Your next CMO or VP of Marketing will play a crucial role in strategizing and directing your company’s marketing initiatives. These initiatives not only pertain to the products and services you provide, but they also play a vital role in your business’ competitive advantage.
As new companies enter the market, existing competitors have no choice but to improve their products and services—is your business equipped with the right marketing talent to compete?
In 2021, there was a 63% increase in marketing jobs equating to a total of 381,000 job postings. Moreover, the 2021 annual report from The CMO Survey noted that 72.2% of marketers believe marketing has become a higher priority for organizations.
As you look to hire your next executive, be sure your team is prepared with the help of our comprehensive guide on questions to ask a CMO vs. a VP of Marketing.
4 Common Questions to Ask CMOs during an Interview
The gatekeeper of your brand and a strategic mastermind, your next CMO is ready to help your business identify strategies to bolster its ROI and growth.
Over the past few years, the role of a CMO is transforming. Today, many CMOs are not only responsible for brand management, but also the entire customer experience, from technology to customer data and analytics.
These four questions aim to help your team identify a candidate who possesses the right holistic experience and skill set to scale your team with a modern approach to recruitment.
1. Describe your market research strategy. How do you leverage this to bolster and maintain your business’ competitive advantage?
Why Ask: In today’s digital age, understanding a candidate’s approach to research is essential. According to Gartner, the time to accelerate digital business initiatives is now. This involves adjusting resources and funding across channels, products, and/or services that hold higher competitive advantages.
While traditional market research strategies are still relevant, the ideal CMO should also possess expert knowledge on how digitization has impacted communication and media infrastructures.
Elements of a Good Answer: A strong CMO candidate will emphasize the use of data in their answer. They should address four key areas—all of which reflect the candidate’s integrated understanding of market research strategy:
- A deep understanding of changing market dynamics and a willingness to adapt to change. First and foremost, the right CMO will acknowledge the complexities of the rapidly changing market. This shows they possess a realistic understanding of market dynamics.
- The value in tracking purchasing behavior metrics. The CMO may bring up an example campaign they worked on in the past, explaining specific metrics they tracked to:
- Assess consumer preferences
- Make insightful decisions and how they may have impacted results
- The value in tracking competitor performance. The right CMO will also explain:
- How they’ve executed competitor analysis in the past
- How they used and selected specific data points to gain insights
- A willingness to lean on relevant software tools/technology that balance efficiency with resilience. This response may entail tools such as marketing automation or SEO analytics to expedite customization and messaging. The right candidate will also highlight a few of their favorite marketing tools.
2. How have you built trust with your customers/clients?
Why Ask: With the influx of information and competitors in the market, earning trust is pivotal to your ROI. Customers/clients want to feel seen and heard—businesses that provide this have the potential to rise above the noise and sharpen their competitive edge.
Elements of a Good Answer: The right CMO candidate will keep authenticity front and center in their marketing approach. A good answer should involve mentions of:
- Crafting a customer-centric journey. The candidate acknowledges marketing is much more than selling. It’s about focusing on your audience and creating personalized experiences that resonate with them. The need to incorporate the voices of customers in product development and innovation is crucial in the CMO role.
- Diversifying the customer experience with digital and traditional channels. Research illustrates the future of marketing is hybrid. The right CMO will understand how online and offline channels work symbiotically. Through this process, they should identify how the marketing team will employ OOH marketing methods along with digital outreach and ads to increase organic traffic. They will also:
- Express a willingness to communicate and teach key stakeholders about this symbiosis.
- Explain how symbiosis will look like in your organization.
- Leveraging marketing channels to fuel trust among consumers. This may entail specific strategies such as:
- SEO, content marketing, and/or social media to target the right people with the right messages
- Offline methods such as word-of-mouth campaigns and trade show events that nurture consumers with face-time
3. How would you justify a marketing budget proposal to the CFO?
Why Ask: Strong CMOs should feel confident in communicating with key stakeholders to acquire necessary funding. Thus, this question can help your team assess whether the candidate holds the right leadership skills to uphold the marketing department’s needs.
As marketing departments have experienced budget fluctuations since 2020, a strong CMO will understand these pressures and work to align expectations with CFOs.
Elements of a Good Answer: The right CMO will cover areas such as:
- Aptitude in combining performance metrics, expense estimates, and market forecasts to justify budgets
- Experience in negotiating budgets with CFOs and other high-level executives to reach a compromise
- Ability to build holistic marketing metrics. These metrics should strike a good balance between business and marketing goals, such as:
- Business outcomes
- Strategic levers and macro performance
- Operational levers and diagnostics
- Tactical levers and optimization
This holistic approach illustrates that the CMO candidate is able to bridge measurement gaps and make clear links between marketing investments and enterprise value.
4. How are you selective with marketing campaigns?
Why Ask: This question is a helpful way to assess a candidate's problem-solving skills. In other words:
- Do their problem-solving skills match your team’s?
- How do they prioritize efforts?
- Do they balance risk-aversion with market growth?
- Do they inject their problem-solving approach with the authenticity and realism it requires?
As half of CMOs expect to rescale or reinvent six out of 11 strategies, it’s essential to find someone who is strategically selective. They can prioritize in a way that still upholds the company’s agility and potential.
Elements of a Good Answer: A good answer will include detailed strategies and concepts that display the candidate’s ability to drive sustainable growth. For example:
- For every strategy the candidate rescaled in the past, they chose to reduce or retire other initiatives. They tapped into data to re-prioritize, understanding that iterative planning is constant in marketing.
