Hiring a Marketing Leader: Interviewing for Successful Outcomes

25 January 2021

We talked to several of our RevelOne talent experts about what works well.

A successful interview strategy should both help you make smart choices about which candidate to hire and get them excited to join your organization. Approaching the interview process holistically and deliberately will help you avoid missed opportunities, declined offers, and poor hiring decisions. To understand the nuances of how the right interview process can drive better outcomes with prospective candidates, we talked to several of our RevelOne talent experts about what they had seen work across the hundred-plus searches they had supported across the firm.

1. Be clear on the outcomes you are looking for

It’s natural to want to jump right into interviews with a strong candidate who seems to have it all. It’s critical that you first define the outcomes you are hiring for beyond a broad list of the responsibilities and functional areas under the role.  “It’s important to remember that the interview process is bi-directional,” shared Tina Yung, Senior Director. Too often, we see companies embark on interviews before appropriately scoping a role in the context of what specific business outcomes the person needs to achieve in the role over the next 2-3 years. In some cases, the interviews turn into a forum, which is not a good experience for the candidate. She may feel uneasy about the organization’s direction and question whether she’s set up for success.  It’s also important to make sure that various stakeholders in the organization are aligned as well. For additional guidance on scoping a role, you can check out our article.

2. Don’t overdo it

When designing your interview process, it can be tricky to strike the right balance between obtaining the depth of information you need and not chasing a candidate away with unrealistic expectations. Remember, top candidates are also in high demand, and they are likely interviewing at multiple companies. We encourage you to critically evaluate what you are asking of them – the number of rounds, the length of the interviews, and the time commitment of supplemental projects. If a project is required, it should take place later in the process, be specific to the role, and appropriate for the level. If the same insight can be obtained during an interview, either through a detailed walk-through of past work or by asking more technical questions, a project may not be necessary.

3. Divide, Conquer and Communicate

When designing the interview loop, a well-coordinated approach will not only make a good impression on a candidate but support your team in better decision making. We suggest having key stakeholders focus on different subject areas, and enable the convenient sharing of information through scorecards, shared docs, or standardized templates. Even if it’s a quick update via Slack, make sure interviewers get a download on what was discussed in previous rounds. You will avoid frustrating candidates with redundancy and obtain more insight in the limited time you have with them.

4. Establish Trust and Rapport

For an interview to be effective, a candidate must authentically represent themselves. Start the interview by establishing a personal connection and/or demonstrate a genuine interest in something that matters to them. Doing so will set the tone for open and honest communication as you move on to more substantial topics. Additionally, save your overview of the job and company for the end of the interview to avoid the candidate pitching too directly at what they think you are looking for.

5. Avoid generic questions

A strong candidate will have well-prepared responses to the obvious questions (e.g., Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Strengths? Weaknesses?). Consider asking questions that won’t elicit a generic response, such as “What is an example of a past assignment you would now approach differently?” or “How have you motivated someone when they were struggling with new responsibilities?” Mix up your follow up questions as well. Watch how applicants think on their feet -— it’s a good indicator of how they’ll deal with day-to-day challenges.

6. Dig deeper to evaluate impact

Marketers are often good at marketing themselves, and it can be tricky to evaluate what work they were personally responsible for. You’ll want to “double-click” for the next level of detail by asking several follow-up questions. For example: “What was your role and who else was involved? What technology and tools did you use and why? What were their limitations? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time? What metrics did you use to track success? What data did you wish you had but didn’t?”  Answering these “next level down” questions will give you a sense of where the candidate was deeply involved in driving results and where they were just a participant. For more detail on how to evaluate real impact, see How to Interview Marketers (who are often good at marketing themselves).

7. Don’t overlook cultural “fit”

The most successful hires will be a strong match for both the job and the workplace culture. Don’t overlook “fit” because of a dazzling resume or experience that exactly matches your company’s size and stage. “I tend to ask more open-ended questions to get a sense of communication style and personality” shared Arthur Ly, VP of Talent. Open dialogue will provide important insight into a candidate’s management style, handling of conflict, collaboration patterns with peers, and other “non-functional” topics, which becomes particularly important with more senior positions.

8. Explore what matters to the candidate

There are many components to what makes a strong marketer take a new role (opportunity, base, equity, title) so you want to start uncovering what’s important to the candidate early in the process. These many variables can make the offer process complex, but they also give you multiple levers to play with. Can bonuses be used to bridge comp gaps? Can you be flexible on the title, role definition, or org? Many companies leave these questions towards the end, but it’s good to gather information along the way. If it seems like there won’t be a fit, it’s good to save time and the relationship. In cases where you are progressing in the process and moving towards a close, it’s good to set expectations and exchange signals before the final offer stages. This also reduces friction and risk in the end stages.

9. Treat time as your enemy

The sales mantra “time kills all deals” holds in hiring as well. You have to balance the need for a thorough mutual evaluation with the time investment you are asking of the candidate and the overall duration of the process. “The best candidates are will not be on the market for long,” shared Yung. Processes that go on too long can allow time for a previously passive candidate to explore competing opportunities and even create friction and doubt. You may encounter internal delays, in that case, provide consistent updates and continue to check-in so that they do not mistake your silence for disinterest. Do not leave a candidate waiting for weeks between rounds, even if you are not sure if they will be the finalist. Remote work and Zoom have actually made scheduling and logistics easier, so take advantage. Keep the communication channel open throughout the entire process and use those touchpoints as a chance to share more about the company and build rapport.  

“Early this year candidates were scared to leave their current positions, but that’s less true now,” shared Katie Droke, Talent Director. There are many active candidates on the market, and a strong interview process is a critical element of your hiring strategy.  It’s a mistake to view the interview process as primarily a scheduling and information gathering exercise. It’s a complex set of human interactions that involve trust, education, negotiation, and the important opening steps in building what may turn into a multi-year relationship. Considering all the facets discussed above will help organizations define and manage strong processes for hiring marketing leaders and setting them up for success.

We would like to extend a big thank you to Tina Yung, Arthur Ly, and Katie Droke from the RevelOne Talent team for their expert contributions and insights featured in this article.


About RevelOne

RevelOne is a leading marketing advisory and recruiting firm.  We do 300+ searches a year in Marketing and Go-to-Market roles from C-level on down for some of the most recognized names in tech.  For custom org design, role scoping, and retained search, contact us.

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Hiring a Marketing Leader