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How to hire a CMO for your startup

Some lucky founders have a marketing / biz dev person on the team from day one. Others have to look for a perfect match. To hire a right person for the job, it’s a good idea to start from understanding what exactly the job is.

Step 1. Define the scope of work.

To find a perfect match, a startuppie should first understand high-level marketing requirements of his business. Good questions to ask yourself:

1. What is our  go-to-market strategy?

2. Where our  potential customers are?

3. How do we target them?

4. What channels we think will be more effective?

5. What qualities are we looking for in our team members (what is our  business culture)?

6. How do we plan to grow our team? Onsite / remote / outsourced?

The CMO will be responsible for growth hacking your business, building your brand awareness, shaping up your product and building up your marketing dream team. How successful will he be? It depends on several factors. The first one (and, probably, most important one) is his skills set.

Ideally, you want someone who is experienced in  YOUR market niche, worked with products like YOURS before and knows YOUR targeted audience inside out.

In B2C, you are looking for someone who can create a scalable channel that will bring you customers. If you have a B2B business, your CMO will be driving leads and helping your sales team to convert them.  In both cases, there are multiple channels he can use. Social media & content, email marketing, PR, events, SEO, display ads… If you find a ninja that is good at all of themplease, let us know. In most cases, your CMO will be really good at few of them, and have a brief understanding how to use others.

If you have some time and money, we’d recommend first hiring a mentor / consultant who understands your business and knows marketing. You can also invest some time into learning marketing basics yourself to better understand how your perfect CMO’s resume should  looks like.

Step 2. Start looking for the perfect match.

Now that you know you need a Social Media & Content Guru with extensive experience in B2C VR games (or whatever else your desired  skill set has), let’s work on getting actual leads.

Where to look

LinkedIn. Here you can not only search for candidates, but also evaluate them ‘showing off’. The way they present and market themselves speaks about their online marketing skills. In our opinion, well designed and written LinkedIn page is a must have for a marketing professional.


Angel.co. If you are not on Ange List yet with your startup, you should fix it now. This is our favorite professional network for startuppies, investors and  mentors. Post your job description there and get ready for a bunch of leads.


Let’s say, you are on a tight budget and can’t afford a full time hire. In this case, try contract work. Go to UpWork or similar freelancer website, and look for descriptions like ‘marketing strategist’ (you can add content, social media or whatever channel you need to focus on). Pay attention to the hourly rates (you don’t want someone cheap) and ratings & reviews (you want someone with a good reputation and highly rated past works). It is a complicated way and you’ll probably have to deal with a few people before you find something that fits.  The positive side of this approach is the fact that you can test your marketer skills before you make your final decision about hiring.

What else? Here are some tips on how to search for your perfect CMO:

• Smart people know smart people. Think of people you admire, and ask them for referrals or recommendations.

• Look into your competitors or companies with complimentary products, check their marketing, and try to headhunt if you are impressed. Research online for best marketing campaigns that use same channels or audience you are looking into. Check case studies and presentations, blogs and podcasts. Bonus point – you’ll learn a lot about marketing while doing this.

• Go to marketing events, listen to speakers, and most importantly, to people who ask questions. Network and ask, ask, ask for referrals.

Step 3. Ask the right questions.

Ok, you’ve got a bunch of leads, screening calls and a final list of 7 candidates to interview. Now, it’s time to ask the right questions.

Here is our list of must-have things  to ask your potential CMO on the interview.

Step 4. Other things to consider

There are a few more things you can do to get to know better your candidates.

Business case or a test task to solve.

It’s a good idea to ask a candidate to solve a business case before the interview. Nothing too serious, an hour or two of work for someone who has proper knowledge. There are two reasons we are doing this:

1. First, a candidate’s response shows his motivation. On average, half of them do not send anything. Bingo, we saved our time – they are clearly not interested.

2. Second, we can check his way of thinking, strategy skills and knowledge.

If you have a bigger thing in mind, you might want to pay for it. Set up timing restriction (e.g. 2 days) and promise a biggest reward when the task is completed in time, and a smaller one when it takes longer. Give people motivation to put some efforts there. Though this approach will work better after the interview, when you want to actually test your candidate’s practical skills.


Check them!

It will take you 10 minutes, and can completely change the way you look at  your candidate.


In marketing, you work with visual communications all the time. You candidate might not be a designer, but he or she  was responsible for creating visual materials, landing pages, white papers and even reports. Check them out, make sure you like what you see –  this is going to be your art director, UI and UX person for a while.

Personal fit

It may be a good idea to set up some time for interview with your team members (even if they have very little to do with marketing) and get their feedback, looking into your candidate’s personality and cultural fit.

After all, it’s all about synergy.

February 5, 2019
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