Now Hiring: CMOs Who Can Drive Transformation


The Wall Street Journal | June 8, 2020

The Wall Street Journal article, "Now Hiring: CMOs Who Can Drive Transformation," featured Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Norm Yustin​ on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the CMO search process. The article is excerpted below.

With travel bans and social distancing—not to mention economic disruption—the coronavirus pandemic has significantly changed executive recruitment. Some roles, such as the CEO, are considered essential, and many of those searches have continued apace. When it comes to the CMO, however, it depends on the company and the role itself, according to Korn Ferry Managing Director Caren Fleit, Russell Reynolds Managing Director Norm Yustin, and Spencer Stuart Consultant Richard Sanderson.

In the first Q&A of a two-part series, Fleit, Sanderson, and Yustin share their observations about how COVID-19 has affected the CMO search process.

Are CMO searches continuing as usual during the pandemic, or are you seeing them called off?​

Yustin: Companies that are essential versus nonessential are affected in quite different ways. Nonessential organizations, such as some retailers, may not be engaged in executive searches because they’re focused on bringing their organizations back on track. Conversely, some boards of nonessential organizations are taking the opposite approach and realizing they need the right CMO to guide them through the pandemic. Many essential organizations, meanwhile, have gone into overdrive and are trying to find capacity to serve the market. They are looking for customer-centric executives who are skilled in data analysis. Talent—whether it’s business as usual or the middle of a pandemic—is what will lead organizations through to the future.​​

​How has the pandemic changed the search process itself?​

Yustin: In some ways, interactions have become even more in depth and personal. In the typical, formal interview process, executives put on their fancy clothes, get on an airplane, and interview all day in an office. Now, candidates are interacting more frequently over video, often in their own homes and sometimes with their families or pets in the background. It brings a new level of intimacy to the conversations and promotes a greater understanding of the whole person.

Do you expect the search process to change in the long term, even after the crisis is over?

Yustin: Once we can resum​e travel, we may lean more on video conferencing to augment a search process. Frequent touchpoints by video—as we’re doing now—provide greater insight into what candidates are like beyond their business persona.​

To read the full article, click here.​

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Now Hiring: CMOs Who Can Drive Transformation