• Qualities Of A CRO Specialist

    “The Only Constant in Life Is Change.”- Heraclitus (ancient Greek philosopher)

    This quote has proved accurate and has stood the test of time.

    Everyone and everything evolves, and even as marketers, we can say this is true in the industry. 

    There’s always a new trend; It could be a buzzword, phrase or concept, or a new marketing specialty.

    As a discipline, conversion rate optimization has gathered a lot of interest from individuals.

    Everyone is now an expert, taking courses, posting wins of A/B tests online, etc.

    But is that really the case?

    At Invesp, we’ve been doing CRO for over 16 years and have hired over 50 conversion specialists (senior and junior), so we know a thing or two about hiring conversion specialists in this ever-changing industry.

    In this article, I interviewed two of our conversion optimization specialists, Anwar and Isabela; they shared their thoughts on the qualities of a CRO specialist and what they’ll look out for if they were hiring.

    Also, in this article, we will look at who is a CRO specialist, what they do, where to find amazing talents, qualities to look for when hiring a conversion specialist, and questions to ask during the hiring process.

    Ready to learn?

    Let’s get started.

    Who Is A CRO Specialist?

    A conversion rate optimization specialist, also known as a CRO consultant, CRO expert, or experimentation expert, is the chief strategist behind a brand’s conversion optimization program.

    This means they develop and oversee the project’s strategy from start to finish. From the research phase, hypothesis, running tests, analyzing the results, documenting learnings, etc.

    A conversion rate optimization specialist often has some level of expertise in these areas;

    1. Analytics

    2. User behavior

    3. Copywriting

    4. User research

    5. A/B and multivariate testing.

    6. Statistics 

    What Does A CRO Specialist Do?

    A CRO specialist is in charge of a brand’s conversion optimization program from start to finish.

    Now, let’s unpack a conversion rate optimization program and see what exactly a CRO specialist oversees: 

    1. Research:  

    Carry out qualitative and quantitative user research to understand user pain points, uncover conversion blockers, etc.

    2. Prioritize

    From the result of the research, the CRO specialist uncovers a lot of conversion issues on a website; it’s time to sift through them to uncover which conversion issues can impact the bottom line the most

    3. Test: 

    At this stage, the conversion specialist tests his hypothesis by running an A/B test, a control against a variation, to see which performs better.

    4. Analyze Results: 

    Now, the experiment has run for some time to achieve statistical significance. The specialist goes through every data from the control and variation to see how the test performed.

    FigPii Heatmaps

    5. Share Learnings:

     Here, the conversion specialist shares his observations from the test with his internal team, clients, and stakeholders and, if need be, iterates on the test.

    In short, this is the journey that a CRO specialist embarks on: 

    6 Qualities Of A CRO Specialist

    There are a ton of courses out there that can teach you conversion rate optimization tactics. But for you to become a top CRO specialist, there are certain traits or skills you need to have. Fortunately, you can develop those skills through proper training and experience. 

    To help you understand the qualities you need to become a CRO specialist, I reached out to some of our top conversion rate specialists (Anwar and Isabella). This is what they had to say: 

    1. Always put yourself in the shoes of the customer

    At its core, conversion optimization is about understanding user behavior and ensuring that there are no conversion bottlenecks that make it difficult for users to take the desired action on a website.

    So, to uncover conversion hurdles and understand user behavior, you need to put yourself in customers’ shoes and do your research from that perspective. 

    According to Isabela, CRO specialists should anticipate what users will do on a website and should be good at asking the right questions:

    “Being good at conversion optimization requires one to consider the customer’s perspective. You have to think about how they will react if they see certain elements on a website. Will this or that element help them take the next forward? It’s also about asking the right questions.” 

    She also adds that you need to have a keen eye for detail: 

    In all instances, you also have to act as a Quality Assurance Specialist in a way. This means that you have to ensure that each element on a website works well before you roll out any test.”

    Anwar echoes the same sentiments: 

    “Being able to empathize with the customer is a quality of a CRO. This is mostly seen in JTBD interviews, being able to understand their fears and anxiety, read meaning into what they’re saying and bodily cues too.”

    2. Possess a research mindset

    It’s not enough to run A/B tests or prioritize ideas. A great CRO specialist isn’t satisfied with top-of-mind answers (from viewing analytics) but is interested in going below the surface to find the primary motivators of user purchase behavior.

    According to Anwar;

    one of the main qualities of a good CRO is having a research mindset.” This means diving deep beyond the surface to get at the issues on a website and put forward solutions.”

    3. Should understand copywriting

    One of the perceptions out there about being a CRO specialist is that it’s a technical field, and that’s because of the buzz around analytics, setting up tests, and analyzing results, but that’s not always the case.

    A great deal of what makes users convert is the messaging on a website or landing page. 

    According to a study by the Nielsen Norman Group, your prospects will only read about 20 percent of the website copy on any given page.

    Since this is the case, one of the distinguishing characteristics of a good CRO specialist is that they’re able to analyze the messaging on a landing page to see if it helps conversions or if it serves no purpose.

    If the messaging serves no purpose, then they can come up with messaging that resonates with their audience, thanks to the insight from conducting user research.

    4. Should be a polymath

    The best conversion specialists are multi-disciplinary. This means they should understand how other essential areas that makeup CRO work.

    One of the recent buzzes in the digital marketing landscape is the concept of a T-shaped marketer. A T-shaped marketer is one who has broad knowledge in many fields and deep expertise in one, but a CRO specialist should be a key-shaped marketer.

                                               Courtesy: Digital marketer

    As a key-shaped marketer, the conversion specialist has broad knowledge cutting across different fields in conversion rate optimization and deep expertise in some, not just one, unlike the T-shaped marketer.

