Social media job interview questions

Mastermind chair with the text "Specialist Subject: Social Media"
I recently recruited someone to work exclusively on social media.

It’s a shiny new post of a kind as yet still rare in government (I can only name three others) and a bit different from any vacancy I’ve recruited into before. So my (t)rusty set of interview questions for website managers just wasn’t going to cut the mustard on this one.

In search of inspiration I Googled, Icerocketed and Firehosed but – to my surprise – all I could find was one decent but short list of relevant Qs. There’s more stuff out there for the candidate to ask the employer than vice versa, including this pertinent and this rather impertinent list of suggested questions, and a well thought out generic SM job description here.

So I scratched my head and made some up instead. Here’s what I came up with. Hopefully you will find them useful if you’re ever in the same position, and doubtless you’ll be able to improve on them via comments. And – though posting this here may give the game away somewhat to future candidates – I’d say all credit to anyone who does their homework and seeks these out.


Depth of understanding:


Strategic approach/business context:


A subset of these questions certainly did the trick for me and I got a great result. What would you add or change?

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Alas, it’s still only 50 per cent of my job.Digital marketing takes up the other half…

Blummin’ good post though. I wasn’t sure how to answer some of them and I’ve been doing digital for 7 years and comms for over 10. Either the questions are good, or I’m a thickie ;)

To answer your question about what to change/include, what about something about the effects on other comms channels?

Great posting and love the questions, thanks for the share. Given the social connection I think it would be beneficial to ask for examples of how the individual uses social media themselves at a personal level.

An interesting question to ask is ‘Tell me about a time when you signed up for a social networking site and then perhaps realised it wasn’t right for you or your needs. Why was that?’. Of course you may get a ‘I never did that’ response, but more often than not people sign up for a site that looks good and then for one reason or another they jack it in.

I think its interesting to learn how individuals perceive social media from a personal, as well as business, perspective. You can learn a lot from the story telling that might not otherwise be revealed.

Neil great post. Some great questions some of which I would be happy to answer but others I am afraid I would have to stumble through.

I would ask a candidate:

How would you put our social media resources to work on our website?

As the person responsible for Social Media how would you see your relationship with the website editor?

To paraphrase John, the question I always asked recruiting web designers back in the day was :”what’s your website address?” Those who answered I don’t have one were shown the door. In this bright new social media world it would be what are your URLs / online names.

I thought it was rather good fun. Though I felt bad asking it at times, I thought a question around ‘Why does social media/Twitter/digital engagement/whatever really matter anyway? Why not do something else with our time?’ seemed to work quite well at getting people to put things in a bit of context. Call it an echo chamber or whatever, but there’s a risk we all fit into a comfortable consensus about tools and approaches designed for people like us, and miss the point that we’re all in rather odd positions, playing with largely untried tools to ‘engage’ with people who mainly have better things to do all day.

This is a great set of questions. Might be useful to add is an evaluation of their personal blogging experience: measuring dedication, social connections, methods and best practice (I hate that cliche!) etc.

I role plays too. Going beyond head knowledge it gives you n idea of how they’ll behave under pressure.

Very informative post, questions copied for safe keeping!

Very nice set of Qs and good suggestions by previous commenters. Depending on exactly what the role is like, there might be a question about online community management? (Though there are several that touch on that.)

That’s a pretty comprehensive list – you’re putting your poor candidates through the mill there ;-)

The question I’ve got into the habit of asking project manager-type candidates (and I think it’s equally applicable here) is “tell me about your biggest project-related cockup, and tell me what you learnt from it”. On the basis that if that question gets answered with blather, there’s a real risk of the person blundering from mistake to mistake without stopping to think about what they’re doing and change it. Which is kind of restating John’s question from a slightly different perspective.

The link to the Brandstorming site is an interesting one, because it’s talking about questions from the candidate’s point of view. I think you could take your list and adapt to become a checklist to ask the *organisation* about their readiness – getting to the point of trying to recruit is one measure of the organisation’s motivation, but without the other components in place the candidate’s job is probably not going to succeed.

Wow, nice to wake up to such great comments.

Interesting thoughts here from Jeremy and John (touched upon by others) about candidates’ online footprint. How far, if at all, do you think it’s fair to hold it against someone if their personal blog or friendfeed is a bit lame?

We (the panel) chose not to do so at all, in this instance, and judged candidates solely on the evidence asked for during the recruitment process. I would love to include their personal profiles as part of the evidence next time – I guess you’d just need to be up front about it in the instructions/job ad.

Re the difficulty of these questions, I agree some of these are tough. But there’s no right or wrong answer to something like “what’s the difference between web 2.0 and social media” – just an opportunity to demonstrate an understanding of the issues, and the extent of reading around and connectedness with what’s happening in this field. Which others did you think were a bit too harsh?

Steph – it was so handy having you on the panel. Let’s do it again sometime. I loved your ‘why..’ question at the time, it drew out very revealing answers. I should have remembered it and included it in the main post.

I think experience, expressed through their personal online adventures, counts for a lot. If they’re not doing it, they’re just talking about it.

These are great – and challenging questions.

I think what might risk getting lost is being clear about the reasons for doing any of this in the first place, and what we hope to achieve by it, though some of it is touched on in the evaluation section. But I would want some reassurance that candidates could set out the contribution to the organisation’s overall purpose, rather than just social media/communications objectives.

So a couple of simple questions:

How will any of this help the government achieve its objectives? How will we tell?

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Thanks for the links, Neil – I wrote both the brandstorming and the social media headhunter descriptions almost a year ago, and they’ve really accelerated since then. Mostly it’s been a matter of convergence with other positions – marketing, PR, sales – but the holy grail is still how you’re measured.

Your approach is perfect. Get them talking about their experience, as the answers will vary from person to person, but the solutions they intend to implement should be weighed against the company’s needs.

The VA and others are looking into social media – I’ve been contacted by a handful of agencies, both state and federal, and they want social media, they just haven’t figured out what they want it for.

Keep up the good work.


Could your job have been done by somewhere living anywhere in the world, or did they have to be in London ?

Would people working on social media in Kenya, or South Africa, for example by 3 years ahead in innovation and application practical understanding ?

The competency based interview has been around a while ; your list has hopefully produced a good candidate ; given the rigour of the process, perhaps you found 3 or 4 other quality people that could go to other parts of your organisation ?

In the future, Jeremiah Oywang’s blog has some great pieces on evolving roles, future job descriptions etc…..but I have not see a post on this area for a while ( maybe because of the recession ! )

All the bext :)


Alex, interesting angle I hadn’t thought of. In theory many such jobs could of course be done remotely. In this case though, I definitely need someone physically in the building, plugged into what’s happening, attending meetings and winning hearts and minds.

Great questions! This is very good to choose the right person for the job. Since social media is relatively know recruitment is abit tricky otherwise.

Thanks, these are really useful, especially as I have an interview for Digital Communication role in a few days. Interesting to see some comments advocating speaking about personal use. I can’t decide whether I should do so. (I think yes, but show that my personal use has purpose…)

Honestly, there is so much recruitment happening for social media but the employee profile is still not defined well. It’s good to have a check list of what to look for in a candidate.

just was i was looking for. thanks!

Very good but can we have the answers?

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