By Melissa Breker published May 2, 2014

4 Tips for Hiring a Content Strategist with the Skills You Need

illustration-hiring right personWhen it comes to content, having the right skills can mean the difference between project success and failure.

As demand for content continues to grow, so too does the demand for content strategists. Content strategy is a relatively new discipline, so there’s no surprise that organizations and agencies struggle to define the content strategy skills they need.

Organizations want to embrace content strategy, but too often here’s what actually happens:

  • People are hired for the web content strategist label vs. an actual content strategy skill set.
  • Content creators are being nominated and appointed as content strategists, although they don’t have the depth of skills required to develop a core content strategy.
  • Consultants are hired who can “talk the talk,” but have very little practical experience. People get in over their heads and projects go off the rails.

Simply put, there is a lack of knowledge regarding what to hire for and how to find experienced content strategists who can deliver good results.

4 tips for finding the right content strategy resource

1. Understand project and organizational requirements: Take the time to research the required activities for project success and understand your organizational needs. Are you hiring for a one-time project? Ongoing content creation? Will the requisite skill sets and responsibilities change over time?

Here are some skill sets that you can consider for different content strategy stages and project types. No single content strategist will have a deep knowledge in all of these areas, so it’s important to first identify what’s most important to your organization and project.

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2. Write a job posting that matches both core skills and desired character traits: Once you understand the right set of skill sets, create a job description that supports a visionary future for your content and includes the character traits needed to get there. Are you looking for a leader to bridge and educate different organizational teams to align all your content efforts? Are you looking for someone with a deep knowledge in a particular area, and experience implementing content solutions? Consider the political environment and team dynamics to identify the kind of person who will be most successful. 

3. Ask behavioral questions (such as, “Can you tell me a time when you…“: Lead with questions that allow prospective content strategists to demonstrate past work and knowledge that’s applicable to your project. These questions give you a sense of how their approach could meet your project requirements. 

Try questions like:

  • Tell me about a time when you…
  • What approach did you use to…
  • What was the result of a time when you…
  • How do you measure the success of…
  • What do you look for when you…
  • How do you evaluate…
  • How do you decide…
  • What tools do you use to…
  • What would you do if…
  • How do you support the content team in… 

4. Ask for samples of project deliverables: This allows you to see the work they have completed and lets them showcase their knowledge. Think about if this type of work will be useful to you.

If you’re hiring a content strategist, but are not a content expert, you may want to hire a content strategy professional to help you identify your needs and hire the right resource.

What do you think? What processes do you use to identify candidates with the right content strategy experience? Share your experience in the comments below.

Want more instruction on how to manage today’s biggest content marketing challenges? Sign up for our new Content Marketing Institute Online Training and Certification program. Access over 35 courses, taught by experts from Google, Mashable, SAP, and more.  

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Melissa Breker

Melissa Breker is co-founder of Content Strategy Inc., a Vancouver content strategy agency that helps large companies to meet their business and customer-experience goals by changing how they think about content. She has a background in marketing communications and is passionate about connecting people, making a difference through content strategy, and body surfing. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaBreker.

Other posts by Melissa Breker

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