How to hire a content marketer?

Sharing a template I use to evaluate, and hire quality storytellers.

credits: Amritha Sreekumar or @ amrithaskumar91 on twitter.

Finding good storytellers is a nightmare. 10 years in the communication industry, and it’s been nearly impossible to hire good talent. Having said that, there are enough folks who are good at what they do, but probably don’t realise it. This is partly because organisations don’t give the leeway needed for creators to shine. But that’s a story for another day.

This post highlights an interview framework I use to help assess quality candidates. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start to nudge folks identify good talent.

And yes, to each their own. And yes, this is fairly subjective. And yes, you can fork out what works for you. Think of this as me open-sourcing how I look at candidates. ✌️

As with any hire, it’s important to see the body of work this candidate has:

  1. Social media profiles, blogs are a great way to start. Platforms like twitter indicate interests and curiosity of the candidate — what is he/she reading, talking about and how much does this person understands contemporary events, memes et al.
  2. Long-form content: This is where you separate the wheat from the chaff. Which candidates can write an article, can synthesise rough thoughts into a coherent article worth a readers’ time? Folks who claim to be good writers have a blog, and showcase their body of work. If they don’t that’s the first red flag.

Enough of that, let’s get straight to the framework:

Round 1

The idea here is fairly simple: Check a person’s writing ability, but also give a fairly boring topic. This is intentional — and the goal here is to gauge how a candidate can take a boring topic and make it interesting. Not all stories will have the meat, and you’re relying on the ability of a writer to make the topic interesting. (This is particularly important when you have product stories in an org.)

[Offline | Writing Assignment | No. of questions: 01 | Time: 3 days]

Topic: Write an article describing how communication and good content can elevate an organisation’s online brand presence.

Guidelines:

  • The write-up needs to be 600–800 words
  • Send it to us within 3 days of receiving the topic
  • How catchy can the title be? How good is the lede? Can it lure a reader in?
  • Feel free to add relevant images, charts, comics, or even memes, if you will
  • Please ensure the content isn’t plagiarised (of course, you know this already, but doesn’t hurt to reiterate!)
  • We’re looking for creativity — duh!

A note from us:
This is the first round, and we’d love to see a write-up that keeps us hooked till the last sentence. The idea is to also understand your perception of content writing + check your grammar, choice of words and what colour you add to storytelling. Hint: Try to substantiate what you write. We like opinions, but we love opinions buttressed with facts. Good luck!

Round 2

The idea here is to understand how a candidate looks at short-form content on social media. Can someone crunch a topic into snack-able content audience will lap up? How click-baitey and interesting can this person weave content? Another goal is to gauge the quality of topics the candidate picks. Does this person research, have an idea about the industry the org operates in? Lastly: assessing knowledge around social media levers.

[Offline | Writing Assignment | No. of questions: 01 | Time: 2 days]

Topic: Write a tweet thread relevant to the industry we operate in — a trend you foresee

Guidelines:

  • There’s no limit to the thread — please take a call on what will work
  • Send it to us within 2 days of you receiving the topic
  • Feel free to add relevant images, charts, comics, or even memes — whatever you deem fit
  • Please ensure the content isn’t plagiarised (we can’t stress this enough)

A note from us:
You’ve made it to the second round, so we’re already quite impressed with your writing. This is an open-ended topic, and we’d like to see what your go-to topic would be, and how you showcase your thoughts on a topic you initiated. In this round, we’re looking for your ability to weave a story in short form social channels. If you’re able to take something boring and make it interesting, you have our attention. Numbers will be a big ++. We also want to understand how much you get about the industry we operate in. Go ahead, school us about it. 💪

Round 3

This round is designed to solve for an edge case; what if the previous two rounds were actually written by friends and well-wishers fo the candidate? LOL. Extreme, you might think? After 10 years in the industry, I can safely say this has happened in the past. This round mitigates those concerns. The goal here is to put the candidate in a pressure test to see how they perform. More importantly: you get an idea of how they go about researching a topic, their writing style and overall output given the short time.

[In-person video call | Writing Assignment | No. of questions: 01 | Time: 1 hr]

Note: This will be a video call where the candidate will be writing content on a Google Doc we share. The candidate’s screen will be shared to us while taking the assignment.

Topic: Pick a topic about startups/fintech and tell us what you think

Guidelines:

  • The write-up needs to be 600–800 words
  • It has to be completed in 1 hour. It has to be done live while on a Zoom call
  • Write an interesting story we will be hooked to.
  • Please ensure the content isn’t plagiarised (of course, you know this already, but doesn’t hurt to reiterate!)
  • We’re looking for creativity — duh!

A note from us:
The idea here is to see how you fare in a pressure test of 1 hour. We want to understand the topic you pick, how you research, and what your storytelling output is given the short time you have. Oh, if it wasn’t already clear, we love numbers.

Phew! Yup, almost there

With that, we have the 3 rounds to assess writing skills of a candidate. it doesn’t end there. 🤪 You have usual video calls to process the candidate’s knowledge and culture etc… A big lever for me is to gauge how curious a candidate is about an industry, and their knowledge around it. You’ll be amazed to know how many want to work with a credit card startup, but don’t know how many credit cards are in circulation, or who the top players in the industry are. Or worse, simply don’t understand how a credit card functions.

Peace. ✌️

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Adithya Venkatesan

Adithya Venkatesan

790 Followers

Brand Marketer. Twitter: @adadithya. Travel fanatic. Wildlife lover. Voracious reader. Cenosillicaphobic. Logophile. Past: @gojektech @reuters @ACJIndia