As companies increasingly rely on online engagement to fuel their businesses, the field of digital marketing is more important than ever. Whether your background is in crunching numbers and analyzing data, in editorial where storytelling and content strategy are your specialties, or in PR or brand representation protecting the best interests of your client, you'll need to stand out from the pack and nail your interviews to move forward in your digital marketing career.
But with so many opportunities within the field, what qualities and digital marketing skills are hiring managers looking for in candidates?
The best digital marketing employees are actively curious, they are highly collaborative team players, and they respond to constructive feedback with grace and hard work, says Bethany Cantor, an accomplished digital marketing director who has worked at startups and corporations ranging from Aaptiv to Teachable, where she’s currently Head of Content and Brand Marketing.
When Grace Ouma-Cabezas, a marketing executive with 14 years of experience and currently the Vice President of Marketing at Food52, is hiring digital marketers, she’s “typically looking for people who are curious, creative, have grit, and thrive in fast-paced environments.” (Full disclosure: Food52 is a partner of The Muse.)
Regardless of the level or the type of digital marketing role for which you are applying, you’ll want to show these qualities alongside your skills and experience in an interview. And you can do that by preparing to answer these digital marketing interview questions (in addition to the common interview questions you’re likely to get no matter what kind of job you’re after).
- Tell Me About Your Experience in Digital Marketing.
- Describe a Digital Marketing Campaign You’ve Worked on From Start to Finish. How Did You Approach the Task? How Were You Successful? How Could You Have Done Better?
- Tell Me About How You’ve Used Google Analytics [or Another Digital Marketing Tool or Skill] Day-to-Day in Your Current Role.
- Give Examples of How You’ve Worked With Content Marketing and Content Strategy.
- Describe a Process or Method You Use to Define KPIs.
- How Do You Communicate Progress to Your Team, Clients, and Stakeholders?
- Why Do You Want to Work in Digital Marketing?
1. Tell Me About Your Experience in Digital Marketing.
This may seem like a broad question at first, but your interviewer doesn’t want you to run down your entire resume here. This is your best chance to explain how your specific career experience and personal traits make you the best candidate for this particular digital marketing position at this specific company.
How to Answer
When you’re crafting your answer to this question, think about the company and role you’re applying to. For example, if you’re interviewing at a startup, you’ll likely be expected to thrive within a fast-paced environment and wear multiple hats on a smaller team. So talk about ways you’ve stepped outside of your current job description to take on more opportunities and grow your skill set. If you’re expected to be able to report on data sets, speak to your experience collecting and analyzing data and explain how you’ve run reports in the past. For content-focused roles, your writing experience cannot be understated: Be sure to address the various ways you have worked with content and the strategies you’ve used to achieve results.
To demonstrate all of these things, tell a story about your career. With your answer, you want to show your interviewer how your experience adds up to lead you to this job as the next step in that story. This sort of career trajectory–oriented mindset is highly attractive to interviewers seeking a candidate who knows why this role is right for them at this time (and why they are right for the role) and who will continue to learn and grow at their company. Prepare your answer to this question in advance so you avoid rambling and can highlight your proudest achievements and best skills.
You could say something like:
“I have worked in digital marketing for six years, and my experience has been mostly in a startup environment. In my most recent role as a media director, my day-to-day responsibilities were to plan my team’s editorial calendar and to use that content to develop creative marketing strategies and meet revenue goals. What I loved most about my role was having the opportunity to watch my strategies play out and learn from each campaign. In my next role, I look forward to taking my experience to a new industry and learning what performs best there while having more oversight over a variety of content initiatives.”
2. Describe a Digital Marketing Campaign You’ve Worked on From Start to Finish. How Did You Approach the Task? How Were You Successful? How Could You Have Done Better?
“This question gets to the heart of a candidate's ability to evaluate an action's performance and pivot as needed. I actually like to hear about campaigns that didn't work out as expected, or where there was a need to change course,” Ouma-Cabezas says. That narrative could demonstrate a candidate’s grit, or how they perform under different types of pressure.
