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Content Writer Interview Questions

“Content Writer Interview Questions.” A train of four nouns. We could have cast it better. However, we chose to write it using this search term so that you can find this topic easily via the search engines. Content writers work in a wide variety of sectors. A content writer’s services are sought across real estate, financial services, IT, food, fitness, social media, ecommerce, and NGOs in India. Therefore, “content writing interview questions” is a topic of great interest to all those looking for new jobs, or, are looking forward to interviewing candidates.

As a candidate, you may first want to check out the website and social media pages of the hiring organization.

For example, if the hiring organization is a government department, you must study their digital presence first. Here is an example page: The Government of Telangana. Their social media pages are listed at the bottom of the website.

Content Writer and the Why of Everything

Try to understand the why of everything. It fundamentally alters the way you approach the topic and the way you write about it. For example:

  • Why should a business host a website? Why not a Google business page?
  • Why do firms maintain both?
  • Can email marketing in English benefit your hiring organization? It may not if most of its customers are not inclined to read English or are not digitally savvy.

As a content writer, you may expect questions that span across these areas:

Content Writing

For a content writer, the ability to write well in English is mandatory. In case your interview is for a position in regional language content writing, you are expected to have impressive language skills in the vernacular. The hiring team may ask you to write a short note on a given topic or a topic of your choice.

Content writing needs you to write for a wide variety of digital assets such as websites, social media pages, email copy for email marketing, blog articles, and so on. You can study and know something about each of those assets to ace the interview.

For example, if you want to know more about creating a web copy, read our page Content Writing for Websites and email marketing.

The tools associated with content writing, such as MS Word, Grammarly, and the metrics they help you garner are some discussion points, for sure.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO makes your content discoverable. Possessing the knowledge of SEO and the ability to do on-page SEO can put you in a league of your own. If you don’t understand this topic, brush up your knowledge quickly to get the basics right. Also, browse through articles on tools that help you with SEO by showing the search volumes and the other relevant data. Google Keyword Planner is a tool that you should know about in this context.

Domain Expertise

If you have already worked in the hiring organization’s domain, you will be asked to answer some questions to understand the breadth and depth of your understanding. Check the websites of the hiring organization and those of its competitors.

Blogging

Blogging is probably the mainstay of companies that bet big on digital marketing and also those that want a decent digital footprint. It would be ideal if you can showcase some blogs that you have written, preferably as part of your previous job, or as a matter of hobby.

If you don't have a blog already, start one and write regularly. Over time, you will build a portfolio. To help yourself in creating a blog portfolio, read our post about how to start a blog for help.

Email Marketing

You may be asked to write a sample email in a given context. Also, your knowledge of the email marketing tools may be probed using high-level and in-depth questions.

Image Making & Editing

Images are a part of content creation efforts. Therefore, brush up your knowledge about the image-making tools, websites that let you create images using the web such as Canva (an online application) or GIMP (a desktop, opensource application), and photography sites that offer copyright-free, paid photographs, or both. Check out Unsplash, Pexels, Shutterstock. There are many others too.

Social Media

Understand how each social media platform works for businesses. If a question is asked on this topic, you should be able to talk for 2 to 3 minutes. For example, the question can be, “Why should a business publish on LinkedIn Pulse?”

Also, check the social media post sizes for popular platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram), permitted post lengths, the approval times, if any, and so on. you may want to read about the social media platform that the prospective employer wants to master.

Conclusion

If you have any questions or need customized courses in content writing for sectors such as IT, healthcare, fitness, financial services, and so on, please write to us at sales [at] lotustech [dot] online.

DDLC for Technical Writers

Quick help on Document Development Life Cycle (DDLC) and the DDLC phases for technical writers who want to make a short but comprehensive presentation on DDLC to train new writers or prepare for an interview quickly:

Analysis: The prerequisite for this stage is that you should know, at a very high level, the product features or capabilities and the storehouses of information inside your organization. Often, bug stores or backlog stories, high-level and low-level design documents are the writer’s chief sources of information.

  • Goals (The goals may vary. For example, a Getting Started Guide has a different goal from that of a User Guide or Release Notes.)
  • Audience.
  • Content requirements.
  • Hosting needs (Where are the documents hosted, on the website, intranet, Cloud?)
  • Delivery formats (PDF, WebHelp, Text, Online Help).
  • Documentation tools (FrameMaker, Oxygen, RoboHelp, Word).
  • Project management tools to be used.
  • Project reporting needs.
  • Project timelines for the various DDLC phases.

Design: During this phase, you will develop the draft documents with a separate Table of Contents (ToC) for each of them. Each document may not be more than a couple of pages. Get approval from the stakeholders (people who will approve the documents for release), along with their suggestions. You may have to iterate this process to get the ToC to match the stakeholders’ perspective. The output of this phase is documents with Table of Contents.

Development: Write the draft content. This is probably the longest DDLC phase. Keep asking loads of questions even as you write. Asking questions to clear your doubts will phenomenally reduce technical and editorial review time in the Review phase. The output of this phase is draft documents ready for reviews.

