I had a conversation with Ryan Lewis, Founder of Bonfire Marketing, last week. We touched on the topic of hiring content marketing managers. He has grown his content marketing agency from a one-person shop to a 25 person organization in less than three years. He was able to manage the continuous growing pains of expanding his business by hiring the right people for the right clients. In other words, he attributes his success to his people.
According to Ryan, “Content marketing is primarily a ground war requiring high frequency maneuvers and nuanced skills to make compelling content on a constant basis.” After interviewing hundreds of applicants, he created a list of key questions as part of his interview process. He focuses heavily on what candidates did back in high school or college, regardless of their age. He strongly believes that the early interests and passion reveal traits of a potentially skillful content manager; therefore, some of the questions below may seem unorthodox.
When at high school or college, did you ever participate in yearbook or the school newspaper?
- People that have been a part of the yearbook or newspaper in school are accustomed to creating relevancy out of mostly mundane content. They typically also learn the value of deadlines early and carry the skills into the workplace.
What clubs were you an active participant in during high school or college?
- You are looking for clubs that require regular interaction and solving complex problems. Chess, VICA, Band, Photography are all very good clubs that attract great potential content managers.
Have you ever held an unpaid leadership position for a shared interest group?
- It’s important to locate leaders and taskmasters. Leaders in unpaid positions know what it takes to “Herd Cats” and drive hard to meet deadlines.
In your previous or current roles, do you participate in activity planning?
- A person that has helped planning parties, recognizing birthdays and organizing happy hours is usually a good candidate. Also anyone that is taking lots of pictures at events (look out for them at events for recruitment) can make the transition to content manager smoothly.
What are your hobbies?
- You are looking for hobbies that demonstrate curiosity about the world around them. Photography, reading, and political causes are all very good interests for people we classify as “seekers.” Seekers are generally very interested in the details of an issue and can create meaning from the mundane.
What are the top 3 blogs you read?
- The blogs should represent content marketing industry tactics, general interest blogs with a compelling spin or something representing exploration. The question should be answered very quickly as the right candidate knows what they read regularly. National Geographic, Vice, Juxtapose, and Reddit are mainstays for seekers.
If I were visiting your hometown, what 3 restaurants would you recommend?
- Seekers make specific recommendations about exploration and deliver answers with passion. Food is a great common interest of people and great content marketers explore and recommend only the best.
What are you 3 favorite TV shows?
- This is a culture and tactical question. Sorry sitcoms, but seekers generally don’t watch television with laugh tracks. Look for people that like current events, non-fiction or dramas.
What is the favorite place you have visited and why?
- Travel is typically a big part of a seekers life. If the answer is short, this is probably not an appropriate candidate.
Name something you would like to do before you die.
- The right content marketer will probably have a hard time naming one thing. After he or she has thought about it for a few seconds, put the question into context and ask about the top 3 things on his or her list. If the candidate articulates bucket list items with passion, voice inflection and imagination, the interviewee could be a good fit. Seekers usually pause before answers as if they are imagining themselves accomplishing the event.
Here are some questions that can be sent to applicants to help determine if they’re worth pursuing further.
In your opinion, what is the best way to measure results in content marketing?
- You’re not looking for one answer, but how they answer the question. This is a trick question because measuring results is largely based on what the purpose is in the first place. If they attempt to level-set and ask additional questions about goals, you potentially have someone you can work with.
Can you articulate how your going to add value to the team? (Purposefully misspelled – “your” to test if they will catch it and mention it)
- Details, details, details. A majority of all content marketing is still written. If they cannot make mistake free content at a high frequency, you might be hiring two people. One for ideas and another to execute ideas flawlessly.
How far in advance should a working content calendar be finalized?
- This question will reveal their project management methods. Content calendars should be finalized weeks in advance of publishing.
Ultimately, Ryan’s job is matchmaking. He not only wants to find the right talent for his company, but also align a candidate’s passion and personal interests to the jobs. If a person applies his personal interests to his regular job, he will enjoy his job more and likely be a highly productive member of the team.
Additional questions need to be added, especially if you are interviewing specific marketing roles such as data scientist, data analyst, marketing strategist and more. The checklist above is a great starting point.
Ryan, thank you for sharing your checklist.
What are the questions you ask when hiring content marketing managers?