If you’ve decided (probably wisely) that you need to stop trying to write all your own copy and hire a content writer, we applaud you. A good content writer is going to do a whole lot more than take the stress of keeping up with your writing schedule off your shoulders. A content writer who’s truly worth his or her salt is going to put their brain into your business, and let you benefit from his or her knowledge – not only of writing, but of other essential content writing skills such as social media and best SEO practices. As you begin your search for the right content writer for you, we’d like to share some insight we’ve learned over the years when dealing with content writers of widely varying backgrounds and skill sets.
Ask All the Right Questions
It’s important as you peruse candidates for your content writer position that you poll your prospects to ensure that they have the skills you want them to have. This means that during the interview process you’re going to want to include some questions you may not normally include in a job interview. If these things aren’t your area of expertise, enlist the help of a friend or colleague who has an English degree – you’re bound to know one, right?
1. You’re or Your? While this question may be a little on-the-nose, you will most definitely want to be asking questions about commonly confused or misused words in the English language. Asking questions like “Contrast the definitions of capital and capitol” or “imply & infer” will ensure that the prospect you hire will have a nice, thorough knowledge of English, and if you’re going to be a content writer, that’s sort of an important skill to have.
2. Which Style Guide? Unless they’re recent grads, this question may throw a candidate off a bit. Any writer with business experience should at least be familiar with some of the major style guides such as the Chicago Manual of Style. These are the accepted guidelines for business writers everywhere, and if your candidate has no idea what you’re talking about, you probably want to take a closer look at his or her resume. Conversely, if your candidate answers without hesitation and refers to a style guide regularly, you can be reasonably confident that you’ve got a good candidate.
3. Explain some SEO practices. Once again, this is a question that will throw a candidate who may be a writer, but has no experience as a content writer for a business. It’s not a deal-breaker, as good SEO practices can certainly be learned, turning a good writer into a good copywriter, but if you have a candidate who can readily answer this question, he or she is worth a second look.
Personality’s a Plus
Now that you’ve done the interview, it’s time to think about your content writer candidate and how you felt about each one, from the resume and writing samples to their interview responses, but also worth considering is the candidate’s demeanor and personality. Did your candidate seem overly confident? Way too excited? Did he or she ask more questions than you did? These can all be signs that you have the right person – or the wrong one.
1. The Strong Silent Type. A quiet, confident candidate who knows all the right answers will most likely be able to produce quality copy, but if he or she strikes you as cocky, then this writer could prove to be resistant to feedback and revision requests. Having confidence in one’s work is one thing, but when that confidence means that a content writer is entirely unable to accept criticism, that can lead to unnecessary friction and a toxic work environment.
2. The Eager Beaver. It’s always good to have an enthusiastic candidate for any position. The content writer who’s ready to go can be a great way to breathe fresh life into your business, but be careful that enthusiasm doesn’t turn into hurried work. The content writer who rushes through projects can write inaccurate information, or publish copy with grammatical or spelling errors, making you look bad. Enthusiasm functions best when it is properly bridled and can be carefully guided.
3. The Interviewer. Sometimes in a job interview you may wonder if you’re the one being interviewed. In the case of a content writer, this is actually a very good sign. The writer who is inquisitive and asks lots of good questions is a writer who is already taking an interest in learning your business, and that sort of effort is essential to being a great content writer. Any candidate who can tell you even during the interview the things you’re doing right and where you can stand to improve is a candidate who deserves some very careful consideration. A good content writer isn’t a lone wolf – content writing is a team sport, and the Interviewer type already has his or her head in the game.