CMO ClubHouse Conversations with Paul D’Arcy, CMO of Indeed

The CMO Club chats with member Paul D’Arcy, CMO of Indeed, on growing up in Manhattan, his passion for running, travel, photography, and the real differences CMOs can make in society.

Paul D’Arcy is a New York guy. He grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the seventies, well before the hipsters arrived, when it was still a rough and tumble neighborhood. “I once had my bike stolen while I was riding it,” he quips with a snide New York giggle. It was a tough neighborhood. Indeed.

Paul is the award-winning Chief Marketing Officer for Indeed.com. He was recently named one of the top 100 most innovative Chief Marketing Officers in the world, has won “Top Brand of the Year” recognition for Indeed six years in a row, has a long-running blog on marketing and revenue, has worked for such luminary brands as Apple and Dell Computers, is an accomplished photojournalist, Graduated Harvard Business School, and is the proud father of three wonderful children, including a 16 year old son, Gray, a 15 year old son, Ellis and his 10 year old daughter Lia. Paul currently lives in Austin, Texas.

CMO Club — Wow, that’s quite the resume. You grew up in New York City. Who had the most influence on you growing up?

Paul D’Arcy —Both of my parents were Psychologists. Me and my brother lived with them in a city housing development off of East 23st the whole time I was growing up. Remember, it was the Lower East Side of the Seventies, so yes, it was a bit rough and edgy. I was always a quiet kid, introverted, loved Science and math. I wound up applying to Stuyvesant High School, one of the top science high schools in the country, and I got in because I did really well on the test. I wasn’t a great student in high school, though. I didn’t have any real focus on what I wanted to do, so I just floated around that whole time there. That’s not to say I wasn’t interested. I did a lot of scientific research and volunteered at the New York Academy of Sciences. Those things I was interested in I was full-speed and passionate about. The day-to-day mechanics of school was another story.

My mom was heavily involved in cross-cultural psychology, mostly women’s issues in places like The Philippines, China, Korea, Japan, Venezuela, and developing countries all over Central America. She had a great impact, opened up that world for me. I have her passion for travel and for working with people. Both parents were older, from that Depression generation. They got married and had us later in life. I think they wanted both of us to have a really special life. They worked really hard to make sure we  had ample opportunity to achieve what we wanted to.

CMO Club — So Science as a career wasn’t what you wanted?

Paul D’Arcy — I didn’t really know what I wanted. I applied to Wesleyan with borderline grades and was lucky just to be accepted on the strength of my science background. I started as a government major but wound up being the first male Women’s Studies Major ever at Wesleyan University. I was also on a work-study program, assigned to the darkroom at the university, where I met many wonderful photographers. I was offered contract work taking photos for the university programs. Soon that expanded into other work the university was doing, as well as outside contract work.  I hooked up with Maryknoll Magazine, where I was able to document indigenous peoples all across the globe. That gave me access to these far off places where I could really become an observer of these cultures and people from all over the world.

Paul being escorted on a riverboat in the jungle of Bolivia on his way to document child labor in a nut factory in 1991

CMO Club — Did you consider photography as a career?

Paul D’Arcy — I did, but after seeing the limited amount of opportunities that photographers had in their careers, I decided to take another path.

CMO Club — So what happens next?

Paul D’Arcy — It was the early nineties, a terrible time for the economy. I graduated Wesleyan and applied to a bunch of places all at once (job fair.) I landed an entry position at The Prudential, an insurance company out of Newark, NJ, where I was put to work in a rotating program. My first stop was a stint in the Marketing Department. I never looked back.

CMO Club — That’s where it all started?

Paul D’Arcy — Yes. I was good with math and analytics from my time at Stuyvesant and had learned to write well and work with people from my time at Wesleyan, so it was a natural fit. I loved it right away. For me, it was learning new things, an exposure to a world I had no previous exposure to, that mixture or writing and math and creativity. It was wonderful. I wound up applying to and graduating from Harvard Business School after that, which sealed my direction. I did a stint at Apple and Dell before winding up here at Indeed. I’m still a photographer, though. I carry my Leica everywhere I go, and I travel the world seeking out stories to tell.

One of Paul’s child labor portraits in Bolivia.

CMO Club — Is there any ongoing influence that being the first male women’s studies major at Wesleyan have for you in your career or as a person?

Paul D’Arcy — In Women’s Studies, there’s a lot of focus on understanding and thinking about identity, both personally, and in society, and the different experiences that different people have in the world. All of those things are really helpful in thinking about and understanding marketing that’s foundational. It’s also evolved into things I’m really passionate about. At Indeed, one of the areas where I’ve invested some time is trying to focus on is fighting bias in hiring. Hiring is still a flawed and problematic process in most organizations, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to tell the story of that and being a voice of change. That’s been important for me, and it comes from that same place.

CMO Club — The CMO Club recently did a study on marketing compensation that found there’s still a big difference between genders in overall compensation. From your perspective, what are the things that marketers can do to help rectify that and any other inequities?

