Career Growth

To Find a Content Role You Love, Watch for These Red Flags

Cierra Loflin
July 4, 2022

Just six months into her new job, Destiny, a content strategist and copywriter, was let go. She was hired by an automation-as-a-service startup that had just closed a seed funding round and had aggressive growth plans.

Along with the rest of her team, Destiny was hired to raise awareness about use-cases for automation. The content Destiny and her team published was driving traffic but not resulting in leads. After just three months, leadership wanted to know—why wasn’t the pipeline full?

When a freelancer sent out a batch of emails without the first name tag firing, leadership got upset and killed the marketing team's budget overnight. Within a few weeks, the company laid off most of the marketing and sales team, including Destiny.

This example highlights a problem many people have when job-hunting—unrealistic expectations can be hard to spot ahead of time. Like many employers, Destiny’s leadership didn’t understand content marketing and how long it can take to see results.

To ensure your next position is a good long-term fit, here are a few content marketing red flags to watch for in the interview process.  

1. High-pressure language about the job

If you’ve ever interviewed for a startup, you’ve likely heard buzzwords such as, you’ll wear “many hats,” this is a “fast-paced environment,” or we’re looking for a “self-starter.” While some people might appreciate a multifaceted role, know what you’re getting yourself into.

This type of language can translate to a role where you’re overworked, underpaid, and stressed out. The company might be dealing with budget constraints and attempting to hire one person for the job of many.

Be cautious if you see a job description wanting a “jack of all trades” or someone to write video scripts, social media marketing, email marketing, copywriting, and more. This signals that the company doesn’t really understand what a content marketer does and may set you up for failure.

content marketing red flag job description
This example is pulled from a real job description.

Suggested Interview Questions:

  • What will the day-to-day look like for this role?
  • Do you have weekly deliverables in mind, like a certain number of articles?
  • What key metrics will I be responsible for?

2. High marketing team churn

Any job with high turnover is a major red flag, including content marketing roles. High churn in the marketing department, especially in leadership roles, could point to disorganization, high stress, low morale, or even a toxic work environment.

Suggested Interview Questions:

  • Is this a new position?
  • When was the last time you filled this position?
  • Why did the previous content marketing manager leave?

If this is a new position, Honia Ledworowska, an SEO and content manager, suggests asking, “Why do you feel you need to fill this position now?”

3. Poor Glassdoor ratings

Always check Glassdoor for employee reviews on the company. It’s not perfect, but you can use it to spot trends. If many employees say the same things—poor organization, HR is unhelpful, or late payments—there is likely some truth to these statements.

Notice how the company responds to critical feedback. If they try to counter or dismiss any negative statements, that’s a red flag. Instead, the company should show they’re trying to resolve the situation.

If there’s no Glassdoor profile, do a quick Google search or look the company up on LinkedIn. You can reach out to current and past employees to learn more about the workplace.

You can also try back-channeling to get the scoop on a startup with no former employees. The content marketing world is small, so someone in your network may know some of the people running the team.

Suggested Interview Questions:

  • A few past employees noted [too many meetings/bad leadership]. Can you talk about that?
  • Could I speak with 1-2 people on the team that I’d be working with?

4. Team lead experience level

If the marketing team lead is your interviewer, ask them about their experience or research it beforehand.

I was recently interviewed by the lead product designer for a content marketing role, which would have made me the only marketing person on the team. If you’re interviewing for a lead marketing position, being the sole marketer on the team may not be a red flag.

If the company is just building out the team, being the only marketer might be an advantage. Just be sure the hiring manager has the resources and expectations to set you up for success.

One man or one woman positions can be very stressful—especially if you’re filling a job that could easily be four or five roles.

Suggested Interview Questions:

  • Who will I be reporting to?
  • What is the background of the manager or department lead?
  • What is their experience with content marketing?

5. Disorganized interview process

The interview process is like a snapshot of what working at the company would be like, so consider communication or lack thereof as a free trial. For example, if a company takes more than a week to get back to you between interviews, this could signal they have disorganized and inefficient workflows.

Take note of the different people who interview you—do they ask you repeated questions? Rounds of interviews should progress from restating your resume and qualifications to more practical questions.

If you’re repeating your job experience in consecutive interviews, there could be a lack of communication within the company.

Suggested Interview Questions:

  • What is your timeline for hiring for this role?
  • When can I expect to hear back from you?

6. Very small team or very early-stage startup

Working with an early-stage startup might work for you if you want to lead the entire marketing strategy, plan, and execute all the collateral. Getting in early with a company can accelerate your career since you can grow as the company grows (often very quickly).

However, keep in mind that the startup may be unstable in the early stages, especially before Series A funding. Startups are usually more stable after Series B funding.

Eric Doty, Content Lead at Butter, noted, "Early-stage is really tactical and covers a large scope, while later stage is more strategic.” It boils down to what you want in your new role.

Suggested Interview Questions:

  • Is this role more tactical or strategic?
  • What has the funding process been like for your company?

7. Unrealistic KPIs

As Destiny realized, it’s important to ask about key performance indicator (KPI) expectations, especially if you’re interviewing for a brand new marketing position.

You might even be able to spot unrealistic KPIs in the job description. For example, I saw a job posting on AngelList that wanted a new hire to nearly double the current email open rates and click-through rates (CTR) in the first six months.

quantitative results in job description
This example is pulled from a real job description on AngelList.

Suggested Interview Questions:

  • How is the current content performing?
  • What metrics are the most important for measuring success?
  • Do you have any quantitative goals in mind?

Think about what you want in your next role, then take action

It’s easy to miss red flags when you’re focused on impressing interviewers. But remember, the interview is a chance for you to get to know the company as well.

Consider what your next content marketing role looks like: fast-paced or focused? Specialized or generalized? Then seek out companies that fit your ideal employer profile.

If you identify potential content marketing red flags, don’t hesitate to ask questions and get more information. If the company avoids your questions and gives unclear answers, it’s best to move on.

If you want a second opinion on a potential role, why not join us in the Superpath Slack community? →

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