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Top CMOs Weigh In on Hiring in This Insane Job Market

4 min

Think real estate bidding wars are crazy these days? You should see what it’s like to try hiring a marketing professional. There’s never been a better time to be a marketer looking for a job — or a harder time to be a leader trying to hire one.

This phenomenon got the marketing leaders over at the CMO Coffee Talk community thinking about how CMOs could successfully find and hire top-drawer talent in these unusual days.

The result of our conversations: The CMO Guide to Hiring, an ebook packed with tips and advice. You should check it out.

Times are Changing for Marketers

Why the sudden boom? In part, it’s the realization that top-notch marketing is essential in this tumultuous economy. But we’re also in a period of off-the-charts business investment in business — and with it, a mandate to accelerate growth. So even companies that previously struggled to find marketing budgets now have money to spend on one of the best growth accelerators there is (marketing).

In the first half of 2021, global venture funding beat the previous record by 62% — a record that had just been set in the second half of 2020. With a total of $288 billion of VC funding invested worldwide so far this year, job listings are multiplying by the day. LinkedIn reports a 63% increase in marketing job postings in the past 6 months, with 381,000 marketing jobs hitting the platform in the past year alone.

At the same time, America’s workers are burned out after a tough year, prompting a trend that has been dubbed “The Great Resignation.” One recent poll showed that a whopping 95% of workers are currently considering quitting their jobs. And that means that in addition to all the new positions company leaders are hiring for, there’s a lot of backfilling going on as well. 

All of this has led to one of the hardest hiring environments in memory. And from my perspective, it’s posing an even greater challenge to marketing than it is to other departments. Not that it’s easy to hire a stellar salesperson, but at least in sales you’re hiring for one profile. In marketing, we’re hiring for a vast diversity of skills — ranging from analytics to event planning to creative. 

Plus, for each of those positions, we’re looking for a unicorn. Product marketing? We need someone who can geek out on all our specs and who has Stephen King-level storytelling skills. Graphic design? We need a person with groundbreaking artistic vision … who also loves to take feedback from non-artists.

The people we’re looking to hire in marketing were already needles in haystacks. And right now, everyone else is searching for them, too. 

In fact, in CMO Coffee Talk, a group of more than 1,000 B2B CMOs I help lead, hiring is one of the topics we can’t stop talking about. The experts in the community have shared so much great advice that we decided to crowd-source a guide to hiring marketers in these turbulent times. The resulting guide is full of golden nuggets on all the elements of successful hiring — recruiting, planning, interviewing, talking to references, making your decision, and post-interview follow-up.

Here are a few of the key takeaways:

Leave Your Biases at the Door

The need for diversity in hiring is clear, and the benefits are too many to count. But hiring managers need advice on how to do it.

Casey Carey, CMO of Kazoo, offers this tip: “Ask your recruiting team to remove names, pictures, and addresses from resumes during the screening process.” That way, no one’s unconscious biases will come into play when deciding which candidates to invite for an interview.

What to Look for When Hiring Newbies

If you’re hiring fresh-out-of-college candidates, resumes can be pretty sparse. For these candidates, Russ Somers, CMO of InMotionNow, suggests looking for something competitive on the resume.

“Whatever it is, ask them this: ‘Achieving [quarterback/chess club champ/first chair trombone] must have been hard. Tell me about the time you almost quit,’” Russ explains. “The best candidates cut to the bone in answering this. I’ve seen them tear up in telling the story of how they pushed through to achieve. A candidate who gives a bland answer won’t have the self-awareness to succeed.”

Backchannel with Caution

Checking references is an essential part of the hiring process. But what about reaching out to references the candidate didn’t provide — in other words, backchanneling?

Backchannel references can be very helpful for hearing trusted, unbiased information about a candidate. But you also run the risk of putting the person’s current job in jeopardy if news of their job search reaches the wrong ears. If you do decide to backchannel, tread carefully. 

Closing the Loop Is More Important Than Ever

We mostly focus on the candidate who does get the job, but what about the ones who don’t? It’s always a good idea to follow up and treat them well, but it’s especially important in this competitive hiring environment.

As Ellie Ahmadi, fractional CMO at EazDine, explains, “The candidates you don’t hire are either brand promoters (‘I wish I could’ve worked there, and maybe one day I will’) or detractors (‘I did three rounds of interviews and then they ghosted me’). Treat them accordingly.” 

Retention Beats Hiring — Especially Now

Replacing employees is more hassle and more expense than retaining the ones you have. For highly skilled employees, the cost of replacement averages 213% of their annual salary in normal times, and these days it’s probably even higher. So stay attuned to your team’s happiness and burnout levels. 

But if you do find yourself in a position of needing to hire in this seller’s market — whether because of turnover or because you’re in one of those lucky companies with a big new hiring budget — we’re sharing the CMO Guide to Hiring (no charge, no form-fill) to help you do it as effectively and painlessly as possible. Because the truth is, if we want to remain competitive in the current market, we need world-class recruiting and hiring skills.

And who better to get those from than a group of world-class CMOs?


Latane Conant

Latane Conant

Latané Conant is the Chief Market Officer of 6sense and author of the bestselling book, No Forms. No Spam. No Cold Calls. She’s passionate about empowering marketing leaders to confidently lead their teams, company, and industry into the future. Latané is laser-focused on leveraging technology and data to build marketing programs that result in deals, not just leads. She’s known across the industry for her creativity, competitiveness, and boundless energy.

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