Software CMO Recruitment: What’s the Secret to Success?

Software CMO Recruitment

Sally O’Sullivan

Like anything worthwhile, the secret to successful software CMO recruitment takes time, hard work and creativity. Whether you’re a Technology Marketing Director or at a similar Head Of level, chances are you aspire to one day make that final step up to Chief Marketing Officer – where Michael Gambon welcomes you to the Layer Cake as you take your seat at the C-Suite.

Most of those that have made that successful final switch will agree on one thing: it’s sometimes an awfully hard thing to do!  The reasons are numerous, but generally revolve around the same chicken and egg scenario faced at entry level by graduates needing experience.

Marketing Moves has talked to several CMOs who we’ve recently placed and asked for their best pieces of advice that got them to where they are now. We’d also be delighted to hear yours via the comments box below. So in no particular order, here are five things you can do to help you make that Quantum Leap home:

1. Challenge Your CEO.

Often the best way to make the transition from Marketing Director to your first CMO position is to do it in-house, although this can take longer than a simple switch to another company. CEOs are usually frustrated / aspiring marketers, taking a far more hands-on role with Creative than say Finance or HR. This often leads to Marketing Directors simply becoming yes-men and women, delivering a plan rather than creating it. Instead, rather than get frustrated or attempt to contain the input, embrace it. Create a plan that goes outside the CEO’s comfort zone, something that the company hasn’t done before. It’s almost academic whether it gets approval, you are simply keeping the company at the cutting edge of marketing.

2. Read Your Job Description / Annual Review Framework

Most companies will grade employees on a regular basis against pre-agreed benchmarks. It’s a tick box exercise, but it’s important to ensure you have at least one activity at the highest level. This shouldn’t be in your job description – so that consistently at review time you are exceeding expectations. In an ideal world, this future-CMO behaviour will not go unnoticed.

3. Educate Yourself

Most tech firms will expect their top-ranking marketer to have at least a diploma or degree in marketing. Or anything else up to an MBA. The beauty here is that these same companies will pay for your studies outside of work as it directly benefits them. So if they’re paying for a qualification that will help you become a CMO, the chances are they’ll create that position for you too.

4. Tell Your Boss

This might seem blindingly obvious, but people often change jobs without telling their current firm why they’re unhappy. This often leads to promotions and counter-offers when they hand their notice in, and even if they end up staying these kind of wounds are often impossible to heal. Instead, at a time like an annual review, interview or informal career chat, you should be asking what career progress looks like across levels and time-scales, and ensure you clearly communicate your own goals. If you hold up your end of the bargain – be it revenue or metrics – then everyone knows where they stand.

5. Sort Your Linkedin

If none of the above works, then changing companies is the quickest way to successful software CMO recruitment. However, when Tech and Software firms come to Marketing Moves for their first or next CMO hire, they often stipulate that the candidate must already have CMO experience. This means that proactive recruitment (Executive Search) will be focusing on keywords such as CMO rather than say Marketing Director. In order to get around this, ensure that your bio in your Linkedin summary section has CMO in it. This will mean you come up in a search if it’s not already in your job title. If your summary goes on to detail the same role and responsibility as a CMO – albeit it at a lower level – you’ll absolutely increase your chances of being that ‘wild card’ candidate who often gets the job.


We hope you’ve found our short guide to software CMO recruitment of interest. As before do please give your best advice to others reading this before they make the transition. It’s always important to remember that there are no right answers to becoming a CMO. All you can do it test and measure – just like marketing!


Sally O’Sullivan

To discuss in confidence how Sally and Marketing Moves can support your organisation’s growth, please contact Sally by any of the means below:

+44 (0) 1932 253 352
+44 (0) 7976 488 303

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