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Marketing Leadership Updated on: Apr 18, 2024

10 CMO interview questions: Hiring a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)


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Looking for a Chief Marketing Officer should not be a task taken lightly. CMOs are in charge of managing all marketing operations, they contribute to growing sales, finding new business opportunities, and are responsible for planning, executing, and overseeing all your marketing activities A qualified Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) shouldn't just be skilled to do the job, they should also fit your company's culture and have a proven track record of driving measurable results.

During the interview process, you should identify and learn about candidates' management and leadership styles, technical and analytical skills, communication and problem-solving skills, and willingness to learn. Stay away from candidates who present poor organizational skills and lack communication skills. 

10 CMO interview questions

The traditional and routine interview script of “What are your greatest strengths?" or "Where do you see yourself in five years?" is not only tiresome but truly ineffective at determining whether the person in front of you is a good fit for the role and your team. 

The following ten CMO interview questions will get to the heart of a CMO candidate's personality, strengths, weaknesses, and skills while avoiding awkward interrogation and rehearsed answers. 

1. What's on your marketing dashboard, and what KPIs do you track?

Why this matters: The answer to this question tells you what marketing is for them. What does success look like for them? What results do they care about? This answer tells you if they can turn metrics into concrete results. For example, if they're tracking customer satisfaction, that shows they think about marketing through the lens of customer experience. If they track average revenue per customer, they're thinking about what marketing influences. 

2. How do you approach branding a company and its products and services?

Why this matters: The problem with branding and marketing is that everyone has an opinion about it. How does the CMO balance the opinions of the executive team, the CEO, and board members with the ability to test and use data to make a point? It can be tricky for a marketing leader to effectively manage the branding process without burning a lot of team bandwidth.

3. What are the biggest challenges for a CMO today? How do you work with your executive team to get the most out of the marketing function?

Why this matters: This question will allow the candidate to showcase and reveal their leadership skills and style while also stating the challenges they struggle with. Learning how the person communicates with the executive leadership and holds their marketing team accountable is vital. One of the most beautiful things about marketing is that it is multifaceted: it's math, art, branding, sales, event management, digital execution, and project management—and a good marketing leader is able to connect all these areas and build the right working contracts among their peers.

4. What pricing frameworks do you prefer to use? 

Why this matters:  Pricing strategy is very complex these days, from usage- or volume-based pricing, value- vs. market-based pricing, paying for access or ownership of a product or a subscription, etc.  It's a complex discipline; how versed is the CMO in dealing with all the pieces of the marketing pricing puzzle? Have they used frameworks like this one?

5. What is your approach to market research, both customer and competitor-focused?

Why this matters: This will tell us how innovative the candidate is at using new forms of research in the marketing space (A/B testing, social network inquiries, online data) vs. traditional research and higher-priced external research. How focused is the candidate on the competition? This is also a great opportunity to hear what they know and think about your current competitors

6. Share some tools and techniques you've learned in the past year and your key takeaways.

Why this matters: Learning how much the person is a “learner” vs a “doer” is super important. In the Marketing Industry being relevant is key. Is your potential new CMO willing to learn and grow?  In the field of marketing, if they don't innovate, they're going backward.

The growth in marketing software has been substantial in the past few years. This chart shows upwards of 950 different marketing technologies available to marketers. While no one needs to know all these tools, it's a clear indication that one needs to stay on top of the quickly changing digital landscape.

2023-martech-landscape-for-cmos (1)

Original image from Chief Martec - Click here for the full-size image

7. In your digital marketing approach, how do you balance inbound and outbound marketing?

Why this matters: Great marketing teams strike the right balance between many different marketing approaches. Understanding and leveraging both traditional and digital marketing channels is crucial to ensure brand consistency across all platforms. The inbound vs. outbound debate is a great test that doesn’t really have a right answer, but provides good insight into how much your candidate will count on “pay-to-play,” or noise-making marketing efforts, vs. harder to build, but longer-term organic content and inbound marketing strategies.

A CMO's ability to spearhead successful marketing campaigns is vital for achieving a balanced marketing strategy. They need to have a proven track record in creating and executing effective marketing strategies across traditional and digital channels.

8. If you could start your last role over again, what would you do differently?

Why this matters: This gives us insight into the candidate's ability to be self-aware, their appetite for growth, their willingness to be uncomfortable, share things that may not have gone well in the past, and most importantly, learnings. 

9. What do you think of the art and science of marketing, and where do your strengths lie within that?

Why this matters: Marketing is a delicate blend of art and science. A good marketing leader can use the science of data and analytics to be effective in optimization while mastering the art of design (finding great slogans and a voice for your brand). It's extremely rare, if not impossible, to find a CMO who can do both. This question will help you decide if their strengths are complementary to the other executive members and the current marketing team.

10. Knowing what you know so far about our company, what strategies and tactics would you put in place to help drive revenue?

Why this matters: This question allows the candidate to show off their knowledge of your company so far and gives them the chance to ask questions. Ultimately, this is an opportunity to see how innovative they can be.

Hiring the right marketing team at the right time

Finding the right marketing leader, not to mention the squadron of specialists that will be supporting their strategic vision, is a difficult process in and of itself, not to mention the question of timing. Bring on too many people too soon, and you're stuck with unsustainable costs and potentially shackled with too many hands for the kind of work you need to get done at your growth stage. Hiring a marketing leader is a big commitment, and hopefully, the interview questions we've provided here will help you make sure you're making a commitment you can be confident in. However, partnering instead with an outsourced marketing leader and team may be a good alternative if you're a young company just ramping up your marketing function.

Kalungi offers fractional CMO services in the form of short-term coaching engagements and full-service marketing support, both of which are a great way to quickly ramp up marketing for your company without requiring the time and commitment of an in-house team. To set up a free consulting session with our team to learn more about whether Kalungi's marketing-as-a-service team could help you hit your growth goals this year, click here.

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