You need a few great content writers, but what is "great," anyway? We have seven ideas.
Sometimes poor writers can jump though the various hoops involved in sustaining a professional writing career. This can make it exceptionally hard to hire writers -- especially if writing isn't your forte. Even if you have a knack for writing, it can be difficult to distinguish the talent from the pretenders. If you are on the hunt for a passionate, excellent content writer, you'll want to look out for these traits in your candidates.
We'd all love to find the magic potion that makes a "meh" writer great, but there's nothing like good, old-fashioned experience to beef up a portfolio. In fact, most great writers don't just have relevant industry experience -- they relentlessly create opportunities.
Look for writers who have the curiosity to start their own projects and strive to look for bigger, better experiences.
2. Asks Intelligent Questions
Socrates is known for saying "education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel." Great writers know that the process of learning never ends -- it only deepens. That's why they continue to self-educate and seek learning opportunities throughout their entire career, kindling their industry knowledge and honing their writing skills along the way.
Hire writers who ask intelligent questions -- it's a great sign that they're open to learning.
3. Understand Marketing
Great content writers know that marketing is simply another way of communicating with others, with its own distinct advantages and challenges. No matter your industry, you'll be served well if you look for writers who both understand and practice great marketing.
Look for writers with demonstrable experience in the marketing industry, like agency work, web writing or copywriting.
4. Up to Speed With Current Events
Whether your candidate has journalism experience or not, they should have a nose for news. This is the quality that propels writers to constantly be searching for new ideas, new techniques and new sources of information. Good writing is rooted in a nuanced understanding of the subject. Be suspicious of the writer who doesn't ask questions or who doesn't seem intellectually engaged in the world around them.
Look for writers with research or news writing chops.
5. Understand a Variety of Tones
The best writers know how to change tone or writing voice to get the right message across. That's because great writers know that tone is a delicate balance of using the right words that convey the right meaning -- both literal and connotative -- at the right time.
Ask potential writers about how they've written about sensitive or controversial subjects. Ask for that writing, too, and see if the writer can convey meaning without offending or condescending.
6. Always Willing to Improve
Nobody wants to read the same book, article or blog post 500 times. Look for writers whose work shows progress and evolution -- and whose interests have evolved over time. Not only will the writer be happier, but they'll produce better, more relevant work.
Ask potential hires how their writing has progressed throughout their careers. Expect them to prove it with their portfolio.
7. Experience Writing Under Pressure
The best writers gain their expertise by putting in hours and learning discipline. It's not difficult to find a writer who can churn out decent copy if given an enormous amount of time, but an excellent writer can produce thoughtful work quickly, under a tight deadline.
Ask the writer to take a timed writing test and ask his or her references about their ability to meet deadlines.
How does your potential writer add up? If he or she confidently displays all seven of the above qualifications for breakfast, congrats! You've got greatness on your hands.