I’ve helped several clients hire a strategist for their digital agencies. Strategist recruiting is tough, because plenty of people claim to be strategists—but their strategies might not work, or they require so much PM attention that they drive your team crazy.
Asking good interview questions will help you find better strategists—and find them faster. The sooner you find the right person, the sooner they can start helping your clients! Over time, you can also train client strategists internally.
Strategist interview questions for agencies
Past performance tends to predict future performance. The key is to focus on values (what they believe) and behaviors (how they act) that match what you need in the strategist role. Be sure to ask followup questions to drill down into their answers.
- Tell me about a time a client didn’t want to follow your strategy recommendations.
- What’s the ideal deliverable for a strategy project?
- When a client is on an ongoing retainer, what’s your approach to keep their strategy up-to-date?
- What appeals to you about our agency and this particular job?
- Over a month, how would you ideally like to split your time between strategy, client service, and tactics/implementation?
- What do you think about <hot topic in marketing>?
- What was the key to your <accomplishment at previous role>? What did you do in <previous role> that no one else could have done?
- Walk me through a typical day at <previous role>.
- How much internal work should a strategist do for the agency itself?
- Tell me about a time a client didn’t follow your advice, and then came back for help when they realized their plan didn’t work.
- What do you do to keep up with trends in our industry and in marketing? Tell me about a time you had to quickly learn the industry of a new client.
- Tell me about a time a client asked you to create a strategy around something irrelevant they heard about from a friend or at a conference.
- How do you decide whether to get a project manager or account manager involved when a client requests new work?
- Share about a time you were waiting on a client to share feedback so you could move forward.
For many of these questions, there is no one “right” answer—you’re asking because you want to see their approach to solving problems.
Summary for your agency
Before you post the Strategist job, be sure you don’t really need a Project Manager (keeps projects and retainers running smoothly and efficiently) or an Account Manager (keeps clients happy and upsells them). They’re different skillsets. Smaller agencies need to compromise by hiring one person to do multiple jobs, but be sure you understand whether you need a strategist vs. an AM/PM.
Remember, asking the right questions will help you find the right strategist faster. Ask followup questions to dig deeper. This is especially important if you’re positioned as a strategy-first agency. And always check references before you make an offer; you don’t want to accidentally hire a “reluctant employee.”
Question: What’s your favorite interview question when you hire strategists?