TAL .017: Hiring High-Quality Content Writers

The Arete Letter

Hiring good content creators is hard. Here’s how you can make your recruitment process more effective.

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Today’s letter is a follow-up to last week’s letter.

As promised, I’m going to explain how to “hire technicians who know what they’re doing”.

(Disclaimer: Factors like team dynamics, drivers, and culture fit matter just as much as technical skillsets, but I’m only going to talk about the latter today.

When you hire someone, look at their holistic suitability, not just their ability to create kernel content.)

The Problem

Finding good content marketers is hard – for a number of reasons.

One of the main issues: marketing leaders don’t know exactly what they should be hiring for.

(Or how to screen for those traits.)

That leads to poor communication with recruiters and high content marketer turnover.

The Solution

Before you start hiring, work out who you want.

Are you looking for a content creator, or a different role, like a content strategist, account manager, product marketer, or distribution specialist (SMM, SEO, etc.)?

Too many job ads I see combine very different roles into one unmanageable behemoth.

Once you’re sure you want a content creator, look at which content medium you want to focus on.

Videographers =/= content writers =/= photographers =/= graphic designers

While some people might have overlapping skill sets, it’s generally hard to find creators who are excellent at more than one medium.

If you hire a content writer, for example, don’t expect them to be able to film engaging TikToks without support.

Know who you want to hire?

Start advertising via your network, job boards, and LinkedIn – but make sure you communicate the role properly.


  • Explain what the role is and the sort of content they’ll be working on. ‘Content’ on its own is a meaningless phrase – War and Peace, refrigerator manuals, and Instagram Reels are all technically content.
  • Share exact compensation and benefits information.
  • Avoid arbitrary requirements such as having a specific degree – graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English doesn’t translate into being a good content creator.
  • Share workplace requirements, like whether hybrid or remote work is allowed.

Content creation is very much an execution-based role (which is why degrees aren’t really important in candidate assessment), so consider asking for the following at some point before interviewing:

  • samples of previous work, along with estimated time to complete and a brief explanation of the project scenario in question (this helps you gauge their basic level of efficiency and expectations around deadlines);
  • self-identified content creation strengths and weaknesses (so you can assess what sort of support they might need coming into the role);
  • their LinkedIn profile (LinkedIn isn’t a requisite, but a strong LinkedIn profile a) tells you that the applicant is comfortable self-executing, and b) can help raise your brand’s visibility); and
  • any personal sites or passion projects that showcase their content creation skill (real-world samples can be affected by factors outside of their control, like budget, project requirements, and timelines, so this gives them a chance to share what they can do unfettered).

(The above four requests are in addition to the standard asks – where they’ve worked before, what they did in those roles, their availability, and so on.)

Your interview process will vary heavily based on the nature of your content creator role.

With that said: I strongly recommend a paid trial of some kind.

Give them a scenario, give them the relevant target audience and brand information, give them a day post-interview and ask them to track their hours, and then see what they submit.

This tells you a few things: how well they work under tight deadlines, how well they can parse and action new information, how efficiently they work, and what their raw, unedited output looks like.

Employees can certainly be coached to improve, but paid trials help you see what you’re getting ‘out of the box’.

I should emphasise that, while finding good candidates matters, how you onboard, motivate and support those candidates is just as important.

Even the best creators will underperform if you deny them resources or fail to get out of their way.


Tech Needed: None

Ease of Uptake: Easy

Before you hire for a new content technician role:

  1. Work out whether you want to hire a content creator or some other role.
  2. Work out what sort of creator you want to hire.
  3. Advertise the nature of the role properly.
  4. Ask them for samples, content-related strengths and weaknesses, their LinkedIn profile, and personal content projects.
  5. Interview them and conduct a paid trial.
    1. Get the relevant marketing leader to do the interviews. Don’t outsource them to HR (internal or agency).

By Duncan Croker

Duncan is a copywriter with a background in editing and storytelling. He loves collaborating with brands big and small, and thrives on the challenges of hard marketing.