What's arguably the hardest part of content marketing? Ironically enough, it's creating content. Not only is it a lot of work, but there's all the supporting content, such as landing pages, meta descriptions, social lead-ins, CTAs and promotional emails that accompany it. If you don’t have the right team in place that is committed to following a dedicated content creation strategy, you won’t be successful—plain and simple.
Because traditional marketing strategies didn’t put much emphasis on original material, businesses didn’t feel required to keep a dedicated writer on staff. As strategies shift to providing original content, one of their biggest challenges is the lack of qualified and talented copywriters. We’re not just talking about finding people who can write; we’re talking about finding people who can create content that specifically drives your audience to convert on your offers.
Whether you’re looking to create content in-house or through a third-party (e.g., a marketing agency, freelance writer, etc.), you need to make sure you’re choosing the right candidate. Ordinary content won’t help you stand out from the competition, so it’s important that your copywriters are anything but mediocre. To help you hire the perfect copywriting candidate for your content creation team, here are 10 questions you should ask during the interview process:
1. “What can you tell me about our company?”
Though this might seem 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 will also give you clues on what type of writer they are. You’ll want an inquisitive writer who conducts backgrounding and research before submitting any work, and this is a great way to see how thorough they are. You can also take this time to measure their copywriting proficiency. Ask them how they would describe your brand’s tone/voice, and also ask them who they think your target audience is. This should help you wean out the clueless writers from the ones who really know their stuff.
2. “What’s the difference between a _______ and a ________ ?”
To find out if your candidate is familiar with your industry’s specific lingo and language, ask them questions about some specific industry terms. You can’t be considered a thought leader if you don’t know what you’re talking about, so it’s important that your writers have a firm grasp on the subject matter at hand.
3. “Are you familiar with ___________’s blog/website?”
Ask how familiar the candidate is with some of the popular publications and authors within your industry. Not only will this let you know if he or she stays up-to-date on the latest industry happenings, but you can also use it as a benchmark to explain the style and quality of content you expect to create.
4. “What are some ways you optimize your content for SEO?”
Just like it’s important for copywriters to know what they’re talking about, it’s also important that they know how to say it. 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 experience using them never hurts.
5. “Have you worked under tight deadlines?"
When it comes to maintaining 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. Ask them if 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?”
Because you already have a specific 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.
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 he or she has written for, do they all sound the same? Or was the writing style adapted to accomodate 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, and give them a couple days to complete it. That will give them time to research your topic and 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? Their writing assignment may reveal more about him or her than a portfolio full of previously written works.
9. “Have you worked on a writing team before?”
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. 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 worked with before?”
In order to determine whether or not your candidate will be able to create all the different types of content for your company (e.g., blogs, emails, landing pages, etc.), you should figure out what kind of content creation experience they’ve had in the past. If they’ve already written hundreds of blogs, you know you can trust them to write one for you. Ask for a portfolio to see examples of their previous work.
With more and more companies adopting content marketing strategies, the demand for copywriters is higher than it’s ever been. Unfortunately, for the companies in need of those services, not all copywriters are created equal. In order to make sure you’re hiring the perfect candidate for your content marketing team, always ask these 10 questions during the interview process. Not only will they help you find the person with the best technical writing abilities, but also the one that best understands your business’ specific needs and personas.
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.