I just bought a new car. Whoo hoo!

When I was first picturing the new wheels, I didn’t realize how uncomfortable the buying process would be. After all, I regularly lead searches and negotiate deals many times this size on behalf of companies. I thought, I got this!

Uh, not so fast. I was rusty at this process, thanks to living in a ‘walker’s paradise.’

  • There was the consulting of the TrueCar and Edmunds apps to compare cars….
  • Going on ‘interviews’ with cars to test them out
  • Grappling with whether a patootie-heater was REALLY necessary. (Somehow the verdict there was ‘yes.’)

The car-buying process made me sympathize with what’s going on in a CEO’s head before we partner on a search. After all, hiring can be at least as stressful as buying a car.

Thankfully, compared to matching myself with a car, I am much more agile at my day job of matching companies with leaders in marketing, marketing analytics, and marketing technology.

If you are hiring for a critical executive role (and many are in Q1!), check out some observations from my client partnerships on how the best leaders approach hiring. See where you are strong and where you can improve.


1. They expect recruiting to be uncomfortable, and navigate through that discomfort. They admit it when they need to learn about a particular functional area, and they lean on experts to do so.  

Hiring is not comfortable. You don’t know how long it will take. You worry whether ‘Mr. or Ms. Right’ will still be right a year or two from now. You hope the candidates will be as impressed by your company and team as you are. You struggle to separate marketing fundamentals from marketing fads on your wish list. You feel rushed to hire the best talent before your competition does.

It’s normal to feel confused, exposed, competitive, uncertain, hopeful, elated, or frustrated over the course of your search.

The best hiring executives lean in to this difficulty, since that is where the learning is most robust. They continually revisit and challenge their assumptions. They admit it when they need to learn about a particular functional area, and they lean on experts to do so.

I anticipate CEOs will be investing more in learning about marketing and martech in 2019, as the functions expand in breadth and impact. The question is not “do I need to learn.” The questions are “do I admit it, and to whom, and from whom do I feel comfortable learning?”

One thing that I’ve found helpful in my searches: doing low-stakes ‘research interviews’ with experts at the beginning of a search. That way, hiring leaders can learn first and recruit second, by first connecting with experts who could do the job but may not necessarily be open to a new role or in the right geographic area.

2. They anticipate and overcome the biggest challenges of hiring for marketing leaders in particular.

Recently I posted on LinkedIn: “Finish this sentence. Hiring a marketing leader is hard because…”

image of LinkedIn conversation

A lively discussion ensued.

The upshot: In the most successful ‘marriages,’ CEOs and marketing leaders define and align on:

  • expectations
  • scope of responsibilities
  • authority
  • resources
  • incentives

Getting these things right – especially at the start of a recruiting process – is not easy. But it can be the difference between hiring someone who shines with success and someone who gets stuck.

Let’s sum up this one as “#DefineAlignAndShine.”  

3. They overcome what I call the recency bias. 

We all tend to look at what someone did yesterday with more scrutiny than what they did a few years ago. This recency bias can blind us to good fits. Top hiring leaders realize that recency does not always equal relevance. They look for how a candidate could reshuffle their deck of experiences, bringing fresh thinking.

And the most successful leaders don’t just look backwards anyway. It’s like that saying:
Image: Don't *just* look back. You're not going that way.

They spend just as much time in the recruiting process looking forward. They balance resume walkthroughs with exercises to see how the candidate would tackle the job, and what the candidate is motivated to do next.

This is a partial list, but that’s enough for now! Let me know which of these resonate with you the most.