10 Key Things to Look for When Hiring a Technical Writer
Although there are many factors to consider when hiring a technical writer, observing these key abilities will keep you on track and help you find a technical writing virtuoso who is easy to work with and has the skill to craft documents that meet the needs of your proposed audience clearly and succinctly.
1. Look for a technical writer who presents herself professionally and with integrity.
Her resume, writing samples/portfolio and website should be thoughtfully and professionally organized and prepared. Check with her past employers and references to ascertain the answers to questions you may have concerning their professionalism and integrity including her ability to work long hours unsupervised and meet deadlines.
2. A technical writer must have unparalleled grammar skills and be able to write well.
Although these points would seem a given, they must not be overlooked. A technical writer must demonstrate the ability to string words together that clearly and concisely state what must be said, and nothing more.
3. Make sure the technical writer demonstrates the ability to listen and discern what you want to say.
Most likely, the writer you are considering writes well, but does he demonstrate the ability to paint a word picture of your product or message in terms easily understood by the “uneducated” masses you are trying to reach?
4. Is the candidate innovative, demonstrating the ability to work with you to create an original and creative concept?
Look at her portfolio and writing samples to ascertain her ability to create an easy to understand document out of an otherwise mystifying collection of information. Was she able to “remake” a byzantine set of instructions into something decipherable by anyone and do so in a way that is engaging and compelling?
5. Does the technical writer demonstrate the ability or desire to adapt?
After scrutinizing his technical writing portfolio, does the technical writer have a style that connects with you or the vision you have for your company? If not, after a discussion with him, do you feel he has the aptitude to do so? A first-rate technical writer is like a chameleon; he adapts, changes and acclimates to the needs of his client.
6. A good technical writer should have exceptional communication skills, both written and verbal, and first-rate interpersonal skills.
She must communicate effectively on various levels and with diverse groups of people. The ability to extract technical information from the “experts” and then the skill to convert that information into an easily understood framework is essential. These prerequisite interpersonal skills enable her to create the documentation you need that shares the information you desire with the audience you are trying to reach.
7. Does the technical writer have the desire and aptitude to learn new skills?
Most technical writers do not have training beyond basic college; some have nothing more than on-the-job training. Therefore, the writer you choose should be curious of the world at large and willing to learn new things. This skill set gives him the ability to readily absorb your company’s technical information and then convey it clearly, simply and succinctly. By analyzing his writing samples and the companies that have employed him, you can easily get an idea of his proficiencies and the quality of his work. Technical writers who make a habit of challenging themselves, in business and personally, are more likely to take your content to a whole new level.
8. Does the technical writer have industry-specific skills and/or knowledge?
If you are looking to fill a very specific skill set, finding technical writers specialized in your particular industry could be advantageous to you and your company. This allows them to begin work for you with a strong industry-specific knowledge base and build from there.
But, don’t automatically reject a writer who does not have industry-specific writing qualifications. Technical writing experience and satisfied former employers are much more indicative of the products she will produce for you.
9. A skilled technical writer is logical and organized.
Although good grammar and layout skills are important, his aptitude for organizing materials logically and precisely is much more critical in serving the needs of your customers and your company. User-friendly documentation creates customer satisfaction which affects your bottom line. When viewing his portfolio, is the information orderly, concise and easy to read and understand? Are the sentences and paragraphs concise and to the point while at the same time clearly imparting the obligatory information?
10. Does the technical writer have the design skill set required to do the job?
Most technical documents are comprised of more than just the written word; therefore, not only does the formatting of that written word come into play, but also the need to augment it with illustrations to fully convey the message. Does the writer have the skills necessary to meet the demands of the job?
In the end, finding the right technical writer is easy. Knowing your needs and what you are looking for, then asking the right questions to fill those needs, will enable you to employ your virtuoso.
Cindy M is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.