Technical writing involves a unique skill set that fills a need faced by many of our staffing clients. High-quality technical documentation is vital for the success of products and services in any industry. This means that choosing a talented technical writer is an important process for the continued success of a business endeavor.
In this article, we take a look at some of the tips that our staffing experts have developed for selecting the right technical writer, and some of the ways we apply them to find top talent for our customers. We help you explore the kinds of questions you should ask when you realize you need a technical writer, and how you can shape your hiring process to ensure that you find what you need when you need it.
Refine and Rank Your Needs
The best way to ensure a successful hire is to clearly define your needs and expectations up front. If you know exactly what you’re looking for in a technical writer, you can more easily find the one that meets your qualifications. Some key considerations include tool familiarity, industry experience, style experience, and general communication skills.
When defining a job description, be sure to rank your qualifications in order of importance to the position. That way, your screening process can be as focused as possible for filling your specific need. A candidate with decades of experience in your industry may distract you from one that’s an expert at the software vital to your project. Ranking your needs will make sure your candidate matches the essential requirements.
Don’t Fall for the “Experience Myth”
We’ve filled needs for a variety of industries, so we know how specialized requirements for documentation can be. While it is important to ensure that a technical writer has a firm grasp of the material at hand, technical writing skills are not confined to a specific topic or field.
You may not need to restrict your available talent pool solely to technical writers with experience in your specific industry. A good technical writer will be able to develop and apply a keen understanding of your material regardless of its subject. Experience writing in any industry includes experience in taking information and fashioning it into compelling, effective communications. This skill moves with the writer.
Act Like an SME
The very start of the interview process can be a great opportunity to learn about your candidate’s ability to convey information effectively, as well as their ability to obtain the information they need. A candidate’s questions about the position and its requirements can be a good indication of the level of insight the candidate will bring to interview with subject matter experts.
Most of our clients are seeking self-starters who can conduct interviews and get information without interrupting the SME’s schedule or wasting their time. Don’t miss the chance to evaluate your candidate by treating the interview as a similar setting.
If you want to know what to expect from a candidate’s quality of the work, give them an opportunity to show you. Just as the interview process can push communication assessments further than the candidate’s resume, it’s important to give your candidates an opportunity to show their skills in action.
When we are looking at candidates, we apply a variety of evaluation tools to see what they can do. Samples of previous successful projects and performance on skills assessments are key elements of our evaluation process. Another technique we apply to see what candidates can do is to provide them with sample tasks. If you want to see how well a technical writer can write, ask them to write something for you.
Look Behind the Resume
One of the challenges our customers share when they come to us for staffing needs is misalignment with the company brand. While it is important to evaluate demonstrable skills, experience, and performance in an assessment process, your candidate is—first of all—a person. Personality differences can be rejuvenating, but they can also become toxic and ultimately undermine a candidate’s otherwise excellent qualifications. You want to be sure that your candidate will be able to work effectively with your team and grow your organization.
General professionalism is central to a candidate’s successful entry into an organization, and it’s something that usually shows right away. If the candidate seems sharp during the interview, proactive about getting pertinent information, and put-together on their resume and samples, that’s a good indication that the candidate will find their place in your organization. Candidates for tactical hires should indicate that they can hit the ground running, and strategic hires should show the ability to grow with a long-term position.
Go with Your Gut
This is the last and most important checkpoint of the screening process, when all other considerations combine to form a general impression of your candidate. In our experience, this gut reaction to a candidate, after all the results are in, is a reliable final evaluation for top talent. Don’t miss an opportunity by over thinking and comparing minutiae.
Another reason to trust your gut reaction is that strong candidates do not stay on the market for long. Talented technical writers are in demand, and the resume you are looking at now might be a missed opportunity a month from now. Define your need, refine your evaluation process to look for that need specifically, and hire your perfect fit when you find them without hesitation.
At ProEdit, we apply these and other best practices every day to find the right fit for our clients, whether for technical writing, instructional designs, editing, or project management. If you are looking for top talent, contact us today!