“What questions do you have for me?”
It’s the end-of-the-interview opportunity that — if you play it correctly — can help you diagnose your fit and future marketability.
Common questions like, “What’s your culture?” and, “Why do you enjoy working here?” rarely yield insights that help with that diagnosis, though. This is especially true in content marketing, a field whose definition still varies widely from company to company.
A Deeper Interview Approach
I prefer going deeper, approaching the interview much like a recruited athlete or musician might when considering a switch. I want to know, at an almost-granular level, how I’ll fit into the system, how and where the opportunities to use my talents will arise, and what infrastructure and team dynamics exist to support me. After all, it’s usually not the values promoted on the “About Us” page that make or break a job; it’s the systems, people and expectations we engage with on a minute-by-minute basis. We are what we do, as they say.
Over the years, I’ve developed a bank of interview questions to ask or tweak for interviews with content-marketing hiring managers. Below are eight questions I often prioritize when the hiring manager turns the interview over to me.
8 Questions to Ask in Your Next Content Marketing Interview
- “How long are your contracts and buying cycle?”
- “How have your direct traffic, email subscriptions, cost of acquisition and email click-through rates changed year over year?”
- “How many stakeholders have to sign off on content before going live?”
- “What was the last content experiment you ran that failed, and what happened next?”
- “What brands serve as a blueprint for your team?”
- “What does ‘content marketing’ mean to you?”
- “Who owns the content calendar?”
- “What are the OKRs for this role?”
1. “How long are your contracts and buying cycle?”
This is a tactful way of asking, “How critical is speed in this role?” In B2B tech, a shorter sales cycle and shorter contracts can require an almost B2C-like amount of content — with frequent touchpoints across many channels — to keep prospects moving through the pipeline and customers moving through your product line rather than churning.
A longer sales cycle and longer contracts may not require a quantitatively demanding content calendar; instead, its pain points revolve around an almost academic level of subject matter depth and accuracy, stakeholder alignment and proof of value.
2. “How have your direct traffic, email subscriptions, cost of acquisition and email click-through rates changed year over year?”
Many hiring managers can mesmerize interviewees with stories about the company’s growth, vision and mission. “Our customers just can’t get enough of us,” they say. But in most markets, the truth often resides in the data.
For content marketers, metrics can signal how strong of a brand and product-market fit the company has, and it can give you some rough idea of where your prospective role will face the most challenges. Direct traffic spiking upwards can show growing market interest. And rising subscriptions and click-through rates combined with a declining cost of acquisition rates marks an audience hungry for education about the company’s category and points to a marketing team that is hitting its stride.
3. “How many stakeholders have to sign off on content before going live?”
Generally, a content review workflow should not rival a Congressional budgetary approval process — even when it comes to complex enterprise products. After all, in digital content, speed often wins.
This makes the number of stakeholders and their roles in the organization a key variable in your potential day-to-day. The answer can highlight a number of unspoken dimensions of the company’s actual culture.
For example, you’ll gain insight into how much autonomy you’ll have (more stakeholders can signal less end-to-end ownership of a project). You’ll also discover how mature their content and messaging infrastructure is (agile teams often create and socialize content pillars and messaging framework to accelerate production).
4. “What was the last content experiment you ran that failed, and what happened next?”
Unless the hiring company has extraordinarily high brand awareness and direct traffic, your content marketing success will hinge, at least to some extent, on algorithms and your audience’s whims. To win both requires continuous experimentation.
Digging into the hiring manager’s and the team’s perspective on experimentation teases out two things that will be critical to your success:
The team’s understanding that platforms like Google and LinkedIn are painfully dynamic
Thea team’s tolerance of failure in the name of audience insights.
If their answers suggest that they don’t recognize the volatility of platform algorithms or the shifting consumption habits of the audience or that they view a “failed” experiment as an abomination, then your portfolio and, most importantly, the business outcomes you can achieve may be highly limited.
5. “What brands serve as a blueprint for your team?”
“I want to market and build a brand more like ____” is a sentence many marketing leaders share with teams during meetings — or with themselves in the middle of the night.
The hiring manager’s answer sheds light on a number of dimensions that will impact your day to day: the quality and type of content they expect to see; the tone of the content they think will resonate in the marketplace; and the nuances of their marketing, growth and business acumen. The hiring manager who can fasttrack your development will focus less on the aesthetics of the brand and more on how the brand serves the target audience’s needs.
6. “What does ‘content marketing’ mean to you?”
To some, “content marketing” means simply writing, especially blog writing. To others, it means planning, developing, measuring and optimizing content — whether it’s copy, images, audio or video — to acquire new customers and drive revenue.
Your hiring manager’s view will shape your responsibilities and influence which decision tables you get to sit at. If they view content marketing as synonymous with writing, you may spend much of your time on work that doesn’t interest you, like presentation writing, fact sheet development and proofreading.
7. “Who owns the content calendar?”
The question of calendar ownership can highlight how top-down your manager may be and how involved your team may be. It also can indicate how much of the company the content team serves.
If your manager (or another team member) owns the calendar and content planning, your role may be focused on production instead of strategy. If everyone owns the calendar, the company may not yet have much alignment. Different marketing functions, like demand generation, may be siloed from one another.
8. “What are the OKRs for this role?”
Your goals not only dictate where you’ll spend your time, but they also project how the organization views its marketing efforts. Is content marketing seen as a revenue-generating function or as a creative-services role that makes the company “sound good”?
The best answers will be quantitative and specific, such as:
“Generate 50 net new leads per month.”
“Increase the demo conversion rate by 50 percent over the next two months.”
“Double our organic traffic in the next six months.”
The suspicious answers are vague (like “boost brand awareness” or “grow revenue”). Or, even more dubiously, they might be focused on production without a rationale (e.g. “create a resource library”).
Get Better Odds with Better Questions
No questions for a hiring manager can guarantee a career-making fit or unparalleled success in a new role. A conversation can never replace experience.
But preparing precise questions around your day-to-day, your values and your workflow can improve your chances of finding the right opportunity — and they can keep you from fumbling with that pesky question, “What questions do you have for me?”