Content Marketing Interview Questions

As expected with the growth of content marketing, and the investment in content marketing (71 percent of companies are increasing budgets according to one survey), more companies are opening up content positions in their departments. I’ve put together some key interview questions that you as an employer should ask, or you as a candidate should be able to answer while interviewing for these positions.

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Growth in Content Marketing Jobs

In the past year, there has been an uptick in content marketing related positions available at all levels right from interns to executives. Based on perusal of available openings on job boards, the most common titles include:

  • Content Marketing Specialist
  • Content Marketing Manager
  • Content Marketing Strategist
  • Content Marketing Intern
  • Vice President of Content Marketing
  • Chief Content Officer (rare)
  • Content Marketing Associate

This is further validated looking at job trends on Indeed.com, where the inclusion of “content marketing” in job descriptions has skyrocketed 7,000% in recent years.

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Must Ask Content Marketing Interview Questions

Below are some of the must ask interview questions for any content marketing position. You may notice that the questions are low level, and tactical, rather than strategic in nature — and more appropriate for a content marketing specialist than a Vice President of Content Marketing.

But my philosophy is that in order to run a content team, you need to know how to perform the duties of team you manage, and perform them well. So, I would ask even senior level hires these same questions.

What makes content “successful”?

Why it’s important to ask this: In order to create good, actually great, content, you have to know how to discern what content is doing well in the first place.

What to look out for: There are many answers to this question — so this helps tease out what type of content marketer the candidate is. Here are some possible answers:

  • “Traffic”
  • “Repeat visitors”
  • “Retweets and likes”
  • “Search engine ranking”
  • “Comments”
  • “Leads and sales”
  • “It depends”

The more they name off and can sensibly explain the importance of, the better.

Walk me through how you create a blog post.

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Why it’s important to ask this: This is a good question to tease out parts of the content lifecycle about which the candidate is familiar. Do they only have experience with copywriting, or can they come up with blog ideas themselves? Do they stop at writing the blog post, or do they keep promotion on social media in mind as well?

What to look out for: You should look for a response that captures the whole process right from start to finish from ideation to production to distribution to analytics. A great answer will include specific tools and details. Here’s an example of great and mediocre responses.

Ideation

  • Mediocre Responses:
    • My manager tells me what I should write about, and gives me an outline.
    • I look at what’s trending and pick an interesting topic.
  • Great Responses:
    • I keep a backlog of keywords that people are searching for in Google that related to my target topic, and create posts based on the backlog.
    • I set up Google News alerts and a feed reader to look at what topics are trending in the news that relate to my topic area. I come up with spins of those topics to try to newsjack those stories.
    • I regularly ask the sales team what questions their prospects are asking them and use that for fodder for my next post.

Production

  • Mediocre Responses:
    • I write my blog post in Word and then post it when it’s ready.
  • Great Responses:
    • I write my blog post in in Word, add hyperlinks to at least three other pieces of content on our site that we’ve published previously, and add at least one hyperlink to a third party resource.
    • I then ensure that there’s an associated featured image for the post by going to a stock image site.
    • I always make sure there’s a clear call to action at the end of each post.
    • For quality control, I make sure at least one other person has proofread it before publishing.
    • I also optimize the title for a target keyword by looking at what terms people are searching for in Google.

Distribution & Promotion

  • Mediocre Responses:
    • I publish my content on WordPress, and then tweet it out as well.
  • Great Responses:
    • I publish the post on our blog using WordPress.
    • I then schedule a minimum of four tweets at different times of the day on Twitter in HootSuite.
    • I email coworkers to retweet and share my post as well.

Analytics

  • Mediocre Response:
    • Usually, I just know if it’s done well or not.
  • Great Response:
    • I look at Google Analytics after a few days to see how many page views it has received.
    • I search on Google for the target keyword I was optimizing for to see if it ranked in the first page.
    • I look at the Twitter counter on the blog post to see how many tweets cite this post.

What content marketing blogs do you read?

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Why it’s important to ask this: Is the candidate really interested in content marketing? Do they take personal initiative to educate themselves and grow as a content marketer? Or will they only grow solely through your mentorship on the job?

What to look out for: See if they mention specific blogs. If they just say, “you know, all of them” or the usual ones, then they are likely not reading any.

How does Google rank content?

Why it’s important to ask this: I am always surprised by how few marketers of all levels understand how Google really ranks content. Though you’re not interviewing for an SEO position, content marketing is intrinsically tied to search engine optimization — so it’s good to know the basics when creating content.

What to look for: You’re not looking for the candidate to know the PageRank formula, but rather the basic premise behind Google’s ranking algorithm along with other auxiliary factors that help with SEO.

For example, many naive marketers think that Google ranks content largely on meta tags and keyword stuffing. In reality, Google primarily ranks content on inbound links, and the authority of the sites with those links. It’s a bonus if a candidate can mention other contributing factors such as the text of the hyperlink, the title tag, keywords in the URL, among others.

What are some good ways to get other people to link to your content?

Why it’s important to ask this: The candidate may understand that Google ranks content based on inbound links, but it’s also important that they know how to accumulate inbound links.

