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Executive hiring for any role is a multifaceted process; involving collaboration with the Executive Talent team, engagement with specialized executive search firms, gathering insights from existing team members to shape the ideal candidate profile, and running a series of rigorous interviews.

A comprehensive hiring process will help pinpoint the critical skills and competencies for the role, while also ensuring all stakeholders are in alignment when evaluating these attributes. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the company is selecting the right hire and that they have the right toolkit to make a true impact on the team.

When to Hire a Marketing Executive

Determining the right time to hire an executive should be a collaborative effort across the team. Start by outlining current marketing pain points/ bottlenecks and what challenges the team is hoping to solve with a new hire. Additionally, there should be meaningful dialogues with board members about the benefits of professionalizing the company's marketing operations. What will this mean for the company in both the short and long term and how will this leader drive impact.

How You’ll Work with the Exec Talent Team

To begin the hiring process, reach out to Lightspeed's Exec Talent team ( to help develop your ideal candidate profile and hiring game plan. You’ll work with the exec team in the following ways:

Company Intake

Determine what your company hopes to achieve with the executive hire.

Game Plan

Develop a strategic plan to execute the hiring process.

2-Week Candidate Calibration Process

A two-week process that involves spending 30 minutes to 1 hour with professionals within the Lightspeed network to help determine and refine the type of candidate you want to hire. 

Introduce Search Firm

Once the game plan has been finalized, an executive search firm is introduced to support the hiring process.

Meeting with Finalists

After you meet with certain finalists and would like to make an offer, the Exec Talent team will also meet with the finalists and help try to get them over the finish line. The Exec team will discuss what they love about the company and the team, and help work out an offer with the firm and company. If the executive is particularly at a high level, the Exec Talent team can also help the candidate meet with another board member as well as help with guidance around compensation.  

General Guidance Around Candidates

Note, if the candidate chosen leaves the role in 6-7 months, typically, the search firm is obligated to conduct another search for free. In order to ensure this process works for all, the Executive Talent team will support and give a Lightspeed perspective on particular candidates to help streamline the process.

How You'll Work with an Executive Search Team 

You’ll work with an executive search team to design a streamlined interview process. The exec search firm works with talent partners, talent teams on the VC side, and within their network to better understand your needs for the role and ensure your interview process goes smoothly. Here are some key steps: 


They'll assess the current state of your business, what’s missing functionally, and determine the urgency of the need for the role

Game Plan

They’ll create a game plan on where the ideal candidate sits today by building a target list of companies and canvassing the market to get to know as many people as possible within their network. 

Weekly Update Calls

The search firm will provide weekly updates, which will cover what they have heard in the market, candidates in progress (why they like or dislike them), and potential candidates to explore. The Executive Talent team will sit in on these calls to provide additional guidance and context, as they may have a particular perspective about certain candidates who may be in their network.

Candidate Evaluation Process

When evaluating candidates, it's common to want to orient the search around executives who have taken a company public. While this can be particularly helpful for companies who are approaching a public event in the next couple of years, most companies will benefit from prioritizing earlier stage experience.

Identify candidates who can come in with a strong game plan and confidence around where to take the function and how they will execute on said plan quickly. It's important to note that very successful executives with a proven track record may not be willing to "start over" at an early-stage startup. This doesn't mean you have to settle for less, it just means you need to have a laser focus on the ideal profile. What are the essential qualities and deliverables needed to accomplish our business objectives over the next 2-8 quarters?

Once you have narrowed down your profile, the next step is to develop a scorecard that you can measure every candidate against during your interview process. 

Challenges and Pitfalls

Navigating the hiring process for key executive roles comes with its share of challenges and potential pitfalls. Alining stakeholders, preparing non-technical interviews, and conducting backchannel references are 3 critical considerations.

Aligning All Stakeholders 

​​Anyone who works with the function or should have a say in the search should be aligned on what is needed and how to evaluate candidates. 

For example,  if it's a Head of Marketing search, the Head of Sales needs to be involved since they require to know what to expect from their marketing partner. Similarly, someone in Product may state that they have many features, but the previous Head of Marketing did not highlight any of them. This means that the customer base did not comprehend the product's value, leading to the need for someone who can help with product marketing. Additionally, because the executive search firm is only hearing from the founder on what they're looking for, they may identify candidates that appeal to the founder but not to other stakeholders like board members and other functional leads.

While the Executive Talent team can help align these competencies to better achieve a successful hire, it's essential to ensure that everyone is in lockstep throughout the process. You can also use a scorecard to align on those core skills and deliverables.

Preparing for Non-Technical Interviews

Founders are often very technical and may have limited experience in hiring executives for non-technical roles, such as sales or marketing. As a result, you should work with the Exec Talent team to prepare on how to conduct interviews for these roles, which require a different approach than interviewing more technical IC roles. 

