Onboarding the RIGHT Candidate

Hiring an entry level candidate has it’s pros and cons – you can train according to your own preferences and standards without having breaking bad habits, but it can also be a A LOT of work. Is the investment worth it? Today, we’re talking with Catherine Dewitt, CPSM Director, Marketing + Business Development at BKM about her process for onboarding, and why she prefers to find, hire and train the right candidates who happen to be entry level. (Spoiler alert – our very own Laura Ewan is a prodigy of this process!).

I learned that I had to be direct. It had to be “Yes” or “no.”

CQ: An excerpt from Manager 3.0 by Brad Karsh and Courtney Templin states, “It doesn’t need all the fanfare; just make every opportunity a teaching or a learning moment. Teaching is more of a mindset. Everything that you do can be a teaching and learning moment.”

CD: 100%! That’s how I handle every part of my day – it is always my responsibility to teach.

CQ: There are a lot of stigmas surrounding entry level employees. What are some that you’ve been exposed to and what’s your opinion?


  1. “It’s going to be a lot of work and you don’t have the time to train them.” Yes, but if it’s a good fit you need to put in the time!
  2. “You don’t want to work with a millennial.” I’m am definitely a Gen-Xer. But if I’m going to be working with a millennial, I want to make sure that they’re happy and fulfilled.

CQ: When you’re looking to interview entry level candidates with limited experience, what type of things are you using to evaluate them?

CD: My process is thorough, and includes multiple interviews to learn about a candidate’s personality.

  • Education: I want someone with a related college degree. Not only does it mean they have the necessary skillset, but also that they have the drive to go to class and finish a degree.
  • Personality:  Pay attention to social cues and body language. You can tell if someone is genuinely interested.
  • Activities: Were they involved in campus organizations? Did they have a job throughout college? Did they play team sports? Working together for a common goal is a great skill to look for in a new recruit.

CQ: What does the onboarding process look like for you? How long does it last?

CD: Typically three months. Start out by having the person read proposals to start learning the portfolio. Next – read the Marketing Handbook and A/E/C Marketing Fundamentals! The handbook is an incredible resource, and they should learn to use it as such. From the president of a company, all the way to coordinators – this book is impactful!

CQ: What are some of the first tasks you have a new hire focus on?

CD: Pulling resumes, project sheets and formatting. This provides an opportunity for the candidate to continue learning the portfolio. Another great task is working on the database. Aside from data entry and verification, it allows the employee to see what type of information we’re tracking and start to understand why.

CQ: Do you set up any formal meetings with others within their company?

CD: Not formalized – but I advocate for the employee to meet with others. I empower them to speak directly to the principles, project managers and engineers. If you build that relationship early on, they’ll be much more likely to help you when you’re in a bind!

CQ: How do you avoid micromanaging?

CD: I work really had not to micromanage. I’ve had some terrible micromanagers and I refuse to be that person – it’s deflating! Remember that everyone is a professional, build a relationship of trust, and check in.  You’re teaching someone to grow – so let them know when you’re doing a good job, but also give constructive criticism where you can.

CQ: How do you balance onboarding a new employee, while still performing your own job responsibilities?

CD: That’s the hardest part of the job – it’s going to be a rough three months. Simply put, you’re going to have to work twice as hard. Learn to be more efficient, more organized and delegate as much as you can. But the end goal is training the person the way you want to be trained and it will pay off.


Want to hear more from Catherine? Listen to the full podcast to hear more of Catherine’s insight on onboarding (as well as some dirt on Laura from her glory days as a coordinator).

Music by SONGO 21 – Studio sessions 2003 by SONGO 21 is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

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ABOUT Catherine

Catherine is a graduate of Philadelphia University with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. She has worked as a marketing professional for architecture, engineering, and construction (A/E/C) firms for over 17 years. Catherine began her career as a Marketing Coordinator at an engineering firm in Baltimore and since then, has worked for small and large A/E/C firms in Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia. Catherine leads the marketing and business development activities to ensure that goals and deadlines are met. She is the creative force behind the firm’s strategic plan and serves as primary strategic adviser to the firm’s principals. An active member of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), Catherine is currently the President for the SMPS Maryland Chapter.

Have questions or want to chat more with Catherine? Post your comments below or connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Join us Thursday on the podcast to hear more from Catherine!

Music by SONGO 21 – Studio sessions 2003 by SONGO 21 is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.


Next week, we’ll welcome Bethany Rustic Smith, FSMPS, CPSM – Director of Business Development for Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP to talk the importance of understanding firm financials as a marketer.