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Interview Questions for Strategic Planners

I’ve captured all the questions I use when evaluating strategic planners, and also asked planning department heads to contribute their best interview questions.

This list is a guide and should be tailored based on the candidate. Overall, we’re trying to get a sense of intellectual rigor, thought leadership, and how s/he synthesizes and presents information. For junior-level candidates, you may need to establish core competencies first.  For more seasoned candidates, behavioral-based questions (case studies) are probably best.

Questions are arranged in four buckets: Core Competencies, Analytical Skills/Case Studies, Contributions, and Team Dynamics.

I’m always interested in improving my screening capabilities, and look forward to your comments!


  1. Describe a recent research project. Were you responsible for defining the scope and approach? What elements were you hands-on and what did you outsource [to a research supplier]?
  2. What types of qualitative research methods do you have experience with (focus groups, ethnographies, interviews, etc.)?  Quantitative experience (tracking studies, surveys, etc.)? Describe your depth of experience in each of these areas (E.g. How many projects have you done? Did you lead the project and personally present findings to the client?)
  3. What secondary/compiled research sources do you regularly use?
  4. What is your process for synthesizing information? Or, what tools do you use to analyze data?
  5. Do you use any web analytics software?  Rate your proficiency with the following: Webtrends, Google Analytics, Omniture.
  6. How do you get up to speed on a new client’s business?
  7. Are you responsible for writing research proposals, e.g. defining research approach and methodologies, compiling costs, assigning timeline, etc? Give me an example.
  8. Do you develop creative briefs, POVs, recommendations decks, etc?


  1. Can you walk me through one of the more challenging projects you have done? What was the business challenge and how did your methodology solve it?
  2. What was the consumer or business insight that informed your recommendation?  How did you uncover it? How did your solution respond to it?
  3. What was the final deliverable? E.g. How were recommendations translated to marketing strategy, brand or product positioning, or a tactical marketing campaign?
  4. What was the outcome? How did you measure results/success?
  5. Do you use a typical process or framework to approach strategy engagements? Can you describe the major steps to me?
  6. Describe a current ad campaign you think is well executed. What do you think was the insight behind it?


  • Another technique is to describe a current business challenge and ask the candidate how s/he would approach it.
  • A work sample will give a visual representation of the candidate’s ability to communicate ideas in words, graphics, charts, frameworks, etc.


  1. What is the role of a strategist? Or, what is a strategist responsible for in your current organization?
  2. Are you responsible for growing/selling through strategy engagements?  How have you been involved?  In your experience, what’s the most successful way to sell in strategic services?
  3. What role have you played in new business pitches? How many have you participated in? How many did the agency win?


  1. What is your management style? How many people work for you currently? In what ways do you mentor them?
  2. What would your colleagues say about you? Greatest strength and area for improvement.
  3. Describe your relationship with other departments. How have you overcome tension with other team members?
  4. How do you ensure Strategy is engaged in business decisions?
  5. What role does Strategy play in the creative process?
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