Paul D’Arcy — In most organizations, the thing to think about is how people actually do get hired. There’s a bias toward brand names and schools people went to on resumes. There’s a bias for certain roles toward having specific degrees when it might not really be necessary or required for that work. There’s a lot of unconscious bias toward certain names, genders or where some people are from, whether or not that fits in with a certain image in their head of who fits in a role within the company. If you have a traditional African-American name, you are much less likely to get selected, even if the resume is exactly the same. In organizations, anyone in a senior leadership position influences those issues, and in making sure hiring practices are fair and right for that company and for the rest of the world.

CMO Club — What do you look for when hiring new talent?

Paul D’Arcy — I look for people who have a passion for our mission. I look for people who are collaborative, who work really well with others as part of a team. I look for people who have curiosity and creativity. I look for people in certain roles who have a killer set of skills that are required to do the job that needs to be done.

CMO Club — What are you most proud of achieving in your career?

Paul D’Arcy — I’m most proud of my work at Indeed. We’ve grown to become a really well-known company around the world that’s purpose-driven and well respected for the impact that we are having helping people find jobs. When I joined the company, we were virtually unheard of, even though we had a lot of people using us. I’m most proud of the positive impact we are having. I feel fortunate doing the job I’m doing now.

CMO Club — There’s been some pushback from people looking for jobs that it’s hard breaking through the wall of filters and screening in order for their resume to be seen by someone at a particular company. What do you say to those who might feel shut out of the process?

Paul D’Arcy — First of all, I want to acknowledge that that experience is a real experience, that it’s still too hard to find a job and too hard to hire people. There’s still a lot of work to be done. The flip side of that is in most major markets, people get hired in two ways; online job sites, and referrals. When it comes to online job sites, more than half of those hires come from Indeed. When you are looking for a job, that is the most successful path to getting hired. It is hard, and it does take work, but people do get hired, more that way than any other way. In fact, most of the hires from referrals actually come from people who found their job on a site like Indeed and knew someone at the company. When looking for a job, using every available tool is the way to landing that job. One of the things we are doing at Indeed is helping people, role by role, prove that they can do a job. We think that has the potential of helping play an important role in democratizing opportunities, not being judged by the school you went to or the role you have, but that you can prove you can contribute.

 CMO Club — Tell us about your wonderful blog.

Paul D’Arcy — It’s called “The Science of Revenue.” I was thinking of starting a company, and I knew I wanted to share all this marketing knowledge I had swirling around me. That’s when I started the blog. It allows me to share what I’ve learned. I’m one of those people who learn from writing things down. When I’m trying to figure out an idea in my head, sometimes writing it down is the best way to document that process so others can also benefit.

CMO Club — I recently read one of the posts you wrote about the correlation between what the body does during moments of physical pain and emotion, and how that’s somehow related to marketing. Can you elaborate?

Paul D’Arcy — Yes. NPR did a study showing how, right after we experience physical pain, the body also experiences secondary emotions, things like sadness or depression or how physical pain triggers memory the same as great marketing does.  Two things happen when we feel pain. First, we physically feel the pain when say, heat triggers nerve endings. The feeling of pain is to warn you of the danger — to get you to immediately pull your hand out of the fire. The second thing that happens is interesting: when the body feels pain, it often triggers emotions such as sadness, anger, or depression.Once the pain signals reach the brain, it stirs up a complex set of responses, often including deep emotions. Having that emotional component linked to the sensory experience really is a great enhancer of memory.

Here’s the fascinating thing. This is a great example of the brain evolving to trick itself into memory creation using the same mechanisms that modern advertisers tap into. Research on advertising is very clear: emotional advertising outperforms rational advertising because we’re more likely to remember something when it is linked to a feeling or emotion. In other words, we remember the ads that make us laugh or cry. When an advertiser pulls at our heartstrings, research shows we’re more likely to retain the ad or brand in our head for a long time.

CMO Club — Wow, fascinating. Tell us something that not many people know about you?

Paul d’Arcy — Every working day, between 11:30 AM and 1:00 PM, I run. No matter what’s happening or what I have to do, I put on my running shoes and I head out of the office to run. I’m introverted, so I can get stressed-out and overwhelmed. Running is time for myself to think. It gets me out of that pattern of meeting after meeting after meeting that comes with senior roles. I always feel better afterward. I love it. It’s often the highlight of my day.

Paul running up Montagne Sainte-Victoire in Provence.

CMO Club — If you could go back and give your 22-year-old self some sage advice, what would that advice be?

Paul D’Arcy — First is to figure out the things that make you happy. It doesn’t take all that much to become an expert in almost anything. There’s so much information out there now. Just being able to spend time reading, doing research, and finding out what the experts have to say about things, it’s so easy to get there, to invest in that right now.

CMO Club — Do you think a CMO like yourself can have a positive impact on society, change a life, make the world just a little bit better for people? 

Paul D’Arcy — I think it’s essential that CMOs make the world a better place. When we have a choice, we need to choose roles that have a good impact on the world. We can choose to work for evil or good. I choose good.  Any change that makes the world better or any idea that makes the world better is important. It doesn’t happen automatically. It takes telling the right stories and communicating in the right way. In short, it takes marketing to make the world a better place. CMOs are uniquely positioned to help push the world forward. That’s what I believe.

Paul is leading a CMO Club Virtual Roundtable on “The Science of Revenue” on Wednesday, August 28th.  Get more details and register here.