What CMOs Want in Candidates -- but Don't Get

Epsilon Survey Finds That Nearly 40% Are Dissatisfied With Applicants for Marketing Jobs

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- If you are going after a marketing position, you might stand a better chance of landing the job if you emphasize your creative-thinking and leadership skills.

At least, that's what you could take away from an Epsilon survey out yesterday, which found that nearly 40% of chief marketing officers are dissatisfied with the availability of qualified candidates for marketing positions -- and are actively looking for candidates who think creatively, provide good leadership and inspiration, and can complete projects efficiently, among other strengths.

"It's very hard to find people who can think outside of the box, for lack of a better word," said Steve Cone, CMO of Epsilon, a marketing-services firm. "This survey points out that many CMOs recognize it and are frustrated by it."

Marketing executives from 180 leading U.S. brands participated in the online survey, conducted last October.

'Kind of surprising'
Bob Thacker, senior VP-marketing and advertising at OfficeMax, who did not participate in the survey, said he found Epsilon's findings puzzling, particularly in this economic climate. "I find [the 40%] kind of surprising, because the pool is so wide and so deep," he said.

Mr. Thacker said he has not experienced a dearth in talent in the past three years. He put the onus on dissatisfied CMOs, questioning whether they were looking at the right candidates. "Part of it is the hiring process," he said. "If you're really not getting to know who the candidate is, you're probably setting yourself up to be disappointed."

Limited Brands President-CMO Ed Razek said he does not think the talent pool is to blame either. Rather, he said managers might not be cultivating current talent most effectively. "I have a strong belief that people at every level of the business want to do well and just want to know what to do," Mr. Razek said. "They just want direction."

"In Japan, when the work is bad, they fire the leader, not the underlings," he added. "I think it's a pretty good philosophy."

Specific skills
Still, Mr. Cone said he has noticed in the past year that Epsilon applicants "all kind of blend together." Few have made compelling cases for what specific skills they brought to the table and why they should be hired, he said. His advice to hopeful candidates at all levels: Offer proof of good writing skills, with language that is "sharp, clear and concise." He added that "making sure your message is consistent" is one of the fundamentals of marketing.

Epsilon's study also assessed CMOs' satisfaction levels with their advertising agencies of record. Only 9% of CMOs said their agencies "exceeded expectations" on price, and 12% said the same of their return on investment.

"I don't think ad agencies do a good job today of teaching the fundamentals," Mr. Cone said. "Training isn't as sharp as it used to be."

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