The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is the engine behind your company’s brand management.
This thought leader drives marketing strategy and customer engagement and is also a critical player in merging your Sales and Marketing efforts.
The process of hiring your company’s next CMO is a huge decision. Every step of the process needs careful thought and decision-making.
We dive into the important actions to take in the hiring and interviewing process. We also provide a list of thought-provoking CMO interview questions that separate the excellent candidates from the average ones.
How Do I Ace a CMO Interview?
Acing a CMO interview means knowing what to look for in the candidate. The most important things to watch for are a core understanding of the fundamentals of marketing, as well as the skills and core values that you and the candidate share.
Below are six of the most common qualities that all successfully CMOs share:
- Proven track record in the industry: The candidate has left an impact at every stop throughout their career.
- Versatile skill set: The candidate has a wide range of essential skills that will serve them in all types of environments.
- Innovative mindset: The candidate does not look at things as they are but what they can become.
- Communication skills: Not only can the candidate listen well, but they can influence people of all personality types.
- Analytical and technical skills: the candidate knows how to dig deep into the numbers and use data to create process improvement for the marketing function.
- Lifelong learner: the candidate has room to grow and has a willingness to better at their craft
How Do I Hire a CMO Properly?
Apart from conducting a thorough interview, what are the critical strategies to hiring a CMO properly?
Searching for meaningful applicants can be a complex task, but several methodologies help assist the process.
Assess the Talent of Your Marketing Team
The best place to start in hiring a great CMO is an internal search.
You may not need to look out on the market if you have someone who has established themselves as a leader within the organization.
Current employees already know the programs, systems, and processes in place. You would not need to spend a lot of time training the new person either.
If you end up deciding to hire externally, it is also critical to evaluate the current gaps in your marketing department.
What needs to improve, and what type of CMO will help address those issues? Considering these factors will enable your company to find the right leader.
Post a Clear, Creative Job Posting
To attract the best candidates to your CMO position, you need to craft a job description that incentivizes them to apply.
You can always fill in the details in an interview, but you want to convey important information to draw the candidate’s attention.
Here are some critical factors to include in an attractive job description:
- Potential for the role and room for growth
- An idea of the company culture
- A clear set of job responsibilities that show impact on the organization
- Statements about flexibility, work-life balance, and room for creativity
What Does a Potential CMO Need to Know About Their Position?
The goal of an interview is for both parties to learn more about each other. It is an opportunity to determine if the candidate and the company are a good fit.
This discovery phase is the perfect time for the interviewer to address four things with the candidate: the role’s responsibilities, position expectations, team size, and travel schedule.
Roles and Responsibilities
The CMO position is a significant time commitment. Therefore, it is essential to communicate the responsibilities and main tasks of the CMO role.
The candidate must understand if their unique skills and talents are a good match for the position. Covering this in an interview will give the candidate a good idea if you will maximize their skill sets.
Talking through the roles and responsibilities will also indicate if the candidate is underqualified or overqualified. Addressing this topic upfront will ensure that you don’t waste anyone’s time.
An example of some key roles and responsibilities to discuss will include:
- What a typical day looks like
- The vital internal groups and individuals the CMO will work with
- The key vendors, contractors, and external partners the CMO will work with
- Any contracts the CMO will oversee overseeing
- What meetings or required events the CMO is involved with
- How the CMO will interface with the rest of the company executive team and board members
- Any activities related to performance management, business development, or employee engagement
What are the goals for the position, and how will the CMO help the organization get to that point?
Your organization will demand a lot out of the CMO position, which is why it is critical to cover the position’s expectations in the interview.
You do not want to hire a CMO who will simply do what is required and then go home for the day.
Your organization needs someone to take it to a whole new level. Every new CMO should come in motivated, so you want to set the bar high.
Here are a few examples of typical expectations and goals for a CMO position.
- Increase market share by 10% in the next year
- Boost employee engagement and establish a much more creative culture
- Strengthen relationships with the local community by being more proactive with sponsorships
- Increase revenue by 15% next year
- Implement a more digital approach with advertising and online presence
- Revamp all social media platforms by improving the content marketing plan, running more contests, and providing more value
What type of leadership skills does the candidate bring to the table?
The size of the team will play a role in how well the potential CMO will mesh with the team. The number of team members will also impact how much time the CMO will spend on their responsibilities.
If the team is large, that will mean significant time dedicated toward staff development, training, and other support.
Schedule and Travel
Schedule flexibility and work-life is becoming a necessary job quality for a marketing professional today.
Creating the right balance is another component that employers are addressing in today’s workplace. How much time will the company expect the CMO to put in every week?
