|How to Hire a Writer||| Print ||
Most Important Quality: Ability to Write English Quickly and Accurately
Too many companies get hung up on finding someone with "experience" - with the result that there are a lot of bad writers out there that keep circulating, year after year, gaining more "experience" and disappointing their next employer. Of course you want someone with experience - but that experience might have been gained in fields outside the technical writing field. For example, some of the best technical writers for writing documentation for microprocessors turned out to be former secretaries - they possessed the meticulousness and language accuracy to handle the detailed information required for that type of documentation.
Second Most Important Quality: Attitude
Once you have a capable writer who can write quickly and accurately, you're only half-way there. As nearly anyone who has hired technical writers knows, There is a lot more to it. The second most important trait is "attitude". You need someone who is open to learning new technologies; you want someone who is not afraid to interview others, but who knows how to handle interviews in a pleasant, professional manner. You don't need a terrific writer who is temperamental, and who will reduce your programmer to tears (I've seen that actually happen). You want a team player who can talk things over with others and reach a consensus - otherwise, documentation can become the awful bottleneck that it often is.
And of course, as in all hi-tech jobs, you want someone who really cares about the company and who will work the extra hours when required.
Third Most Important Trait: Facility with the Computer
There is no denying it - a lot of a technical writer's job is solving computer software problems - formatting tables, inserting references, placing pics, and many other seemingly "trivial" but in the end, essential tasks. Too often we have seen companies with great documentation get hung up on trivial technicalities that prevent the document from going out on time - just because the writer was too inexperienced to know how to solve the problem. Actually, this is the one area where "experience" usually does make a difference - if you've been working with a certain set of software, you're more likely to know how to solve the snags when they occur. Of course, someone who is unafraid to ask questions can reach just as good results today by going online and finding the answers to just about any question - let's face it, the range of problems experienced with publication programs does not include anything that requires advanced programming skills - normally, the problems are well known and easily solved.