7 Tips for Interviewing and Hiring a Technical Writer

Bookmark and Share

interviewHiring a technical writer can make or break your project—hiring the right person can make your project run like a well-oiled machine; hiring the wrong person can lead to project delays, no doubt breaking your project’s budget.

When interviewing and hiring a technical writer, consider these seven tips:

Clearly Define Your Needs

For many industries, posting a job opening is a relatively simple process. For example, a job posting for a civil engineer attracts many qualified civil engineers. Similarly, a job posting for a receptionist will bring in resumes from another well-defined group of people.

But a job posting for a technical writer can be a little more confusing. A job title may read technical writer, but the company may actually be searching for a technical editor, a graphic designer, or even a desktop publisher. While a technical writer may possess these additional skills, it’s important to clearly define the job description when looking to fill a position; otherwise, you may waste valuable time sorting through resumes from unqualified candidates.

Ask about the Candidate’s Industry Experience

A technical writer who has experience in an industry similar to yours will possess knowledge of procedures and terminology specific to that industry. This can save you time and money in the long run.

Consider asking these interview questions:

  • What technical writing experience do you have?
  • In which technical fields do you have experience?
  • In what industries do you feel you have the most knowledge?

Ensure the Candidate has Experience Interviewing Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

If your project requires documentation from the ground up, make sure your technical writer is comfortable interviewing SMEs. In some situations, engineers and developers may be capable of writing the documentation, in which case a technical editor may be sufficient for your project.

Consider asking these interview questions:

  • Have you interviewed SMEs before?
  • How do you prepare for SME interviews?
  • What tools do you use during an interview (e.g., whiteboard, digital recorder, video recorder)?

Determine the Candidate’s Writing and Grammar Expertise

Ask candidates for recent work samples to ensure they have the writing and grammar experience you need. Analyze the format and readability of the documents—the material should be easy to read while also providing the necessary information.

Consider asking these interview questions:

  • Where did you go to school and what did you study?
  • What additional training have you received?
  • What process did you go through to develop this work sample?

Get a Feel for the Candidate’s Personality

Your project will run more smoothly if the technical writer is able to integrate well with your project team. The writer should be able to work with various people—from engineers to developers to employees in the field.

Consider asking these interview questions:

  • Do you prefer to work in a team environment or on your own?
  • Are you comfortable going into the field to research the product?
  • Do you speak any foreign languages?

Determine the Candidate’s Software Knowledge

Once they’ve gathered the information, technical writers need the software skills to design and publish it. Some of the most widely used documentation tools include RoboHelp, Microsoft Word, and FrameMaker.

Consider asking these interview questions:

  • Which tools have you used in the past?
  • Which tools are you most comfortable using?
  • How quickly can you learn to use a new tool?

Conduct a Test Assignment

Finally, when possible, assign the candidate a test assignment that simulates a project he or she might encounter on the job. This test may help you determine how quickly and accurately the candidate can complete a project.