When you discuss this topic in the interview, it gives the candidate an accurate snapshot of the value they bring and if they are getting compensated enough.
Questions To Ask a CMO During an Interview
Now that you know how to find suitable candidates through the recruitment process, it is time to evaluate them in an interview.
Below is a list of unique CMO interview questions that filter the potential CMOs down to a select few.
Research on Company
What would you improve on the company’s brand image?
This question will check to see if the candidate has studied your brand in the past.
They should have a general idea of what your current brand means to them and your customer base through market research.
The ideal answer will involve something customer-centric. Your company exists to serve customers in a meaningful way.
The CMO should address how specifically they will deploy a system to exceed customer expectations and create a positive brand image.
Our company has the following challenges. What resources would you need to overcome these obstacles?
This question should give you an idea of how well the candidate can fulfill your expectations. It will also put them on the spot.
They may have an idea of how to improve your company, but they may not know the most significant challenges you are facing.
The interviewee should take a moment to think about this question. Then, they should lay out a strategy that creates buy-in from the other people in the organization.
The plan should track progress through metrics, analytics, optimization, and status updates.
This strategy should also have a rough timeline and a worthy goal the group is working toward.
Can you explain a time when you worked with someone who had a different viewpoint than you?
This question will give you an idea of how well the potential CMO can pivot.
They will work with people of different viewpoints and personalities, especially at a larger corporation.
This answer will show the person’s ability to be self-aware and whether they can keep a positive attitude when things do not go their way.
The best answer will show that the CMO seeks to understand other FIRST. Nothing can get accomplished when both people try to have their way.
The optimal CMO will be patient and make sure the other person feels valued before moving forward.
How do you maximize the talent from your team?
True leaders can elevate their team members to a new level.
This question assesses how well a CMO can get the most out of the employees for the company’s benefit and each individual.
The best CMO will understand that each team member is motivated by something different.
Answers that involve getting to know employees on a personal level will go far in an interview.
The valuable CMO will put each team member in the best position to succeed.
The best business leaders will double down on each employee’s greatest strengths and weaknesses.
Describe a time when someone put you on the spot. How did you handle it?
When you ask this question, it may very well also put the candidate on the spot.
The potential CMO will need to draw from intuition to answer this question, but it will also give you an idea of how well they make quick decisions in the face of a dilemma.
No matter what the CMO says here, you should sense confidence in their answer. Intuition not only means making the right decision with little knowledge, but there should also be a sense of courage.
The ideal answer should be very descriptive and paint you a picture of how their words impact others.
What does the ideal Sales and Marketing relationship look like to you?
Sales and marketing need to have a seamless relationship for your company to be successful.
Asking this question will give you a good insight into how the CMO will merge the two within the role.
The CMO should create an environment where sales and marketing departments know each other like the back of their hand.
The ideal answer gives a clear vision of how the groups will interact, how they will rely on each other, and how the two will come together to fulfill company goals to excel.
How are you able to connect with different personality types?
High emotional intelligence breeds influence. This question will give you a good view of how well the candidate can understand others with other viewpoints.
The bulk of this answer should highlight how well the CMO listens to others.
An example of how the CMO developed a rapport with a challenging personality type could also provide valuable insights.
The CMO should also explain their ability to motivate others in different ways.
Can you name a time when you had to make a decision on the fly? What was the outcome?
The CMO will not always have time and resources at their disposal to make a decision.
This question measures how well the CMO can make important decisions under pressure.
The best answer here will provide a close look at the person’s thought process under pressure.
You should feel like you are inside the CMO’s head at a past point in time.
The answer should detail the issue, the decision rationale, and the effects of the decision.
What is the most successful marketing campaign you have ever launched?
Experience comes from doing something and learning from it.
Asking this question will give you a complete visual of a specific time the CMO has been successful.
It will provide a glimpse into what they may be capable of and establish how many years’ experience the candidate has in reaching a target audience.
An excellent answer will be very descriptive and recap the entire campaign. The CMO should outline the problem or objective in the beginning.
The campaign should also be creative, implement new ideas, and describe how the CMO brought in other people to accomplish the feat.
This interview answer should also give insights on the measurable results of the campaign like sales gained, customers gained, or a surge in social media followers.
As you decide on the best CMO for your company, it is essential to do a thorough search for talent, both inside and outside of your organization.
When you are clear with your intentions with your job posting, you are sure to attract the best possible candidate.
When it comes down to recruitment, your company will get the best candidate by asking unique CMO interview questions.
Take your time making sure the candidate shares your values, your company’s big picture outlook, and long-term business goals.
When you are diligent in this hiring process, the sky’s the limit for your company.