Finding the Content Creators Out There

content creation

Content creation is a fundamental piece of every inbound marketing strategy. Businesses that want to attract new leads and customers through organic search must frequently create SEO-optimized, high quality content.

When hiring a content creator, you’ll want to find the best talent available, because online content directly represents your business and impacts your marketing results. In order to nab your next content rock star, consider adding these six interview ideas to your hiring process:

Pre-Interview Questions:

An overly complex application that asks for custom writing samples can dissuade busy professionals from applying to your position. So here are a few simple ways to test for a good fit without overwhelming applicants.

1. Collect Prior Writing Samples

Tests For: Writing Skills
While an applicant may have the academic or professional background you look for in a content creator, you won’t know if they are up to the task until you read their work. Ask for two or more writing samples on your application. Indicate that links to published work online are preferred, so you can see how many shares or comments the piece has received. Within seconds of reading a sample, you should be able to gauge whether the quality and tone will meet your standards. Look for red flags like clichéd language, grammar mistakes and nebulous or fluffy language. If you’re still reading a sample after the first two paragraphs, then you may have a keeper.

2. Ask for Social Media and Website Links

Tests For: Tech Savvy, Passion, Social Media Expertise

A person applying for a position as a blogger or content creator should have an established web presence. Ask for social media and website links right on your application. Leading candidates will have a Google Plus author profile set up, so that when you Google them, their byline and head shot appear along with their work. The best content creators are folks already engaging with other bloggers, website owners and social media influencers within their areas of interest or expertise. The more connected your writers are online, the more exposure and reach they can provide for your content.

3. Ask Who They Follow and What They Read

Tests For: Tech Savvy, Curiosity, Passion

Include a question asking content creators to list their favorite websites, blogs and social media influencers on social networks. This question is like asking an entrepreneur who their business hero is. A writer’s favorite publications and social media influencers can tell you a lot about their style and approach to content. When hiring someone to cover a beat like mobile applications or health care, look for writers who are already interested in that subject area.

Interview Questions and Exercises: Screen-sharing and video conferencing software make it easy to include writing and editing exercises even for remote interviews.  Here are some ideas for questions and exercises to include:

4. Have Writers Respond to A Prompt

Tests For: Creative Thinking, Writing Skills

The best content creators outline first to keep their writing efficient and focused. Give the applicant a basic writing prompt for your business blog with three keywords. Ask the writer to take a few minutes to brainstorm, then walk you through how they might outline that post using a headline, intro and subheadings. A great content creator will be able to walk you through a rough outline for a blog. Look for a catchy headline, logical flow between points and overall coherence and relevance to the keywords and topic at hand. Ask them what kinds of links and anchor text they might include.

5. Have Them Edit

Tests For: Attention to Detail, Writing Skills

Provide the applicant with an editing sample. This can be a sample full of spelling errors, passive voice, incorrect comma usage, poor sentence structure, split infinitives and other mistakes. Or you can make the edit more of a content-edit that includes some errors but also needs work in terms of parallel subheadings, eliminating fluff, making better word choices or re-organizing ideas. Include instructions for this quiz that explain the types of edits you are looking for (content or copy edits, or both). If you use AP or Chicago Style, make that clear in the instructions. Even if your content creator is not going to be editing other people’s work, this exercise will highlight quality writers who know how to think about writing and produce clean, clear copy.

6. Give Feedback on Their Writing Sample

Tests For: Professionalism
Use one of the writing samples you’ve received from the applicant and give that sample a critical read and edit. What could be improved or tightened up in the language? What did the writer do really well? Are there any errors or confusing clauses? During the interview process, be sure that you and the candidate have the previous sample open in front of you. Give the candidate your feedback on their work both positive and negative. Then ask, “What might you change about this piece if you could go back and work on it more?” You’ll want to look for content creators who welcome and apply feedback. Writers who become defensive or overly sensitive about feedback will not be easy to work with.

How have you fine-tuned your hiring process for content creators? Please share your favorite interview questions, tips and writing or editing exercise in the comments below.

Mike Schmidt is the Founder and CEO of Anchor Wave, a Tucson, AZ-based internet marketing and web design company. Anchor Wave has helped hundreds of small and medium-sized organizations build websites and realize greater ROI through SEO and online marketing.