RE: Tips for finding and hiring the right Technical Writer

Subject: RE: Tips for finding and hiring the right Technical Writer
From: "John Rosberg" <jrosberg -at- interwoven -dot- com>
To: "SB" <sylvia -dot- braunstein -at- gmail -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2007 10:11:14 -0500

The best hiring tip I've ever heard remains:

"Hire for attitude, train for skills."

This does not mean that you should hire an illiterate, and teach em how
to read and write -- it does suggest that you avoid the common pitfall
of specing the job unrealistically -- things to avoid include:

- calling out specific software expertise -- if they know Arbor, they
can figure out Frame

- getting hung up on specific amounts of experience -- if they are six
months shy of your target experience amount (4.5 vs. 5 years, for
instance), and everything else looks good, be flexible

As for some of your other questions:

- ad writing -- what would attract YOU? An honest description of the
work, the environment, the potential contribution, room for growth, easy
commute, free coffee, company's place in the market . . . all of these
things can help attract a good writer

- formatting -- tough to tell if the person is unskilled or simply
working in an environment that doesn't value formatting -- if you have a
template, and a standard issue writer can use it, it becomes a non-issue

- tests are of variable value -- make sure you administer the identical
test to all applicants, if you use one, and check with HR folks as to
the legal use of tests (in the USA)

- recommendations -- things have gotten wonky here -- most employers
will simply tell you that employee X worked for em from Y to Z dates,
and little else -- if you've networked locally, you may be able to find
someone that knows the candidate and their work -- offer that someone a
frosty beverage of their choice for their input

- KNOWING that this is the right person -- never happen -- it's always a
bit of a crap shoot, but your skill at guessing will improve with use

As for your other questions:

- if you haven't already, Id' suggest joining the STC -- they can be a
bit pedantic and one-size-fits-all, but they do have good data on all
your topics of interest -- ask local colleagues (offer coffee or a beer
after hours)

- post a specific question on this list -- taken together, yours
questions resemble a request for a Vulcan Mind Meld, and may be
difficult to answer in this venue

As a manager, your job is simply to create an environment where your
folks can do their best in solving the company's business needs

Management can be a gas, if you like it --

Hope this helps


-----Original Message-----
From: SB [mailto:sylvia -dot- braunstein -at- gmail -dot- com]
Sent: Saturday, September 22, 2007 5:05 AM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Tips for finding and hiring the right Technical Writer


This is the first time that I will in the position of hiring a Technical
In the past, I hired someone that I knew rather well and on whom I knew
could rely. He is still working for me.

However now, I have to hire an additional Technical Writer.

I would like to get some recommendations regarding:

1. The best way to write recruiting adds
2. Criteria for interviews. For example, I feel that a resume says a
lot about the Technical writer, both as far as format and contents
are concerned. If the formatting is not impressive, I always feel
that it
says a lot about the Technical Writer. Am I being too harsh?
3. Interview skills
4. Test?
5. Recommendations - how do I know that I will be able to rely on
person to get the job done?
6. Knowing that THIS is the right person

In addition, I would like some advice and recommendations on:

1. Management skills - now I will have to actually manage two
technical writers
2. Outsourcing
3. We are still using MS Word :-( and do have a template but I am not
very happy with it. My boss wants to redesign the first page of the
documents to look more professional.
4. I am pushing to move onto a more professional tool (Authoring tool
or Wiki for documentation. I am leaning towards Wiki). I need to make
presentation to convince the management to make the move and to
explain what
are the pros and cons of each tool and why I think one is better than
5. We don't have content or knowledge management and our company is
growing very fast. We are in different parts of the world and there
often a lot of redundant work being done, which I think is very
and due to the fact that we are still using a file server instead of

Any recommendation or useful pointers would be highly appreciated.

Thank you very much,



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Tips for finding and hiring the right Technical Writer: From: SB

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