    The diagram below shows you what it means for a CRO specialist to be Key-shaped. Deep knowledge/solid understanding in an area like user research, while some knowledge in analytics, an understanding of UX design, etc.

    According to Anwar;

    “I don’t believe one background makes a better CRO, but as a CRO, you’ll have to touch base with many different backgrounds. This way, the CRO specialist can interact and push out ideas with other team members that make up the CRO team.”

    5. Able to translate data into insights

     A good chunk of CRO’s work is to go through a lot of data. This data can be gotten through analytic tools like Google Analytics and also by going through heatmaps and session recordings.

    What makes a CRO great isn’t just the ability to view data but to understand it, interpret it, and gather insights from it.

    According to Isabela;

    CRO specialists have access to a lot of tools that provide quantitative data. What separates the specialist from the not-so-good ones is how much they’re able to drill down into the data to understand behavior i.e., their analytical skills.

    This drilling down is where quality insights are gotten that a hypothesis can be based around to test.

    See, for instance, In conducting analytics user research, a CRO specialist could search for insight into shopping behavior analysis over a period of time and observe the user flow (from all sessions down to sessions with transactions.) to see where there’s a drop-off, look at the traffic mobile and desktop devices are getting and decide where to run their A/B test.”

    Anwar echoes the same sentiment;

    “CROs see numbers all day. What differentiates the best specialist from the pack is how they view this data.

    Another remarkable area where you can differentiate a good CRO specialist from the rest is their knowledge of Industry benchmarks relating to the project they’re working on, and how they’re able to use this information with the dat gotten from data analytics and how it influences their hypothesis to A/B test decisions.”

    6. Communication skills

    There’s a lot of talking and reporting to be done in CRO. 

    A good conversion optimization specialist can effectively communicate and defend why they’re taking specific actions.

    This means a good specialist should be able to convey the reasons for his actions to his internal team, communicate design ideas with the designer, and explain to the developer how he wants a variation to behave.

    Also, the conversion specialist isn’t scared of conversing with the clients and walking them through reports.

    Many test ideas have been stopped because a CRO specialist wasn’t confident enough to explain their logic.

    According to Anwar;

    “One quality that differentiates a good CRO from the rest is the ability to handle different stakeholders like internal communications, project management, customers, client, client’s internal stakeholders, etc.”

    Where To Find Amazing CRO Talent.

    Suppose you’re hiring and wondering where you can get excellent CRO talent and how to tell a great CRO specialist who’s the real deal from someone who’s not good at all; there are a few telltale signs.

    According to Anwar;

    “If I’m hiring for a CRO position, I’ll look for previous experience, mindset (the ability to think like a CRO), and I’ll conduct an expert review test to see how they spot issues on a website.”

    Isabela echoes the same sentiment;

    “In hiring for a CRO position, I’ll look for someone who understands data, how users behave on a page and can spot mistakes on a page.”

    Places where you can find great talent, are LinkedIn, Twitter, Slack channels, etc.

    Also, note that previous experience is great to have, but in some cases, great CROs don’t have a background in CRO yet. They might work in analytics, product, UX, or growth marketers.

    Reach out to individuals in these roles, interview them, and look out for mindset (the ability to think as a CRO). 

    How to Hire For CRO 

    The same way it takes skill to be a great CRO specialist, it also takes skill and experience to hire a CRO specialist.

    In this section, we’ll look at the hiring process Khalid Saleh, CEO of Invesp, uses.  

    Here’s a video that walks you through his process

    1. The first thing to note is, are you hiring for a senior or junior role? This puts things into perspective for you. 

    2. A senior CRO specialist has a lot of experience; they’ve done A/B tests; you don’t have much to train them on. 

    A disadvantage here is not being used to the internal way of running things. This can be learned over time, but they’re covered in the technical aspect.

    3. When hiring a junior CRO specialist, the game is entirely different here. They need to be trained for at least two years, and there are three things to look out for.

    • How well do they articulate themselves?
    • What background do they have?
    • What’s in their portfolio?

    4. Whether senior or junior CRO, attention to detail is another quality to look out for. 

    This is because this role requires the specialist to spend a lot of time talking with customers, going through analytics to get quality insights, etc.

    5. When hiring for a senior conversion optimization role, an area to look at is the type of analysis they do. You’ll want to find out how they come up with the idea for A/B tests, how they interpret the data leading up to the test, etc.

    6. For a junior CRO specialist, you can give them a little project. There are two areas to watch out for here: their analysis process and their effort in running tests. 

    7. Ability to sell ideas is something to look out for in CRO hires. This is because this role requires CRO specialists to communicate and convince both the internal team and clients why they’re taking a specific course of action.

    Additional Questions You Can Ask During The Hiring Process

    1. How would you begin to optimize my website?

    2. What roles do qualitative and quantitative data play during your optimization process?

    FigPii Heatmaps

    3. Do you follow a specific conversion framework?

    3. How do you come up with test ideas?

    4. What’s your prioritization process like?

    5. How do you determine when to stop your tests?

    6. What are your biggest pet peeves when it comes to web design and UX?

    7. What have been some of the most surprising outcomes of tests you’ve run?

    Wrapping Up

    As more companies embrace the discipline of CRO, the demand for good CRO specialists keeps increasing.

    Good conversion specialists have unique traits that make them stand out, and I’ve highlighted some of them. This can help you hire or qualify specialists that already work in-house for you.

    Are there any other qualities that were overlooked? Feel free to leave a comment.

Kobiruo Otebele

Content marketing expert with experience in conversion rate optimization, A/B testing, jobs-to-be-done framework, etc.

View All Posts By Kobiruo Otebele
Kobiruo Otebele

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