Meanwhile, Cantor’s experience working in startup environments influences the traits she seeks when looking for future team members. She always loves to hear if people have taken on responsibilities outside of their roles and wants to see candidates who have demonstrated that they can “roll with the punches, fix problems, and come up with creative solutions.”
How to Answer
To ace this interview question, it’s important to highlight a specific story from your career that demonstrates experience or skills that are applicable to the role you are seeking. Equally valuable are your examples of times you’ve stepped up to the plate to go beyond what was asked of you; times you’ve had to communicate wins or challenges to your team, clients, or stakeholders; and times you learned from an experience so you can execute better the next time.
With this question, Ouma-Cabezas also looks for flexibility and the ability to work well with others. “I think it's important in digital marketing not to be too ‘precious’ about your ideas—meaning you can scrap [an idea] for a more effective one, which you could easily come up with.” So if you have an example that demonstrates these qualities, even better.
One last thing to keep in mind: As with all aspects of digital marketing, your story will only be stronger if you can back it up with quantitative results. Daryle Lockhart, a digital marketing project manager with more than 22 years in the field, finds himself looking for data-driven answers to this question. “Numbers are important, but to me, applied analytics are more important. A successful digital marketer needs to be able to see beyond just followers and traffic and see conversion rates,” he says. He seeks candidates who can cut through the biggest numbers to find the most important quality data group—and you can use this question to show that this is you.
You could answer this by saying:
“During a campaign for a television network’s new show launch, we knew we had to think outside the box and create something totally new in order to earn a dedicated fan base and air a successful pilot. I designed a campaign that included a special launch event and activities at locations surrounding New York City’s Madison Square Park, and we blasted the launch all over social media.
“We noticed a high volume of followers engaging with our content and our reach was excellent, with more than one million people liking our Facebook page within a week. However, despite our massive reach, we were not seeing a high conversion to ticket sales for our event. We decided to adjust our strategy and started targeting ads to a smaller age bracket and geographic area. That is when we exceeded our ticket sales goals, selling more than 5,000 for the launch event.
“Our massive reach helped create fan buy-in and got more people to watch the show, but our targeted approach resulted in more ticket sales, more organic social media promotion, and most importantly, loyal fans who continue to tune into the new episodes every week.”
3. Tell Me About How You’ve Used Google Analytics [or Another Digital Marketing Tool or Skill] Day-to-Day in Your Current Role.
Your future employer wants to understand not only that you know how to use the digital marketing tool, but at what level, from beginner to advanced to expert. Be honest here—do not say you are an expert at Google Analytics or SEO if you only know the basics!
“If a candidate only has basic understanding and comfort level with a skill, but is truly exceptional in every other way, I will make space and figure out how to get you educated [on the skill you need to learn]—especially if you are open and excited about it,” Cantor says.
How to Answer
This is your chance to back up that list of skills on your resume or LinkedIn profile. Prove you understand how to apply the digital marketing tool in question by explaining how you use it in day-to-day operations and how that informs the bigger picture of your job.
It’s OK to talk about digital marketing tools or programs you would like to learn more about. If the job description calls for Curalate or Buffer and you haven’t used them before, speak to a relevant tool you’ve taken initiative to learn and express eagerness to get up to speed on the programs with your prospective team.
For example, one answer to this if you’re not very experienced in using Google Analytics in the same way the role calls for might be:
“I have used Google Analytics for two years as an account manager. I recently completed a General Assembly course on the subject to further my understanding of this tool. Though I didn’t need to do this for my work with clients, I wanted to understand how the media and product teams use Google Analytics to make decisions so that my business development team could work with the other teams more cohesively and be able to report analytics to our clients directly. However, I know there are more in-depth Google Analytics functions I’ll have to learn and use as a brand marketing manager, and I look forward to furthering my knowledge on the subject the way I did when I first wanted to learn the basic program functions.”
