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The social media manager proficiency test: Ask these 5 questions during the interview

The term “social media manager” is very loosely used these days. Anyone with any experience in posting kitty memes or party photos on Instagram seem to think that they qualify to work on branded content creation and online marketing.

Luckily, you have these 5 questions to make them sweat during the interview.

What does a like, comment or share mean to you?

We start off with a question that even some veteran social media folks cannot answer convincingly. It’s straightforward enough at face value – an engagement on your post indicates that the user relates to the content, and in some way has consumed it meaningfully.

But if you push deeper and ask why social media engagements matter to your brand, this separates the real thinkers from the ones who merely execute. A thinker will analyse the value of a like, or a comment, or a share, and explains how in the long run these build brand affinity. And if you get a technical explanation on how engagements encourage higher organic impressions due to the nature of the ‘algorithm’, that’s also a great answer if articulated in detail.

But anything less than that is a red flag.

How will you align your content ideas with our strategy?

Many social media content creators do well for themselves, but only when doing content for themselves. This means that even the most creative people, when pressed to work on content for a brand, fail abysmally.

This is not because of their lack of creativity. Instead, aligning corporate strategy to creative work is itself a skill. Your social media manager should be aware of how to translate corporate strategy to good (or even average) content. But if you end up sounding off-brand or incoherent with the rest of the organisation, you open yourself up to unnecessary reputational risks.

What is a trendjack? And where can I buy one?

By now, almost every social media manager would know what a trendjack is. But find some wannabe on Fiverr, and you might still get a confused yet confident reply on where you can buy a trendjack.

Trendjacks are often seen as a good to have, but also something to turn a brand from average to superstardom. During the interview, get a sense of how the social media manager would pick up trends that are relevant, and dissect the thought process into how he or she thinks about it. After all, jumping on the wrong trend, or doing a trendjack wrongly, would also expose your brand to unnecessary reputational risks.

Sometimes, it is better to do nothing than something.

How will you develop an Instagram reel from concept to post-production? What resources will you need?

Videos is all the rage now, and it doesn’t look like its slowing down anytime soon. In recent times, brands are developing content in-house and using their own employees as producer, camera crew and talents.

A social media manager who can direct a short social media video, add the right music, do simple edits and publish it within a day – that’s a treasured commodity. Creative agencies continue to see their business getting eroded by brands who dare push the envelope and run on their own – but you will need the right person leading the way.

Pro tip: Test the social media manager’s knowledge by asking for a detailed, step by step explanation of what he or she would do to create the video. Ask about the equipment and software needed. Ask about how the storyboard and shotlist would look like. Ask about how to put your actors and talents at ease. These are all challenges anyone who has been on set would know about.

Is a publicity stunt worth risking your brand reputation?

There’s no right or wrong answer here. Instead, you can use this to get a gauge of the risk appetite and personality of the social media manager, and compare it to your brand’s risk profile.

This is also a good question to see if the social media manager has the maturity needed to assess a content opportunity, and how he or she can mitigate any key risks.

For example, if you’re getting a white hat hacker to ‘hack’ some people who are using your fake WiFi hotspot, is this going to backfire on you? Sure, it sends a strong message, but is building trust a key brand message, and will your customers see the humour and creativity in this activation?


Beyond the usual ‘share your portfolio’ routine, these 5 questions will help you judge if your candidate has enough maturity and appreciation for risk to work for an enterprise in social media.

Otherwise, you risk getting greenhorns in, and learning the hard way that sometimes, not all social media managers are equally skilled.

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