Additionally,  to avoid getting distracted during interviews and asking irrelevant questions or wanting more splashy candidates that may not be a great fit for the day-to-day tasks of the role, stakeholders should ask specific questions related to the candidate's previous roles, success metrics, and team management.

Conducting More Backchannel References

You should also conduct backchannel references to ensure the candidate is a good fit. This will provide more insights into the candidate, what they actually owned, and how well they would work on the team. 


When it comes to compensation, the most important factor to consider is if the candidate is leaning in; if they're truly excited about the role. If they haven't bought into the vision, then your offer may not be enough. 

You may also want to consider how urgent the role is. The urgency may dictate offering a higher compensation if they can 10x their value. Ultimately, it's important to be proactive in the hiring process, so you can give yourself and your company the best chance of securing the right candidate. 

Assessing New Hires

It can be challenging to determine if you made the right hiring decision. Sometimes, the new hire can be doing exceptionally well in the core competencies you outlined during the interview process, but because your company pivoted, the role itself may not be aligned with new company goals. On the other hand, the hire may also be achieving their metrics but may not be a good cultural fit, which may not be worth keeping them on board.

Success in a role also depends on the environment surrounding a hire. In the case of marketing, missing GTM targets may be indicative of something of it may be with a particular sales leader. In this case, the marketing hire will also miss their metrics. 

Ultimately, it's essential to have a consistent way of measuring success with a new hire but also be flexible when evaluating whether the hire is a good fit. 

Marketing Executive Criteria

The Head of Marketing is responsible for creating the language to represent the product, coordinating with sales, and ensuring that the messaging is consistent across all public touchpoints; it’s a crucial role to get right.

What to Look For in a Head of Marketing

Marketing involves several focus areas, each with a unique function. Here are the main 4 areas: 

Product Marketing

One key area is content creation and development, including creating consistent public marketing materials and internal documents. Another important aspect is competitive intelligence, which involves understanding and researching competitive products and positioning in order to inform the company’s own marketing strategy. User persona and segmentation and developing sales enablement materials are also crucial. 

Marketing Ops

Focuses on gathering and analyzing data from various marketing programs, understanding how content is performing and which strategies are most effective. 

Demand Generation

Includes funnel optimization, digital marketing, and lead generation. The aim is to identify the best possible leads and engage with them in various ways to see if the product resonates with them. 


Designing the marketing materials so that they’re visually appealing and attractive to customers. Hiring a designer can be helpful in removing some of the bottlenecks in getting content to customers. 

Your First Marketing Hire Should Focus On the Following

Producing Consistent Messaging

Ensure that there’s no discrepancy in how the product is being communicated and the value it offers. Creating consistent marketing materials to reflect that.

Testing Messaging

Testing product communication so you’re ensuring the messaging resonates with customers, allowing for constant iterations and a tight feedback loop between marketing and product development.  

Understanding the Product

Additionally, the Head of Marketing must have a deep understanding of the product and its capabilities, translating technical information into language that potential customers can easily understand. This ensures that Sales is equipped with the proper messaging and collateral to effectively sell the product and that customers are not deterred by a lack of understanding. 

A product marketer is likely the best person for this role in the early stages. 

How Marketing and Sales Work Together

The Head of Marketing should be in lockstep with the Head of Sales from Day 1. For example, for a product-led growth company with a bottom-up motion, marketing is critical in getting people to the product and driving engagement. In this case, marketing can use different programs to incentivize users to upgrade their plans or invite others to use the product, resulting in more sales. Ultimately, the Head of Marketing in the early stages should be used to create an effective message that helps drive sales and ensure that customers understand the product’s value. 

How Will This Change as Your Company Grows? 

As your company grows, the marketing function will become more complex and will require more specialized roles. In the early stages, it’s essential that your Head of Marketing be a strong writer and effectively communicate consistent messaging to customers. 

As the company grows and revenue increases, demand generation will become more important. This involved creating marketing programs to drive traffic to the company’s content and see if there’s a strong conversion from the top of the funnel. Additionally, PR and comms will also become important. This involved building a platform for hosting events and webinars and coordinating with the press to promote the company. 

How Founders Can Help Their First Marketing Hire Succeed

Specificity is Good, But Make Sure You’re Outlining the Right Types of Specifics

Make sure your specifics are realistic, pertinent to the day-to-day tasks of the job, and measurable. If you lay out the 3-12 month roadmap of the function, what are they completing? You can start creating your specifics from there. 

Avoid the Splashy Hires

While it’s noteworthy to have a hire listed on TechCrunch, that’s not what you want to hunt for. The ultimate goal is to find someone that can do the job. And the only way to do that is to understand what the job is. 

Use a Hiring Scorecard

To help you look out for the core competencies involved in the role, use an executive scorecard. We’ve created a template for you below to help get you started. 


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