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From the Trenches

Answer These 5 Questions to Ace Your Content Marketing Interview

Mike Sweeney | May 14, 2018
5 Interview Questions for Content Marketing Candidates

Ten years ago, Seth Godin said, “Content marketing is the only marketing left.” That may have been wishful thinking a decade ago, but maybe Seth knew what was coming.

My company was also talking about content marketing about 10 years ago — or as we prefer to call it, content-driven marketing — and there were skeptics and people who thought the whole thing was a fad. Obviously, the naysayers were wrong.

Content marketing has become so ubiquitous that some would argue that it is the only marketing today, especially in the B2B space.

As you might expect, this growth means many smart marketers are now focused on landing a position in content marketing, and it has been (mostly) my pleasure to interview hundreds of these eager candidates in my time at Right Source.

In interviewing candidates over the years, I’ve seen it all: the wastes of my time who clearly didn’t read the job description, the mediocre applicants who get the basics but definitely aren’t 99th percentile marketers, and the superstars we can’t make offers to fast enough.

All of this has taught me that there are five questions whose answers offer just about everything I need to know about a candidate’s skills and knowledge.

Check them out below and read how to get started answering them to land yourself in the can’t-miss-candidate category.

1. What is your definition of content marketing?

I love this open-ended question, and you can count on savvy interviewers throwing it your way.

There’s no single perfect answer to this question, but what I’m looking for is a thoughtful and original reply, built on the back of traditional wisdom. Content marketing is no longer a fancy add-on for companies ahead of the marketing curve. All of this means that your answer can’t be one founded on rote memorization. Instead, it needs to be thoughtful and indicate your understanding of the field at large.

Here are a few points you should touch on when addressing this question in your interview:

  • The ubiquity of content marketing in today’s marketing landscape: content marketing is everywhere, and I want you to demonstrate to me that you know that and tell me why.
  • Focus on the central tenet of providing value to your audience to serve broader brand and business goals. Whether it’s to drive demand gen efforts or to promote thought leadership, you should be ready to position your answers in the context of the world of the company you are interviewing for.

If you can’t yet speak to these points fluently, here is some homework for you to read up on before your big interview. Remember: this is to inform your perspective and help you set a foundation on which to build an original answer. It’s not your cheat sheet.

Required Reading:

2. Why does content marketing matter for companies today?

This question is an evaluation of the depth of your thinking, and also a measure of how plugged in to the industry you are. If your response is something like, “Because MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute say 86% of B2C marketers and 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing,” you’re cooked. Terrible answer.

If you offer that up, my next question will be, “But why?” If you then say something like, “Because marketers have seen the positive impact of content marketing,” I will again ask, “But why?”

See where I am going here? Don’t just tell me that content marketing is hot, explain why it’s hot, and explain it from a business viewpoint.

Here are some ideas to help you start answering this question:

As you are reading, think about how you can expand on these ideas to craft an answer that speaks to your specific industry.

  • Content marketing is effective because it is founded on a mutual value exchange. In this oversaturated digital landscape, you are centering the experience of your potential customers by sharing answers they’re looking for in marketing materials that they can use.
  • Remember that the specifics of your answer to this question are less important than demonstrating an understanding of the value content marketing brings to a business
  •  Make sure you can speak to the explosive ROI content can provide.
  • If you’re interviewing for a position in the B2B space, make sure you address the ways that the typical buyer journey has changed within the past five years, and the critical role that content marketing now plays in that.

Required Reading:

3. Which aspect(s) of content marketing are the most important?

This is another test. Unacceptable answers focus on creation, creation, and then more creation. If you only talk about writing your latest blog post, I am falling asleep — and I know you don’t understand the core of what content marketing is about. Regardless of the position you are interviewing for, this answer needs to center around the relationship between the content you create, and the impact it can have on a business’ goals and growth. 

Less important than your experience creating eBooks, email newsletters, or case studies is a big-picture understanding of what we are here to do.

And this holds true for me even if the position is just to write or create. Content marketers don’t have the luxury of just creating content and hoping their artistic vision translates to audiences. You need to demonstrate to me that you know that success requires a multi-faceted approach and critical thinking about the life of this content after it leaves your hands.

