In the Covid-affected market, finding employees is hard, especially those who were hard to find even before Covid. The e-commerce manager is definitely one of the most challenging roles in the organization, mainly because:
1. The organization deosn’t really know how to define the required characteristics
The characteristics in the classified ads (at least those that contact me for help with hiring) are clearly different, and in most cases, the only thing they have in common is the “e-commerce manager” title. The first common mistake is mixing up the promotion manager with the e-commerce manager. The way I like to put it, the promotion manager is about marketing, and the e-commerce manager is about the commerce. Each wears a different hat.
Tips on job characterization:
A. Who will the employee be reporting to? (Is it to the CEO or will they belong to a division)
B. Are there employees or vendors who report to that employee? (E.g. promotion company, website management company) If so, they should know how to “talk” to them and ask the right questions.
C. What’s the size of the budget handled by the employee
D. What are the expected wages for that employee
These questions will help us understand what kind of candidate you’re looking for
As an e-commerce manager, you’re spread across many topics, and you’re often assisted by either secondary employees or subcontractors.
Then I recommend figuring out what systems that manager will be operating and characterize the manager’s level of handling those systems in terms of knowledge/fluency/performance.
Understanding–the manager should have general knowledge of the system and basic terminology.
Fluency–the manager must be fluent in the system–they would have to access reports independently and review the quality of the work provided.
Execution–the manager will execute in person (e.g. in small organizations it’s more common for the e-commerce manager to be uploading products to the website).
It ends up looking something like this:
Channel Skill level required for e-commerce manager Quality of subcontractor/secondary employee
Israeli WooCommerce website Execution –
International Shopify website Fluency 7/10
Instagram Channel Understanding 10/10
US Amazon store Fluency 9/10
Postal system Understanding 6/10
Google Analytics Fluency –
This is how we can deduce which skills are more critical for us in the classified ad and the screening process
2. The organization doesn’t always know how to review the candidate’s professional level
It’s quite the challenge, just like a startup company that recruits a chemistry professor, with no one in the company having chemistry knowledge, and things can get more complicated in e-commerce, because it’s rich with buzz words.
Let’s have a look at a job interview:
Interviewer: Are you experienced with WooCommerce?
Interviewee: Yes, I managed such a store in my last job.
What does the interviewer think? Great, I’m finally filling this position.
What does the interviewee think? This is going great.
What should be closely looked at during this phase:
1. What did the interviewee mean by “I managed”? Did they personally operate it or did they oversee a company to do it? If there was a company, the interviewer should realize that the interviewee is going to need more subcontractors under them.
2. Did the store target Israel or other countries?
3. What processes did they perform in that store?
4. What’s my e-commerce skill level?
1. Thorough interviews–if you don’t know how to ask the right questions, hire an expert to join you for interview day. That way, they provide their professional opinion and you provide your perspective on management and chemistry, which is sometimes more important.
2. Homework–give them homework–especially in an area they’re less familiar with, to give you some important insight:
a. When do they return with their homework
b. How do they submit them
c. How do they think
d. Auto-didactic skills, crucial for a rapidly changing field
3. Consulting previous employer–always important, always with a pinch of salt
3. No standard training in the field
There are many courses, but no uniform curriculum or at the very least a standard (I contacted the Standards Institute of Israel offering to create a standard for training digital professionals, but sadly I realize this was going to be a bureaucratic nightmare).
But let’s think about that applicant that took the “Amazon” course–did the course focus on private brands? If so, it’s likely that 40% of the time were spent on locating a product, which is irrelevant for your own brand and products.
Even if the applicant completed one of three current e-commerce management courses in the market, it’s very likely unclear what their contents are and mostly how in-depth they are.
Tips on meeting the challenge
That’s why, based on the mapping table we made and based on the applicants, we’ll have to realize that we’re probably going to have to fill up some professional gaps for that employee. That’s legitimate and normal and can be part of their training program.
By the way, my approach to e-commerce courses is that they absolutely have to be practical. The student must actually submit at least one product to Amazon’s warehouses, so they know how to submit products to front-end warehouses. Look for the practical ones.
4. E-commerce managers have contact with virtually every department in the organization and with many external interfaces
They are going to be arguing with Marketing about budgets, with Finances about gross profit calculations, with PP&C about Christmas inventory planning and with Logistics about how we must ship DDP rather than DDU.
There are probably 3-6 more subcontractors under them, and somehow they must know how to align everyone in one goal and with unified KPIs, even though each agency works with its own task system and the reports it elects to present.
Sometimes, the e-commerce manager would like to make packaging smaller or add a product feature.
At the end of the day they need to be excellent managers; they don’t know to know how to turn on a Facebook campaign but they should know how to review and assess the Facebook promotion company and handle it.
Tips on meeting the challenge:
Simply look for people with good leadership skills, flexible thinking and a will to learn. In my experience, the managing aspect is way more importantly in this role than the technical ones. Again, they have to know things based on the skill table we built for some of the functions, but we’re looking for “brains” rather than “fingers”.
If you’re an HR manager and made it all the way here, I can appreciate your frustration when looking for the right people for this job, but it’s definitely possible. You just need to know how to build the job to address the needs. I hope your recruiting goes great and that you catch those huge talents! Good luck