4. Give Examples of How You’ve Worked With Content Marketing and Content Strategy.
There is a time and place for traditional digital marketing, but content strategy is rapidly becoming more important to brands as a way to connect, engage, and build loyalty with audiences. To keep up in this area, you need to be on top of changes in the industry. So with this question, your interviewer wants to know if you have taken the initiative throughout your career to ask questions, learn new skills, and evolve with industry trends—particularly when it comes to content.
How to Answer
If you’re coming from an editorial or content background, you’re not alone—and it may be to your advantage. Cantor got her first marketing job coming exclusively from the editorial side of the business. “I looked at marketing and realized that a modern marketing team was beginning to look a lot like the content teams I was used to. People want a marketing team that includes stellar social, editorial, and partnerships content.”
While many successful digital marketers are experienced and strong writers—branding, content, and social media are just a few of the roles where editorial backgrounds are key—being an expert in copy is different from being an expert in content strategy, so you’ll want to make the connection for your interviewer. Anja Winikka officially made the move to the digital marketing world after having been a digital editor for over a decade at TheKnot.com, where she’s now the Director of Education & Industry Innovation. (The Knot Worldwide is also a partner of The Muse.)
She describes the career shift in a way that makes it easy to connect editorial skills to content marketing and strategy: “In editorial, it was our job to listen to our audience, understand what it was they needed, and then to come up with content that they would connect with across digital channels. We used analytics to inform our decisions and we worked across departments (including SEO, product, and social media) to get the job done.”
Meanwhile, if you don’t have any experience in content creation or using content as a marketing tool, it’s OK to admit that you aren’t well-versed in that arena. Instead, play to your strengths with data analysis and a proven track record of success in numeric growth, as well as how you might apply that to what you do know about content. Better yet, if you keep up with industry trends with regard to content strategy, SEO, or the ever-evolving social media and email algorithms outside of your current job, share what you know!
For example, you might say:
“My current role doesn’t have a strong content component to it officially, but I have seen the increasing importance of content marketing in the digital world. I noticed some of my favorite brands increasingly telling stories with their social media presence and wanted to find out why, so I’ve taken a few LinkedIn Learning courses, participated in a few content marketing webinars, and asked our social media manager to sit in on some planning sessions to get a better understanding of what this process looks like in action. In order to really get some experience, I even ended up helping them brainstorm and execute a series of Instagram posts that doubled our engagement rate on that platform and gained our company 60% more followers that week than our average. I’m also particularly interested in learning more about SEO and how to develop a content strategy based on what people are already searching for.”
5. Describe a Process or Method You Use to Define KPIs.
This is straightforward—your interviewer wants to get an up-close look at your tactical knowledge. Speak to your experience. Even if you didn’t call your goals “key performance indicators” in your previous roles, talk about how you measured and analyzed data and how it informed your decision making and proved whether or not your campaigns were successful.
How to Answer
The ability to pull and present data is critical in digital marketing. In answering this question, Cantor says she looks for five key takeaways:
- Did you have goals before, or would being responsible for specific goals be a new thing?
- Are you comfortable presenting findings? Can you explain reasons why traffic changes month to month?
- Are you comfortable with the software the company uses? What are the tools you’ve used in the past?
- Have you pulled metrics in some way or worked with a team that pulled metrics? Did you take part in analysis and are you able to understand and interpret the data?
- Do you understand how the data affects day-to-day operations?
If you can speak to these points, you should be good to go.
A sample answer might sound like:
“In my previous role, my team held weekly check-ins to review traffic and conversions. We set weekly and monthly goals based on trends we were seeing and presented them to our company in a weekly conference call. I prepared the presentation for my team once a month using Salesforce. I would share sales numbers as well as an analysis of what we were seeing in trends around traffic and conversion rates and what we predicted for future months so that other teams could make decisions based on our findings.”
6. How Do You Communicate Progress to Your Team, Clients, and Stakeholders?
No matter where you are within your team, being an excellent communicator is imperative to your success as a marketer. This means that you need to be able to present information clearly and confidently and back your claims up with data, all while maintaining positive and professional rapport with your team.
