When you get called in for an interview, you need to make sure your online and print portfolios are up to date and your resume and references are current. But you also need to be prepared to answer all kinds of copywriting interview questions. These are questions that are specific to copywriting—in addition to the “standard” interview questions.
No job interview is easy, but some copywriting interview questions offer additional challenges. Here’s the good news: With a little preparation before your copywriting interview, you will ace each one of them like a pro.
Before we get any further, we should note that obviously interviews are bound to vary from company to company and interviewer to interviewer. But there are some questions and topics you should be prepared to discuss. These are questions you’ll want to think about beforehand and have a ready answer.
Also, the answers to these questions are important insights into your understanding of copywriting, your working style, and your skills. Even if you don’t get asked these exact questions, you should find a way to work the answers into your conversation.
Here are a few of the toughest questions interviewers will ask related to your portfolio, work behavior, and work situations, and how you can craft your answers.
Portfolio-Specific Copywriting Interview Questions
What’s your writing like? How would you describe it?
This one is especially tough because it’s a trick question. As a copywriter, it’s never your voice that matters; it’s your client’s voice that does.
If you get asked a question like this, you need to explain that you write in the company’s brand voice. The brand may already have a set voice. Great! You’ll do the research to master that voice. If the company doesn’t yet have a brand voice, you’ll help them establish one that makes sense for the brand and will resonate with the target audience(s).
Before your interview, spend some time looking at the brand’s materials (website, social media, anything you can find!). You will be able to explain what you’ve noticed about the brand’s voice and any opportunities you see for the future.
Which piece in your portfolio is your favorite and why?
If this question comes up (and it very often does), it’s tempting to simply pick your favorite. After all, that’s what they asked for, right?
But just showing them your favorite piece, especially if it’s a piece in a style or medium that’s irrelevant to their company, doesn’t benefit you in any way. Instead of just pulling out your favorite piece, say something along the lines of, “I’d like to show you my favorite overall piece as well as my favorite piece that’s most relevant to this position.”
Be prepared, too, to explain what makes each piece a favorite—and don’t give a throwaway answer. “It was fun to write it!” doesn’t benefit you either. Tell them about something you learned while writing it, a challenge you overcame to put that copy together, or why it was so effective for the client. (Use analytics, too, if you can. For instance, if you wrote revised a current email and increased its open rate by 25%, you’ll want to mention that success.)
Now, obviously, your favorite piece is entirely up to you, but make sure that the reasons behind why it’s your favorite convey something. “It’s my favorite because it’s so clever” isn’t nearly as impactful as “It’s my favorite because it’s written in a voice that was a slight departure from the client’s past pieces and it was wildly effective.”
(Don’t have a portfolio? Here’s why you must have an online copywriting portfolio!)
What was your most challenging project?
What the interviewer is looking to get out of this question is:
- What you consider a “challenging project?”
- How you deal with challenges?
When you describe the project feel free to convey that it was troublesome, but just make sure to convey that you had it all under control. You’re not afraid of challenging projects! They want to make sure that if a challenging project comes up you won’t break down under the pressure. This is your chance to show them that you won’t.
Do you have a favorite copywriter? Who is it?
Quick: Name a copywriter. (Besides you or me.) It’s probably likely that you can’t. I’d have a hard time, too! And that’s the way it should be—the copywriter shouldn’t be the rock star; the copy should be.
To answer this question, you can simply say, “I don’t have a favorite copywriter, but I have a favorite piece of copy right now.” Then share what your favorite ad/marketing piece is and why.
It may be an older piece of copy or it could be something you saw on a billboard last week. The key is to explain why you think it’s so effective. Is it speaking to the target audience? Does it work well for the medium? Did it have a clear call to action? It may have a few factors that make it so effective.
Have you looked at our website? What piece of ours do you like best? What work have you done that’s most similar to our work?
The answer to the first part of this question needs to be a resounding “yes.” Don’t even dream of going to an interview until you’ve totally immersed yourself in their website, their social channels, and their general public presence.
As for the second part, you need to come to the interview prepared to discuss the work in the company’s portfolio just as much as yours. (If it’s an ad agency, you can usually find this in an “Our Work” section.) Evaluate everything carefully and decide which pieces you think would have been most effective and would resonate most with the intended target audience.
