These 9 Marketing Chiefs Reveal How They Spot Talent

Guest Author:
Erica Seidel, Founder,
The Connective Good

There's one thing I love to ask people. I ask it at cocktail parties; In business meetings; At the dentist's office:

"What's your favorite interview question? And how can you tell if someone will be a good fit for your team?" 

I jot down the juiciest questions and add them to a master list that I've built over many years and many recruiting projects. And then, I pluck questions from that list when I do a search for a marketing leader. Of course, some of the best insight on how to hire great marketers comes from marketers themselves. So I've enjoyed speaking with several top marketers recently about how they are (re)organizing their marketing teams to fulfill their modern marketing mandate, and how they attract new talent.

Insights from these conversations appear in my new column called Driving the Modern Marketing Organization, published in MarketingLand and co-authored with the unstoppable Nadine Dietz, a Former CMO of the CMO Club. If you need to rethink your marketing team or attract top marketing talent, definitely check out those stories for inspiration.
 

9 Modern Marketing Chiefs Reveal How They Spot Talent


For now, here's a roundup of the 9 dimensions these top marketers look for when recruiting talent:

  1. Structured thinking and broad marketing knowledge:

    • "I ask people to pick a product that they think is marketed well and tell me why — and it can’t be Apple! It’s a completely unstructured question that requires them to come up with a structured answer and demonstrate their grasp of the marketing funnel. An excellent marketer will incorporate into their answer all seven of the following pillars of marketing: market research, content, sales enablement, awareness, demand generation, partnerships, and customer retention" - Justin Steinman, CMO, GE Healthcare Digital

  2. Adaptability and ability to succeed in an agile environment:

    • "We create exercises to see how candidates respond on the spot without preparation. An example is, 'How would you launch a fork in China? What do you need to know for your strategic plan? And secondly, what do you do at the moment of launch?' You can apply a lot of common sense in your answer even if you don’t know the product or country" - Barbara Martin Coppola, CMO, Grubhub

  3. Aptitude, then attitude:

    • "We often use assessments. For instance, each analytics candidate has to respond to 10 questions that assess their acumen for digital analytics and the role that digital analytics plays in integrated marketing. That’s helpful because it narrows down the candidates and allows us to focus on behaviors in the interview" - Jeff Reid, Digital Enterprise Vice President, Humana

  4. End-to-end thinking:

    • "I say, 'We’re launching a new product. Tell me all the questions you need to ask in order to launch it.' Some people freeze. I am OK with them taking the question home and responding later, after some thought. But it’s more impressive when someone can think on their feet in an interview. I want to see that you can see a task through to fruition" - Charlie Cole, Chief Digital Officer, Tumi

  5. Strategic skills:

    • "I share with candidates a specific business challenge we are facing which may or may not have anything to do with their potential role. For instance, I’ll ask them how we should resolve long-term innovation objectives or how to create more accurate near-term forecasting. Ideally, they will ask me great questions to gather additional information. You can tell a lot about someone’s business acumen in an hour if you actually ask them real business questions" - Rob Lynch, CMO, Arby's

  6. Personality and resilience:

    • "I ask, 'What are three words your team would use to describe you? What are three words you would use to describe yourself? What are you most proud of? Now, tell me about a time that wasn’t your finest hour. How did you manage it — in your head and in your heart?'" - Geraldine Calpin, CMO, Hilton Worldwide

  7. Passion and understanding of loyalty to products:

  8. Ability to succeed as a Swiss Army Knife marketer:

  9. Progressive customer knowledge:

    • "There isn’t a career ladder. It’s more of a tree with different limbs, and each limb gives you a different experience and skill set to better understand customers... Marketers need to know everything that’s happening with our customers, whether through voice of the customer activities such as online reviews, focus groups, in-store experiences, online interactions or customer support. That way, they can quickly move from strategy to execution" - Kieran Hannon, CMO, Belkin International

How about you? What will you be listening for when you next interview a marketer?

 

About the author: Erica Seidel, Founder of The Connective Good, helps CEOs and CMOs recruit marketing talent for their teams. Her expertise is focusing on marketing leaders and senior people in analytics, technology, digital marketing and market research.

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