8 Crucial Content Strategist Interview Questions To Hire The Best Strategist [2021]

Mihael D. Cacic

Published 19 June 2021
Updated 3 November 2021

Hiring a content strategist?

In this article, I’m going to give you 8 interview questions AND answers that’ll reveal green/red flags in your next content strategist candidate.

During my time working as a content strategist for companies, I’ve seen how much damage a bad strategist can do…

You see, it’s not like hiring a writer or promoter  if they do a bad job other team members can step in to compensate. But strategists? If they do a bad job, no matter how much effort the rest of the team puts in, you WON’T get any results.

So the worst case scenario doesn’t mean you’re only wasting the $83,000 yearly salary on a bad strategist…

The worst case scenario means you’re wasting the salary of everyone on the content marketing team on top of the promotional budget.

This can be anywhere from $500,000 to over $1,000,000 a year.

To prevent that from happening and to secure the best chances of hiring a super-star content strategist, I’ve compiled a list of 8 most curical questions to ask during an interview, along with the answers that you can expect to get from mediocre and super-star strategists.

Then, I’ve also outlined exactly what kind of test projects to give to your future hire.

Let’s go.

Skip To Sections:

  1. Best Content Strategist Interview Questions & Answers
  2. Content Strategist Test Project Guidelines
  3. Why Hiring a Content Strategist Might Be a Mistake

Note: Don’t wanna risk it with a bad hire? Click here to learn more about what I can help you with as a content marketing consultant.

Chapter 1

8 Content Strategist Interview Questions To Ensure The Best Hire For Your Company

1. Tell us about your past experience as a content strategist.

All interviews should open with this question because it tells you whether the candidate has proven experience of helping companies with a content strategy.

Ask about what exactly was her role and the impact of the strategy she orchestrated. If she’s done it once, you know she can do it again.

This question will also give you an idea of a candidate’s salary expectation (and what you should offer them). If after an exhausting interview period you find out the right candidate but offer him the wrong salary or discover that you can’t afford the shortlisted candidate you will have lost time and money.

For more information on a content strategist’s salary based on experience, location, and your industry, check out my detailed guide to content strategist salary and job description.

2. What skills do you think a good content strategist should have? How many of them do you have?

The Average Strategist

The run-of-the-mill strategist will ramble about the technical aspects of content strategy.

He’ll tell you how keyword research and SEO are super-important and will go on to talk about tracking software like Google Analytics. And he’ll stop there.

The Superstar Strategist

The superstar knows that while keyword research, SEO, content tracking, and link building are important aspects, empathy and copywriting skills go a long way too.

She’ll tell you how it’s important for a strategist to:

  1. be able to relate to your targeted customer, i.e. develop empathy 
  2. and then pump out content meant to alleviate his pain. Because that’s the only way to achieve conversions, which is the ultimate goal of a content strategy.

Since copywriters are especially good at finding pain points and developing empathy, a content strategist with copywriting skills and experience will bring enormous value to the table. And while editing is not a strategist’s job, he may occasionally help your company spot poorly written blogs if he’s got copywriting skills.

3. What do you think is the most important goal of a content strategy?

The Average Strategist

Your everyday strategist might start talking about how the most important goal of a content strategy is to build awareness about your brand among potential customers. Some may also talk about storytelling and brand image.

But they’ll stop there, and actually miss the most important goal of a content strategy.

The Superstar Strategist

The superstar will share my opinion and tell you the most important goal of a content strategy is to get conversions.

A smart content strategist knows that all the information is already out there on the internet. Educating your customers and building awareness is a job your competitors have already done for you.

The most important goal of your content should be to target super-specific, bottom-of-the-funnel customers and get them to buy from you, and this is what a superstar content strategist will tell you!

4. Where do you think a content strategy begins?

The Average Strategist

If a candidate starts talking about keyword research and filling up the content calendar, you should know he’s inexperienced and certainly not a superstar. Both of these are important parts of a content strategy but they’re not where a strategy begins.

The Superstar Strategist

The superstar will tell you that content strategy begins with a lot of interviews interviews with your company’s CEO, sales team, customer support department, and even the founder (and anyone else who deals with your customers regularly).

Because remember, the #1 goal of a content strategy is conversions. To get conversions, you need to know two things:

  1. Who your customer is
  2. What are his problems, goals, dreams, and wishes

And a superstar content strategist will begin her content strategy by trying to dig out this information from the people who deal with your customers on a daily basis. Only after she’s done this will she think about the best keywords (and topics) that can be used to attract your customers and get them to buy!

5. Briefly describe your overall thought process when creating a content strategy.

The Average Strategist

The average strategist will probably fumble here and may start describing the process haphazardly. If he begins his answer talking about keyword research or filling up the content calendar, know that he is not organized (and is inexperienced).

The Superstar Strategist

Because the superstar strategist is super-organized (and has done a content strategy many times), his thought process will be crystal clear to him, and that will reflect in his answer. He’ll answer along the lines of:

  1. Identify the goal of the company and research its customers — by doing lots of interviews!
  2. Brainstorm a list of topics
  3. Weed out non-specific, top-of-the-funnel topics
  4. Identify the best keywords for remaining topics to optimize for rankings
  5. Write amazing content briefs for those topics (more on that later)
  6. Create a distribution strategy for content
  7. Track performance of the content and make necessary changes

Somewhere in his thought process, he’ll also mention performing SEO audits of existing content.