Being able to thoughtfully and insightfully discuss their work as well as yours offers a keen view into how you think about copy as well as how you write it. It’s good for them to know—so it’s good for you to share.
With a firm grasp on the kind of work that they’re doing, the clients they work with, and the audiences they target, you’ll be able to choose a piece from your portfolio that relates as closely to these as possible.
Behavioral-Related Copywriting Interview Questions
Now that they’ve seen your portfolio and know you can write, they want to know what kind of a worker and team player you are.
What are you looking for in a creative director?
Unless your answer is something like “Someone who doesn’t care when I screw around at work,” you can’t really go wrong with this question. Be honest: Are you looking for a mentor? A champion? A tough-to-please but supportive guide? Now’s your chance to find out what kind of creative director this company has.
How do you like to receive feedback on your work?
Again, this is your own preference. Do you like to get feedback as soon as possible? Do you prefer to get it in writing? Or does the thrill of getting it in public motivate you to do your best?
How do you prefer to collaborate with designers?
For this question, there’s one good answer, which is: a lot. You like to collaborate with designers a lot. You like to work together in front of one screen, you like to concept together, and you know that design and copy need to work closely together for a piece to be great. And you prefer to work closely with designers versus going rogue on your own ideas. Basically: You are a team player.
Interviewers love to get specific with how you’d act in a certain scenario. Come prepared with examples that answer questions like these.
When was one time you failed and how did you handle it?
Failure isn’t a bad thing. Interviewers want to hear about a time that something didn’t go according to plan, and they want to see how you got things back on track, what you learned from it, and how you applied those lessons to ensure that the same mistake didn’t happen again.
You’re in a meeting and everyone has come to a consensus, but you disagree. What do you do?
Generally, most employers don’t want an employee who is simply going to say “yes” to everything (if they do want a “yes” person, run). They want someone who is going to share ideas even when they’re different from the group. Of course, ultimately, if they decide they are going in a different direction, they want a team player who will get onboard.
What would you do if you were nearly done with a project and the goals of it changed?
Change happens. Potential employers want to know you’re willing to roll with the punches (if you’re freelance, obviously if priorities change from the original brief or scope of work, you’ll charge accordingly). While it’s frustrating to do work that then has to completely change, employers want to know you’re willing to do what it takes to get to get the project to the best possible place.
Remember: It’s totally fine to come with notes to an interview and to pause when a question is asked and say something like, “I actually wrote something down that I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget, so let me check my note on it…”
It shows that you prepared for the interview and are taking it seriously. No one is going to knock you for preparation!
Speaking of preparation, you’ll also want to come with your own list of questions. You may ask about the company culture, what your interviewer likes about working at the company, and other questions that help give you a sense of what it would be like to work at the company (just wait to ask about salary until after your initial interview!).
You want to make sure the company is a good fit for you just as much as the company wants to make sure you’re a good fit for them.
Watch for More Copywriting Interview Tips
If you have an interview coming up, watch this video for even more tips on how to ensure you put your best foot forward. You’ll also want to check out part one and three in this series to know what to do before you head to your interview and what to do after your interview is over.
Are there any especially tough copywriting interview questions you’ve had to answer? What were they? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on May 10, 2023
Krista Tressa says
Great copywriting interview tips Nicki! Thanks! I feel like I’m a good interviewer from my past career paths but I appreciate your tips that are specific to copywriting- they are good food for thought. What would you recommend a new copywriter say if asked about our rates? Is this a question a marketing agency would ask? I’ve recently pitched my first local agency to provide relief work…your copywriter interview tips will be utilized for sure:). Thanks so much for being a great mentor and sharing your nuggets of wisdom.
The Filthy Rich Writer Team says
Hi Krista! Here’s a link to a podcast from Nicki and Kate that dives into how to set your copywriting rates – http://filthyrichwriter.com/how-much-to-charge-for-copywriting-services/
Anna Tumenok says
These are actually extremely helpful! So glad I stumbled upon your site!
The Filthy Rich Writer Team says
We are so happy to hear that! Please let us know if you have any questions or would like to see us cover a topic we haven’t yet!