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How to hire a Rockstar CMO: Interviewing for Success

At 360Leaders, we help a diverse range of companies across the globe to source and secure heavyweight marketing candidates capable of driving growth and achieving tangible results. We know what it takes to find the right CMO.

From speaking with our clients and industry contacts, we have found the interview process to be a recurring pain point, whether it’s adopting the best structure, asking the right questions to ensure suitability or sustaining a positive experience throughout, so as to keep the candidate interested.

New research from Morgan McKinley showed recruitment processes in 2018 aimed to be “swift and succinct, as employers recognised that long-winded applicant processes would likely turn candidates off and send them packing towards competitors.” Nevertheless, many still struggle to implement an experience that is both rigorous and engaging, with findings from another study on UK businesses revealing that 54% of HR directors have lost out on a qualified candidate due to hiring delays.

Considering the critical role a CMO plays in the evolution of a young start-up, ambitious leaders cannot afford to make a bad hire at this key stage, nor can they afford to lose out on top-tier talent to the competition. With this in mind, here are 4 tips to aid your CMO hiring process.

Step 1: Meet and greet your candidate

If you’ve been referred a CMO candidate from someone you know, prior to a formal interview, you should seek to build a rapport with the candidate and gain an understanding of whether or not they would be a good cultural fit for the organisation. After all, there’s little use wasting everyone’s time if it’s clear from the get-go that they aren’t the person for the job. In order to determine this, organise a meeting away from the office and try to keep the discussion top-line for the time being.

At this stage, you don’t want to give the candidate the impression that you’re settled on hiring them, rather, your aim should be to keep them intrigued by giving away enough that will pique their curiosity. Now is your chance to assess whether or not you can work with the candidate on a day to day basis and whether your existing team will gel with them, so don’t hesitate to ask for high-level examples of the teams they have assembled, the challenges they have overcome and the strategies they have implemented to achieve business goals.

Step 2: Conduct a formal interview

Since the CMO is a creative hire, you should consider implementing some creative screening at this stage. Before meeting with any potential CMO candidates, it’s essential that you draw up a list of behaviours you are looking for from a potential Rockstar CMO.

Great CMOs have a growth mindset; they are natural salespeople who can provide solutions to your company’s current pain points.

Great CMOs have a growth mindset; they are natural salespeople who can provide solutions to your company’s current pain points. However, a true CMO Rockstar knows how to sell themselves in a job application. With this in mind, a formal interview is your chance to dive beyond first impressions and determine whether your candidate has the quick-thinking and strategic mindset to lead your company’s marketing efforts.

As long as you keep the candidate engaged, giving them a few hoops to jump through can help you to filter the shortlist down to only those truly interested in the role. Asking fact-based, hypothetical questions will help you to get under the skin of how the candidate tackles particular challenges and their approach in problem-solving.

Asking candidates to meet your team at the end of the interview is a sure-fire way to engage them in the process and help them to feel valued – what’s more, doing so can give your colleagues a chance to assess the cultural fit of the candidates from their perspective.

Step 3: Address final doubts

When you’re closing in on your preferred CMO candidate and preparing to make an offer. Before you do, it’s important you have a clear picture of your candidate, so that you can put any lingering doubts to bed. Bringing a CMO back for a final meeting not only allows you a chance to address any concerns you may have but gives your candidate a chance to do the same.

Rather than another formal interview, let them see your operation in full swing and ask your CMO candidate for their insight on how to streamline your current marketing process. This will give you an indication of how committed they are to your mission. Remember to keep them engaged and speak with passion about the part they could soon play in the exciting plans you have for the company.

Conducting a backchannel reference can also be an advantage if you still have any uncertainties. By doing this, you can gain a balanced view of the CMO’s strengths, weaknesses and any vulnerabilities, including the areas they felt the individual required further development. Read more about this in Ben Markland’s article, The importance of back-channel referencing.

Step 4: Put your best foot forward and move fast

A good CMO knows their worth, so if you’ve found a true CMO Rockstar – make an offer that counts. Low ball them and you risk losing their interest by showing them you’re more concerned with snagging a bargain than securing top talent.

Our data shows the average pay for a CMO in tech is £201,875‬ OTE per year. Of course, this salary will depend on the size of your company and location, but your search partner can assist you in creating a competitive offer that reflects the candidate’s expectations while remaining realistic.

54% of HR directors have lost out on a qualified candidate due to hiring delays.

If you’ve made a decision and are ready to make an offer, don’t wait. Time is the enemy of recruitment, and exceptional talent is not easy to find. Call your CMO candidate as soon as you can and present them with your attractive offer: if you have succeeded in selling the company at every touchpoint and have taken the time to address their concerns, it shouldn’t be long before your new CMO is taking the reins and helping your start-up to scale.