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Posts with the Tag: hiring tech writers

How Important are Specific Software Skills for a Technical Writer?

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Being a technical writer requires an individual to have a variety of skills, not the least of which is a strong sense of communicating to a target audience. However, many a technical writer has been passed over for employment because the tech writer lacked experience with a specific piece of software – such as Adobe’s Framemaker. Unfortunately, this can extend so far as insisting on experience with a specific version of the software or else that candidate can be vetted out of the hiring process very quickly.

While in some cases insisting on experience with a specific software tool may be justified, employers shouldn’t overlook the fact that technical writers are skilled in learning and then passing on what’s been learned to others. If the technical writer doesn’t fully understand the product or software he or she is charged with documenting, presenting information about that product or software in clear terms is impossible.

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Specialized Technical Writers or Those Who Can Do It All?

19th August 2010 Posted in Blog, Hiring, Marketing Writers, Technical Writers 0 Comments
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A common argument among companies and HR departments is whether the technical writers they hire should be well versed in many projects or just in a particular set of projects. And there are good arguments for both sides of this discussion.

Why Specialization Helps with Technical Writers

Technical writers are already specialists of sorts, helping to create technical documentation for any number of departments. They are able to create manuals, handbooks and other forms of documentation, such as online help, that instruct readers how to perform certain tasks.

This work is detailed, specific and needs to be well organized. The technical writer needs to be able to organize not only the material, but also the way the material is presented in order to be utilized to its full intent. Choosing technical writers who specialize in certain departments (e.g. IT) can be helpful as there is already a base of knowledge from which to write. They may already understand how certain information needs to be presented and how it will likely be used.

The More Skills the Merrier Argument

On the other side of the coin, technical writers who specialize in only one field or functional department might be limiting their ability to help a company that has more diverse needs and lacks the budget to engage multiple writers. For example, if the IT department and the marketing department need materials, technical writers who only have backgrounds in IT might have a harder time transferring those skills to another department like marketing. Certainly, marketing writers have different skill sets from technical writers, especially those technical writers who do not have a broad background of writing experience. Technical writers who have a varied writing background and the ability to shift tone and fully appreciate the needs of diverse audiences can serve multiple purposes in an organization, and thereby offer greater potential value to the organization. 

Specialized or not, technical writers are a valuable part of a company. By understanding if you need a versatile writer or specialized writer, you’ll be able to choose the best writer for your company’s specific needs, and you will never be “at a loss for words”, so to speak.

What are your thoughts on specialists vs. generalists when it comes to technical writers? Please leave a comment.

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Choosing The Right Technical Writer

17th August 2010 Posted in Blog, Hiring, Technical Writers 5 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.

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

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Do Technical Writers Need to Be Web Designers Too?

29th July 2010 Posted in Blog, Hiring, Technical Writers 0 Comments
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It’s really an HR department’s dream to hire a person with more than one skill set – two employees for the price of one.

But when you’re ready to hire a technical writer, are there certain skills they should have in order to be most effective?

 

What Should Technical Writers Be Doing?

Technical writers are meant to be performing a certain set of tasks, mainly the construction of informational documents, courses and instructional guides. Now, this doesn’t mean their skills can’t branch out to other writing tasks, but since many businesses now have websites to address, it makes sense that if the technical writer is handling copy for the website, that they might be able to handle the website as well.

Is this really the case? For many businesses, the website was created by an outside company, who then launched the site and maintains it. This is an arrangement that allows you to keep the web management separate from the daily routine of work – and it’s an arrangement that should stay in place. Having an outside firm is much more efficient than simply putting an hourly employee on the task.

The Skills the Technical Writer Needs

However, this doesn’t mean the technical writer should be completely without the skills to understand a website. Having some basic HTML knowledge as well as CSS will help them to better understand how their text will look on a website. When they understand this, it will help them to layout the text in a certain style that will show up best.

And in a pinch, they can help the IT department with their text placement on the website.

That said, if you find a technical writer with web design skills, HIRE THEM. Hire them quickly.  That is a person who can be more valuable to the company than most people who are assigned the writing you need.

