James Parsons is the founder and CEO of Content Powered, a content creation company. He’s been a content marketer for over 10 years and writes for Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, and many other publications on blogging and website strategy.
50+ Questions to Ask a Content Marketer in an Interview
When you want to succeed online, you need a blog. When you want to run a blog, you need a content marketer to manage it. When you’re in the market for a content marketer, you need to know what to ask them when you interview them to make sure you’re getting one who knows what they’re doing.
What I’ve done here is put together a list of over 50 interview questions you can consider asking of your content marketer candidates. I’ve divided them into a few categories, and you should generally only pick a handful from each category. Trying to get through 50+ questions in a single interview is far too much, for you and the candidate.
Part 1 of 5: Questions About Content Marketing
This first batch of questions primarily focuses on content marketing. What does the candidate think about content marketing, how do they go about it, and what is their personal experience with it?
1. What topics do you specialize in? Some writers prefer certain topics over others or have plenty of experience with a specific kind of content. Ideally, they will specialize in your organization’s primary topic, of course.
2. What topics do you refuse to write about? Some writers don’t want to write about some topics. I know people who won’t write about finances or medical topics because of their inexperience. I know many who refuse to write about alternative health for morality reasons. Make sure you know their lines, and if your business would cross them.
3. Tell us about a time you put extra effort into the quality of your content. You want to hear a story about going above and beyond, here.
4. What is your typical process for editing and proofreading content? A good writer goes through their content with a fine-toothed comb, using tools and techniques to make sure their content is top-notch.
5. What tools do you typically use as part of your process? They’ll tell you about a word processor for sure, but you also want to hear about things like Grammarly, and even keyword research and other associated marketing tools as well.
6. What types of content are you used to creating? I mostly write blog posts, for example, but I also create infographics, and have never done a video myself. What skills does your marketer have?
7. How do you approach a topic you haven’t looked into before? This should tell you how they research topics that are new to them, which they will probably encounter quite frequently if they aren’t an expert in your subject already.
8. How do you verify the quality of a source of information? You want to know how they handle the fact that fake news and poorly sourced information can rank well in Google searches, and how they separate good sources from bad.
9. What do you explicitly not do, or need someone else to help you do? If your content marketer does the ideation, meta information, editorial functions, and writing, but needs a team member for images, video, or the bulk of the writing, will they fit with your team and company? Will they need a freelancer budget or a team member you also need to hire?
10. What is the most important aspect of the content you produce? There’s no right answer here; what do they prioritize? Is it the writing, the meta information, the topic choice, or something else?
11. How do you determine the style, voice, and tone of your content? Any answer is good here, so long as they have an answer (unless it clearly goes against what you want for your company).
12. Do you focus on sales, education, instruction, or other type of content? A writer used to writing sales copy might not be great for a more educational blog, for example.
13. How do you handle topic ideation and keyword research? A content marketer does more than just writing, and you need to know how they do the other stuff that makes their job a success.
14. What makes a piece of content successful? Is it readers, is it sales, is it social shares, is it something else? What do they prefer, and what does your company want most?
15. How do you determine if a piece of content is successful? With the above question answered, how do they measure those metrics? Are they used to a proprietary tool, Google analytics, or something else?
16. How would you go about writing content on a topic that already has excellent content about it online? How do they deal with competition?
17. Explain to us how Google ranks content, please. You want to make sure they have a working knowledge of how to work within Google’s algorithm.
18. How would you go about creating a piece of video content? Video is increasingly popular on the web, so having a content marketer who can make it is a huge asset.
Part 2 of 5: Questions About Collaboration
A good content marketer is part of a team larger than themselves. Even a rockstar marketer can’t handle an entire company blog on their own, they’d burn out. These questions ask how a candidate works with a team.
19. Do you usually work solo or with a team? Solo marketers can work fine for small businesses, but the pressures of a large company might mean they require a team to get everything done.
20. Do you have experience managing a team? If your new hire is going to have a team working for them, experience managing a team like this is important.
21. Who is on your current team and what roles do they fill? If they have a team, asking them what their team members do gives you a good idea of how they work.
22. How much supervision do you usually expect? Some blog managers have direct and daily contact with their superiors, while others only deliver monthly status updates. Where do they fall?
23. How do you handle feedback about your content from a supervisor? Most will be deferential, though some might stand up for themselves and cite data for their decisions.
24. How do you handle feedback about your content from a customer? Do they take the “customer is always right” attitude, or do they defend themselves there too?
