Hiring for such an instrumental role as your new content manager can feel daunting, overwhelming, and exhilarating at the same time.
As a digital sales and marketing coach and as a Certified They Ask, You Answer coach, I help organizations hire, onboard, train, and retain outstanding talent that enables them to drive more traffic, leads, and sales. In addition, I have been acting in the role of content manager for over a decade for a variety of clients.
In this article, I am sharing with you my practical experience and expertise on how to attract, hire, and onboard the right candidate for your organization. By the end of this article, you will have a job description template, interview questions, and much more to get started right away.
The topics we will cover in this article are:
- The content manager role
- Prepare for the culture shift
- Post your job description
- Screen initial job applicants
- Interview potential candidates
- Hold a situational activity
- Make a job offer and start onboarding
The Content Manager Role
As you become a content-driven organization, the role of the content manager is one of the most crucial roles you will hire for. Since this is a relatively new role and most companies have never hired a content manager before, this can be equally scary and exciting at the same time.
So what is a content manager? The most important thing to know is that your content manager will OWN your content marketing efforts. They are not just glorified bloggers or copywriters putting a bunch of words on a page, nor are they digital marketing generalists who will drive demand generation campaigns, manage your social ads, and design conference banners.
Here are the top ten characteristics of a great content manager:
- They have to LOVE writing. I mean, really love to write.
- They are skilled editors who can take the quality of a piece of content from mediocre to excellent with ease.
- They interview like a "girl boss" — a term my Gen-Z daughter loves to say and has assured me is non-gender specific. If your content manager isn't a killer interviewer, they will fail in this job.
- They become best friends with sales and work hard to empower them.
- They are extremely likable as a person. Unlikeable people make awful content managers.
- They have to have high emotional intelligence and empathy as they will need to lead, motivate, and boost the company's content efforts.
- They need to be highly organized and goal-oriented, respect deadlines and processes, and be efficient.
- They must be great communicators.
- They love analytics and reporting. They thrive in a data-driven environment.
- They are creative, outside-the-box thinkers who do not seek permission at every term but get things done.
Now that you know what a great content manager looks like, let's have a look at the six steps we recommend you take to hire one.
1. Prepare For The Culture Shift
Before you write and post your job description, you need to talk about one critical step that will ensure the success of the entire mission: You need to have executive buy-in and inform your entire company before you hire!
Hiring a content manager represents a major shift within your company to a content-driven culture, and everyone needs to be bought in and ready to participate in the process. Your content manager will fail if you hire them first and your other employees aren't behind the idea of becoming the Voice of Trust in your space.
2. Post Your Job Description
Now to the point you have been waiting for: creating and posting the job description! As I mentioned before, this is a relatively new role, so it is advisable to write a relatively comprehensive job description to attract a rock-star candidate.
To make this as easy as possible, you can download our Content Manager Job Description Template here. It consists of the following:
- Quick overview/executive summary of what is expected of the new hire and what they have to look forward to. It communicates the core spirit of the position: a "passion for writing and storytelling with a journalist's mindset, as well as an obsession with written content performance, content management, and analytics."
- Responsibilities. This section gives an overview of what a typical week in the life of a content manager looks like, e.g., publishing at least three new written pieces of content per week and interviewing internal and external subject matter experts for content.
- Educational background. The best candidates do not have a marketing degree but are recent journalism graduates, teachers, or journalists.
- Non-negotiable skills and requirements. Some of these are impeccable writing and editorial skills, an outstanding command of the English language, and an understanding of standard editorial style guides.
The job description finishes with the request to submit one to two writing samples and a 2-5 minute video (using Vidyard or a similar free tool) to answer a few included questions.
3. Screen Initial Job Applicants
You will be receiving dozens, if not hundreds, of applications, and 95% of them will not be qualified. Requiring your applicants to include writing samples and a video helps you identify stand-out candidates much faster.
