Hire for attitude, train for skill.
It's a noble idea, but a flawed one in my view, especially when it comes to hiring content creators.
Of course you want your content creator to have certain attributes. You want them to be creative, detailed, and hard-working, for instance. No arguments there. But these attributes alone are not enough.
If you plan on hiring a content creator soon, it’s critical to look beyond the obvious skills of writing, editing, and designing. With that in mind, here are a few skills you should be looking for and measuring:
1) Speed skills
This routinely gets overlooked. When evaluating candidates, there’s a tendency among decision-makers to focus almost entirely on the quality of samples submitted by the applicant -- writing samples, design portfolios, etc. Many times, this is the deciding factor.
While quality is important, hiring managers often fail to ask a very critical question: How long did that sample take to produce? That blog post might have been brilliantly written ... during the course two weeks. That web page or infographic might be visually stunning, but it took longer to create than Michelangelo’s David. You see where I’m going with this.
Marketing departments move faster than ever. And while you don’t want a content creator to needlessly sacrifice quality for the sake of time, you also don’t need them to slow you and your business down to a crawl. Make sure she has the ability to work fast.
How to gauge speed skills: The least effective way to get the information you want (in this case, whether she is a fast worker) is to ask her outright. Who would say "no"? A better way to determine speed is by simply asking the candidate to complete a timed, onsite assignment. For a writer, this could be a 500-word blog post with a 90-minute turnaround time. For a designer, perhaps a landing page design in 2 hours. This way, you can judge quality and speed simultaneously.
2) Listening Skills
When I first heard the term “active listener,” I imagined that it involved a lot of head nodding and constantly muttering “mmhmm.” It turns out it’s a real skill, one with tremendous value in the realm of content creation. As much as we (marketers) consider ourselves to be meticulous planners, the reality is that marketing -- especially content creation -- is chaotic. Priorities shift. Deadlines change. New projects arise all the time. You won’t always have time to write out these plans, so you’ll want to make sure that your content creator can quickly and accurately absorb new information.
How to gauge listening skills: You remember that onsite test I mentioned earlier? (Nod your head and say “mmhmm.”) Instead of presenting it to them in written form, explain the assignment verbally. See how much they retain. See if they are able to clearly recap what you’ve told them. If they cannot, or if they completely got the instructions wrong, you might want to consider going elsewhere.
3) Interpersonal Skills
I deal with the god damn customers so the engineers don’t have to. I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people. Can’t you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?
- Tom Smykowski, Office Space
I couldn’t resist.
This skill is a bit cliché, but it is also of great importance to those hiring a content creator. While writers and editors are often stereotyped as artistic introverts, a great content creator should have the ability to comfortably interact with a wide range of people.
The content creator will not be confined to a cube for 8 hours a day, pounding a keyboard with headphones on. Chances are, she’ll need to interview subject matter experts internally (for sales enablement documents, whitepapers, etc.) and customers for case studies and press releases. She might even need to present in front a larger audience at some point. In many ways, the content creator is the voice and face of the brand, so she must have people skills.
How to gauge analytical skills: Most people are not themselves in interviews. People can seem more reserved or more energetic and engaging than they are on a day-to-day basis. Instead of limiting the discussion to professional matters, try to get the candidate to talk about herself and her interests a little bit. Better yet, conduct one phase of the interview away from the office.
4) Analytical Skills
One of the main reasons I became a content creator was to get away from numbers and analytics. At least that was my plan. Things changed, and as time went on, I found myself obsessed with marketing data and metrics. I couldn’t get enough. I would spend hours looking for patterns and trends to capitalize on. I wanted to work only on projects that had data to back them up. My advice to hiring managers: make sure your content creator feels the same way.
When a brand hires the services of a content creator, they are not paying for creativity for its own sake. They are paying for creativity that will serve a business purpose. For this to happen, you need your content creator to understand the importance of “keeping score.”
How to gauge analytical skills: Apart from creative samples, ask the potential content hire to share a marketing report. If she cannot provide it -- due to an NDA -- ask her to talk about how certain metrics improved over time at their last job. Ask them what marketing metrics are more important to them and why. The specific questions can vary, but make sure you discuss analytics at some point in the interview process.