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How to Hire the Right Content Writer

How to Hire the Right Content Writer

Content writing is a key part of content marketing and is a great way to grow one’s business. Consistently publishing great content explicitly directed to a business's customers will build a library of content that increases organic traffic and its bottom line.

But if the business doesn't hire the right content writers, it's going to end up wasting its time correcting mistakes, and the owners will feel stressed that the content the business published isn't good!

Tips to Select the Best Content Writer for Your Business

Here are the tips to help you choose the right content writer.

Understanding the Audience

The first step a business needs to take is to understand its audience. This helps the business know what content it should produce and who it should hire.

For example, a business that sells CBD products to people who are experiencing pain might need an article about CBD and arthritis pain. In that case, it should be hiring health science content writers (ideally with an advanced degree, e.g., PhD, PharmD, MD). These qualified content writers will understand nuances of the industry that a business's communications team may not, and qualified content writers will be able to distill complicated science into a simple and engaging format. They'll understand how to break down detailed scientific studies in a digestible manner.

On the other hand, a business desiring to write to appliance repair technicians will want to hire a content writer (ideally a qualified technician) with hands-on experience fixing appliances to be sure the information is factually accurate.

How Much Expertise Is Needed?

Some topics require more technical knowledge and qualifications. In contrast, other topics can more easily be covered by a general content writer who doesn't necessarily have the qualifications in the subject (such as children's toys).

A business writing about "your money or your life" (YMYL) topics must hire experts to perform well in searches in 2021 and beyond. These topics include legal, medical, and financial topics that affect "serious" parts of life, such as health and financial health. Google places importance on who writes content as part of "E-A-T" (expertise, authoritativeness and trust), a metric used to determine overall page quality.

For example, if a business is writing about the USA and Australian double taxation laws, it will want a certified public accountant to write its content, or even better, a content writer with expertise in double taxation regulation.

One workaround is to have a general content writer write content and an expert reviewer with the right qualifications to review the article.

Writing Samples

While a resume, cover letter and the right attitude are all important, previous writing samples should be a key part of the hiring process for content writers. First, a business must understand what type of content it needs. Then the hiring manager must review writing samples of applicants so they can make a clear judgment about their ability in terms of writing with technicality, the right tone and factual accuracy.

Availability

A business must also understand what quantity of content it needs. A business may only need a content writer to write one article per week, or it may be looking for a content writer that can write 10 x 1,000-word articles per week.

A good hiring manager must establish clearly from the beginning the applicant's availability and ensure that it matches well with the amount of content the business will regularly require. There's nothing worse than finding a great content writer and realizing they can't write the quantity of content a business needs.

Depending on its content needs, a business may decide to hire in-house, contract freelance writers, or work with a content writing company for content at scale. 

Communication

Whoever will oversee the content writer must understand how they best communicate. Some people prefer email, while others prefer calling content writers regularly over the phone or via Zoom. It is important to find a content writer that "just gets" the style of communication of the person the writer will be dealing with regularly. It is important to establish clear communication channels from the beginning to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

The Importance of Asking Questions

The more questions a hiring manager asks during the hiring process, the more chances there are to realize they're making a wrong decision.

Here are some great questions to ask a potential content writer.

  • Do you have experience with SEO writing? If so, how would you define "SEO optimized" content?
  • What's your turnaround time for a 1,000 word article?
  • What's your turnaround time for basic revisions?
  • What's your turnaround time for extensive revisions?
  • How many revisions do you offer?
  • How do you research a topic before writing a blog post?
  • Do you have examples of your previous work?
  • Which of your writing samples do you think is closest to what we’re looking for?
  • What samples do you have that are most relevant to this project?
  • Do you charge per word, per hour, or a fixed price per project?
  • What ideas do you have for our blog?
  • Why do you think you're right for this particular project?
  • How do you define a credible source?
  • What do you consider plagiarism?
  • What do you consider to be "original"?

It is important to have ideal answers to some of these questions ready, in order to quickly filter through candidates based on what's ideal for the business's requirements.

Another great sign is that a content writer asks questions. Here are some examples of questions that suggest that a content writer is curious and wants to get things right:

  • Are we writing this content for X audience or Y?
  • Would you like this article to be more technical than others?
  • Do you have any examples of work you like so I can better understand the style you're going for?

While it is important for the hiring manager to ask questions, they should also keep an eye out for those who ask questions, as they are concerned about getting things right (a huge green flag!).

Spelling and Grammar Are Important

A business should hire a professional editor to edit and proofread content for spelling and grammar, but it helps to have a content writer who proofreads their own work as well.

The hiring manager should ask applicants if they will ensure that they will provide content that is at least nearly free of spelling and grammar mistakes and if they take any steps to prevent errors from occurring. A business can also pay for software like Grammarly so that its content writer(s) can check their work for mistakes and accidental plagiarism before submitting content. 

Testing Before Deciding

Testing a content writer with a writing sample is one of the most effective ways to determine if they're a good fit for a business's website and needs. If a content writer can successfully impress a business with a 1,000-word article sample, the business can be more confident about bringing them on for a more permanent role.

Asking for previous samples can help determine applicants’ ability, but it is also important to put their content writing skills to the test. The best way to do this is to ask for a content writing sample. They'll appreciate it, and screening properly should result in a publishable sample.

For example, one strategy for a business screening 20 content writers is to choose the top three and put them to the test to see which one does the best job. A business can also hire multiple content writers and see whose content performs better for its key performance indicators (KPIs), such as conversions and bounce rates over time. From there, the business can invest more resources in the best performers and seek to understand what makes them different. 

The Bottom Line

While everyone can technically write, not everyone can write well. That's why it's essential to be selective about who a business hires as a content writer. Even if a business has more extensive content needs and decides to go with a company, the same principles apply.

The best content writers respond quickly, are open to constructive feedback and are proactive about upskilling themselves. Following these tips will help businesses find the content writer(s) that are perfect for them and make better hiring decisions.

Philip Ghezelbash
Philip Ghezelbash

Philip is the founder of Writing Studio, a content writing company that provides a variety of content writing services, including blog posts, articles, ebooks, press releases, product descriptions, and more. Today, Writing Studio serves over 500 companies in 15 countries and continues to grow.

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