Have a close look at the application, the video, and the writing samples to screen for immediate disqualification:
- Ignore anyone applying as a digital marketing generalist who doesn't have the desire to do this EXACT role but is rather trying to use this role as a backdoor to get into a digital marketing position. They will not be happy in this role, so don't give in to the temptation.
- Put any application with errors, typos, etc., into the No pile. This role requires impeccable command of the English language and a great orientation to detail.
- Having absolutely no experience interviewing anyone is a big red flag.
- They must have some familiarity with style guides. They don't need to know the rules of each style guide, but they do need to know what a style guide is and who enforces it.
- They need to clearly understand the scope of the job. This will become apparent in their cover letter or video submission. Look for someone who wants this job specifically!
4. Interview Potential Candidates
Now that you have weeded out unsuitable applicants, it is time to interview the more promising candidates. Below are a few possible interview questions to help you guide the conversation.
- What work accomplishments are you most proud of and why?
- Can you describe a time when you failed at something and what you learned from that experience? (Look for self-awareness and willingness to grow.)
- How much do you enjoy creating content? (Why isn't it lower?)
- What do you see as the biggest challenge to succeeding in this role?
- Do you have any questions for me? (It's a red flag if they don't.)
5. Hold A Situational Activity
Even if an interview went so well that you are ready to offer them the job on the spot, resist the urge and make your most promising candidates go through a situational activity very close to what they will be doing in their new job. This reduces the chances of making a bad hire significantly.
Here is the process:
- Give them a topic 48-72 hours in advance.
- Schedule the job candidate for a 30-minute subject matter expert (SME) interview. Ideally, they have never met the person.
- Ask them to submit a 600-900 word article within 48 hours of receiving the transcript of the interview.
The goal is two-fold: 1. to test their interview skills and how they handle themselves, and 2. to evaluate the outcome (written article).
Tips for the interview:
- Intentionally choose an obnoxious topic (Do they take it seriously?) but one that isn't so technical that they would get lost.
- Go a little off-script or launch into a monologue ("Oh, and another thing..."). What are their strategies to reel the SME back in? Are they in control of the interview?
- Give enough information to write much longer articles. Are they able to zero in on the important elements of the interview?
To evaluate the interview, ask yourself: How well do they build rapport? Did they make you feel comfortable? How prepared are they? Do they know how to ask thoughtful follow-up questions on the fly? Who does most of the talking in the interview?
Finally, to evaluate the article, consider the following: Was it delivered on time and without any prompting? Is the article error-free? Does it meet the requirements of the brief? Is it well-researched? Could it be, with another round of editing, published on our blog? By the way, articles that include internal links get massive brownie points.
6. Make A Job Offer & Start Onboarding
Congratulations! If you have made it to this point, you have found a rock-star content manager. Now, quickly make them a job offer before someone else does. After signing the contract, send them a copy of Marcus Sheridan's book They Ask, You Answer and ask them to finish reading it before their first day.
In terms of onboarding, the best way is to have them do their job immediately. Of course, there needs to be internal training, but have them instantly participate in content brainstorming sessions with sales, start interviewing subject matter experts, and write articles.
Ready to get started? Download the job description template today.
FAQs Related To Hiring A Content Manager
How long is the hiring process going to take?
It depends on if your candidate has to give notice, how many applications you get, etc., but generally, it takes four to six weeks from the time you post the job description to the day your new content manager walks through the door.
What is the typical salary for a content manager?
The exact salary depends on their experience, location, and other factors, but on average, in the US, a content manager earns about $64,000/year.
How quickly should my content manager start producing content?
Immediately. Have them start as soon as possible.
Does a content manager need industry experience in my niche?
No, hiring for the right skill sets and company culture fit comes first; having industry experience is a distant second.
What are the biggest mistakes when hiring a content manager?
The biggest mistake when hiring a content manager is planning on having them wear multiple hats. Their job is to own the content, not drive campaigns, do graphic design, edit videos, or anything else.
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