How to find, interview and hire a CMO? Guide.

How to find, interview and hire the best of breed CMO (Chief Marketing Officer)? also known as Head of Marketing, and sometimes you just want director/VP of marketing.

I will put the guide here on placing your best bet to find the most excellent marketers who could take on leadership responsibilities and strive forward through all the clutter, mess and fog.

What are the recipes, responsibilities, salary, questions, checklist to find the best?

What would be the difference in Apple, Adidas, Coca Cola, JP Morgan, Mc Donalds or small business hiring a CMO? There are 2 parts. First is what you know and what you expect. Second is what to-be-CMO knows, expect and can achieve. It’s not about Fortune 50 but these 2 things.

Anyways, making long story short, lets’ talk about finding, interviewing and hiring a CMO. Remember, CMO in our scenario is any marketing leader whom you want to be at the top of the layer and play all the cards while reporting you on updates every now and then.

I have divided this section into 3 parts: i) find ii) interview iii) hire

Part 1 = Find

There’s no sure place, a pond that magically gives you the CMO you dream of. You need to play all the cards available in your capacity to make sure you are hiring the right marketing leader. Yes, do your due-diligence but don’t overdo it that you end up pissing off the candidates.

I have hired multiple marketing leaders throughout my career. There was a guy whom I interviewed hardly 15 minutes, and sent the offer the very next day. Turns out, that was the best resource I could find, especially under company’s budget. The guy was hardly 6 months experienced, but from the very first impression I saw him I knew this is the guy I am looking for.

This person was the top performer within 3 months. This is what I call “Finding diamond in the dirt”. If you have unending budget then sure you can hire someone coming from big company with big pay and has backing of wealthy alumni, but if you are like most people or rather try to spend wisely then you will try to dig to find the best in line.

Your HR department can do due-diligence and things alike but you as a decision maker who will be calling shots should ensure you are pulling the right person from the huge pool of candidates.

No matter where the candidate is coming from: Ivy, regular university, without university, acquaintance, facebook group, do your work.

First, Cast a wide net to get the maximum candidates, don’t be lazy and don’t take decisions in a hurry. You won’t believe how many great candidates are not as active on LinkedIn than other platforms. That’s why it’s important to cast a wide net. Also, tell your HR send you as many marketer CVs as possible not just 2 or 3 shortlisted ones. You are the one who is placing bet here not HR.

Second, confirm if they have worked in CMO/Head of marketing, Director/VP/Manager capacity before. If they haven’t, confirm if they were some how related to product-market fit, business development, reported to CEO or any C-suite, have the vision and can translate difficult industry and company wide strategy into easy language like Slides, PDF, small paragraph and move people. This step is important.

Third, analyze their resume fully. AI is useful with flexible settings, but AI will not do your job. Sure, use AI to exclude resumes of people who never once worked in marketing but don’t rely too much on AI. Once AI has found people, analyze their resumes.

Best thing that could happen is that the person is working in your industry for last 10 years in the same role and line of business as you are hiring for. But don’t call check-mate yet, still there are few steps left like interviewing and the offer.

Shortlist people with any or all of the following traits:

  • Same title as you want
  • Same niche/industry as you require
  • Achieved KPIs relevant to you
  • Worked on platforms you require

Part 2 = Interview

Lot of people will make it to the interview phase. Don’t include people whom you think are not fit.

I use the following method when asking questions:

  1. Start with 2 or 3 extremely simple questions (remember, not so simple that it’s negligible). An example is, Ask social media marketer, how do you automate social media posting. or, Why are backlinks useful? or What are your 5 favorite marketing tools.
  2. Second, ask extremely complicated questions. I have fun with this especially if I am interviewing for a junior or mid-level position. If someone can rapidly answer the most complicated answers that even genius think twice, that means you already have found the dream match.
  3. Move between asking simple to most extreme questions.
  4. Notice, how I didn’t mention questions like ‘tell me about yourself’, if these questions are good for you to find gems then sure use them.
  5. One type of questions that I always ask, especially for in-person interviews are: How will you handle hard winter if you don’t have anything to keep you warm? Weird question I know, but it shows how creative they are.
  6. Ask scenario based questions. What would you do if I give you $100 million annual budget marketing budget?, or What would be your strategy to 10x our SaaS ARR? Really, think about scenario they would be dealing with and ask question from that perspective.
  7. Ask hiring question. How would you go about building a team? Do you think micro managing is a good strategy?
  8. Ask, how would you assess your team performance.
  9. Ask, do you prefer new team or take existing team forward?
  10. Ask, how would you gain trust and confidence of your team.

Now, the answer to these questions will depend on your requirements and use cases. I can’t really pin point what’s the best answer. But, for starters, micro managing is not good, they should be comfortable taking existing team forward, be articulate in how they will hire and spend marketing budget.

Part 3 = Hire

Now, you’re ready to hire. If you find lot of great people, and your budget allows them to hire them then place them strategically in your organization.

One thing that you need to understand is that you can’t be 100% sure, nothing will 100% confirm that the person you are going to hire are not lazy, have good work ethics and so on and so forth. No HR can ever find pre-hiring that someone is one way or the other. This is where your talent to finding needle in haystack comes in use.

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