Review: Technical and editorial reviews occur during this DDLC phase. You can look forward to a minimum of two technical reviews and a minimum of one editorial review. This DDLC phase ends with the stakeholders signing off the documents for release. The products of this phase are documentation that is ready for release.

Release: During this stage, you may need to provide the path to the documents to the release team for integration into the Bill of Material (BoM) and the release image. Other activities may include archiving and lessons learnt document preparation.

Related Topic

DDLC for technical writers is not a stand-alone topic. One of the major related components is the style guide. Read an in-depth discussion about Style Guides.

Style Guides for an IT Startup

Executive summary: An IT startup needs 3 style guides, one each for Marcomm, Brand Identity, and Technical Publications. This article helps non-writers and junior writers to put together the style guides and guidelines to use the style guides effectively in a startup.

Should my IT startup need a style guide at all? You may wonder.

Here are some reasons or indications that tell you that your startup needs to create a style guide.

  • Content that looks or reads inconsistent (online vs. offline, document A vs. document B)
  • When multiple writers or non-writers are in charge of creating and maintaining content.
  • Your customer cares about receiving cogent content, and you want to honor customer expectations.
  • Creating quality content is one of your brand’s characteristics.
  • In the age of the Internet, every customer first searches for products and services online. For a B2B brand, the search platforms are LinkedIn and the business’ website. For a B2C brand, the search may happen on social media as well as the firm’s website. Content that is consistent in how it reads and the message it conveys establishes trust with customers and eases their decision to purchase from your business.

Types of Style Guides

An IT startup may need three style guides for:

  • Marketing communication, aka marcomm.
  • Brand guidelines.
  • Technical publications.

In What Order Should You Create the Style Guides?

You may not need all the style guides at once. But, you may want to start with the marcomm style guide since marcomm is probably the first set of communication artifacts that you want to build.

Marcomm Style Guide

An IT startup needs a marcomm style guide since marketing is one of the earliest activities.

Marcomm in an IT startup flows through presentations, case studies, whitepapers, the company website, blogs, product microsites, and so on. If you want to know how to organize a blog, read our article, How to Organize a Blog.

In many places, this is known by a simpler name, the editorial style guide. The editorial style guide usually follows The Chicago Manual of Style:

  • Business, fine arts, and history writers use The Chicago Manual of Style. It is is the best reference resource in matters of style. Since it is exhaustive, you may want to adopt certain sections.

Note that nothing stops an organization from adopting from more than one style guide.

Template of a Marcomm Style Guide

A marcomm style guide can include:

  • A list of terms that can or cannot be used.
  • Terminology conventions
  • Writing about numbers and dates.
  • Capitalization
  • Spelling convention (British or American) to be followed.
  • Online resources to be used.
  • Links to templates.
  • Image sources, attribution conventions.
  • Other details that are relevant to the firm.

Example

Mailchimp has an awesome style guide called Mailchimp Content Style Guide. As of this writing, the style guide is available both on Mailchimp’s website and on GitHub.

Brand Style Guide

Important

Brand thinking should precede brand creation. It is a prerequisite.

A brand is a set of promises from a business. It is an expectation and memory for a customer. It also includes the story about the brand’s relevance to the customer.

So think profoundly in your decision-making about what promise your business is making, what expectations it is setting, and what memories it is creating for customers.

Why

Brand style guide creates a memorable brand that is recognizable from a mile away.

When

If you are a startup, it may take you sometime before you can identify the best brand positioning for your company. That does not mean you cannot have a brand guide book before finding your niche. Instead, you should adjust your brand book as you progressively discover your position in the market. It is an iterative process for an IT startup.

Template of a Brand Guide

A brand style guide, in its basic form, defines the elements that determine the brand’s online and offline presence:

  • Logo and its variations
  • Color palette with primary and secondary brand colors
  • Typography
  • Stationery
  • Imagery with icons, graphics, and photographs
  • Social Media looks
  • A tone that matches the brand personality

Consider adding the brand story and philosophy to the brand book. They act as lighthouses that guide the evolution of the brand’s look and message.

Example

Many businesses, institutions, and universities have publicly hosted brand style guides. Please search the Internet for “brand style guide.”

Technical Publications Style Guide

A style guide for technical documentation is a necessity in a startup when publishing software, hardware, API, and other types of user documentation.

The style guide provides guidelines about how to write, format, and present information.

There are at least two style guides that can be used as-is to create technical publications. Or, you can read them before you craft one.

  • Read Me First: A Style Guide for the Computer Industry. It helps in documenting both hardware and software products.
  • Microsoft Writing Style Guide: This guide is aimed at documenting user interfaces. You can download a free PDF copy from Microsoft’s website. (This guide was once known as the Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications [MSTP].)

Template of a Technical Publications Style Guide

The template can include:

  • Style guidelines related to headings, capitalization, lists, numbers, acronyms, and so on.
  • Typographic conventions.
  • UI conventions.
  • Graphics conventions.
  • Procedure writing.
  • Template standards.
  • Lists of sources for reference.
  • Standard and non-standard usage of words.

Example

Microsoft Writing Style Guide is a great example of a style guide for technical publications.

