10 tips for hiring the perfect content strategist

job interview cartoon about being responsible“It seems content strategy has become the catch-all buzzword for any and all content work these days,” said management consultant and enterprise content strategist, Kris Mausser, recently in her job Q&A for Firehead.

Murray Cox, content strategist and senior content lead at PR agency Weber Shandwick, echoed that in his interview: “I don’t know that content strategy is a sufficiently mature profession yet that we have arrived at the ideal background or set of qualifications.”

Unfortunately, the consequences of this are hitting hirers and digital communication recruiters. Advertise for a content strategist and all manner of candidates apply, thinking their SEO or content marketing slipper fits the more experienced content strategist job spec.

But when it comes to companies managing their content assets more strategically, both Kris and Murray agree that the broader your skillset, the better for successful content strategy.

As far as recruiting in this area goes, we were happy to see our friends at the Content Marketing Institute list some hiring tips and skill sets, which include:

  1. Understand project and organisational requirements.
  2. Write a job posting that matches both core skills and desired character traits.
  3. Ask behavioral questions (such as, “Can you tell me a time when you…”).
  4. Ask for samples of project deliverables.

You can read the much fuller detail at 4 Tips for Hiring a Content Strategist with the Skills You Need.

As specialist recruiters in this field, we’ve added six more hiring tips from our own experience, and from surveys and interviews with other employers and content strategists.

5. Hire a specialist recruiter to cut through the cr*p

Melissa Breker, author of the CMI post, adds: “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.”

Firehead, for example, is one of a number of specialist recruiters in the content strategy field and co-organised the world’s first dedicated content strategy conference in 2010 in Paris. The ideal recruiter will demonstrate an understanding of the market or have worked in the field, and have built up a targeted talent bank of experienced content strategists.

6. Ask if you need a big-picture or a details person to complement your team?

Having a broad knowledge and set of skills is the foundation for stepping up to content strategy work, which is a senior-level job as our 2012-3 Content Strategy Jobs Survey showed. But once at that level, a content strategist’s skills may be best used in several ways.

Murray Cox said that during his time leading the content strategy practice at DigitasLBi in London, he started to see a divide in content strategy tasks: “We started to divide the work into two reasonably discrete chunks – one being the content strategy side of things where the nature and job of the content was defined. And then the other side was content design where the strategy was developed at an incredibly detailed level and on-page story arcs on huge responsive sites were defined.”

7. Look for these desirable character traits and skills

In Firehead’s 2012-3 Content Strategy Jobs Survey, we found that hirers sought out the following personality traits when hiring:

  • Ongoing curiosity about the Web and latest tools
  • Extremely organized, with great attention to detail
  • A healthy sense of humour
  • High tolerance for ambiguity – and a desire to organise it
  • Passionate about creating great customer experiences
  • Multi-tasker
  • Deadline driven
  • Team worker, adaptable to change
  • Self-motivated
  • Effective problem solver.

Read the survey results for a list of preferred skills and areas of weakness.

8. Beware wide differences in content strategy definitions

“If you’re looking for enterprise content strategy at your organisation, then you’re looking for that larger change management piece,” says Kris Mausser, management consultant and co-owner of Kina’ole Inc.

“Something I’ve run into a lot lately is the confusion in the market between page-level content strategy, content marketing strategy and what I call enterprise content strategy. I think a bit of caveat emptor or ‘buyer beware’ is in order any time you seek to fill a content strategy role. Make sure your expectations are clearly defined ahead of time. Otherwise, you risk not achieving the content goals you had hoped for in the position.”

9. Double-check work permits and legal paperwork

At Firehead, we are always looking for multilingual people as we specialise in placing digital professionals across the UK, North America and continental Europe. Our global and European clients often use more than just English so experienced candidates with second (or third or fourth) languages are always welcome.

With global mobility on the rise, it’s essential to get the paperwork right when hiring a content strategist. We can’t hire people from the US to work in their company’s European offices, or vice-versa, for example, without proper paperwork. Recruiters won’t sort out this paperwork for you so you will need work permits and other paperwork in place before you apply for an international role or secondment.

10. General curiosity

“Having a healthy curiosity about the world and changing trends in the digital content field is very important for a successful content strategist,” says CJ Walker, a former techcomm professional who set up Firehead as a digital communications recruitment specialist in Europe.

“While curiosity is not quantifiable, it is the common thread I see running through an approach that requires quick assimilation of a huge breadth of information. You have to be able to come up to speed on new topics at lightning speed, and natural curiosity is a good indicator of peripheral knowledge to link it all together.”

Image: (CC) thedailyenglishshow.com

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