Everyone wants to stand out in an interview and a quick google search will provide endless opinions on how to do just that. However, if you’re a marketer looking to land your next role, what better source than the CMOs who’ve earned the top position in their marketing organization? Here, CMO club members share advice to nail your next interview and real stories from impressive interviews. The common themes: know your audience, research both the company and interviewers, ask thoughtful questions, and be authentic.

Our panel of luminary marketing executives share interview advice for marketers, and stories of interviewees who’ve impressed them.

Ben Buckton, Chief Marketing & People Officer, Shakespeare Martineau
CMO Club Chapter: London

First and foremost, bring personality and be yourself! If they don’t like it or you don’t get a connection, then you’ve had a great escape. You can never be successful in any role or culture if you cannot be your authentic self.  Then, do your research and have an opinion – that means talk to people who use the products/services of the firm your talking to (and those that don’t), try them yourself (be a mystery shopper), and check out the channels (and what’s on them). Don’t use buzz words unless you can back them up – content with context is always more impressive. Why should I care about the “latest thing?”  And please, don’t say AI.

I always love it when a marketer brings a portfolio – it’s not about design, but it does bring things to life more readily when someone can walk you through what they’ve done, why, and what the outcomes were, whilst supported with some visuals. Sadly this has only happened a few times!

Doug Zarkin, VP, CMO, Pearle Vision
CMO Club Chapter: NYC

Ask about the EQ requirements of the role. The spec will tell you Intellectual requirements (IQ), but it’s the culture and environment that truly is the difference-maker if the role is the right one for you.

I had a candidate who came in and had clearly done their research. They came with questions that all began with citing a quote I’ve said or other leaders within the brand have said and used them to seek to understand more texture about how this/what this meant in terms of the business trajectory. It showed me the candidate was curious and thoughtful.

JD Dillon, CMO, Tigo Energy
CMO Club Chapter: San Francisco & Silicon Valley

Talk to industry experts and bring specific feedback in a constructive fashion to the interview. The right approach is to ensure that you add value to the interviewer even if you do not get the offer. Doing your homework and approaching the interview as a business networking opportunity will ensure you stand out. If you can professionally provide ideas to help the company, the interview will be a success.

A candidate for a director of brand and marketing communications brought in our logo with various potential modifications. He contrasted us with other companies. He knew we wanted to evolve from B2B into B2C and applied some adjustments to our branding to align with our strategy.

Luis Casado, Head of EMEA Print Marketing, HP

I always look for people who are marketing pros; who can explain initiatives from the biz issue, insight, campaign, and outcomes; and who are truly international. The first and the last are in the resume but the story about the initiative isn’t–focus there during the interview.

I loved the story of butter vs margarine in Turkey – people saw margarine as the healthy option so the marketeer asked doctors to explain why butter wasn’t unhealthy. By doing this the right way, the market share decline of butter turned around and kept growing.

Megan Lueders, CMO, Silicon Labs
CMO Club Chapter: Austin

For marketers to stand out in an interview they must demonstrate their knowledge of the company and the product, highlight through conversation they have researched the team, its leaders, and track record.  During each interview, share ideas and thoughts and ask questions specific to each of the interviewers.  To go above and beyond, provide a writing sample specific to the product/company, outline a campaign idea, share a recommendation on a design element… whatever the role, marketers should show what we could expect from you by articulating and demonstrating it in the interview.

One candidate proactively came prepared to the interview with recommendations for the website and an idea for a social media campaign.  It was unprompted, unexpected, and displayed a side of creativity and self-initiative that is hard to extract in a traditional interview.

Muriel Lotto, Head of Global Brand & Marketing, Western Union
CMO Club Chapter: Denver

Be authentic and research the company and the person interviewing you beforehand. Prepare questions to ask, my favorite being “how are decisions made around here?” Remember you’re interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.

Heather Malenshek, SVP/CMO, Land O'Lakes
CMO Club Chapter: Minneapolis

A good marketer is a great storyteller. Talking about your career and experience in an interview should be about telling your story. Connecting your experiences, filling in the gaps, talking about why you made moves and what your career has been about, the common thread, and your secret sauce – what do you bring to the table that makes you unique. Be honest about where you have struggled and what you learned. It shows a level of humility which is something I always look for.

I had a candidate applying for a senior role on my team. It was the final interview and I had met with the candidate at the beginning of the process and they had then met with the team. This last interview was a wrap-up of those discussions. What impressed me the most was how the candidate had very clearly used one of the most underleveraged skills – active listening. He had paid close attention to what the interviewers had said, asked smart questions to delve deeper, and was then able to give me a perspective on what he felt the team needed and where he could add value. Not rocket science, but I appreciated the insights he developed in the process and how he wove those together into a compelling case to hire him. Which I did!

Ana Villegas, CMO, NI
CMO Club Chapter: Austin

Know your audience and target your message. Bring new ideas/recommendations, study the company beforehand, be transparent on your values and what is important for you when selecting a company (sustainability, D&I, etc).

A couple of weeks ago, a woman I mentor asked me to do a practice interview with her (she just finished school and this will be her first full-time job).  I was impressed with the level of work she did for the interview: she was looking at a social media position and she has done an analysis of competitors, evaluate google search words, evaluate their site and Taxonomy, plus the messages they have in market, all wrapped in a solid recommendation. Needless to say that she got the job!

Fara Howard, CMO, GoDaddy
CMO Club Chapter: Seattle

Be clear on your strengths and have examples at the ready to showcase them. Ensure it’s clear what strengths you’re highlighting rather than providing examples that appear very industry-specific and may get lost in translation.

In a recent interview a candidate I met, and ultimately hired, brought forth a long list of questions to interview me, which I appreciated. It showed his commitment to ensuring the role was the right fit for him. As we spoke, he was unabashed in expressing his point of view and asking more questions, including expressing concern on areas where he didn’t agree with our direction. The conversation was respectful yet it showed he had conviction, was curious, and had a high bar. In short, be prepared, be curious, and be provocative. Marketing requires bold ideas and I appreciated his preparedness and boldness.

Will Stacy IV, EVP, Chief Marketing & Digital Officer, GM Financial
CMO Club Chapter: Dallas

I tell everyone who comes to me with interview or job search advice, I won’t talk to you until you read The Power of Who by Bob Bodine. It’s amazing.  Best advice ever.

In the past – people who’ve come to the interview with examples of how they would do the work: 90-day plans, mockups, etc. That all goes a long way.