Nearly everyone dreams of being a writer or an artist (well, those who don't dream of being a footballer or an astronaut). Being a copywriter and designer is a way of doing it without needing to be Tolkien or Picasso or a multi-millionaire or live in poverty.
For this reason, the profession attracts dreamers whose talent can't cash the cheques their ego is writing. Here are some interview questions, to make sure you don't get burnt by big talk.
Seems ridiculous to start with something so obvious. No one hires someone without talent, but yet we've all worked with copywriters who are perhaps overstretching themselves.
There are several marks of a good a copywriter:
- Set a copy test - get them rewrite one of your pages and ask them to talk through their thinking.
- Are they aware of copy and creative around them - ask them their favourite tone of voice.
- What do they know about writing for conversion?
- How cultured and worldly are they - sounds pompous, but a good copywriter should know about everything from Love Island to Shakespeare, from Mozart to Rihanna, from Trump to Duterte. This knowledge gives colour, personality and edge to copy.
- What platforms have they written for - if you can write for social media, you should be able to write content for the The Guardian online and white papers. A good writer should specialise by subject, not medium.
- How adaptable are they - do they know about flexing the tone depending on topic and changing a tone of voice.
Copywriters don't get into the profession purely to work in a writing factory, pumping out endless corporate clap-trap. We're in this to flex our creative muscles too.
- Have they conceptualised any projects?
- Do they understand the creative process?
- What examples of creative do they like?
- How do they go about selling an idea to the business or clients?
Test their knowledge (digital)
Most people pitch themselves as digital copywriters, as having a blog, several social media accounts and maybe their own website means they have the skillz to pay the billz. However, it isn't just write some copy, stick it online, have a cup of tea.
- Is their writing optimised for search? What's their knowledge of SEO?
- How have they used analytics to inform their writing or challenge a brief?
- What do they know about service design and UX? Do they know how to write for emotional and aspirational human beings?
- Have they knowledge of behavioural economics?
- What apps have they written for? What's best practice?
- Can they talk through content strategy, governance and tone of voice?
No (wo)man is an island. Unfortunately, we don't work in isolation. We have different personalities, requirements and business demands to contend with:
- Have they dealt with difficult stakeholders?
- How do they handle bad feedback?
- Do they have experience in working with legal, compliance or regulatory?
- Are they able to challenge feedback or a brief?
- What do they expect from a brief and what do they do if they're given a bad one?
- Have they worked with designers or UX?
A working knowledge
It's a fallacy to believe creatives sit in rooms with swings instead of chairs, slides instead of stairs and the sounds of Godspeed You Black Emperor blaring out the Bang & Olufson egg-shaped speaker.
- Have they used a CMS?
- What do they know about the publishing or production process?
- Can they work to tight deadlines?
- How do they manage their workload?
- What do they know about business requirements?
- Have they experience in demand and change management?
- How has their work helped meet KPIs and business objectives?
With all of these considerations in place and the interviewee able to give comprehensive answers with real-life examples, you should be able to cut through the hoards of copywriters and recruit a star.