Tips for Style Guide Creation and Maintenance

The creation of style guides takes effort and commitment in an IT startup, whereas adherence requires a process. Here are some tips to create and maintain the style guides:

  • Keep them short, very short, if possible. Content creators should be able to implement the guidelines easily.
  • Make them intuitive, not pedantic, to ensure compliance.
  • Make them accessible to all.
  • Update at regular intervals and when needed.
  • The process of updating the style guides should be simple and quick. If you have a complex process to update the style guide, try to make it simple and straight forward. The goal is to be able to make changes in time to roll out the content with style updates.
  • Anticipate the changes. Keep a watch on emerging trends and how they may impact your style needs and the style guides.

More Resources

While style guides focus on the linguistic and visual elements of content, there are two other ways to build quality into your content.

Industry bodies such as ISO and IEEE publish standards that specify how to document engineering, electronics, and software.

Likewise, if your organization follows process frameworks such as CMMI, the framework adds another level of quality and standardization to your information products.

This blog post won’t be complete without mentioning Ms. Tamara Wilhite. She has been a champion in popularizing engineering standards. To know more about standards, you may want to read her articles. Thank you, Ms. Tamara Wilhite, for granting permission to link to your articles:

ASME Standards for the Revision of Engineering Drawings: https://owlcation.com/humanities/ASME-Standards-for-the-Revision-of-Engineering-Drawings

Standards for Drawings and Documentation Symbols: https://hubpages.com/education/Standards-for-Drawings-and-Documentation-Symbols

A Summary of Environmental Standard ISO 14001: https://hubpages.com/technology/Summary-of-Environmental-Standard-ISO-14001

Overview of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code or BPVC: https://hubpages.com/education/Overview-of-the-ASME-Boiler-and-Pressure-Vessel-Code

Important: All brands, proprietary names, registered trademarks, and the content at the location of the links mentioned in this article belong to the respective owners. All opinions expressed here are the author’s personal opinions.

How to Start a Blog

This blog post tells you how to start a blog as opposed to how to write a blog. That is, it explains the background work you need to do to start a blog. Also, this blog does not include the details about using any one platform.

If you want to start a company or corporate blog, typically it is published on your company website. Company blog posts have to observe strict guidelines. This post helps you start a personal blog.

Choose a Topic

There are two paths you can follow. If you want to publish your thoughts and impressions online, you can do so. 

Or, you may want to choose a particular topic, say, SaaS (Software-as-as-Service). You can discuss a wide range of sub-topics such as SaaS technologies, SaaS marketing, SaaS apps, SaaS Analytics, SaaS training, SaaS startups in town, and so on.

Pick a Name

Once you know what you want to write about, choose a name for your blog. If your blog is about your personal impressions, you can very well name it after you. Else, choose a name that reflects the topic of the blog.

Choose a Blogging Platform

You can use WordPress, Blogger, or any other such platform. These platforms provide a virtual space to publish your blogs. It is similar to setting up a shop. However, there are both free and paid platforms. Technically speaking, this is called hosting your blog. (The platform hosts your blog.)

If you are new to blogging, the best place to start is Google’s Blogger. Once you gain some understanding about what it takes to blog and how to use a blogging platform, you can explore WordPress. You can get a lot of helpful content about WordPress at wpbeginner.

Understand Keyword Research

Keywords or key phrases are the words or phrases people type into search engines to find information on the Internet. When your blog uses those very keywords or phrases, it appears in the search results.

However, understand that appearing in the search results and appearing on the first page have vastly different value propositions. After all, you want people to read your blog. It is unlikely that people will find your blog unless it appears on the first page and more importantly, in the first 3 places. Since only 3 results can occupy those 3 slots, competition is intense. That brings us to the aspect of blog distribution.

There are many tools, both free and paid, for keyword research. Type “free keyword tools” into the search bar. You shall find a plethora of sources.

To know more about keyword selection, read Keyword Selection for Websites and Blogs.

Distribute Your Blog

Distribution helps your blog reach a wider audience. Also, note that whether you use keywords or not, you need to distribute your blog.

  • After you write a blog, copy and share the link on your Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media pages. A word of caution. If you are writing about funny cats, avoid LinkedIn since the audience prefers professional content and not content that entertains. In a nutshell, respect the content preferences of the audience.
  • You can post the blog link as your WhatsApp status.
  • Create an account on Medium and import your blog.
  • Add the blog link to your email signature. (Don’t include personal blog links in your professional email. It’s a big no-no.)

Time to Act

Once you set up the above, set aside some time to write regularly. When you write regularly, and about a chosen topic, people know what to expect and choose to return.

Blogs attract comments if you enable the comments facility for your blogs. They generate interaction with your readers. Enable comments when you think you have the time to respond to comments.

Publish Your First Blog Post

Even after one or two edit cycles and assurances from your friends that your blog post is good to go, you may have butterflies in your stomach to push the Publish button for the first time. This is normal and you will overcome this feeling very soon.

Resources

Here are some pointers to develop your blogging skills.

To know more about keyword selection, you may want to read the article: How to Select Keywords for Websites and Blogs.