- The CMO candidate explains how their prioritization efforts have impacted (whether positively or negatively) their business’ short- and long-term goals. If there was an instance where their decisions did not support company goals well, the candidate addresses:
- What they learned from the experience
- How they remedied the situation
Tips for Interviewing a CMO
It’s important to conduct a good interview so you can accurately gauge and maintain the applicant’s interest in working for your company—and your interest in hiring them. Here are some tips to do that.
Stay Centered on Strategy
CMOs focus on strategy, looking at marketing campaigns with a birds-eye view. They typically work with the VP of Marketing and other high-level marketing team members to ensure campaign efforts are on track.
Therefore, look for someone who has ample experience strategizing and seeing campaigns to completion. The more experience they possess, the better instincts they carry to optimize marketing efforts in the right way.
Include Key Stakeholders in Conversations
As marketing is front and center when it comes to building your organization’s brand and image—pivotal elements to your competitive advantage—it’s essential to steer relevant conversations with key stakeholders.
These conversations should take place before and during the hiring process. The goal of these discussions is to indicate where the company currently stands and where you see it headed in the future. This then allows your team to identify a CMO candidate whose values and vision align with the organization’s.
4 Interview Questions to Ask a VP of Marketing Candidate
Often reporting to the CMO or CEO, your future VP of Marketing oversees the execution (rather than strategy) of marketing campaigns. They track progress to ensure initiatives are achieving the desired business goals.
Therefore, teams should learn where their candidate's specialty lies and how they plan to contribute this to your company.
1. What CRM software do you have experience with?
A strong VP of Marketing candidate is experienced with CRM tools. This experience reflects their:
- Aptitude with marketing technology
- Willingness to adapt to marketing technology
- Potential to execute marketing campaigns creatively, analytically, and purposefully—three traits that can drive 2.3 times higher revenue growth
- Capability to perceive marketing from a holistic lens. CRM software balances four key areas crucial to business growth:
- Customer service
- Digital commerce
Elements of a Good Answer: A good answer points toward similar or the exact software your organization uses. The right candidate will also dive into specifics, explaining:
- Metrics and dashboards they have built within the CRM and why
- How they’ve used their CRM to:
- Collaborate with other teams
- Streamline all marketing and business efforts
- Track customer engagement through CRM analytics tools
2. Can you elaborate on your past experiences - what role did your position play in advancing the marketing team?
Why Ask: Not all marketing departments are created equal. Teams and marketing tactics may vary depending on the business, industry, and goals. Therefore, this question enables you to assess the type of:
- Marketing experience your candidates possess. What type of online strategies have they worked with? Are these strategies aligned with yours?
- Strengths and weaknesses they may contribute to your team and business. Can their strengths help bolster the company’s value propositions and customer lifetime value? Will their weaknesses harm progress? Can your team support those weaknesses?
Elements of a Good Answer: Top candidates should lean on prior roles and the feedback they received from leadership as well as colleagues while holding those positions. This can include:
- Key campaigns they helped see from beginning to end. They may discuss their ability to collaborate and communicate cross-functionally in order to lead a successful campaign.
- Past experience with marketing tools. Expressing their expertise over certain tools such as a CRM, design software, or editing platform illustrates their understanding of the day-to-day work amongst their team that goes into marketing projects.
As indicated earlier, the future of marketing is hybrid. This holistic experience and approach can help provide your organization with the long-term resilience it needs to remain competitive.
However, the ideal answer depends on what your goals are as an organization, so be sure to discuss this with your team.
3. How can we improve our current marketing efforts to increase conversions?
Why Ask: A strong VP of Marketing is well-equipped to handle and execute marketing initiatives. Therefore, this question aims to assess:
- How much the candidate has researched your company/brand
- How strategic, realistic, and data-driven they are
- Their perception of what is considered to be “high quality”
Elements of a Good Answer: The right answer includes analytics, creativity, and purpose.
- Analytics: For example, building out the marketing funnel based on research/data, and using the funnel to establish campaign goals
- Creativity: Tapping into data to craft unique, personalized content and workflows that meet the pain points and needs of your customers
- Purpose: Upholding the values and mission of the company through analytics and creativity
4. What types of strategies do you employ to ensure your team meets its marketing goals?
Why Ask: The VP of Marketing is responsible for execution. Therefore, you must find out whether they have the strategic AND people management skills to progress a project from beginning to end.
This question will help you identify their leadership style and potential to drive the team forward.
Elements of a Good Answer: A good candidate will:
- Explain their leadership and training style. These should idealy mirror your business culture values.
- Dive into detail, providing real-life examples of how they customized their leadership/training style for each team member.
- Discuss how they work with team members to create milestones and metrics that help them achieve individual and team goals.
Tips for Interviewing a VP of Marketing
To accurately gauge the applicant’s interest in working for your company and your interest in hiring them for the job, follow these tips.
Stay Centered on Execution
Look for a VP of Marketing who thrives on execution. Execution is the focal point of this role, so seek someone who thrives on managing the execution of:
- Marketing strategies
- Position/messaging refinement
- Content calendars
Assess Your Current Team’s Skills
Identify any skills gaps in your current marketing team to find the right VP of Marketing who can fill in those missing pieces. As marketing needs vary across businesses, it’s important to customize your approach to drive your brand forward.
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