To say that content marketers are in high demand these days would be a serious understatement. Openings for content marketing positions increased 33% from 2017 to 2018 — and show no signs of slowing down.
It’s no surprise, then, that employers are finding it increasingly hard to hire skilled talent for these roles. In fact, a study of 400 U.S. industry leaders found that 45% of ad and marketing execs say it’s challenging to find quality content team members.
So how can you attract and win the best content marketer talent for your company? To find out, we sat down with Content Marketing Institute’s Finalist for 2019 B2B Content Marketer of the Year and Senior Manager for Industry Strategy & Insights at Salesforce, Heike Young, where she leads the content strategy for retail and consumer goods insights. Her team creates blog posts, videos, original research reports, interactive websites, and much more for Salesforce’s audience.
Here are her four top tips for hiring content marketers in today’s competitive landscape:
Tip #1: Look for story-minded marketers who can evolve with your team’s needs
“Content teams at modern businesses wear so many hats,” says Young. “They have responsibilities across marketing, sales, analytics, creative, social, and more. When hiring a content team, especially a small and nimble one, you may find folks that are good at one or two areas. But it’s difficult to find someone who’s truly business- and strategy-minded, while also being a creative and skilled writer. Yet that’s the golden ticket for content marketing success.”
The fix: Hire for soft skills, not just writing chops
“The content your team creates can and should evolve over time,” says Young. “Don’t spend all of your energy trying to find someone who’s the perfect expert in one niche area. Rather, find a person who is curious about learning new things, and knows how to research like a journalist.”
For Young, the most important soft skills are curiosity, research savvy, and the ability to think like a librarian. “The more a content team grows, the more content you’ll likely have,” she says. “More content available for your target audience is great. But how is it organized? Is all content systematically indexed and searchable? Ideally, members on a team have a similar means to staying organized, or at least can communicate that information well.”
How to suss out soft skills in your interviews
Be sure to add an interview question that helps you get a feel for a candidate’s soft skills. For example, Young recently asked the question: “If I asked you to research and write about a new topic, how would you go about that?” to determine a candidate’s approach to research.
Tip #2: Prioritize different skills based on business and team size
There’s a big difference in hiring content marketer talent as a startup versus a large enterprise. Getting clear on what your hiring team is looking for will help you make the right decision when reviewing candidates’ capabilities and experience.
At startups, prioritize creation and distribution
“For a startup, I’d argue the most important thing when hiring a content marketer is finding someone who understands not only creation, but also distribution,” says Young. “Content only moves the needle if someone actually engages with it. Look for someone who brings bonus social, email, or advertising savvy and can get that content distributed to your target audience creatively.”
At enterprises, prioritize networking
“At a large enterprise, it’s critical for any new marketer – content or otherwise – to network effectively internally and understand the company’s inner dynamics,” says Young. “How does a candidate navigate complex organizations? How do they leverage internal resources to solve problems? At big companies, resources are often out there, but you have to know where to look. It’s important that new employees can quickly get up to speed there.”
Tip #3: Vet candidates through writing samples, assignments, and LinkedIn
“LinkedIn isn’t a cure-all,” says Young. “I have plenty of great coworkers who don’t even use LinkedIn. But it can give you some idea of a potential candidate’s network, who has recommended them, and even interests, if they post or like LinkedIn content frequently.”
Writing exercise checklist
You’ll want to work with your hiring manager to create a short writing exercise that will test a content marketer’s writing chops and help reveal how they approach the work itself. Refer to the following outline checklist to help make this a valuable stage in your interview process.
Sections of a successful writing assignment:
- Main assignment synopsis
- Target audience summary
- Background information/resources for writer to refer to
- Deliverables (e.g. what content piece they will submit)
- Goals for the piece of content
- Tone, voice, and company style guide
- Any additional items to include
Tip #4: Watch out for red flags during the interview process
“Resumes and CVs are best for understanding the details of someone’s experience at a glance,” says Young, “while interviews help you understand their communication style. I think communicating well with others is one of the most critical functions at any-size business, so definitely use the interview process to gauge how that person communicates.”
Content marketer red flags
Like any other role, there are a few things you want to look out for in content marketer talent as they progress through your interview process. Here are two of the most glaring red flags:
- They are poor communicators
“Good email or text communication is important in any field,” says Young. “If someone struggles to answer simple emails concisely or expediently during the interview process, I wouldn’t expect that to change much once they’re hired full time.”
- Their answers show inappropriate depth
“If you’re interviewing someone and their answers repeatedly show too much information or far too little, whether too detailed or too big-picture,” says Young, “this is probably reflective of their communication style in general. You can train for skills, but it’s really hard to fix communication.”
Final thoughts: Attract strong content marketing talent with a stellar job description
Nothing sets your team up for hiring success like a clear and engaging job description, especially when recruiting content marketers, who can sniff out generic copy a mile away. But it’s not just the words you use to describe the role, but how you make your readers feel.
To win the best content marketers over, you need to show them how your company will support their careers while giving them the creative rein to come up with the best campaigns that drive value (whether new business acquisition or retention) back to the business.
Curious to learn how to make the most impact with your postings? Check out our guide, Rethinking the Job Description!