I currently am in charge of all the digital activity in our company and I’ve just gotten a really great offer. It’s more money, resources, and a better title—which means I’ll have the opportunity to really innovate. The only issue is, instead of reporting directly into the president I would be reporting into the CMO. I’m not sure what I should do. Any ideas? E.A., Providence, RI
Your question is a good one—can you conclude that the current reporting structure means that digital (or innovation in the digital space) is not a key priority? And does it indicate that even with a better title the job you’d be taking has less autonomy than the one you have?
When you’re changing positions it’s especially important to understand whether your objectives align with the objectives of your prospective employer. I’d start by doing the following due diligence.
Is this reporting structure common in the industry and among the companies you define as “innovative”? When you think about “really innovating,” do you believe a direct reporting relationship with the president is critical? What’s the reputation of both the current CMO and the president? Are they known as secure, good business people? Or are they easily threatened? What’s the reputation of the company—satisfied staffers or a political viper pit?
Your manager is critical to your happiness at work (because they control access to opportunities) so understanding what they’re about is important. You never know how long someone will remain in their position so you can’t place all the weight on this data point but it’s certainly important for the short term.
Once you have this information, have a conversation directly with the hiring manager—whether the data show that this reporting structure is common or not. If you’re working with a recruiter, this is a conversation you really want to have directly. Just say something like, “I have a few questions I’d like to clear up with them directly. I’ll fill you in once we close the loop.”
You want to make sure that you’ve raised the question regarding the importance of digital to the company’s strategy before you accept any offer. When you have them on the phone, reiterate how pleased you are with the offer. Mention that you have one outstanding concern that you want to clear up regarding the company’s digital strategy.
Start with what they told you, “I understand from our talks that digital is a key component of the company’s path forward. What concerns me is that unlike other companies in the industry, the digital offering rolls up under marketing, which automatically puts it within the framework of sales. I see digital as more than a sales channel and it concerns me that this structure reflects how digital is perceived.”
If they assure you that the reporting structure is insignificant, ask if they’ll revisit it at some point if it’s important to you. You may still want to take the position but you’ll have made your ultimate wish clear upfront and will have raised a potential issue for them to address. You’ll also have made them aware of your knowledge of the industry.