What are your thoughts? What skills make a technical writer more valuable?

Related topics
Technical Writer: Which Skill Sets are Important?
Considerations When Hiring a Technical Writer

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The More Technical Writers You Have, The Better For Business

27th July 2010 Posted in Blog, Technical Writers 0 Comments
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At one time, technical writers used to be something of an enigma – and still are. These writers were called in for special projects and were often contract technical writers rather than full time staff. As a result, they seemed to work in a fly by night fashion, helping only when needed and not sticking around for the long haul.

But is this the best scenario?

In times when communication matters more than ever, technical writers should be a part of writing decisions, from start to finish. And having a team of writers is considered to be the best arrangement.  Not only will you have the collective wisdom of these professionals, but you will also find you are able to get things done much more quickly.

Even if a technical writer is an hourly employee, the more you have, the fewer hours they will need to work. Together in the team, they can look at past projects to decide the tone and format, create the structure, write the project, and then review it for errors. A trained technical writer can get all of these things done quickly when they have the support of a full time (or at least regular) technical writing team.

Businesses benefit with a more efficient technical writing team. They can not only see their ideas become reality more quickly, but they will find the documentation is not only helpful, but more consistent than when a business brings in a new writer for each project. In addition, a strong writing team will be able to see what other documents are necessary in order to build a concrete library of texts, instructional manuals, etc.

Is this always possible? Is it always possible to have a team of technical writers? Probably not. But when a company relies on technical writing to train and to inform, it’s not a bad idea to stop looking at layoffs and start looking into hiring.

Related topics
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How to Justify Hiring Technical Writers During Hard Economic Times

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Hiring Contract Technical Writers

23rd June 2010 Posted in Blog, Hiring, Technical Writers, Uncategorized 0 Comments
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If you’re an HR, Documentation or Technical Communications Manager, when you finally get the approval to hire one or more contract technical writers you’ll want to go about it the right way in order to avoid problems and ensure success.

This timeless article, written by Writing Assistance, Inc.’s President, Scott Hartmann, provides insight on what managers need to do before and during the process of bringing in new contract technical writing professionals, from creating an appropriate job description to where to find qualified candidates, what to look for in assessing fit for your job or project and the contract itself.

Read: Hiring Contract Technical Writers

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Which Skill Sets Are Important for Technical Writers?
Getting Buy In for Hiring Technical Writers in Tough Times

Have you had to hire contract technical writers in the past, or are you in the process of looking for technical writers now? Please post a comment and share your thoughts.

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Which Skill Set Should You Look for in a Technical Writer?

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Like any profession, becoming a technical writer requires a mastery of a certain set of skills. This skill set used to involve primarily writing and illustration skills, as large manuals for print publication were the standard in the profession.

The worlds of communications and technology have evolved dramatically in the latter part of the 20th century and the early part of this century. How has that evolution affected the skill set required for a technical writer?

Continue reading Which Skill Sets are Important in Hiring Technical Writers

More Articles on Technical Writers

Considerations for Hiring Technical Writers
How Technical Writers Add Value to Your Team

Need Technical Writing Services?. Just contact us and we’ll take it from there!

What skills do you feel are important for today’s technical communications professional? Leave a comment!

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Hiring Contract Technical Writers

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As the economy starts heating up, the demand for contract technical writers is likely to be strong. As a rule, in the early stages of economic recovery temporary workers are first to get hired. This makes it easier on employers who may still be uncertain how robust the recovery will be and how long it will take to fully recover to the point where business resumes its once-steady growth.

When it comes time to resume permanent hiring, if the company needs to add a full-time technical writer to its documentation team, it can be very beneficial to convert a successful and highly-valued contract technical writer to permanent status. This saves employers time and money in the recruiting and hiring process.

In this article, Writing Assistance Inc.’s founder Scott Hartmann provides valuable insight into how to go about hiring a contract technical writer, including the development of an appropriate job description and what to look for in contract technical writing applicants. His insights will provide guidance not only to those needing to hire contract technical writers, but to those who may be considering the possibility of adding one or more permanent technical writers to their team.

Read: Hiring Contract Technical Writers

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