How to Interview Marketing Executives to Win in a Highly Competitive Talent Market

In a highly competitive candidate-driven market like we are seeing today, are you losing out on top talent because of the recruiting process you employ?

As the leader in marketing executive search, at MarketPro, one thing we know to be true is that top executives are interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them. When someone gets to a senior level in the marketing ranks, after they determine that the role is the right step in their career, they are looking for clues that the interview process reveals to them about the company.

Beyond the opportunity presented, our candidates look for companies that are a good match culturally with a team that knows what it wants, evaluates it in a timely fashion, and then moves forward decisively. How can you stand out from your competitors and provide a candidate recruitment process that enhances your company’s reputation?

? Be Focused

Start with a well-written job description that clearly outlines the responsibilities, company culture, and challenges of the opportunity. Define why it’s a good time to come work for the company. Be very clear on what you’re looking for and why that’s important. Knowing the “why” is often overlooked but important to executive candidates.

? Define Clear Expectations and Measurements

Identifying what success looks like in this role is a key component on how a candidate considers the opportunity. Are your goals unrealistic? Are they too ambiguous? Does it paint a clear direction of where you want this role to impact the company in the next year? Does it signal that you do or don’t know what is realistic to expect from a role in marketing?

We have seen clients address this with phrases like “to be mutually agreed upon” or some financial metric that, unless you were already working in the company, would have no contextual meaning for a candidate. That is a huge red flag to executive candidates. Provide as much information as possible, including past results and metrics, so that the candidate can make an intelligent analysis of the expectations presented.

Many of our clients rely on us to help them present their KPIs in way that is fair and clear to both the company and candidate.

? Be Transparent

When speaking with candidates, tell them about the company, the people that work there, the culture, the pace of work, your clients etc. Be authentic. If the culture is a challenge, discuss with them how you are working to change that. If the pace is hectic and not for everyone, be real about that as well. It doesn’t benefit either party if you hide or mask issues as they will be revealed quickly once the employee starts. You don’t want to repeat the recruiting process because you weren’t upfront about the situation a candidate would find once they were employed.

? Streamline the Interview Process

Make the process as easy and as frictionless as possible. Treat your executive candidates with respect. Don’t ask them to fill out a ‘standard’ HR form on your website that makes them re-input items that are from their resume. Don’t include standard boiler plate language in the job description that doesn’t apply specifically to that job. If it’s a marketing executive search, is it necessary to mention that they must be able to “lift 50 pounds”?

? Don’t Gang up on Them

Especially in the age of video interviews, avoid a panel interview if possible and, in all cases, have no more than four participants at one time.

Watch the Video: How to Interview Marketing Executives When You’re Not a Marketer Yourself

? Include Only Key Decision Makers

When adding an executive to your team, you need to vet their skills, culture fit, and executive presence. Only include those on your team in the process who can add value to that. Have the courage to say ‘no’ to internal people who would like to be a part of the process but that don’t need to be. Which brings us to our next point…

Do not include subordinates of the role. Employees should not interview their boss. Why? Don’t you want to make sure that they “fit” with the culture? Yes, absolutely. But that is best done with C-Suite peers vs. subordinates. Often subordinates aren’t aware of the expectations that the CEO has for this role and might not be aware of changes that are about to take place. The lens in which they evaluate their potential boss is likely not fully informed.

The other issue is that if you have subordinates who say they don’t like the candidate, maybe because they feel threatened and/or don’t like change, how are you now going to handle it if you decide to hire the person anyway? You’ve asked them for their vote and now ignored it. No matter the culture, in our experience, this is a step to be avoided.

? Be Timely

It’s important that you have interviews with key decision makers but not to prolong the process. In today’s market, candidates are moving quickly in and out of the marketplace. If you have multiple rounds of interviews, you can no longer spread them out a week at a time. Your goal, if presented with the right candidate, is that the time between each round should be in days not weeks. Lately, we have seen fast moving companies go from first interview to offer in two weeks. Honestly, that can be almost too quick for some candidates to evaluate the opportunity but that is the reality we are currently experiencing.

Need Help Finding the Right Candidates? What to Look for in a Marketing Executive Search Partner

What About Work Product/Presentation?

When filling executive roles, many companies want to give the candidate an exercise to see “work product”. This can be very tricky. Many top executives will flat out refuse based on the time required and the fact that many of them are ‘passive’ candidates, meaning they are currently employed and happy and not active in the job market. Others cringe when it’s brought up because they’ve been burned in the past from companies just looking for free advice and ideas.

Having candidates address a specific work problem for your business isn’t fair to the candidate or the process. The candidate will never have enough inside information to give you a proper view on the business problem at hand and you don’t want to select someone based on their current knowledge of your business. In other words, you may lean towards a candidate that gave you an answer closest to what you ‘think’ the right approach should be but you haven’t effectively measured ‘how’ they thought or arrived at a solution.

A better approach would be to take something more generic. If your company is struggling with your brand positioning, instead of asking them what they think your brand positioning should be (void of requisite information like market studies, target consumers, and competitive landscape), ask them to share a case study of a similar situation from their work history.

This will give you the opportunity to evaluate their approach, presentation skills, and project results in a manner that’s respectful of the candidate’s time and allows you to focus on their thought process versus your company’s specific business problem.

Conclusion

Remember, interviewing is a two-way street. The Golden Rule has great applicability here. Always ensure that you are treating candidates with respect and are providing transparency, communication, and timely actions. Your candidates and your company will benefit.

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