Help for managers

You’ve just been tasked with hiring a tech writer. Writing is not your forte. You’ve never managed a writing group before. How do you hire someone who can get the job done on time and within budget?

In addition to enquiring about a candidate’s experience, education and tools, here are some questions to ask and what you will learn from asking them.

  • When you have a manual to write, how do you get started? What do you do first, second, third?

    How a tech writer tackles the job reveals a lot about what is important to them. For example, some may describe a process that involves interviewing the subject matter expert and documenting each screen and feature. This type writer will deliver a manual of questionable usefulness.

    What you’re looking for is someone who wants to understand how your product will be used by real-life people. This writer is more likely to write topics that users understand than will the writer who speaks only with the SME.

  • When you’re up against a deadline, what gives?

    Deadlines are a fact of life and documentation, which shows up at the end of the project schedule, or not at all on the project schedule, is often treated as an afterthought.

    You’re looking for someone who understands the business constraints placed upon your company as well as someone who cares about your documentation’s usefulness and accuracy. You want a candidate to say:

    • I understand how important it is to ship our product on time. I will do my best to meet even the most aggressive schedule.

    • I will keep you honestly informed about my progress and estimate, as realistically as possible, how long it will take to deliver an accurate, usable document.

    • I will consult with you, giving you the opportunity to define my priorities. When time crunches, your priorities will decide what gets included in a document and what gets left out.

    Since we have the internet, documents and web sites can be updated even after a product releases.

Copyright 2010 The Atkins Group All Rights Reserved