March 21, 2023

How we hired a COO for an eCommerce marketing agency in 7 weeks

The Challenge:

We were asked to recruit a Chief Operations Officer for a fast-growing performance marketing agency of 40+ team members called Porobic Group.

The Result:

We knew that the COO search was extremely important, and we made sure to take our time when vetting the candidates. This was a headhunting-heavy role and we reached out to 160 potential candidates via LinkedIn and were able to bring 19 of them on a screening call. 

As we went through the process, that number was narrowed down to four second interviews, and two of those fell off due to not being a good fit in the end or due to personal issues. With 2 final candidates in hand, Porobic Group was able to choose their new COO after 7 weeks!

Biggest Selling Points:

Apart from being a fully remote & international workplace, the agency had a lot to offer that makes any COO sigh with happiness. 

The company is still in their start-up phase, so the COO would have full autonomy and a platform to shape the organization and processes and develop long-lasting systems in place to make the company run on autopilot. 
Working and building a business together can be challenging when you were not there from the beginning, but the agency wanted to reward these changemakers by providing them with the opportunity to become company shareholders in a stock program.


At the top of the list of non-negotiables, we had to make sure that this person has previous agency experience and understood what it was like to work with many different moving parts and stakeholders. 

In connection to the above requirement, they should also have experience as a COO or an Operations Manager for a start-up and have felt what it’s like to organize a fast-paced and dynamic environment. 

Operations are all about people, so this future COO should be a great communicator and a natural people person who is able to find a way to work with everyone and see the strengths in each individual team member. 

We also made sure to identify skills and experience which would be nice to have, but would not be a dealbreaker for the candidate. For example, as they would be working with a digital marketing agency, some knowledge of performance marketing is a plus, as well as experience working with or in HR and Finance departments

Skills We Looked For:

  1. Communication - As this person would be one of the core team players who has touch points with the whole team, they need to be able to communicate with ease and have no issue with adapting their communication depending on the different team members.
  2. Problem solver  - There will be a lot of uncertainties thrown in the mix, especially when working in a marketing agency and a start-up, so it’s important that this candidate would be able to figure out creative solutions and orientated themselves to resolving issues rather than creating more problems.
  3. People person - By far the most important challenge a COO will face is how to build and maintain a good work culture, so we were looking for someone who is a natural leader and is able to guide the team. 
  4. Data-orientated - The COO should have a good understanding of financial metrics and tracking the company’s performance and should be able to use these numbers to create their strategy. 
  5. Pro-active & hungry - Working for a marketing agency means that you’re part of a very dynamic environment, where many things change quickly. The candidate should have the desire to learn, try new things, improve and bring forward new initiatives to test what works the best for the company.


From the scope of requirements, we knew that paid advertising was not going to work for a high-level role like this, so we dove right into active sourcing the candidates on LinkedIn. We were looking for candidates who were Operations Managers or COOs running a similar agency in Europe. We first targeted Serbia, as this is where half of the Porobic Group’s team members are, before moving on to look in Sweden where their headquarters are located. Finally, we expanded and looked at the whole of Europe. The goal was to present them with three candidates - one from Serbia, one from Europe and one from Sweden. 

One of the key aspects of headhunting is building trust, and Prosana has been working towards having better personal branding that allows people to feel that trust sooner. From the second day, we already had screening calls booked. Over a 4 week period, we conducted screening calls and first interviews and were able to schedule interview calls with the client and candidate by week 5 and begin the 2 week-long process of negotiations.

Key Questions To Ask:

  • What are the most important aspects of a company’s culture? What culture do you thrive in?
  • How do you keep track of a company's progress? Do you use any metrics?
  • Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with your manager/CEO?
  • Tell me a bit more about your experience implementing financial infrastructure in an agency setting? (this is not a typical question for a COO, but it was important to us & Porobic Group)

Challenges We Faced:

Most of the challenges that we faced surfaced in the second half of our recruitment process. 

It’s important to know what your company can offer this person and have these benefits defined from the very beginning. When it came to negotiations with the candidate, the process was prolonged because we were jumping back and forth to understand the benefits the candidate was looking for and where we can meet them in the middle. 

Another challenge was not being able to collect references effectively. It was difficult to reach the references for one of our finalist candidate and they were not being very responsive. With our second candidate, the references were quick to respond and we had no issues. If you will be using references for such hiring, which we definitely recommend you do, make sure that you let the candidate know this in the first few stages so that they have time to prepare and give the references a heads up.

Key takeaways:

  • Be very clear about your non-negotiables and the experience you want this person to bring to the table, and these decisions should be made by looking at your current team and what you feel is missing in it. 
  • Work out the long-term benefits package early on - if you’re going to be offering shares, equity or similar options, make sure you have those fully clarified before initiating the hiring process, and work together with the legal team to draft out the terms for them. 
  • When hiring for C-level positions, you have to remember that it’s not about the number of candidates, but the quality of them. You have to be very strict when creating the criteria for this person and take your time to actively search for them and nurture relationships with them.

Tips for similar hires:

  • Define your MUST-have and NICE-to-have traits
  • Identify your leadership team’s strengths & weaknesses - the COO must be an addition and fill in those gaps
  • Start headhunting early on and nurture those relationships
  • Tap into your network 
  • Make sure to do reference checks

If you’d like to cut chaos & inefficiency out of your workflows and unlock high performance in your remote team, fill out the form on our website, and let’s get talking about how we can help you on that journey!

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