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Company Culture

How long does it take to hire and onboard a content manager?

By John Becker

How long does it take to hire and onboard a content manager? Blog Feature

For companies starting their They Ask, You Answer journey, hiring a content manager can appear to be one of the most unfamiliar and intimidating steps. After all, this person will sit at the center of your content marketing efforts, so you know you need to hire the right person. At the same time, evaluating and interviewing candidates for this post is something you may never have done before. 

You might be anticipating this to be a lengthy process, taking months to find the right person — and even longer to fully ramp them up to a full production schedule.

Thankfully, I am here to report today that this process is not nearly as drawn out as many fear. In fact, you could realistically have your content manager interviewed, hired, and onboarded in two months, start to finish

Here’s how.

Hiring a content manager is likely an unfamiliar process to you

For most companies, the process of hiring a content manager is an unfamiliar one, and this can create anxiety and apprehension. 

Will Schultz, a digital sales and marketing coach at IMPACT, works with companies each day, advising them through the content manager hiring process. He says that businesses see themselves entering “uncharted territory because they don’t know what they need to look for in a candidate.”

The fact that they’re looking for someone who is not from within their industry further complicates matters — as does the fact that day to day responsibilities and reporting duties might not yet be clear.

The result, according to Will, can be reluctance and hesitancy. 

However, the hiring process should begin the same way it would for any position: on Indeed.com or another online job forum. It’s likely that your ideal candidate is out there now, looking for a job just like the one you’re about to post.

Once you post the job, you will attract numerous qualified applicants very quickly.

Step 1. Finding content manager candidates

How can you be sure you’re finding the right candidate? 

Liz Moorehead, IMPACT’s editorial director, advises that “journalism grads or people who have come from a community newspaper background are really good for this kind of role.”  Such candidates are going to possess exceptional writing ability, as well as “knowing how to interview and work in a fast-paced deadline-driven environment.”

If you’re not sure how to write a job description for your posting, you can use a template Liz created just for this purpose

Step 2. Vetting content manager candidates

For the right candidate, a content management job is a perfect fit. If they love to write, are inherently curious, and have exceptional time management and editing skills, they’re likely going to revel in the work.

However, Liz advises that you must make sure your applicants actually want the job they’re applying for. Sometimes, an applicant who aspires for a marketing position will try to start off as a content manager, hoping to move within the company once they’re on board. This person will be miserable, and the content production will suffer. 

So, make sure your applicants are clear in knowing what the role is and what their expectations will be.

Furthermore, make sure to carefully check every application material to make sure the applicant is producing error-free prose. Cover letters, resumes, emails. Each is an opportunity to see the writer-applicant in action. If there are errors in these early communications — or if things are turned in late — you should think twice about hiring this person to be your company’s editor. 

As with any hire, try to determine a “culture fit” within your team and organization

Then, when you’ve found some candidates you like, you can ask them to complete tasks that mimic what their daily responsibilities will be. 

Role-specific tasks

At the core of the content management position is the ability to conduct an interview and turn that interview into a piece of content. 

Liz advises that you make sure interviewing and content production are a part of your hiring process. For a more detailed explanation of how to do this, read Liz’s article on evaluating interview skills, which covers the subject in depth.

In practice, this means giving your candidate a topic and access to a subject matter expert. They'll need to conduct an interview and produce a piece of content, to be turned in within an allotted time frame.

Evaluating the interview process

Broadly, Liz says you need to look for two things when evaluating the interview:

  • Rapport building: Can the candidate make the interview a pleasant experience for the subject matter expert? Do they work to build some semblance of a relationship, or is it all business? Remember, this content manager will be scheduling frequent interviews with many people at your company. You want to make sure everyone is going to be okay with that. 
  • Controlling the interview: Does the candidate enter the interview with good questions? Can the candidate pivot, ask follow-ups, and press for greater detail when needed? Do they appear comfortable, even though they’ve just met the person they’re interviewing?

According to Liz, “an interview is not just about getting the information, it’s about getting that person to trust you.” The quality of the content produced from the interview is essential, but so is the experience of the interview itself. 

Your content manager will have to manage relationships, and this sort of emotional intelligence is an intangible asset that you’ll need to keep your eye on throughout the application process. 

Evaluating the content

When looking at the content, look for clean prose that is well structured. Even if the writer doesn't yet adhere to an editorial style guide (like AP style), their writing should be well-paced and should effectively incorporate the information gained from the subject matter expert. 

Step 3. Onboarding your content manager

At the end of the interview process you will have hired your content manager. So, what happens now?

Marcus Sheridan believes that content managers should start producing content almost immediately upon being hired. This is, he believes, the best possible onboarding. After all, what better way to learn about your company’s offerings than to research and write about them?

Will believes that a content manager should have the same “cultural onboarding” as every other employee, but that content production should begin within the first two weeks. As he sees it, “their onboarding is really relationship building, as they begin to feel comfortable with interviewing colleagues.” 

If you’ve hired a content manager from outside your industry, have them use that perspective to their advantage. As they learn your company’s offerings, they’re likely to have questions — the same questions your customers have. 

Liz explains that “companies often don’t realize they’re talking with the jargon of their industry.” An outsider can help you see the forest for the trees.

With each piece of content, your new hire will become more confident, and their production process will solidify. 

Step 4. Prepping your employees

At the same time, it is beholden on company leadership to make everyone aware of what the hiring of the content manager means. Liz believes that hiring a content manager represents “an organizational shift,” and that, if the rest of the company is not bought-in to what that shift means, the content manager is likely to struggle, through no fault of their own. 

The biggest mistake most companies make, according to Will, is “not giving their new content managers teeth.”

In order for the content manager to be successful, the entire company needs to be onboarded to them. Organizational leaders need to make the rest of the company aware of the content manager’s role — and the fact that all other employees will have to play a part in content creation.

The company needs to “position the content manager within the culture of the organization,” says Will, “between the sales and marketing teams, in a position to succeed.”

Thus, when considering the onboarding you plan for your content manager, be prepared to consider the institutional changes necessary to make this new hire successful. If this hire represents a new initiative at your company, make sure the rest of the company knows that, is bought in, and is ready to support this person doing their job.

What is a realistic timeline for hiring and onboarding?

Hiring and onboarding your new content manager should not be a very lengthy process. Some IMPACT clients have made a hire within two weeks of posting the job, but Will thinks four to six weeks is a more realistic timeline. This allows you to evaluate candidates with role-specific tasks as you narrow your pool. 

Then, once they’re hired, you should expect them to begin producing content very quickly. While that first content might come out within a week or so of getting hired, Will thinks it will take three to six months for them to be totally self-sufficient.

By that time, they will have thoroughly learned your company and built processes for content production that involve the sales team and subject matter experts.

In the longer term of 10 to 12 months, that content manager could be overseeing additional content hires like a videographer or second content writer, should those make sense for your company.

It'll happen faster than you think

According to Liz, a content manager will be one of the quickest hire-to-onboard positions at your company.

Unlike a sales rep, who needs encyclopedic knowledge or your offerings, or a developer who has to find alignment with the company vision, a content manager will be able to hit the ground running.

Remember to utilize the resources linked in this article for support.

A content manager can be hired and brought up to speed quickly, and this means your content marketing initiative can be brought to life — facilitating your sales process, driving organic traffic to your site, and bringing in leads.

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