Recruiting for a CMO can be a real challenge - finding the candidate who has the right qualifications, experience, and skills to be successful, but also the right personality traits to fit in with the workplace culture is not a simple process unless you have a solid plan.
The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is the executive that has oversight of all the marketing, advertising and promotional activities used to generate revenue for the business.
If you are thinking about recruiting a CMO to your business, the information in this article will give you all the details about the responsibilities, skills, and qualifications that a CMO should have. It will also help you to structure the job description, know where to advertise the position, and some ideas of questions to ask in the interview.
What are the responsibilities of a CMO?
Depending on the industry, the responsibilities of a CMO can vary. Most business models will require their CMO to oversee all the marketing activities that the company has, through all geographies and product lines. This includes things like:
- Brand Management: a CMO should be responsible for all the activities that work alongside increasing the perception of a brand across all channels
- Marketing Communications: Overseeing the different forms of communication that the company makes - from emails to customers, social media posts, and B2B communications.
- Product Marketing: Pricing and placement of products to ensure the biggest return for the company.
- Market Research: Both quantitative and qualitative research methods should be comfortable for the CMO, looking at both competitors and the requirements of the customers.
- Customer Service: Excellent customer service skills should be natural for a CMO, using these skills for their communication with customers, but also their direct reports, other departments, and the CEO.
- Distribution Channel Management: While this might not be seen as the natural remit of the CMO, getting products from one place to another can form part of the marketing process.
- Pricing: Working with the finance and manufacturing team, the CMO will need to decide on pricing points for products and services, based on market research and the needs of the business.
Of course, this is a high-level look at the main responsibilities of the CMO.
Deloitte describes the modern CMO as "needing to be a brand storyteller, connecting the purpose and vision of the business with customer-centric campaigns".
Technical skills and abilities to look for when recruiting a CMO
Technology is changing all the time, and innovation in the marketing industry is no different. This means that when you are hiring a new CMO you will want them to have a working knowledge of the latest ways of working.
One thing that can be useful is market research skills. Understanding the difference between quantitative and qualitative research, finding the relevant information, and then being able to analyze it for usefulness in terms of the business, the marketing strategy, and specific campaigns can mean the difference between success and failure. CMOs need to be able to direct their employees to complete the market research, but they need to know about it themselves as well.
Split testing (also known as A-B testing) helps marketing teams to choose the most effective strategies and campaigns, by isolating a specific variable in the process and comparing or measuring two different versions allowing for tweaks and improvements.
SEO and SEM are also important. We live in a world where people are more likely to use a search engine to look for a business to complete a transaction, and getting to that number one position on Google is all about Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Marketing. While big businesses might be able to rely on their name to get new leads, smaller businesses rely on the strategy of the CMO to get noticed on search engines and there are technical skills that are needed for this.
In terms of software, things like Hubspot, Google Ads, Google Analytics, and similar software are useful. Technical programming knowledge like using WordPress and understanding HTML/CSS can also be a plus.
Soft skills to look for when recruiting a CMO
Soft skills are arguably more important when hiring a CMO for long-term success - both for the marketing team and for the wider business. Soft skills are the transferable, inherent abilities that make a CMO more rounded and capable, and they are the skills that cannot be taught at school or through gaining a recognized qualification.
For a CMO there are a number of soft skills that make a difference. Leadership is obviously important, as there are so many different management styles that leaders use. This includes related skills like encouragement, empathy, and negotiation, as well as vision and delegation.
Communication and interpersonal skills help with every level of the organization, but when the CMO needs to communicate effectively with the CEO, stakeholders, their direct reports, and other departments, effective interpersonal skills are essential.
Other soft skills that a CMO needs to demonstrate include problem-solving, decision-making, and logical thinking. They need to be able to make reasoned decisions based on different types of information, and think outside the box to make innovative decisions.
A big part of successful marketing is creativity and having a vision, having big ideas and turning them into a strategy or campaign that actually works. CMOs need to encourage this creativity in their team, but they need to have an innovative and creative mindset themselves.
How to find a CMO
There are different strategies that can be used to find the perfect CMO, and they can all be effective - the choice might be made because that is the requirement of the business, or there might be something specific that is used when hiring for the C-Suite.
Executive search firms
An executive search firm is a specialist in finding top-quality, highly qualified candidates specifically for management or executive positions, whether in the public, private, or non-profit space.
Consultants offer a bespoke service, where they learn all about the position and the core competencies that are needed so that they can target the right candidates for the role. The executive search firms will specialize via industry, and sometimes by role too.
Assess your marketing team
This is an important consideration when you are looking for a CMO - hiring internally can be less complicated (and costly) than external recruitment.
Succession planning should be a part of the development procedure that is already in place; all current employees will have some form of plan for their own career, and this often includes going for a promotion - so recruiters should have sight of those internal candidates who have demonstrated leadership skills and a drive to be given the opportunity to lead.
Of course, this will need extra training, learning, and development within the department, but it will make choosing a candidate that understands the business model as well as the products and services much easier.
There is an old adage that says it isn't what you know, it's who you know - and this is why referrals can be a great way to fill a recruitment funnel.
Current employees in the marketing department (or in any department) will already know what the culture and business is like, so if they recommend someone that would suit the role they will already know that there would be a fit.
While the knowledge of employees can be useful, of course, there are other places that you can get referrals - including from members of the board, suppliers and even customers. A trusted colleague who says that they know someone that is looking for a position like the one that you are advertising will actually be a hotter prospect in many ways than a cold approach, and recruiters can learn more about a person when they are recommended.
Leverage your professional network
Recruiters shouldn't be working in a bubble, and that means that they will have a professional network of other recruiters that they can use for extra knowledge and access to potential candidates.
