A technical writer needs to have a specific set of skills and abilities to produce compelling, effective material.
When choosing a technical writer, you are evaluating a candidate who will be working closely with you and your team every day and who will have a significant impact on the success of your projects. You want to be sure that you choose the person with the proper skills and who is a good fit for your brand.
ProEdit has a trained team who staffs technical writers. Our technical writing managers and staffing team have put together a few tips that we use to find ideal candidates for our clients.
Interviewing Technical Writers
The interview process is an opportunity to dig deeper into the candidate’s experience and skills. Prepare a list of questions prior to the interview to help structure the conversation, and give yourself plenty of space to record your thoughts and the candidate’s responses. Here are some typical questions we ask when interviewing technical writers:
- Describe some recent projects you have worked on. Let candidates explain some of their projects from the past five years or so. You want to listen for how these projects match up to yours, but also get a feel for how thoroughly the candidates explain the project. Do they demonstrate a thorough understanding of the project’s needs? Do they effectively explain the purpose of the material? What tools and skills did they apply?
- What types of technical writing deliverables have you worked on? This question gives you a chance to focus on the specific types of documentation in the candidates’ experiences. How well do their past deliverables align with what you would have them produce?
- What tools are you familiar with? Take the time to get into specifics about the tools that are vital to your projects. Specific questions about software programs, for example, give candidates the chance to show their expertise or demonstrate areas where they are less familiar. Refer back to your job description to make sure you’re drilling candidates on the most important tools for the position.
- Can you share any experience you have had with technical writing for education or pro-bono work? Junior-level candidates may not have direct professional experience to share, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have experience. Ask them about work they may have done pro-bono or as a sub-task for a related previous position.
- What experience do you have interviewing subject matter experts? Technical writers do not work in isolation. Working effectively alongside subject matter experts is a central skill for a technical writer. Get a feel for how well they will be able to get the information they need from members of your team. Asking about a time when they experienced and overcame difficulty with an SME can be a good way to test a candidate’s communication and problem-solving skills in one swipe.
- What experience do you have working in a collaborative environment? One of the most frequent issues our staffing clients have experienced before coming to us is invisible technical writers. Strong candidates work closely with teams to develop accurate and effective communication, rather than staying isolated in an office. Get a feel for how well your candidate will work with your team.
- Do you have any experience in our Industry? Though industry experience may be a plus, you may not need to restrict your available options 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 technical documents in any industry is experience in taking information and fashioning it into compelling, effective communications. This skill moves with the professional.
- What type of position are you looking for? Allow candidates to describe their ideal position. You don’t want to hire someone who will be unhappy in this position three to six months down the road. This question will help you confirm whether the candidate is the right fit for your organization, and vice versa.
- What is your favorite part of technical writing? Give candidates an opportunity to show their passion for their work. It should be fairly easy to get a driven candidate excited about technical communications. This question can also help determine whether the position’s needs line up with the candidate’s areas of expertise and enthusiasm.
- Are you part of an association related to documentation and technical writing? Find out about your candidates’ professional associations. This may be a chance to see leadership qualities and the depth of their expertise in their field.
- What is the next thing in the field of technical writing that you would like to learn?This question can reveal the candidate’s potential for growth and set up targets to facilitate it.
- What do you like to do outside of work? More personal questions like this one let candidates loosen up and give you an idea about the people behind the position. Understanding candidates as individuals will help determine whether they are good fit for your team.
Evaluating the Candidate
The end of the interview is not the end of the evaluation process. Take some time to record your impressions about the candidate and the interview while they are still fresh. The following questions can help you solidify your thoughts about the candidate.
- Do I want to work with this person?
- What kind of energy did the candidate display?
- Did the candidate demonstrate a willingness to learn?
- Do you think the person has the energy and drive to keep projects rolling?
- How will the candidate fit into my organization’s brand?
- Do the candidate’s skills match the needs for the position?
- How well did the candidate communicate?
- How excited was the individual about the position?
- What does my “gut” say about this individual?
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 overthinking and comparing minutiae.
Hiring a technical writer doesn’t have to be a strenuous process. Having a solid game plan from the start, and asking the right questions throughout, can help you make sure you know when you find the ideal candidate.
We find the most talented and creative Technical Writers.
- We gather applicants.
- We rate experience.
- We interview the best.
- You choose who you want.
At ProEdit, we put these and other techniques to use every day to find technical writers for our clients. If you would like to learn more about the hiring process, or about how we make that process simple and effective, contact us at today!Contact Us Learn More