Why Your CMO Interview Panel of Corporate VIPs Is Set Up for Failure

CMO executive search firm recruitment panel

The interview panel is a critical part of making any good hire, and as the importance of a role grows, so does the importance of getting the right people interviewing. So when it’s time to hire for a position as important to the future of your business as the CMO, the situation calls for a team of top-level corporate A-players to lead the interview process.

But no matter how well-equipped they are to interview, even a team of your most senior executive superstars will struggle to hire an outstanding Chief Marketing Officer because of one critical deficiency.

Finding the “M” in CMO

Take a look at the roster of executives you’d expect to see in charge of interviewing and hiring a CMO at most large businesses:

As an interviewing and hiring a CMO, we’ve seen lots of interview panel configurations with varying levels of success. Out of all of them, here’s the ideal roster we’ve seen result in the best-quality hires:

    • CEO
    • COO
    • CFO
    • CSO/Head of Sales
    • Presidents/Heads of Business Lines

Notice anything missing?

When it comes to hiring a new head of marketing, there’s a conspicuous lack of marketing experience and expertise here—a deficiency that could have dire consequences on the success of both your marketing executive search and your business.

Choosing the right CMO candidate is a mission-critical objective for the future of your company. A quality hire means paving a path forward towards growth and innovation, while a weak one sets you up for stagnation for years to come. It’s probably the single most important addition you’ll make to your executive team…so how can you be sure you’re doing it right when none of your interviewers have deep expertise in marketing?

Overcoming Your Panel’s Shortcomings and Avoiding a Bad Hire

CMO executive search firm recruiter interview

Marketing has become incredibly sophisticated and is evolving at a terrific pace–identifying someone who’s still at the cutting edge is nearly impossible if you’re not near that edge yourself. How do you identify a true marketing master when your own understanding of marketing mastery is limited?

All the members of your C-Suite are no doubt incredibly capable within their own domain, and they’ll be able to provide valuable insights in terms of culture fit, evaluation of past successes, and appraising executive presence. But when it comes to judging a candidate on their marketing mastery, you need to bring in the perspective of someone who actually gets marketing.

There are a few steps you should take to mitigate this challenge and make sure your new head of marketing is equipped with the right skills to effectively evaluate your situation and bring the business forward:

1. Choose the Right CMO Executive Search Firm

If you’re serious about finding a high-caliber senior leader for your business, then you’re already planning on partnering with a top retained executive search firm. But although there are many executive recruitment agencies out there, not all are equally capable at identifying and bringing in premier marketing talent.

Marketing’s dynamic nature makes finding a top performer difficult for anyone who doesn’t specialize specifically in marketing executive search and doesn’t have a history in marketing themselves, so be sure you choose your search partner wisely.

2. Include Marketers in Your Interview Panel

Pull a couple of your business’s highest-ranking marketers that will report directly to the CMO into your interview panel. Select VPs that already have a good hands-on understanding of your company’s marketing and are performing in their own roles at a high level.

Typically you’ll want to select the two senior marketers that work closest to the heart of your business; in most cases, a Head of Digital and a Head of Brand or Product.

These marketers might not be the best qualified to determine leadership qualifications or C-Suite culture fit, but they should have a good grasp of the current marketing landscape and will be able to bring valuable perspective in terms of a candidate’s practical marketing competence. Their input is important, but remember to take it with a grain of salt. As direct reports to whoever is ultimately selected for your CMO seat, they might not provide the most unbiased feedback.

3. Make Interview Evaluations Consistent and Objective

When you don’t have a lot of marketing experience yourself, it’s difficult to evaluate someone on talent qualifications. In cases like this, personal bias and low-relevancy details make a disproportionate effect on the CMO recruitment process which can lead your business to the wrong choice.

Reduce that factor by using a thorough, consistent interview evaluation form that enables interviewers to rate candidates on all of the factors most important for your business on a tangible, measurable scale. This allows for the objective side-by-side comparison of multiple candidates even when the interviewers aren’t especially familiar with marketing.

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