What to look for: A good content marketer knows how to get links by producing great link worthy content, and promoting it in a clever manner. Here are some good responses to the questions:

  • I interview influencers, not only because they have good things to say, but because they will promote the resulting content to their large audiences as well — and some of those people will end up linking back to my interview.

  • I include content that others can reuse. For example, I may create an quick infographic that other bloggers may want to curate or include in their own posts, with a link back to mine.

  • I write long form content so that I have the most comprehensive and authoritative post particular subject, which tempts others to link to me as the reference source.

Take Home Assignment: Produce an original writing sample

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Why it’s important to ask this: Many candidates may come in with writing samples from the past, but they may not accurately reflect the candidate’s capabilities. For example, the sample may have been proofed by a manager. Furthermore, it doesn’t accurately assess whether the candidate can create content that relates to your specific industry and topics.

What to look for: I typically ask candidates to download one of our eBooks, and to summarize them in a 400 word blog post to bring into the second round interview.  Things I look for from the resulting sample are:

  • Grammar, spelling and attention to detail. Did they care enough about the job to proofread the post?

  • Title of the post.  Did they come up with a creative title for the post? Is it SEO optimized? Or did they just copy the title of the eBook?

  • Call to Action. Did they include a call to action to the full eBook at the end of the post?

  • Paragraphs and structure. Is the post quickly skimmable? Or is it a wall of words?

Similar to interviews for other positions, where candidates are asked riddles, the candidate may not use these skills every day on the job, but all of the above questions help tease out if they are cut out to be a well rounded content marketer.

The Interview: Where to go from here

Given that they have made it through all of the above questions with flying colors, that does not necessarily mean it’s a fit. It’s important to screen for cultural fit, and to make sure they have a good work ethic.

If they are a strong candidate, on these fronts, then as a hiring manager, it’s your turn to answer some of the candidates questions: Why should they work at your company? Why is your vision for content marketing so different than any other marketing department out there?

Employers: What do you think?

Since being a professional “content marketer” is a relatively new thing, I would love to hear what types of questions you have found are effective. Please let me know in the comments below.

Candidates: Come Work at Curata

If you think you are cut out to be a content marketer, come work at Curata. There’s no better place to be a content marketer than a company that serves content marketing departments of all sizes big and small. Check out our openings here.

I look forward to meeting you and grilling you on the above questions (though you now know the answers that I’m looking for).

pawan@curata.com'

Pawan Deshpande is the founder and CEO of Curata. Pawan is responsible for the company's vision, management and advanced development initiatives. His work at Curata has been recognized through the 2010 Boston Business Journal's 40 under 40 Award, and through the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council's 2012 Sales & Marketing Technology of the Year Award. Pawan has held software engineering positions at Microsoft, Google and other startups where he was awarded patents in social networking and machine transliteration areas.

  • Dale Hansman

    Pawan, this is excellent for organizations looking to hire their first content marketing employee(s). It also serves as a smart checklist for those seeking qualified freelancers and consultants. And for those content marketing consultants, it’s a handy reminder of the kinds of questions to expect from discerning clients. This one’s a keeper. Thank you!

    • Pawan Deshpande

      Thanks for the kind words, Dale. I haven’t found many compilations of interview questions for content marketing positions. If there are other questions, that you have asked in the past, please do let me know — I am happy to add them to the post (with attribution, of course)

  • michaelbrenner

    Hi Pawan, great overview! I’m not sure I’d survive an interview with you, man! ;-)

    I also ask the candidates if they like to / want to write or if they see it as a chore. And one of my favorite questions is to ask for their view on how to use social media to push content that isn’t about what they ate for lunch.

    • Pawan Deshpande

      That’s great. Another way I like asking that (independent of the position) is what activities do you like to do and what activities do you want to avoid? I find that candidates often think a lot about what they want and like to do, but not what they dislike.

  • Bschwartz88

    These are great candidate questions to understand SEO and industry knowledge. As an interviewer, I want to learn about how he/she ensures that the overall content strategy is in alignment with organizational business goals and beneficial to key
    audiences. I like to hear their thoughts on how they can sustain a blog over time. Aside from numbers, what difference has their content made to their organization?

    As we know, content consumption habits are evolving and varied. I want to understand their thoughts about integrating audio and video into their posts as well as images. What do they believe is the proper mix of text, audio, video and images in a blog?

    Lastly, I wholeheartedly endorse the idea of giving candidates the opportunity to create content as part of the process. It shows you how they think and how much
    research they have done about your company. It can give you a sense about how much they care about the position. In some cases, the results of what they create can yield more insight about their potential fit is than less relevant writing samples.

    • Pawan Deshpande

      Thanks for the feedback. Yes, my line of questioning is highly text focused but multimedia makes sense as well.

  • Ed Ralph

    This is an example of good content marketing disguised as interview tips. In this case the objective is to put content out there that attracts potential and highly relevant job candidates and get them to work at Curata – sneaky Pawan!

    • Pawan Deshpande

      The only problem is that any candidate who reads this first will probably ace the interview. ;-)

      • Ed Ralph

        Ahh, yes, but the really clever ones will overlook their offer and come and seek you out. I’ve got to try this technique :)