When looking for that next stage of marketing employment, there are three essential elements—a litmus test of sorts—to keep in mind to help make your next job a success. And if your dream job doesn’t have these three things, RUN THE OTHER WAY!
Test #1: Do you like your prospective boss?
The job responsibilities, the perks and the money may be great, but none of it matters if you don’t get along with (or hate) your boss. Trust me, it happens.
What should you look for in a new boss? You need to know that he or she is a person you can respect. Most importantly, you have to know if your boss will have your back.
The interview at this level is a two-way street, and you should put them through as much scrutiny as they do you. What is their management style? How did they get along with your predecessor? Who do they admire as a leader and why? These questions reveal very specific qualities in the person you will be spending a lot of time with and help lead you into, or steer you away from, taking the job.
Unsolicited feedback becomes invaluable when evaluating a place of employment and potential boss. Take the time and use the resources you have at hand, such as social media and your own personal network, to see if you can talk to someone who has worked for the company and with your potential new boss.
“Getting the perspective of current and former employees, partners and vendors would be really useful in building a complete understanding of culture, values and expectations,” Jose Ramos, CMO for Astrum Solar, said to me.
Pay attention to where your new role sits within the organization. Peter McStravick, principle at Heidrick & Struggles (an executive recruiting firm), explained to me that one way to determine how strategically relevant marketing is within an organization is to see whom the CMO reports to.
“If the marketing head is a direct line into the CEO, then it suggests the company is at least market oriented.”
As many questions as you ask and people you talk to, nothing will replace your gut. The ultimate question should be: Do you trust this person? If your gut says no, run the other way.
Test #2: Do you believe in the product? Does it work?
Can you market a tobacco product if you don’t smoke? Can you sell the next Grand Theft Auto if you hate video games? You probably can, but it’s certainly easier if you’re passionate about it. This issue is probably more likely to occur in the technology field where, a lot of times, the product doesn’t perform as promised. Marketing a product that doesn’t work as intended can make your job harder. Instead of marketing, it simply becomes lying.
“A lot of things are expected of the CMO, but lying shouldn’t be one of them,” Mitch Bishop, CMO of Moovweb, told me. “The magic of good marketing is when all you have to do is amplify the truth in the product, not bend it. If the product works and you believe in it, it makes the job that much easier.”
Whatever you do, don’t just take the company’s word for it that the product is great. When you receive the offer, make sure you ask for a demo or sample. Play with it. Taste it. At the very least, talk to someone who has used it. So when the time comes, you can and will stand behind the product because you know firsthand how great it is.
Test #3: Are you set you up for success?
Raise your hand if you’ve ever walked into a new job only to find that your budget has been cut, your staff is inexperienced or your boss believes marketing is a bunch of hocus-pocus. If I could, I would have three hands raised right now.
Before you sign on the dotted line, you’ll want to make sure that you’re in the best position to be successful. So here is what you want to ask:
• Your budget? According to the Corporate Executive Board’s 2012 Marketing Investment and Spend Trends study, the average company spends 6 percent of sales revenue on marketing. Growth-related companies such as SalesForce and Marketo spend as much as 20 percent or more. Anything less than 6 percent means you may be twiddling your thumbs.
• Your team? Sometimes you’re asked to build a team, and other times you inherit one. Either way, you’ll want to understand what you’re working with and what you’re up against. An incomplete team is not necessarily a bad thing, if you have the commitment from the organization to fill in the gaps. It could be a very bad sign, on the other hand, if there is no commitment to bolster additional staffing.
• The organization’s value in marketing? You want to make sure you’re wanted in the organization, not just a box being checked off or a hole being filled. When you get the offer, do some sleuthing. Does the chief financial officer see you as a cost center? If so, run. Does the vice president of sales think of marketing as a crutch for poor performing sales people? If so, run. You get the idea.
Having an honest dialog about these things can go a long way.
“I see many new hires derailed by a lack of clarity with their boss regarding [the job],” Paul Millard, managing partner of The Millard Group (a boutique executive search firm), said to me. “This should not be a mystery. This should be covered up front.”
While I would never wish for anyone to be out of a job the, odds are against us. As CMOs, we will have to find a new job at some point. These three simple tests can help you avoid a bad decision and ultimately find the right opportunity to flex your marketing muscles.
Editor’s note: Read Part 1 of “When Marketing Jobs Become Uncool,” in which Chief Marketing Officer David T. Scott explains why marketing executives ought to take care during their next job search, in