If your company is having a hard time finding good writers, then read on, because I have a few tips for you.
I was recently headhunted for a writing position at a company. (Yay, me!) I did apply, but then I pulled out because I understood they were looking for a part-time employee when in fact it was a full-time position.
However, the tone of the initial email, plus other job descriptions I’ve seen for professional writers, have brought me to this week’s topic: What professional writers are really looking for when they read a job description.
What Good Professional Writers Don’t Want
- Don’t begin any emails to a writer with generic attempts at boosting their ego. Writers write. We can see through that kind of writing in two seconds. For example, an email I received once said, “You probably get emails like this all the time.” (Their emphasis, not mine.) Please don’t waste my time with this kind of writing. Just say hi, introduce yourself, and what you’re after.
- Don’t force your fun on me. I love reading fun writing, but to be honest, when I see a job description that is trying to sound fun! And, whoa, really cool! And describes the absolute coolest place to work! And, yes! Has lots of exclamation marks! Then I wonder what kind of employees the company wants to attract: ones who are looking for the coolest place to work as though it were the next hottest hashtag, or ones who want to work (and are happy to socialize as time allows).
- Don’t say you’re looking for a writer who delivers perfect copy all the time. Professional writers know they can’t attain that. Yes, we absolutely strive for it, but I’ll bet you anything that someone will find an error in this post somewhere, no matter how often I proofread it. (Always happens when anyone, including writers, complains about writing.)
- Don’t toss away resumes because the writer ends sentences with prepositions or doesn’t use “whom” or uses “their” in the singular (see #1 for an example). Although the first scenario is a leftover from the days when people thought English should be more like Latin, using “who” as an object and “their” as a singular have their time and place. If you otherwise like the writer’s applications, ask them about their writing during the interview.
What Good Professional Writers Want
- Do mention that you’re a workplace that understands how to balance the company’s needs with the writer’s desire to produce good copy. In other words, you won’t expect a creative, well-researched, 15-page whitepaper in one day, but you do need a writer who can occasionally pump out a 100-word eblast in an hour (after appropriate company training).
- Do move language requirements to the very bottom of your description. I understand why you need to include them, but listing them at the top of your description sounds like it’s the most important thing you’re looking for. What style of writing do you want? How much experience? In what industry or industries? What kind of personality would fit your team? Those are more relevant to a professional writer and should encourage more suitable applicants to apply.
- Do list a pay range. Pro writers know what they’re worth, and it isn’t $15/hour (even in USD). Listing an appropriate range can help you attract writers who believe their value is in that range. (You’ll also get bad writers who drool at the dollar signs, but you’ll see them from miles away. They’re the ones who start off with “I started writing at the tender age of 5” or “Writing is my passion.”)
- Do emphasize the co-operative nature of the team the writer will be working with, so long as it’s a true statement. E.g., “We expect a high level of writing, and in return, we offer you team members who proofread each other’s work. It’s how we all learn and create copy that is as close to perfect as we can get.” Now, that would attract me.
- Do feel free to ask for company-specific writing samples, but only once you’ve whittled your selection down to those you’ll interview. Asking for company-specific samples during the cattle-call phase signals to pro writers that you have little respect for their time, and many believe you’re just looking for free copy for your website. Ask for applicable portfolio samples first and then a company-specific sample later.
- Do understand that many (but certainly not all) writers are introverts. Offering a quiet corner where your new writer can work with relatively few disturbances would be incredible.
Just as job searchers can increase their chances of getting hired by customizing their job application to your company, you’ll likely increase your chances of finding good writers if you follow these tips when trying to recruit a good pool of applicants.
*I edited the order of the top paragraphs before the first headline. Sorry – saw a better way to order things.