In 5 Minutes, I’ll Give You the Truth About Hiring Someone From An Agency Background

There’s an age-old debate in the marketing world, one which has been pro-ed and con-ed to death in recent years. It goes a little like this:

“Should we bring onboard an experienced in-house marketer or try something new and hire someone with an agency background?”

There are obvious advantages and disadvantages to each, of course. The former will be familiar with traditional in-house business model strategies, while the latter may be able to bring a fresh perspective.

Yet for all the potential advantages that hiring someone with an agency background brings, many clients remain reluctant to consider them for in-house positions.


As an advocate of hiring marketing execs with an agency background, let me dispel some of the most persistent myths and, while I’m at it, explain why people with agency experience might be exactly what your company and clients need.

They’re often talented multitaskers
One of the biggest misconceptions about former-agency hires is that they’ll shrivel up with boredom after two days on the job in-house.

I mean, why wouldn’t they? Aren’t they used to working on a variety of projects at once?

Of course, they are.

But that doesn’t mean that working on one project will automatically equal boredom.

They might, like most people, just want a change of pace. Or maybe they prefer the idea of focusing on and dedicating themselves to one brand after honing their talents in a fast-paced agency.

Besides, working in-house doesn’t mean your job narrows its focus that much. From experience, you still have to handle lots of things at once, so it’s not like former-agency hires are going from all to nothing by working in-house.

In fact, their fingers-in-many-pies, multi-tasking past will work in your company’s favour, as they’ll likely be highly efficient and capable of tackling all those things at once!

This is especially valuable if your marketing team is on the smaller side, you can only afford to bring onboard one member of marketing staff for the time being, or you’re trying to get a fledgeling company off the ground.

(Just remember that making one marketing person do everything is not a sustainable model in the long run, though!)

They’re adaptable
Many companies think that one-time marketing agency employees won’t be able to adapt to that in-house marketing life.

But, remember, these are people used to dealing with totally different campaigns from two completely contrasting industries. So if you can handle an 8am meeting with P&G and a 2pm conference call with Shell in just one day, you’ll certainly have the flexibility for in-house marketing.

On the other hand, marketers used to working in-house have likely been moulded and shaped in their former roles.

So, hiring someone from a marketing agency background allows you the chance to shape them to your in-house way of doing things, precisely because they’re not another stuck-in-their-ways marketer used to working in-house.

They’re malleable and, as a result, adaptable, meaning they’ll slot into your marketing team in no time.

They have specialised knowledge and skills
Hiring a marketing exec with years of in-house experience is all well and good. What people assume is they’ve probably got used to the way things work (sometimes a little too used to the way things work–see above!) and they likely have deep and specialised knowledge of their particular industry.

On the flip side, people assume exactly the opposite of former-agency marketers. They assume that they don’t have deeply specialised knowledge.

However, if they come from an agency which focused on, for example, SEO or PR or even data, they absolutely do have more in-depth knowledge and insight into that particular industry. Why? Because they’ll have worked with a range of clients to give detailed business strategies backed up by data.

Furthermore, people with agency backgrounds have to find solutions to business problems that don’t necessarily arise all the time in-house.

This talent for working well under pressure can (obviously) be a huge asset to a business because former-agency marketers will probably approach problems in a distinct way and generally just introduce fresh ideas.

They’ll be an asset when you start working with agencies
A good marketing department should eventually aim to have in-house marketers who can outsource some of the more specialised tasks to an agency. It streamlines the whole process and frees up the in-housers to focus on bigger picture stuff.

So, hiring a former agency marketer can pay dividends when your company starts working with agencies. After all, they can help smooth and improve communication, because they know and understand how agencies work.

This is unlike those used to working only in-house, who typically don’t get truly understand the complexity of the challenges that agencies face.

So, having someone with this background can bridge the gap, improve the relationship and ultimately enhance the quality of work with external agencies, providing better transparency and communication. Basically, a former-agency hire can help make the whole process more efficient.

They’ll relish the chance to see projects through to the end
Something that plagues former agency employees in the marketing sphere–specifically those who previously worked at market research agencies–is the assumption that they can’t see a job through.

In short, clients believe that they lack end-to-end ownership.

For example, if you’re working with a data agency they provide lots of information and insight but, ultimately, it’s the company that decides exactly how to run with it. Which is true.

But, if you were given the chance to see a project you’d put in motion through to the end, in a more hands-on way, wouldn’t you leap at the opportunity?

So would many former market research agency hires.


Have you hired a one-time agency marketer?

How did it go?

Or, are you still on the fence about doing so?

Let me know via email at or add me on LinkedIn and we can chat!