I have a friend who owns an executive recruiting firm, and she says she absolutely hates hiring for sales and marketing because she has a hard time assessing if she is being sold to or not. Sellers sell and marketers market which means they have a natural affinity for crafting the story to suit their audiences. I wouldn’t call it lying as much as it is expanding the narrative which makes it incredibly hard to interview against.
At Shine Talent, we specialize in hiring VP-C-level executives across all positions associated with sales and marketing. This means we are experts in finding outstanding revenue leadership and have developed a scientific approach to interviewing so we can assess the true talents of the executive.
Below are some tips for your own interview process to ensure you are hiring an A+ executive leader:
- Metrics matter: Any great sales and marketing leader knows their numbers. Get into the metrics with all executive candidates. Ask for details on how they tracked and reported data and what specifically drove the growth around certain areas. Many hiring managers look for leaders who will “get into the weeds”. Knowing your numbers is critical to unlocking growth opportunities for all sales and marketing leaders and it is important to understand how your candidate thinks about applying quantitative analysis to their work. I caveat this by saying it is OK for a great leader to say they must have an analytics person by their side. Nobody does it all themselves, so you need to unpack where their deepest skills and gaps are, and the additional team hires each candidate needs to support their success.
- Ask how and what: When you hear a great story about the unlock that the company had because of the strategy the candidate employed, ask what inspired their thinking and how they influenced everyone to get on board. Spend time understanding who this person is and how their mind works. Listen for the details. Lack of detail is an indicator that the strategy may have been developed by another or through a broader team effort vs. just the executive.
- Talk about team: Going back to nobody does it alone, ask about the team members that supported your candidate's success and the role each played in the company and their career. When we are working with a set of candidates at Shine Talent, we conduct extensive research to map their entire organization to understand who the key players were that drove the growth of a business.
- Big company experience vs. start-up: It is extraordinarily rare to find an executive who can move from big company to start-up and even the other way around. I don’t see it often so I encourage you to be very diligent in your assessment to determine if your candidate can make the transition. When we do interview candidates who would be making the shift, we sometimes employ assessments that include quantitative and qualitative performance predictors. This helps give us insight into how an executive may perform and react in certain situations.
- Examine how much industry experience matters: I love marketers who can transfer their skills into different industries, but I also deeply respect the need for industry knowledge in certain business sectors. Shine Talent hires for both, and each company is different, so determine how important it is to you before launching your search. Sometimes the fresh perspective is a massive value-add to a business and sometimes the learning curve is just too steep.
- Talk about failure: Failure is real, and every great executive has it. Failure is haunting but it is also outstanding because we learn. Great marketers must have failure, or they are not taking risks, and great salespeople will sometimes stumble when entering a new category or business. Dive into how your candidate navigated through that failure, how quickly the business or team recovered, what they learned, and how they adapted.
- Consider a project in your interview process: I’ve written about the paid project before and continue to be a massive believer in it for both sales and marketing hires. The additional note I will make on this is before getting to the project ask, fully assess the candidate through deep interviewing, and make sure both parties are 100% aligned on compensation. It is just a waste of everyone’s time if you haven’t fully vetted the candidate yet or aligned on comp.
Hiring for sales and marketing leadership requires a rigorous approach. It is so easy to get drawn into the story or wooed by a person's personality. As a candidate, you don’t want to make a poor career decision by convincing yourself you can do the job and as a CEO, making a poor hire with sales or marketing leadership can be a massive setback to the business and cost you tremendous time and money.