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Choosing The Right Technical Writer 

17th August 2010 Posted in Blog, Hiring, Technical Writers 4 Comments
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Choosing a new employee is one thing, but finding the right technical writer to hire can be a daunting task.

While you might be up to your ears in resumes, the technical writer who is going to best fit a company’s needs isn’t always clear. While a person might be trained and available to begin work on Monday, there are certain skills that are especially valuable in technical writers to assure they will meet your needs.

3 Key Considerations for a Technical Writer

  • Experience
  • Efficiency
  • Versatility (Can produce a wide variety of documents in various output formats.)

If your company is ready to take on a new technical writer, you need to know that the writer you select will not only produce the work you need to get done, but will do so with skill, expertise, and efficiency.

Their resume should begin with a list of past employers who have already seen the writer in action. The jobs performed for those employers might include documentation work while on staff contracting as a writer, and even working as a freelancer in the technical writing market.

Efficiency is the one skill that may be most difficult to judge. However, if the resume indicates your candidate has been able to retain clients over a longer period of time, that’s one potential indicator. Having a demonstrated history of being able to multi-task, especially in juggling multiple projects simultaneously is another. If prior and current employers have kept the writer coming back for follow-on projects, it’s generally for a good reason.

Demonstrated evidence of versatility is especially important if you plan to use the technical writer’s skills on multiple projects or occasionally ask the writer to contribute to knowledge base, marketing or website content in addition to his or her documentation tasks. Hiring a technical writer who has demonstrated versatility will allow you to entrust the writer with various projects, with fewer rewrites, restructuring, and reworking of the content.

Of course, it goes without saying that if the technical writer you are considering is already knowledgeable in your industry and has experience with the tools you use everyday to produce documents, he or she might seem like the ideal hire. However, a truly adept technical writer has probably had to learn a variety of new tools throughout his or her career, so tool skills alone should not be an overriding factor in making a decision, especially not in a decision whether to offer an interview to the candidate.

Related articles:
Hiring Technical Writers
What to Consider When Hiring Technical Writers

We’d love to hear your thoughts on choosing the right technical writer. Please leave a comment.

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4 Comments

  1. By anonon 17th, August 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Great post! For a few reasons, I’ll remain anonymous here, but I’d like to expand on this:

    “However, a truly adept technical writer has probably had to learn a variety of new tools throughout his or her career, so tool skills alone should not be an overriding factor in making a decision, especially not in a decision whether to offer an interview to the candidate.”

    Make sure that this person does, indeed, have the desire and the capacity to learn new tools. Many writers are too fiercely loyal to the tools they know well. We hired one who actually refused to learn the tool that we adopted.

  2. By editoron 18th, August 2010 at 7:45 am

    Good point. This is something that probably could have been fleshed out during an interview.

  3. By Vishnuon 21st, September 2010 at 10:39 pm

    All this applies when the recruitment practices of the company are near perfect. I know of instances where the existing team refused to accept candidates that they thought might be a challenge to them. Moreover, companies present a “beautiful” picture of the documentation projects before hiring. A majority of what recruiters have claimed will be absurd.

  4. By editoron 22nd, September 2010 at 7:35 am

    Vishnu:

    Thanks for your comment. It’s often the case that a team will refuse a candidate because he or she doesn’t feel like a “good fit” for the group. Yes, in some cases that can be because someone on the team feels the candidate may be “too much of a challenge”. I’m assuming your last sentence refers to staff recruiters within the companies themselves. Of course, their job is to get candidates in the door and let the hiring decision makers determine who is best qualified. Sometimes company recruiters (or third-party recruiters, for that matter) are given a “beautiful” picture and are merely passing on what they’ve been told. I’d also think that candidates paint a “beautiful” picture of themselves in order to get an interview.

    The important point is for the candidate and those responsible for the hiring decision to get a clear idea if they mesh. What’s discussed and unveiled in the interview will most likely provide a basis for making that determination – on both sides of the interview table.

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