’re looking for, here are a few places I’d suggest to start looking:

Do a search for people within startups that might have grown a little too large, as well as people who aren’t in senior positions. The right keywords will be product, marketing and analytics related. Start with your personal network and expand outward.

Also, try to identify people with an entreprneurial background. If they’ve been a part of an incubator, accelerator or got funding they’re likely to have the stomach for growth, as well as the experience needed to start quickly. If you know any vcs or active angels, ask them to point you in the right direction.

Look at some of the students who’ve taken our online growth class on Udemy. Also look into inperson classes in your area, which you can find through SkillShare doing a search for “product” “growth” and “user acquisition.”

Do a search on for a “product” or “UX” meetup. Each of these will have at least a few of the types of people you’re looking for.

I started an awesome meetup in NYC, where we focus specifically on growth, bringing in speakers who’ve led companies like AppSumo, Savored, TheLadders and BrandYourself. Each of these events brings in a combination of people with marketing, development and analytics backgrounds.

If you’re feeling stalkerish, you might even want to scan the list of people who’ve signed up and reach out to someone directly.

But if you’re not in NYC, why not start a meetup yourself? If you want some advice on it, let me know.

I have an idea. What do you think about a job board related to only growth positions?

Let’s get this thing set up?!

If you’re looking to hire someone in a growth role, post details about your product and links below.

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