9 Interview Questions for Creative Strategists

Creative Strategist is a new and emerging role in a marketing team. A person becomes a creative strategist with experience. One doesn’t go to college to get a degree in creative strategy. Individuals graduate into these roles. Some are performance marketers with a creative bent, and some are creative designers with an analytical mind. Some are great brand marketers with clarity of value-prop and customers.

Only a few in marketing have worked as creative strategists or hired one. Therefore, it is sometimes unclear how to interview a creative strategist.

Here are 9 interview questions you can ask when hiring a creative strategist for your creative team.

1. Define what a creative strategist does?

Look for clarity in their idea of a creative strategist’s role. Look for substantiation of that clarity with specific examples.

Everyone’s perspective on creative strategy is different. There is no definition of creative strategy, after all. A candidate’s description of creative strategy should match (or inform) your definition of creative strategy.

Best creative strategists will elevate your understanding of what a creative strategist can do.

2. What qualities make a creative strategist successful?

Look for specificity.

It is very easy to rattle off a list but hard to give personal examples. You are looking for a diverse set of skills -- creativity, process, familiarity with data, collaboration, etc.

Essential qualities to look for:

  • Communication skills – Can they explain complex concepts in simple terms?
  • Focus on understanding the customer – Do they know how and why strategists need to understand the customer deeply?
  • Experimentation mindset – Can they translate any idea into an experiment?
  • The mix of creative and analytical skills.
  • Detailed oriented

The answer to this question requires specificity. An average candidate would rattle off a list of generic qualities. Great candidates cite examples.

3. What is the most important part of being creative strategist?

Look for the "why."

This is a “why” question disguised as “what.” Why is a creative strategist’s role important? What impact can it have? How can a creative strategist fail? Without explaining the “why,” the answer to this question is not complete.

Through this question, you can dig deeper into the candidate’s record as a creative strategist. You can ask about the specific impact they have had in the past, either as a creative strategist or in a role that qualifies them to be one.

4. What trends have you seen in the DTC regarding ad creatives?

Look for curiosity. You want a person who is hungry to learn and will bring in new ideas continuously.

Knowing trends is less important than having a process to spot trends. How much time do they spend on social media? Have they utilized trends in social media before? Do they create content that rides trends? Who do they learn from and follow to be in the know about DTC direct response advertising?

Only some people can be on top of trends all the time. Only a curious person will find an inner passion for keeping up with this arduous task.

5. What does your creative ideation process look like?

Look for examples, and avoid falling for abstraction.

It is very easy to talk about a process as a professor and in abstraction. Not easy to talk about a process with a specific example.

The ideal candidate should clearly articulate their creative ideation process with examples. Creative strategists lead the creative ideation process and decide on what creative to run next. Therefore, you are looking for a structured thinker who can break down complex ideas into simple executable experiments designed to maximize learning and find winning creatives.

Things to look for:

  • Can they lead brainstorming sessions?
  • Can they get everyone in the room to contribute?
  • Can they effectively organize information?
  • Can they apply past creative performance data to establish priority?
  • Can they help frame experiments in hypotheses?
  • Can they make decisions and get the team to execute those decisions?

6. Where do you go to find creative inspiration for ads?

Look for depth.

Very easy to cite all the usual places to find inspiration. Depth is when a creative strategist can cite specific inspiration from specific brands. For example – I love Masterclass ads because they have fast cuts and powerful background music. It creates engagement.

Creative strategists should cite examples of top creatives they have seen and why they were so great. Inspiration stimulates the growth and evolution of an idea, so it is important to know where the candidate looks for it.

An ideal candidate can critique creatives by applying high-level frameworks to gain a deeper understanding. For example – understand a creative from the lens of content pillars. Is it entertainment, educational, or aspirational? Do they cite how creatives speak to customers psychologically?

7. How would you define “variations,” and what changes would you make in a creative for variation?

Look for why, what, and how.

Use this question to judge the seniority and experience of the person. This question brings marketing, data, and creativity — all three together.

Why use variations – An ideal candidate can tell you why variations are important in the iterative process. This one should be easy.

What types of variations – An ideal candidate tells how to use data to inform the kinds of variations to make. Should there be variations on the hook, content copy, music, or something else?

How to make variations – An ideal candidate works with a designer or video editor to specify what changes need to be made. Look for a detailed orientation of the candidate.

8. Can you give an example of how you've adapted an ad concept cross-platform?

Look for execution.

This is where the theory of creative strategy meets the hard reality of multiple ad platforms. Someone who has experience knows this well and can speak to it.

An ideal candidate has adapted an ad concept cross-platform and driven higher conversion. Even more important is understanding what works on different platforms and whether to repurpose a creative on other platforms. If the candidate demonstrates a nuanced understanding of what works on various platforms is a strong indication of experience and knowledge and will be a crucial indicator of success.

9. What script-writing formulas have you used successfully in the past?

Look for the craft.

Building creatives is an art. You need to understand direct-response advertising and marketing concepts.

Candidates can take this question as deep as they want. Deeper they go, the more craft they show.

Ideal candidates clearly articulate the anatomy of an ad (hook, features, and CTA) and ad building blocks. They demonstrate insights into the script-writing formulas and their understanding of key performance metrics. They will repeatedly cite how vital the hook is in any video creative.

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