Hiring technical content strategists for staff augmentation at client sites is one of the more challenging duties of my job. Because we work in regulated industries, such as healthcare and finance, it’s a tricky business finding writers who understand regulatory constraints and do the kind of work that represents the kind of quality Fusion Alliance has to offer.
While portfolios and writing samples are helpful, it’s not always clear how much of the writing is indicative of the talents and capabilities of the individual writer. It’s difficult to assess with any accuracy how much of the writing and decision-making the candidate did on her own and how much was team effort.
That’s why I give homework assignments before I interview candidates.
Forty-eight hours before the interview, our recruiters email candidates with an assignment that in some way resembles the kind of writing the client needs. The purpose of this task is to allow me to evaluate not only the writing, but also the choices the writer makes when putting the document together: How is the document formatted? Why did he or she make those formatting choices? What do they communicate to the audience? Why did he or she include (or not include) graphics? If graphics were included, why select those particular images? And so on…
I purposely leave the assignment open-ended and listen for clear articulation of the choices candidates make as they write. I try to make the task fun, unusual, so that the writer can approach it creatively. As a result, I get a wide variety of results — everything from 18-page manuals to 1-page job aids to bound storybooks.
However, the end product, while important, isn’t as important as the thinking that went into creating it. And the best candidates approach both the task and the conversation about it with enthusiasm and insight.
Providing our clients with top-notch content strategy is important to me. While candidates must go the extra mile for their interviews, I feel better able to ensure both their success and the client’s.