Hiring Top Writing Talent
Writing is a subjective art. If you’ve ever found yourself in an argument with someone over a book, a song or even a word, you’ll know what I mean. Judging whether someone is a good writer is really tough, and when it comes to hiring top writing talent, it can be hard to find the right person for the job.
There’s a misconception I often come across that anyone who speaks a particular language can also write in it. In a country where the text you need is in a language that’s not the native language of that country, finding great writers becomes even more complex.
As a writing manager, wading through the resumes of tons of potential candidates is a time-consuming task. And the cost of recruitment is staggering. The Human Capital Benchmarking Report of 2016 found that it takes 42 days to fill a position, while Zane Benefits claimed that in 2017, US businesses were taking on a cost of $4,000 to fill each open position.
Do writers fit into that average?
It’s hard to answer that question because I don’t have the statistics to support my theory. I simply couldn't find them. So I have to guesstimate that the time and cost investments of filling writing positions are very high. When it comes to hiring writers at Wix, our approximate application to hiring ratio is 30:1 (a really rough estimate) when the position is in English, and about 15:1 when we’re hiring in another language. This is not because it’s easier to find non-English writers. In fact, it’s much harder.
Finding great writers can be frustrating and, sadly, I don’t have any brilliant, eureka advice about how to reduce the time it takes. That being said, there are some tips I can share to help you make your writer recruitment and hiring process more effective and efficient.
Native language speaker? Send ‘em a test At Wix, we look for potential. Someone who doesn’t have the word “writer” anywhere in their CV could still be an amazing writer. There’s only one way to know. When someone applies for a German writing position and they grew up in Germany, I send them a test. Born in Portugal, but grew up in the US and applied for an English writing position? Test. Expressed an interest in writing through their cover letter? I send them a test. The skills test helps us determine whether the applicant has some level of talent when it comes to the written word. In the test, we give tasks that help us understand the candidate’s language level, how they spin a written story and whether they are able to adapt their writing to fit our voice and tone, not to mention the users’ state of mind. The test gives us the necessary information we need to determine if the candidate could be trained to become a Wix writer or not.
Understand their intent Once a candidate has completed the test successfully, we invite them in for an interview. There, we try to understand what their goals are and where they see their career going. In every interview, I ask candidates why they want to be a writer. In more than one case, the answer has been, “I’m not really interested in writing, but it seems like a good stepping stone into product management,” or “I’m hoping to learn writing for 2 years and then see what else is out there.” Ask yourself this question: would you date someone who told you that they had their sights set on someone else? Would you marry someone who promised you undying love until someone better came along? A career in writing requires commitment. When a candidate takes that seriously and shows passion for this field in an interview, I want to invest time and energy into training them. In fact, this is one of the tips I give to writers who ask me what they need to know when preparing for an interview.
Put them in the right place We often interview candidates who are unsure of the type of writing they should pursue. They think marketing writing seems like fun, aren’t sure what UX writers do, confuse knowledge base writing with technical writing (it’s not the same thing, I promise) or say, “I just want to write.” By understanding the unique skills that different types of writers need, and with our knowledge of writing roles at Wix, we guide writers towards a writing type. This helps us get a better fit for the position, which can result in longer retention of the candidate. Plus, when you hire people who feel like their job is a good fit, they stay in the position longer and the cost of human capital goes down.
Hiring isn’t watertight
Ask a hiring manager if every candidate they have hired thrived in the position. If they say “Yes,” I’d love to meet them because they must be amazing at recruitment!
Hiring is about people and people are changeable.
Even after testing a candidate, inviting them for multiple interviews and checking their references meticulously, you can’t (always) know whether they’ll excel or not. But when you do all of those things, you increase your chances of finding the best person for the job.
Are you applying? Check out our writing job interview tips.
Na'ama Oren, Superverbalist