We speak with a lot of companies who are looking to hire content marketers. We also talk with a lot of content marketers who are looking for new opportunities. These two parties don’t match up nearly as often as you might think. We hear often that it’s very hard to hire—we know this from experience as too—and we hear that it’s also hard to find good content gigs. How can both be true?
It’s because companies don’t know quite what they are looking for and because candidates don’t know the right questions to ask. We’re currently a team of 43 content marketers (and growing), and we’ve learned a lot about creating a great place to work and finding great folks to join our team.
We want to help you find a great content marketing job. It’s possible that job is at Animalz. We’re currently hiring for several roles:
- Content marketing manager
- Content strategist
- Tech & VC writer
- Recruiter and people ops coordinator
These are the things that we’ve tried to shape our business around. They are also the things we believe you should be looking for in a company.
Is There a Strong Content Culture?
“Content culture” may feel like a fluffy term but it’s real and easily defined. A company with a strong content culture has buy-in from the C-suite. It doesn’t have to fight for every dollar in the budget or explain why not every article is a massive hit. When the C-suite—or, at least higher up overseeing content—understands how content works, you can focus on doing your job. This makes a huge difference in your day-to-day work.
Our own content strategist Cassandra Naji takes this a step further:
I appreciate when a company treats content like product. As in, it's central to what they do, it needs to be iterated, maintained and tested to destruction. Content is product at the best companies, and they manage it as such.
Not every company will be bought into content to the degree of some famous ones in the startup space (Buffer, Intercom, First Round, etc.) but any company can have a great content culture, so ignore demographic info like company size or funds raised. Look instead for leadership that cares about its longterm investment in content.
Are There Opportunities for Growth?
It’s possible to be a content creator and have a great career doing just that. It’s also possible to use content as a foundational skill that opens doors to related lines of work.
But be mindful of what Sean Blanda calls the “content writing downward slope.” In Sean’s words, “You write articles, curate emails, and record podcasts that serve a community. You don’t ‘make content.’” The point is that you are more than a content generator; you are studying an audience, finding ways to reach them, mastering the tools at your disposal, and learning about the related fields of marketing that enhance your skills.
Your employer should also think of you this way. At Animalz, we have nine career levels that drive each of us closer to a specialization. There is no speed limit—we promote people as fast as they improve. We do our best to provide as much support and guidance as we can. As the team grows in both size and skill level, everyone benefits.
- Levels 1-3: Land (hone content and writing chops)
- Levels 4-6: Expand (develop specialized skills)
- Levels 7-9: Specialize (turn specialized skills into new lines of business)
Ask your prospective employers what your own career trajectory might look like. Have others been promoted or moved laterally (which can also be very good) into other roles? Do you they have a framework for evaluating and promoting members of the content team?
We have content marketers specializing in SEO, email, and copywriting. We have one content marketer who became a developer who builds tools for content marketers. We have two writers that now work on our sales team. These are the types of things that let you know a company enables growth.
Who Will Be My Manager? (And Are They Any Good?!)
Everyone knows that your manager makes or breaks your job. Either they help you grow, or they make your life miserable. There is very little in-between.
Content marketers could be managed by a CMO, a marketing director, the head of content, or an editor in chief. Regardless of your manager’s role, there are a few key things you need from them to succeed.
A good manager
- gives you room to experiment and fail;
- provides job-specific support or finds a third-party who can;
- empowers, encourages, and enables;
- sets clear goals and provides an accurate way to measure progress;
- clears roadblocks so you can focus on doing your best work; and,
- can articulate the content strategy you’re being hired to execute.
This isn’t a complete list, but it’s a good start. Any manager who demands a specific output or isn’t able to explain content’s role in the organization is likely to be difficult to work with.
Does the Company/Product Have a Bright Future?
It’s easier to sell something that people want than it is to put lipstick on a pig. Look for a company on a strong growth trajectory. This can mean a unicorn-in-the-making startup raising tens of millions of dollars, or it could be a service business experiencing steady, linear growth.
Think about it this way: If the company can grow faster with content marketing, it could be a very good place to work. If the company is struggling to grow with or without content marketing, your work is likely to be an exercise in frustration. Content marketing never saved a bad product.
Ask your interviewers about the business. Is the company growing? What’s different today from this time last year? What other channels drive acquisition? Good answers to these questions mean you’ll have an easier time doing your job and more opportunities for promotions, raises, and lateral moves.
Is the Team Inclusive, Experienced, and Supportive?
Who will you be working with? Do they bring diverse skills to the table? Can you learn a lot from them? Are they supportive of one another, or is it a cutthroat environment?
This can be hard to decipher from a traditional interview process. You can ask to speak with someone on the team who isn’t part of the hiring team. You should also see if you know anyone else who works for the company or knows people there. You might also consider joining a community of content marketers (like this one) to get the opinion of your peers. You’ll need to do some research and maybe some back-channeling, but this is worth investigating.
One more quick thought on inclusivity: Don’t be afraid to ask about this directly in your interviews. You will want to know if a company is trying to meet a diversity quota or if they genuinely care about building a diverse team.
Vet Your Employers as Much as They Vet You
This isn’t it, of course. You may also want to ask about the content team’s budget, the tools they use, the projects you’d be working on, the ways they interact with other teams at the company, and the frequency with which the team meets up in person (assuming the company is remote or has multiple offices).
If there are other questions you’ve found to be helpful, we’d love to hear about them in the comments. And don’t forget—Animalz is hiring.