25. What would you do in your first week on the job? Know what answer you want here. Do you want them to take over immediately, spend time getting to know your existing processes, or start from scratch?
26. How would you work with a teammate who has different ideas of what needs to be done? Collaborating with someone with different views is one of the primary challenges of working on a team.
Part 3 of 5: Questions About Work History
This set of questions focuses on past experiences with both company fit and with content marketing. Understand that many freelancers have NDAs or ghostwrote a lot of their content, so they might not have their best examples on hand, but they should have something to show for their efforts.
27. What companies have you worked for in the past as a content marketer? Most of the time you won’t recognize them, but you can look them up later. Check to see how their content marketing looks when you do.
28. What performance statistics can you boast in your role? Did they increase sales by a given percent? Did they boost traffic? How did they do?
29. What is your definition of content marketing? You want to know what they consider part of content marketing and, thus, their purview.
30. How do you think your past clients could do content marketing better? Not to say anything bad about their past employers, but to point out ways they recognize that they could have done better, given free rein.
31. In what way do you think your past clients excelled in content marketing? The inverse of the previous question. If they know their past clients did something right, they should be able to speak on it.
32. Have you had a client ask for revisions, and how did you handle them? Being able to handle minor or major revisions to a piece is part and parcel of being a marketer with a boss.
33. Have you had content rejected, and what did you do? Rejection is part of the job, but you want to know if they’re likely to fight a rejection or accept it and use the content elsewhere.
34. What is the piece of content you’re most proud of creating in the past? Portfolio pieces can give a lot of insight into a candidates talent, and can show you what the best they have to offer looks like.
35. What is the piece of content you’re least proud of, and why? Sometimes a marketer will publish something they didn’t like. Does it still exist, and why is it bad? How bad is it?
Part 4 of 5: Questions About Culture Fit
Even if your content marketing team is somewhat divorced from other teams in your organization, it’s still a team, and it’s still part of your company. This is why you want to make sure that your new hire fits in with the culture of your company.
36. What is an example of a time you went above and beyond expectations? This can show you how ambitious a marketer is when they have a glimmer of success in their eyes.
37. Describe a time you received praise from your client or employer. Did they seem to let the praise go to their head? Did they feel they deserved it?
38. Describe a time you underperformed, and how you handled it. Everyone has a bad day. Did they take it in stride, or did they turn it into a bad week?
39. What was a low point during your last job, and how did you handle it? A low point is not necessarily their own fault; what did they experience and how did they work past it?
40. Describe a time you disagreed with your client/manager, and how you handled it. Disagreements can be common and perfectly acceptable if they’re handled properly.
41. Do you enjoy content creation? Anyone who says they love it is worth some skepticism, but some genuine enjoyment isn’t a bad thing.
42. How would you react if a major project has an issue? Some people let a bad project be water under the bridge, while others spiral down with it.
43. What industry-relevant blogs do you follow? Look for specific blog names, and look for blogs you might not have thought of before. Anyone can just say Moz or CMI, even if they don’t read blogs.
44. Looking at our blog as it stands today, what is its biggest flaw? You’re looking for someone who has a unique perspective and a critical eye. If they don’t have an answer, did they not look at the blog they’d be running?
45. Looking at our blog as it stands today, what is its best quality? Same as the above question, really, just from the other side.
Part 5 of 5: Questions About Test Assignments
I like to give content marketers a test or two as part of an interview process. The best test is to give them a topic or a prompt and have them write a blog post for it. I like to choose a topic where I know at least one of the highly ranked resources on the subject is wrong, just to see if they fall for the trap.
46. Did past experiences inform the way you created this content? Hopefully, they’ve been able to leverage their experience, if not specific knowledge on the subject.
47. How difficult was it to put this content together for us? You’re looking for someone who judges the assignment fairly; neither too hard nor too easy.
48. How long did this assignment take you to complete? While the amount of time a blog post takes can vary, you want something reasonable.
49. What was the biggest challenge when completing this assignment? If you laid a “trap” for them, ideally, they will point it out.
50. If this were a real post, how would you promote it? Promotion is a huge part of successful content marketing, and this can show you their process.
51. How would you improve this piece of content? This is another related test. Offer them a piece of content you know is poorly written and see how they would make it better for your site.
Now, again, you won’t be asking all of these in a single interview. This set of questions should give you an idea of what you want to ask, and you can certainly ask other questions besides.
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