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Kate Gunning, host of the CMO Show, says marketing resumes don’t tell the full story

If you’re hiring your marketing team based on industry experience alone, you’re probably overlooking some serious talent. “I think...

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4.27.2023

3 min read

If you’re hiring your marketing team based on industry experience alone, you’re probably overlooking some serious talent.


“I think resumes are absolute BS,” says Kate Gunning, CEO of Crush, a marketing agency ‘that makes brands you can’t stop thinking about,’ and host of the CMO Show podcast. “I’ve come to realize that people's life experiences are more important than their actual marketing experiences.”


So, what should you look for when expanding your marketing team? “How one thinks, solves problems, creates and imagines new possibilities,” she says. “Those are the things that are more important in marketing than a resume.”


These qualities are even more relevant in a rapidly changing digital world. How many people have years of experience working with AI, for example? Not many. So the key is looking beyond the resume. Here’s what to look for when expanding your marketing team.



Start with your vision


“What kind of agency do you want to be? What vibe do you want to set for yourself? That's the person you should hire,” says Gunning. “Maybe you're an experiential, creative shop that makes mesmerizing experiences in retail. Or maybe you are a tech agency that provides scalable turnkey ways for brands of all shapes and sizes to build websites. Start with the insight about your audience that differentiates you - that real whitespace you’re filling - then hire around that.”


For her own agency, Crush, Gunning envisioned building a company that produces unforgettable brands for launch. She knew that in order to create experiences people couldn’t stop thinking about (much like a crush), she’d need to bring on people who understand how to stand out from a crowd and invite clients who really want to push the envelope.


You might be looking for something different for your agency, “but the ultimate hiring decision always needs to be based on the questions: Who are we? And who should we be?’” Then, you can tailor your interview questions accordingly.



Think of hiring like casting for a film


“I view marketing teams and CMO/CEO matches like directors and producers view casting for a show or movie,” says Gunning. “Casting is the most important part of building an effective and inspired organization, and it's especially imperative in marketing.”


Much like a film producer picks the director - a single decision that majorly shapes the entire project - the CEO must also act as a steward for the business by bringing on a CMO with the right vision, technical skills and style. If Steven Spielberg or Guillermo Del Toro direct the same script, you’ll get two very different outcomes, even though both have experience and talent.



Test for corporate compatibility


“Another important factor for hiring marketing leadership is the CEO/CMO compatibility,” Gunning says. “It’s often understated, but it can make or break a project.”


That’s not to say that subject matter expertise isn’t critical, only that it’s the start of your hiring considerations, rather than the end all be all. To that effect, Gunning recommends avoiding interviews and going for work dates instead. Conversational walks, coffee and lunch are fun ways to engage in fluid and organic conversations and gauge a candidates’ personality. “Create the interview environment that’s indicative of the person you want to cast,” she says.


But don’t fall into the trap of hiring your friends. You want people who can challenge your point of view and introduce a new skill set to the team. That’s all to say, compatibility is one of the most important aspects when it comes to scouting a team for the C-Suite, but it’s not the only factor to consider.



Be your own client


With the demanding speed of agency life, it’s often easy to forget to treat your own brand with the same love and care you’d provide your clients.


At its core, Gunning believes that agency development is largely the same as brand building. “You need to be clear about why you exist,” she says. “Why do you do what you do, and how is it different? You’ll find the best talent in that definition.”


If you’re unclear about who to hire as your next CMO or marketing leader, turn inwards and assess not just where your agency is compared to where it needs to be, but also who your agency is and who it will become with your new hire.


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