Let’s get the obvious out of the way: not all writing assignments require the same skill sets. With that said, there are definitely overlaps such as the ability to compose a sentence, assemble paragraphs, and organize the flow of content. So, what do you need to consider when hiring a nonfiction writer? Two most influencing factors in nonfiction writing is purpose and length, however the objective, tone, and content are also important when planning content when the time comes to pen to paper. The other consideration is to hire from within is better than bringing in fresh blood.
This might seem obvious, but for someone who writes various shapes and sizes of nonfiction, I know it matters. For instance, writing a marketing sales blog is different than writing a product manual. And, honestly, I wouldn’t apply to write marketing materials, even with my Marketing Degree. Unless I am passionate about a product or service and have personal successes to taught, I am not comfortable writing sales materials.
So, to assess an applicant with no experience writing the type of content you need composed, I would recommend a test. Just because the person doesn’t have experience, that doesn’t mean they can’t put their existing writing skills to a different purpose.
Some might say that it’s easy to write short bits of content. That doesn’t mean the short bit of content is any good. It takes practice forming information intensive content into short, precise messages. So, does that mean that more lengthy works are easy? Absolutely not.
Are you scratching your head, wondering how you will know if applicants are good at writing the types of works you need? Reading works from other content providers can help. For instance, study a variety of articles in The New York Times or The Washington Post. The authors each have a style and some are better at longer pieces than others.
Hiring from Within
Just because an existing employee has only ever balanced spreadsheets or written code, that doesn’t mean they can’t learn to compose a blog for your website. Their words and sentences might need some work as they learn, assuming they aren’t a hidden gem, but with some coaching, you might have several content authors at your finger tips. Give them a try.
Making a Decision
Whether the person being considered is an existing staff member or an outside source, I suggest a self reflection. Are you thinking, “I can write what we need but I just don’t have time.” If yes, please consider the following story.
I had a boss once who wasn’t happy unless he could rewrite the documents he asked me to put together. They weren’t intended to be published works of art, but he attacked the document from sentence one, changing my happys to his glads. One day I coaxed him into putting all his pens in his drawer and asked him to sit on his hands to read the document I put in front of him, promising I wouldn’t say a word to his edits after he read the full document. With a raised brow and chuckle, he did. I am smiling as I write this as it was a daring thing to do but also because the red ink slowed to an occasional drip from that day forward.
Unless the written word is unclear, grammatically incorrect, or spelled wrong, the words from your future writer might be okay, even if they are not yours. Writing to meet the expectations of someone else, in both style and content, isn’t easy, but writers will try. And, since there isn’t just one way to compose content, you might get works just as good as what you would have written.
Anyway, good luck with your hiring process. I mean that, sincerely.