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Marketing Directors are one of the key hires any startup or SMB needs to grow exponentially. A great hire can mean millions in upside and a growth multiple that attracts investors and talent. The right marketing director makes it easy for sales to close deals, accelerates the product team's progress, and makes the CEO look good during board meetings.
Hiring an ineffective marketing director can have an equally detrimental impact and cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars, team momentum, and millions in lost revenue. This is why hiring a marketing director (especially your first one), is potentially the most important hiring decision you'll make on your core team.
Just a few years ago, I was working for a martech startup that decided to hire a marketing director who was skilled in one single marketing channel, but no others. This decision ended up costing the company millions in future revenue, favor with the VC firm that invested in them, and 2 RIFs that resulted in 75% of the team leaving or being let go. In the 12 months of this marketing director's tenure, the company went from growing by more than 3x per year to losing almost 10% per quarter.
Now you could easily blame the economy, COVID-19, and other factors on these events since they happened during one of the biggest workforce shifts in U.S. history, you could also blame the founders for not adapting to the changing conditions in the world, you could blame the sales team for not closing enough sales to get the company over the hump and out the other side, but in hindsight, I realize that the biggest mistake we made was not taking our time to properly vet and interview the right person for this position - which is why, hopefully, my mistake can help you the next time you hire a marketing director.
Before we get started, please note that Interview questions for marketing directors change dramatically with every new innovation. Obviously, the basic skills that you can assess in marketing interview assignment examples like content writing, social media management, and data analysis remain the same. But for marketing directors specifically, it's important to assess their ability to think critically about each aspect of reaching an audience effectively. Platforms and channels will shift as rapidly as technology changes. First, it was print and mail advertising, then Google ads, next came social media marketing, and now we have more than 100 marketing channels available to us.
This is why digital marketing manager interview questions especially must go beyond the basics of marketing. If you're already overwhelmed or limited on bandwidth, and you'd like to access our library of 1000+ interview questions instead of creating your own, schedule a demo of our interview intelligence software so we can show you how our software can quickly help you identify the best candidate for your open marketing director position.
So let's dive into some of the questions as a marketing manager in an interview. This will also apply to a Head of Marketing, or any other first marketing hire that you'll make whose role will be to drive leads, growth, revenue, or brand marketing:
1. Can you give me a short summary of your last marketing role? When you joined the team, what goals were you asked to achieve?
2. What marketing channels did you use to achieve those goals?
3. Why did you choose them?
4. Tell me about your ICP/ customer/ avatar. What was their biggest challenge?
5. How did you identify this as their primary challenge?
6. Did this challenge align with your product or roadmap?
7. When you left, what goals had been achieved? and, what goals didn't you achieve?
A line of questioning like what you've just seen will allow you to assess the marketing director's strategic ability to identify customer needs and challenges, understand how to align those with product goals, and take actionable steps toward measurable results. These are situational interview questions for marketing managers and Heads of Marketing roles. It's important to listen for the answers and assess how they think critically about each challenge they face.
So now let's look at their possible answers:
Question #2: What marketing channels did you choose and why did you choose them?
Answer: Our channels were mainly digital (ie: Social media, Content, etc.) but I also used outbound campaigns, local marketing, and podcasts to reach our target audience. I chose these channels because they allowed us to reach a wide audience quickly and measure our progress in real-time.
This information is vital because it tells you if they can think critically and whether or not they can turn their conclusions into actual results - which is necessary for any marketing director. To give you an example of this, if you're interviewing a growth marketer and they want to push viral TikTok videos but your audience is 55-year-old corporate executives, you may not have the right fit - and while this seems like a polar example, you'd be shocked at how many companies I see make this mistake.
The next set of questions that you ask should focus on their experience with scaling and growth- after all, that's the reason that they're joining your team:
1. Tell me about your ICP.
2. How big was your market?
3. How did you do market research to substantiate the channels you chose?
4. What data were you using to validate your conclusions?
We could literally include hundreds of questions in this section- but the point is to take a look at their problems solving capabilities and understand whether or not they've truly been able to scale and grow businesses, not just manage a graphic designer and a freelance copywriter. Remember: you're looking for a leader to help your organization reach new heights, so make sure they have the skills to do this.
Head of Marketing interview questions and answers are telling. If they're struggling to articulate and communicate these things to you, how do you think they're going to communicate them to your customers? So good questions will help you make the right decision when you hire your next marketing director.
While the VP Marketing role is higher up on the chain, the interview questions should still be heavily focused on assessing their ability to think critically and execute, but as a VP they also need to lead different teams of marketers and be able to work with an execute team and board expectations. Here are some VP of Marketing interview questions that you can use to assess their leadership abilities:
1. What have been the most successful campaigns you've led and how many people were included in the process?
2. What was the biggest challenge you faced in the past from a managerial perspective and how did you solve it?
3. How do you foster collaboration between marketing and other teams?
4. What have you done to foster a culture of creative problem-solving within the team?
5. How do you source ideas from your team so that they stay engaged and feel like they're contributing to the process?
CMO interview questions will follow a similar line of thinking, however, you're now trying to understand their past performance creating strategies, and executing them. Turning Founder, CEO, and Board-led goals into actionable results. If the board says, we've fallen short of goal this quarter, what will you do to make up the 20% deficit this quarter, a CMO will need to have an actionable strategy in order to make that happen- one that will stand up to rigorous scrutiny.
Marketing director interview questions can mostly be defined as simple cause and effect- but when aiming for a VP or CMO role you need to think more critically. You should also ask questions that will help you understand their experience and past performance - asking for exact growth numbers is the best way to achieve this. You can go to their list of references and mention these numbers in conversation to see if they match the candidate's claims.
Remember that marketing director interview questions and answers are the foundation of your interview process. The reason they exist is to help you uncover the candidate's true strengths, weaknesses, thought processes, problem-solving skills, and past performance executing strategies for growth. If they can't answer your questions effectively and accurately, they're probably not the right fit for the job.
Interviewing can be complex. Just qualifying someone for a role, setting proper expectations, identifying their fit for your company, and creating an excellent candidate experience can be a challenge. One of the secret weapons that many rapidly growing companies use to supercharge their hiring process is Pillar's interview intelligence software. Our video interviewing platform was designed to help you make the best hires. Our AI-driven platform evaluates your candidate responses in real time, giving you valuable insights into their skills and abilities.
We've helped companies like High Alpha, Wistia, and dozens more maximize the impact of their hiring process. With Pillar, you can quickly assess a candidate's technical skills and evaluate their hard and soft skills to determine if they'll be a great fit for your team. So, if you're looking to find the perfect candidate schedule a demo of Pillar and see how it can help you find better candidates, faster.