That’s totally fine. As long as they’re ready to hire writers that can do the job for them.
Personally, I fall into both camps. I like writing, and I do it a lot, but our team has grown to require more than just one writer. As such, I’ve screened thousands of writers’ resumes — and I’ve come up with a process that helps me identify fantastic writers that are great fits for particular subject matters, all while keeping my sanity shuffling through all those applications.
Here’s the process I recommend. I’ve been using it for about five years now and it hasn’t failed me yet.
There are a lot of different roles someone in content marketing might take. Staff Writer. Editor. Copywriter. Content Marketer. Ghostwriter. Copyeditor. Editorial Assistant.
And all of these roles require slightly different skill sets, too. Does your candidate have to be good at both writing and marketing the content they create? Will they be doing long form content or short form content? (Or both?) Will they have to manage contributors? Will they work with “difficult personalities” as they research and interview? Will they even have to do interviews? Should they be a skilled editor? Proofreader? How quickly do they need to turn drafts around?
… See what I mean? There’s a lot to consider. Make sure you’ve written a job description that details precisely what you’re looking for in a candidate — with a title that reflects that repsonsibility — so you attract the right kind of talent (and solidify it in your own mind, too.)
I have good news and bad news. The good news is that there are a lot of people out there who want to make a living writing. The bad news is you’ll hear from all of them — and that’s a lot of resumes to weed through. Here’s how I sort through the initial burst of applications:
If you’re still left with a formidable pile of applications after your initial thinning, here’s a simple way to further refine the pool: Take the remaining applicants and do a quick readthrough of their application, email, resume, and/or cover letter to look for strange sentences, phrasing, or structure.
This is a step above and beyond just checking for typos, grammatical errors, or misspellings, but also offers relatively quick insight into an applicant’s writing ability before you dive into their writing samples. You can remove from consideration those that don’t meet your quality standards.
Now that you’ve thinned the herd a bit, it’s time to review writing samples from your remaining applicants. I find it helpful to prioritize the writing samples based on a few criteria:
Prioritize those with excellent experience and those that seem like a good culture and organizational fit. Then, read their writing samples and look for a few key ingredients:
Tip: Something I like to look for, particularly when screening writers for complex (dare I say “boring”) subject matters, is the applicant’s ability to switch tones. Compare the tone used in their email or application to the tone they use in their writing sample(s). Their ability to adopt a few different tones shows their command of and comfort with language.
By now, you should have a few top contenders that hit all the marks. They’re talented writers, possess a strong command of the subject about which they write, and have a personality that seems like it will mesh well with your team and organization. Before advancing, head over to Google to see if some candidates rise above the rest (or sink below) based on their online footprint. Here are the things I look for:
Once you’re ready to move forward with your top applicant(s), I recommend requesting an original writing sample. This is important because it’s incredibly difficult to verify that the submitted samples are fully representative of the candidate’s writing ability. Many sites put content through one or several rounds of editorial, and the final product looks and reads very different than the original draft the writer submitted. Without a writing “test” of sorts, it’s difficult to know whether an applicant is capable of producing at a certain quality level without leaning too hard on an editor.
Here’s the way I like to run these tests to ensure both the applicant and the hiring manager are getting a fair shake:
The result of your writing sample probably won’t be perfect. It might not be style guide compliant. It may have a couple positioning issues. But these are all teachable things. If the sample you get back shows an in-depth understanding of the subject matter and clear writing prowess, congratulations — you might have just found your next content hire!