Considerations for Hiring Technical Writers
by Phillip Rastocny
Your department is growing … things are starting to get out of control … your staff is about to mutiny. So it is time to expand your group. You already know what skills you need to handle the tasks, but what other assets can you get at the same time? Characteristics of a writer vary from individual to individual, and knowing what to look for before the interview process begins is half the way to hiring the right individual the first time.
ClarityQuite often, people cannot adequately portray what their abilities are in their cover letters and resumes. What seems like a no-brainer to you – one with many interviews and resumes in your pocket – will seem as foreign to a new graduate as it would be visiting another planet. Does this mean a person should be overlooked because of ineffective skills communication? Without proper clarity, a valuable asset could slip right through your fingers. Consider this: Many HR professionals skim through the multitude of responses to job postings, sifting through the criteria you specify looking for viable applicants. Specifically instructing your HR people to take a moment and read between the lines of these documents can be very beneficial, especially if you know exactly what you are looking for and how to express it to HR. Along with required skills you seek comes other intangibles – such as character, attitude, ingenuity, and ownership – that may not easily appear in print. Similarly, other skill sets you want to acquire may also be found in a new candidate. Weighing these intangibles against your immediate needs then becomes the task at hand: how do you get it all? How do I stress to HR the importance of finding the right person?
FocusJust as one saying goes, “You are what you eat,” I have found another saying to be equally true: “You find what you seek.” If knowing the skills is the first step in hiring a new writer, knowing what other skills and personality traits you need to accomplish other goals is the next step. Some people call this a “good fit” to the group, but I call it a “deliberate invitation.” Start by creating a list of the assets you normally do in any job description. After that mundane task is out of the way, write another list of other intangibles you desire and review them until you actually see the type of person you want sitting at the desk across from you. For example, imagine:
- The candidate’s posture
- How the person might engage someone on the phone
- How much conscious thought the person gives to responses
- How other members of your staff might interact with this person
- Created tests.
- Developed screening questions.
- Spoken with other members of my team about what they need.
CreativityOnce clarity and focus have prevailed, writing the proper ad to attract this type of candidate is the next task. My grandmother once told me that it is easier to attract bees with honey than with vinegar, so I try to remember this when preparing the ad. So ask yourself:
- What keywords would this candidate search for to apply for this position?
- What words would best describe this position to put a nibble on my hook?
- How can I structure the ad to make this candidate more than just casually interested in my company?
- Must be proficient in MS Office;
- Must be a team player;
- RoboHelp experience required, and so on.
Open MindednessSo for now, let’s say you have a few possibilities in your inbox. As you scan the first paragraph, give full attention not only to grammar, but more importantly to the onomatopoeia. Ask yourself:
- Does this person list hobbies that align with what your ideal candidate would posses?
- Does word choice seem parallel to what your ideal candidate would use?
- Does confidence exude from the page?
- Does the flow of the resume indicate the things you need?