Here are some strategies to tackle this question:

  • Regardless of what type of content marketing role you are applying for, start conceptualizing your answer to this question by centering on strategy: How can you tie content marketing to this company’s broader goals and bottom line?
  • Draw on concepts here that demonstrate your understanding of content marketing as programmatic, multi-channel, and strategic — we are going for big concepts that show me you get this stuff from a 10,000-foot level.
  • Bring these strategic concepts back to your new role: Are you a content strategist hopeful? Dive into how a strategic plan on the content level, SEO strategy, and target keyword plan is critical to drive content marketing success. Will you be an account manager for an agency? Drill into the importance of creating quality, repurposable content for your clients that drives results, but doesn’t require hours of your time and their money ideating.

Required Reading:

4. What makes for a remarkable piece of content?

Quality over quantity is the gospel of successful content marketers. From video to social copy, how do you create something that stands out in a sea of mediocre content?

Your answer tells me if you’ve actually been in the game or not, and at what level.

Strategies to answer this question:

  • Begin your answer by demonstrating that you understand the saturation of the digital space when it comes to content. Savvy marketers are well aware of the stiff competition and are still up to the challenge to create content that provides real value for the audience.
  • Remarkable content centers the audience’s experience and engagement preferences by providing them with both content topics and types they find valuable. Regardless of the content type (blog post, video, interactive), it has to be extensively researched and offer an original perspective.
  • Be sure to nod to a critical point in the process that is often overlooked: research on what other content has been published around a topic.
  • Consider the value and life of a piece of content after it leaves the hands of the content team. Truly remarkable content not only is original and useful, it has a life beyond one channel, one campaign, or one page hidden deep in a website.

Required Reading:

5. Provide an example of a company that is doing content marketing exceptionally well.

Dare I say another deal killer? This is a critical question to prep a money answer to.

I am looking for marketers who want to be at the top of not only their game, but the entire content marketing game. If you are not curious enough to even have explored some of the better examples of content marketing done right, you probably don’t care enough.

And while I totally embrace an ego-driven answer like, “I think my current company does it right,” that’s not enough (also, if they’re truly killing it, why are you leaving?). People and companies that want to improve and grow are always looking at examples of who is doing things in a better way.

The beauty of this question (and why you can count on interviewers asking it) is that it demonstrates two things: your understanding of effective content marketing, and your passion for this position.

Being able to give a credible, and specific answer that speaks to strategy will show that you know your stuff, you’ve done your research, and you’re probably a great hire.

Here are some tips to prepare for this answer:

  • Find an example of a company whose content marketing you admire (do they have a cool blog? Make the most jaw-droppingly beautiful infographics you’ve ever seen?). Then dive deeper into the research.
  • Sign up for their newsletter. What does their email cadence look like?
  • Subscribe to their blog. What are they writing about?
  • Follow them on social media. What kinds of content do they promote and curate?
  • Check out what other kinds of content they produce and how they promote it.
  • Think about what makes their content and marketing program unique. What do you like about their content or their use of it? Does it stand out from the competition, or create a particularly engaging experience?
  • Be sure to connect what you like about their content marketing to how it impacts the bottom line. “I like their infographics, they’re interesting” is a very different conversation than “I’m impressed by how X company repurposes and distributes key content assets like infographics.”

Required Reading:

Go get ‘em, Boss

Five questions, five answers, and I pretty much know all that I need to know. Will you get to the next stage of the recruitment funnel? Your answers to these questions may decide your fate.

But if you follow these strategies and demonstrate a holistic understanding of the power of content marketing and the marketing landscape as it exists today, you can expect to see the offers roll in.

If you can answer these five questions with confidence (and you actually did the required reading), Right Source would love to talk to you. Check out our open positions here.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published July 2016 and has been updated for accuracy.

Related Resources

About Mike Sweeney:

As Right Source’s co-founder and CEO, Mike Sweeney creates, plans, and implements our vision, mission, culture, and strategic direction as well as serving as an advisor to our clients. Mike received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing from the University of Notre Dame and has more than 20 years of experience in B2B marketing strategy, including digital, content, and marketing technology. You can find Mike on LinkedIn.