What's arguably the hardest part of content marketing? Ironically enough, it's creating content.
Finding good copywriters and storytellers is a major challenge facing organizations today. Hiring writers who can create high quality online content that compels readers to convert on offers can be an even greater challenge. They not only need to write great articles and blogs; there’s all the supporting content, too: landing pages, meta descriptions, social media lead-ins, web content, CTAs, promotional emails and more.
Whether you’re looking to create content in-house or through a third-party (e.g., a marketing agency, freelance copywriter, etc.), you need to make sure you’re choosing the right candidate for your copywriting position who can help grow your business — with content that is written for your best prospects’ needs and is SEO optimized so your site appears in search results.
Be sure to include these 10 interview questions for copywriters to help you hire the perfect candidate for your content creation team.
1. “What can you tell me about our company?”
Though this seems like a standard interview question, it’s especially important for copywriters. Not only will it help you gauge their interest in the position, but it gives clues on what type of writers they are. You’ll want an inquisitive writer who conducts backgrounding and research before submitting any work (or coming to an interview), and this is a great way to see how thorough they are.
Also take this time to measure their copywriting proficiency. Ask them how they would describe your brand’s tone/voice and who they think your target audience is. Also ask if the candidate noticed opportunities for improvement in your online content and see how they answer.
2. “What’s the difference between a _______ and a ________ ?”
Find out if your candidate is familiar with your industry’s specific lingo and language by asking questions about specific industry terms. It’s important that your writers have a firm grasp on the subject matter at hand, including your products or services.
Understand, however, that part of a writer’s job is to communicate your industry lingo and insider insights to those outside your industry who may not be familiar with various aspects, so don’t expect a writer to know the intricacies of complex processes or products. They should, however, show an ability and eagerness to learn.
3. “Are you familiar with ___________’s blog/website?”
Has your candidate taken time to become familiar with some popular publications and authors within your industry? Have they looked into who your competitors are and what kinds of online content they produce? Not only will this let you know if he or she stays up-to-date on the latest industry happenings, but you can use it as a benchmark to explain the style and quality of content you expect to create. Or, it may serve as a conversation starter to indicate what you want to avoid.
4. “What are some ways you optimize your content for SEO?”
Because your content will be primarily published online, you’ll want to hire someone who knows how to maximize SEO with the use of long-tail keywords, attention-getting headlines, meta descriptions, reputable links and image alt text. Of course, it won't be hard to teach a good writer how to do this, but understanding these practices and having SEO experience never hurts.
Inquire whether your candidate has used SEO tools to aid them in their efforts, such as SEMrush, Ubersuggest, Answer the Public, and others. And, having experience in using a content management system, such as HubSpot, is a bonus.
Lastly, great copywriters have the ability to take existing content and optimize it to make it the best it can be. Sometimes creating the perfect content isn’t just about writing something new, but improving something old.
5. “Have you worked under tight deadlines?"
To maintain a consistent content creation schedule, there will certainly be instances where your writers will be forced to meet a tight deadline. When that time comes, you need to know if your candidate will rise to the challenge or crumble under pressure. Explore how they’ve worked in high-pressure writing situations before, and ask about their approach to any writing tasks when faced with a deadline.
6. “Are you used to following specific instructions when writing?”
Assuming you already have an idea about the style and message of your content, it’s important that your copywriters are able to convey that message without any problems. If your candidates have experience taking direction, you know you can rely on them to create content that aligns with your campaign’s goals without having to make several rounds of revisions.
It’s equally important, however, to know your copywriter doesn’t need a lot of hand holding and can expand upon the direction you’ve given. They should be able to provide insights that readers will appreciate beyond what a subject matter expert may provide, for example. It’s important to give direction, but make sure your writer is a strategic thinker who can compose thought-provoking scenarios and convincing arguments.
7. “Can you write in someone else's voice?”
Some people are brilliant writers when expressing their own opinions or narrative. However, if you ask them to write for a specialized manufacturing facility, for example, they may struggle to alter their personal styles to fit the more technical perspectives required by the company. Ask to see samples of work your candidate has written and examine the voice and tone of the pieces.
If there are various clients or topics, do they all sound the same? Or was the writing style and tone adapted to accommodate how various clients wanted to come across?
8. “Will you complete a writing assignment?”
An interview with a potential copywriter is an audition. Don't be afraid to give them a writing assignment, but resist the urge to sit them down in front of a computer at your office to complete it in a half hour. Set a deadline in a couple days, allowing them to thoroughly research the topic. It will also give you an opportunity to see how well they grasp your industry and, more importantly, their technical skills and style.
Is their submission riddled with industry speak and jargon, poor grammar, or bad flow from one thought to the next? Does it contain relevant and current statistics from your industry’s thought leaders or online publications? A good candidate may even surprise you by submitting a piece that is optimized for SEO and contains keyword research and other strategic elements. Their writing assignment may reveal more than a portfolio full of previously written works ever could.
Of course, don’t expect to publish any work that’s submitted as part of the interview process without the candidate’s permission – it’s unethical to ask for free work that you then use to benefit your company. But, if it the content is that good, it’s a good indication that they’re the right one for the job!
9. “Have you worked on a writing team?”
When you work as a copywriter for a company, sometimes a project will pass through five different sets of hands before it’s ready for publication. When that’s the case, it’s important to hire a candidate who’s comfortable writing in a team environment and is willing and eager to receive constructive feedback.
Being a part of a team also involves contributing in other ways besides writing. Explore the candidate’s approach to brainstorming topic ideas and strategizing, and as situational questions to gauge how comfortable (or intimidated) they would feel interviewing a subject matter expert or your CEO when necessary.
Likewise, if you’re looking for a candidate that can shoulder the weight of the content creation duties alone, make sure he or she has prior experience being the sole lead/project manager.
10. “What types of content have you created?”
To determine whether your candidate is able to create all the different types of content for your company (e.g., blogs, emails, landing pages, video scripts, etc.), ask about what kind of content creation experience they have. If they’ve already written hundreds of blogs, you’ll likely be able to trust them to write one for you. Ask for a portfolio to see examples of their previous work.
With more companies adopting content marketing strategies, the demand for copywriters has grown, but not all copywriters are created equal. To make sure you’re hiring the perfect candidate for your content marketing team, always include these 10 copywriter questions during the interview process. Not only will they help you find the person with the best technical writing abilities, but also the one who best understands your business’ specific needs and the needs of your target personas.
Meanwhile, if you want to explore whether the team of highly skilled content creators at Weidert Group can help your business as part of an inbound marketing program, contact us. We’re here to help.
Posted by Tammy Borden Tammy Borden is a copywriter at Weidert Group. With a lengthy background in insurance marketing and nonprofits, Tammy has in-depth knowledge of digital content creation and writing for a variety of industries.