Speaking of audits…

6. Do you think reworking old content is a good idea? 

The Average Strategist

The average strategist will say no. Even if she does say yes, she won’t be able to appreciate the importance of performing frequent audits and reworking old content when it comes to getting conversions.

So how important is reworking old content?

The Superstar Strategist

She will tell you that reworking old content is so important that a good content strategy should have one brief for updating an old article for each brief outlining a new article.

And the reason is simple Google constantly evolves. Content that worked like a charm 5 years ago may be as useless as a rock today. So reworking old content is actually an easier way to land yourself clients than having to come up with new ideas.

Sometimes, all it takes is a simple rewrite of the introduction. At other times, you can simply optimize an existing article for a different keyword. These minor changes can boost your ranking drastically, and if a content strategist tells you otherwise, show him the door.

7. What role do you think writers play in the success of a content strategy?

The Average Strategist

Just like the question about reworking old content, an average strategist may completely deny the role of writers in a content strategy or acknowledge it half-heartedly, displaying no recognition of its importance.

The Superstar Strategist

The superstar knows that while he orchestrates the strategy, the writers execute it. Your customers don’t care about your keyword research, your SEO audits, and your content briefs in fact, none of these even reach your customers.

Your customers will only get to see the content your writers churn out. If it’s compelling, they’ll buy from you. If it’s not, your content strategy goes to waste. So the superstar content strategist knows that writers play a phenomenal role in the success of their strategy.

In other words, your writers will be the face of your strategy and conveying them your vision via great brief is super-important. So what makes a good content brief?

8. How do you structure your content briefs?

The Average Strategist

Because the average strategist doesn’t realize the importance of good writing, his content briefs won’t be detail-oriented.

He may include the article title, the target keyword, and the word count, but that’s all it’s going to be.

The Superstar Strategist

The superstar knows that in order for his strategy to be successful, he must convey his vision to the writer effectively. His briefs will be detailed and contain:

  1. Blog title
  2. Word count
  3. Target keywords
  4. Articles the writer should use for inspiration
  5. Description of the reader’s persona
  6. Tone of the article

Point 5 is really important. The writers must know the expertise level of their reader. If you try to attract expert clients with basic content (or novice clients with advanced content), your strategy is bound to fail!

Chapter 2

The Dos and Don’ts of a Content Strategist Test Project

Many times, you’ll be unable to judge candidate’s effectively based just on interview questions and resumes. That’s because the questions are abstract and they don’t give you insight into a candidate’s real-life, concrete content strategy skills.

To get around this, you can try giving candidates a test project, which will not only give you a greater insight into their skills but also help you differentiate between candidates with similar answers to the above questions (or similar resumes).

But here are some things you need to keep in mind when assigning a test project.

1. Be clear about the purpose of the project

You need to be crystal clear about what you want to judge via a test project. And you’ll usually be assessing one or two parameters (for e.g. persuasiveness). It’s important you judge the test projects on predefined parameters. For example, if you’re using a test project to gauge candidates’ persuasiveness, penalizing them on bad writing skills would be unfair.

Not only would it be unfair, but it would also make your test useless. Because now you’ll be using different criteria to judge different candidates and your test will lose its objectivity and ability to differentiate between similar candidates.

In other words, you’ll waste your and the candidates’ time.

2. Use a hypothetical situation for the test

This is to mitigate the idea that you’re exploiting your candidates and getting them to work for free.

It’s always a good idea to give your candidates a hypothetical situation during the test project, so they know they are not being exploited.

If you think you’ll use the test project in any way in the future, you must pay your candidates. A hypothetical situation will prevent you from using their work in the future, which is another good reason to use it.

3. Don’t have candidates spend too much time on it.

All candidates (except one) will get nothing in return for doing the test project, which is why you must make it short.

At most, each candidate should only spend around 40 minutes on the test project, and you must keep this in mind while designing it. You also need to communicate clearly the amount of time you expect each candidate to spend on the test project so candidates don’t get anxious about not giving it enough time.

Chapter 3

Cheaper & Hassle-free Alternative To Hiring An In-house Strategist

Hiring a new strategist takes A LOT of time, energy, and money.

You have to:

  1. Attract candidates
  2. Conduct the interviews
  3. Design suitable test projects
  4. Evaluate the candidates on their answers and test projects
  5. Onboard and educate them to the same level as the rest of the team
  6. Maintain your hire as an in-house employee and pay employee taxes, bonuses, commissions, healthcare, transport allowance, and more.

Lucky for you I already have a proven track record having worked with companies like Voila Norbert, MailShake, Rightinbox, Zoomshift, Grant Puma, Useinsider, and more:

… So you can just hire me as a contractor and I’ll do the strategy for you 🙂

If you’re interested in hiring a freelance content marketer, click here to learn more about my services.

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