Having progressed through the digital marketing ranks herself, Winikka has seen firsthand how critical this skill is at all levels and knows it is at the core of success in the field. “When you really boil it down, marketing is about the passing along of ideas and concepts from one person to the next. If you are good at convincing other people of your ideas, you have what it takes to be a great marketer,” Winikka says.
How to Answer
Upon asking a question like this, Ouma-Cabezas says she “would be listening for how much (or little) positive intent the candidate uses in their communication,” as well as “how they take accountability, especially with communicating challenges and progress. I'd also be listening for real-world examples of this. If not answered using an anecdote, I would ask for examples.”
You could say:
“When my team acquired our biggest client, a reputable bottled water company, I worked directly with my team to prepare a plan for how we would deliver on the agreement to highlight them at each event in a thought leader speaker series my company hosted.
“Each morning at 9 AM, my team would sit down together for 15 minutes and talk about the campaign progress and data. On Friday afternoons, I held a call with the client to talk about the week that had passed and our goals for the following week. On one particular instance over the summer, we saw a drop in traffic and conversions from events, which had our client deeply concerned that they were not receiving the reach we promised. However, we were able to adjust our strategy moving forward and make up for the lull by hosting an exclusive event with a high-profile thought leader and offering comped tickets for our most engaged followers on social media.”
By doing all this, we earned brand buy-in for our client and saw a major uptick in sales throughout the fall. We exceeded our annual goal before the new year and our client renewed their contract for the following year with twice the budget.”
7. Why Do You Want to Work in Digital Marketing?
Everyone has a “why”—a driving force behind their career, how they got to where they are, and why they go to work every day. This question may make or break your interviewer’s decision to hire you depending on how your “why” fits into their company culture and the role itself.
Winikka asks this question in her digital marketing interviews often. “I want to understand what [the candidate] values most about digital marketing. Some love the process, others love ideation, and still others love execution. It is so helpful to know that about a person up front so that I can understand whether they are going to truly connect with the type of work we need done. It also helps me make a decision about the way that person will interact with the team.”
How to Answer
The best answer here is the most truthful one, and it’s going to be highly personal to you.
For Ouma-Cabezas, for example, “It is both challenging and rewarding to drive a business forward. You get the ‘instant gratification’ of seeing results of a campaign but also can see the improvement over time of longer-tail initiatives and optimizations,” she says.
A great response to this question would be to describe what you have enjoyed in your career so far and how it has led you to seek your new role.
“I am a person who is happiest when I get to brainstorm creative strategies and work in an environment where every day is different from the next. I am a skilled content creator, but in an earlier role, I discovered that my favorite part of digital marketing is looking at analytics and audience engagement to inform the big picture content strategy of my team and seeing how that makes a positive impact on the whole organization. This is why, since then, I have sought out and thrived in startup environments where I am given the autonomy to be responsible for both content and digital marketing strategy. In my next role, I am looking for an opportunity to exercise my talents in management and creative strategy while still having a hand in top-notch brand storytelling.”
Next Steps: After the Digital Marketing Interview
At the end of your interview, you should anticipate having time to ask your own questions. Ideally, many of these will be answered over the course of your interview, but this is a prime opportunity to continue to give your interviewer insight into your values. Curate at least three or four questions that get to the core of what you hope to gain from your next company and role—it is to your benefit to learn as much as you can and allow your interviewers to learn about you based on what you ask.
Once the interview is over, the work is not yet done. In many cases, you can expect a skills test before you’re hired. If your next role is writing heavy, anticipate preparing copy. If you’re applying for a data-driven position, an analysis or presentation may be what your future employer wants to see. Be sure to spend enough time on the assignment to complete it to the best of your ability—your prospective employer can tell if you rushed, and even if the interview was spectacular, poor work execution can be a dealbreaker in a hiring decision.
And remember that at the end of the day, your interviewer is looking for someone who is a fit for their team, and the best you can do—before and after the interview—is be yourself.