A qualified Chief Marketing Officer isn't just skilled to do the job, they will also fit your company's culture and have a proven track record of driving measurable results. During the recruitment process, the interview should be an open discussion about their management style and compatibility, their technical skills, and their willingness to learn.
Interview tactics run the gamut, from Google's infamous story problems to the routine script, "what are your greatest strengths?" or, "where do you see yourself in five years?" These questions are not only tiresome, but ineffective at determining whether a candidate is truly a good fit for the role.
These ten interview questions will get to the heart of the candidate’s personality, strengths, weaknesses, and skills - while avoiding the interrogation and mental acrobatics.
- What's on your marketing dashboard, and what are the KPI's you track?
What we learn: This gives us a few insights - what does the CMO care about, and can they turn it into a concrete result? What does marketing success look like to them? For example, if they're tracking customer satisfaction, that shows they think about marketing through the lens of customer experience. If they track average revenue per customer, they're thinking about what marketing influences. All of this tells us how they answer the question, "What is marketing?"
- How do you approach branding a company, its products and services?
What we learn: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The problem that branding and marketing suffer from is that everyone has an opinion about it (see also: Creating a Logo 101). How does the CMO balance the opinions of the executive team, the CEO, and board members with the ability to test and use data? It can be tricky for a marketing leader to effectively manage the branding process, without burning a lot of team bandwidth.
- What do you consider the biggest challenges for a CMO these days? How do you work with your executive team to get the most out of the marketing function?
What we learn: This question will allow the candidate to showcase their leadership skills and style, while revealing challenges they may struggle with. It's also key in determining how they communicate with executive leadership, and hold their marketing team accountable. Marketing is challenging because it's multifaceted: it's math, art, branding, sales, event management, digital execution, project management - a good marketing leader can connect those and build the right working contracts among their peers.
- What pricing frameworks do you prefer to use?
What we learn: Pricing is very complex these days, from usage- or volume-based pricing, value- vs. market-based pricing, paying for access or ownership of a product or a subscription, etc. It's a complex discipline; how versed is the CMO in dealing with all the pieces of the marketing pricing puzzle? Have they used frameworks like this one?
- What is your approach to market research, both customer and competitor focused?
What we learn: This will tell us how innovative the candidate is at using new forms of research in the digital space (A/B testing, social network inquiries, online data) vs. traditional research and higher-priced external research. How focused is the candidate on the competition? This is also a great opportunity to hear what they know and think about your current competition.
- Share some tools and techniques you've learned in the past year, and what your takeaway was?
What we learn: This is a question to determine how current they are, and how much they are "learners" versus "doers." In an industry where being relevant is key, is your potential new CMO willing to learn and grow? In the field of marketing, if they don't innovate, they're going backwards.
The growth in marketing software has been substantial in the past few years. This chart shows upwards of 950 different marketing technologies available to marketers. While no one needs to know all these tools, it's a clear indication that one needs to stay on top of the quickly changing digital landscape.
- In your digital marketing approach, how do you balance inbound and outbound marketing?
What we learn: Great marketing teams strike the right balance between many different marketing levers. The Inbound vs. Outbound debate is a great test that doesn't really have a right answer, but provides good insight into how much your candidate will count on “pay-to-play,” or noise-making marketing efforts, vs. harder to build, but longer term organic and inbound marketing strategies.
- If you could start your last role over again, what would you do differently?
What we learn: This gives us insight into the candidate's ability to be self-aware, their appetite for growth, and their willingness to share things that may not have gone well.
- What do you think of the art and science of marketing, and where do your strengths lie within that?
What we learn: Marketing is a delicate blend of art and science. A good marketing leader can use the science of data and analytics to be effective in optimization, while mastering the art of design (finding great slogans and a voice for your brand). It's extremely rare, if not impossible, to find a CMO who can do both. This question will help you decide if their strengths are complimentary to the other executive members and the marketing team.
- Knowing what you know so far about our company, what strategies and tactics would you put in place to help drive revenue?
What we learn: This question allows the candidate to show off their knowledge of your company so far, and gives them the chance to ask questions. Ultimately, this is an opportunity to see how innovative they can be.
When it comes to modern marketing, having the skills - as well as the personality and willingness to keep learning - are key traits in a CMO. By asking strategic and revealing questions in the interview, you'll have the tools you need to find the most qualified candidate.
Stijn Hendrikse has extensive experience with Technology, Cloud & Saas, Startups, Mid-Size & F500, Professional Services, Channel and Digital Marketing. You can call him at 425.442.6441 or email him at SHendrikse@ChiefOutsiders.com.