The professional network can allow different businesses to share resources, and this includes qualified CMOs (or other executives). Conferences are a great place to create a professional network, and if you want to speak to a number of different businesses in the same space, that will be the way to get to it.
In a more virtual way, the best-known professional network is LinkedIn, and you will probably have some sort of connection already with the perfect candidate on the site - so you can check that out too.
Following on from the previous example, LinkedIn is a recognized place to hire from, with a dedicated jobs board that makes both advertising a role (and applying for it) much simpler.
There are specific marketing job boards around the world, including Marketing Week, Only Marketing Jobs, and Hey Marketing.
Some people prefer to use the bigger and more populated job boards that encompass many different types of roles, like Monster, Indeed, and Glassdoor.
How to recruit a CMO
The structure that you use for CMO hiring is probably similar to the process that you use for other types of hiring, and for the best chance of success it should look like the below:
Step 1: Decide what you want your CMO to do
This is the section of the planning stage that is particular to your business (and in some cases, the industry).
CMOs can do several different day-to-day tasks that include managing the whole marketing division, but this might mean managing streams like email, social media, content, and paid advertising - or a combination of just a few of these. They will need to manage people too, both in-house and sometimes contractors or freelancers. Other tasks that will need to be considered include who the CMO will report to, the partnerships that they will need to create and maintain, and the software that they will need to know and understand to be successful.
This fact-finding exercise will provide the basis of everything from the job description through to what pre-employment assessments to use and interview questions to ask.
Step 2: Write an efficient CMO job description
The CMO job description needs to include all the pertinent information about the role, including basic things like location, hours, and salary.
It also needs to include the requirements for the role (including specific qualifications and experience), the daily tasks, and the skills that are required.
Sample CMO Job Description
ABC Company is looking for a Chief Marketing Officer to oversee marketing operations for their eCommerce brand. ABC Company creates bespoke gym clothing for women, men, and children, based on funky designs and excellent fit.
- Masters degree in Marketing or equivalent
- CIM certification
- At least five years of experience in a high-level marketing position
- Desirable: knowledge of the eCommerce industry specific to clothing retailers
- Desirable: Understanding of the fitness industry
- Manage a team of marketers, including social media, email, and content marketing.
- Set realistic, yet lofty KPIs to help the brand evolve and grow
- Perform market research to see what customers want and what competitors are offering
- Create working relationships with affiliates and influencers to grow a positive brand reputation
- Manage both SEO and content marketing strategy
- Analyze marketing campaigns to understand what has worked in the past
- Use split testing to develop strategies across all channels
- Create PPC campaigns according to budgets
- Prepare and deliver reports to the CEO
- Communication, both written and verbal
- Logical thinking and analysis
- Software knowledge: programming languages including Python and Java, WordPress, and the Google suite (including Analytics)
- Extensive experience using HubSpot
Salary and Perks
Successful candidates will receive a remuneration package commensurate with their experience, in the range of £45,000+
Other benefits include regularly updated fitness clothing, the opportunity to buy shares in the company, a pension, and high street discounts.
This is a full-time, hybrid role, with the successful application required to be in the company offices in London at least once a week. Travel costs are covered.
Step 3: Source applicants
Whether you choose to source applicants using the Executive Search firm that the business has chosen for hiring to the C-Suite, or one of the marketing specialist job boards, the next step is placing the advert for the role in the right place.
Of course, for larger businesses, it is more cost-effective to utilize the expertise of the executive search firm, but for smaller businesses, the reach of traditional job boards (LinkedIn, Indeed, and the like) can be just as effective.
Step 4: Use psychometric testing
Once applications begin rolling in, the recruitment team will begin the screening process. Initially, this will be a paper sift; focusing on filtering applicants by their qualifications and experience as described in the job description.
This will reduce the number of qualified candidates, but the applicant pool might remain too large for the interview section of the process - or you might just want to be more efficient in checking for other skills and abilities.
Pre-employment psychometric testing can reduce the candidate pool to only those who have the qualifications, experience, and skills to be successful in the role, and there are several different types of test that you can use for this.
Aptitude tests can be combined with soft skill tests like leadership, teamwork, and communication, as well as software skills tests - these can be put together as a battery of tests designed for assessing the talent of a CMO (or any other marketing role).
Step 5: Interview candidates with the most potential
When the initial screening and psychometric testing is complete, the recruitment team will have a pool of candidates that have already demonstrated that they tick all the boxes for the role on paper - and this is where the interview will come in as the next stage of the process.
In the interview, questions can be about the candidates abilities - perhaps a case study, or a discussion of their previous experience.
Some of the questions might be about their competencies that relate to the role. These questions invite the candidate to describe situations that they have been in that have required them to use different behaviors to solve a problem.
In the interview, the interviewer is looking at personality and how the candidate presents themselves, as well as their abilities and skills.
Some of the questions that could be asked as part of the interview include:
- Why do you love marketing?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- How would you improve our brand in the next 12 months?
- What specific KPIs would you use to measure the success of a PPC campaign?
- Describe a successful marketing strategy that you have implemented.
- Describe a marketing strategy that you have implemented that was not successful, and what you did about it
- Pitch our company to us as if we were an investor in five minutes.
- Tell us about a time where you had to deal with a difficult situation with a direct report.
- In your opinion, what is the most important channel for marketing?
The CMO is an essential position for larger businesses, giving the marketing team knowledgeable and experienced leadership and support to create the marketing strategies and campaigns that will grow the brand, expand the business, and increase profits.
Hiring the right CMO needs the right strategy - and recruiters and businesses need to be clear on exactly what they want and what the person that they are looking for needs to bring to the business for the process to be successful.
Screening, pre-employment testing, and relevant interview questions are only part of the process - there has to be clarity on exactly what the role will entail so that the right person is found for the job.