Own Your Interview: Nine Questions Every Content-Writing Candidate Needs to Ask
Apr 10, 2017
This article first appeared as a contributed post on MarketingProfs on March 28 2017.
To this day, I’m certain they didn’t see it coming.
Sitting in a conference room and interviewing for Centerline’s content-writer job, I walked three of my to-be colleagues through my resume. The conversation focused on my 10 years as a sports journalist, some of the memorable events I’d covered, and the people I’d interviewed. From there, we talked about my transition into content marketing for a global software company that sold IT management and security solutions to managed-service providers.
Then came my favorite question.
“Is there anything you want to ask us?” Adam Mittner, one of our executive studio directors, asked on behalf of the group.
I opened my notebook. My checklist of questions—the bulk of which were intended to help me get a better understanding of the job itself—were there for Adam and the others to see.
“This is great,” he said. “Fire away.”
Game on. It was my turn to interview Centerline.
Truthfully, that was my goal before even stepping foot in the building. And here’s why: You can’t get answers if you don’t ask questions. And if you don’t get answers, you can’t make informed decisions.
A recent article published by the Content Marketing Institute got me thinking about this very topic: “9 Questions Every Content Marketing Job Candidate Should Ask” refers to several questions I, too, have posed.
That post also inspired me to share a few more, here. They aren’t universe-altering questions, but they’re important, and they go a long way toward demonstrating your desire to win the job.
1. How do you define content marketing?
A clear, decisive answer to that question does not exist. And this LinkedIn post—”What is Content Marketing? Definitions From 25 Thought Leaders“—is the proof.
The fact that 25 influencers all have their own, individual take on the term tells me that content marketing means something different to everyone. That’s why the question is worth asking: You need to get a sense of what content marketing means to your potential employer.
If it’s vastly different from your definition, you’ll have to weigh whether the job is right for you.
2. What are the primary content asset types I’ll be asked to create?
There are blogs, infographics, product demos, videos, website copy… The list goes on. Nail down which content formats are most frequently requested. But don’t stop there. Ask for a “ballpark” breakdown, by percentage, so you can determine whether you’d enjoy writing for those formats.
3. What is your process for publishing content?
I like structure—in my stories and in my job. Ask for a recent example detailing the steps that led to creating and sharing a piece of content.
4. How much editorial control do I have over the content I create?
For better or for worse, people will offer input or simply rewrite what you’ve created. It’s often done with the best intentions; and, frankly, there are times when it’s necessary.
“Final say” is likely reserved for your boss (or client). But it’s important to know how much influence you have over the final copy.
5. What percentage of my writing workload is assigned?
The answer also tells you how often you’ll be required to come up with topics on your own.
6. How many people make up the content marketing team (and what relationship does the writer have with those people)?
You need to get a sense, for the work you’ll do. Knowing whom you’ll work with, even if by job title only, is equally essential.
7. Fill in the blank: “A successful content writer is someone who _____.”
I’m a big believer that gut responses are telling. Force people to think on their feet every once in a while. You may be surprised at the answers you receive.
8. What is expected of me in the first week, month, quarter, year?
I’m also a big believer in setting reasonable expectations, especially when you’re new. Know exactly what’s expected of you—starting with your first day on the job.
9. Who is your favorite storyteller?
Storytelling is essential to effective content marketing, which is why I love closing with this question. I’ve seen it trip up more than a few folks because they weren’t expecting it, and they always name a novelist. (Well, not always. Adam bucked the trend and chose George Lucas. And now I now know that’s no surprise at all).
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Whether you ask all, some, or none of these questions, just remember to own your interview.
Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky famously said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
To every content writer out there: When you’re job-hunting, don’t pass up your opportunity to dig for details.
Marc Thaler is a former journalist and broadcaster-turned-associate creative director. For 10+ years, he covered sports around New England—everything from Little League to the big leagues. Several years back, he joined a software company specializing in cloud-based IT security and management solutions, spent a few years creating content in its marketing department, and then made the switch to Centerline. Over the years, his writing has appeared on a range of recognizable dot-coms, including ESPN, SC Magazine and Marketing Profs.