Hiring the right technical writer can be a challenge. From understanding complex technical topics to presenting them in a digestible manner, it’s not just about finding someone who can write; it’s about finding someone who can bridge the gap between technical experts and the average reader.
Fortunately, with the right guidance and expert tips, you can navigate the hiring process effectively.
Follow this guide to write an attractive and engaging technical writer job description and recruit the best possible people for your team.
Responsibilities & Role of a Technical Writer
- A technical writer is responsible for creating clear, concise, and comprehensive documentation that explains complex technical information in an understandable manner.
- They work closely with product teams, engineers, and other stakeholders to ensure that manuals, how-to guides, and other documents accurately represent the product’s functionality and user requirements.
- Beyond writing, they often play a role in content strategy, structure, and design to ensure optimal usability and user experience.
How to Hire a Technical Writer
1. Know Your Technical Writer Requirements
When hiring, go beyond the technical writer job description and consider:
- Identify Core Requirements: Evaluate current documentation to identify gaps, outdated materials, or areas of confusion that need attention.
- Understand the Audience: Consider the profile of your end-users, their technical proficiency, and their primary needs from the documentation.
- Collaborate with Stakeholders: Hold discussions with product teams, engineers, and other key stakeholders to understand the depth and complexity of the information that needs to be documented.
2. Search for the Top Talent
To find the best technical writer for your needs, it’s essential to have a clear strategy that encompasses both active and passive recruitment tactics. Leveraging multiple channels and maintaining clear criteria will ensure that you identify and attract top-tier candidates.
- Job Descriptions: Craft a clear and detailed technical writer job description that outlines the responsibilities, qualifications, and expectations. Use our Technical Writer job description template to create a compelling job posting that captures attention and stands out among potential candidates.
- Industry Platforms: Post the job opening on industry-specific job boards such as Write the Docs or the Society for Technical Communication.
- Networking: Engage in industry events and conferences such as the LavaCon Content Strategy Conference or MadWorld, a conference hosted by MadCap Software, makers of technical communication software, to meet potential candidates and foster relationships in the technical writing community.
- Referrals: Tap into your internal network and employee referrals. People familiar with your company culture and needs can often recommend fitting candidates.
- Recruitment Agencies: Partner with specialized recruitment firms that focus on technical writing or related roles, such as Contiem, ProEdit or Volt.
- Social Media: Utilize platforms like LinkedIn to search for candidates with specific skills and experiences. Engage with their content and approach those who align with your needs.
3. Analyze Their Work Experience
When considering a technical writer, closely analyze their work experience, including:
- Educational Background: Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Technical Writing: This demonstrates foundational knowledge in the discipline. Degrees in English, Communications, Journalism, or a related field can also be pertinent, especially if combined with technical experience.
- Certifications: Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC): Offered by the Society for Technical Communication, it’s a widely recognized certification in the industry.
- Industry-Specific Knowledge: For businesses in specialized sectors, a degree or certification in the relevant technical domain (like IT, biotech, engineering) can be invaluable.
- Tools Proficiency: Certifications or demonstrable expertise in industry-standard tools like FrameMaker, DITA, MadCap Flare, or specific content management systems.
4. Conduct a Comprehensive Interview Process
- Prepare Specific Questions: Frame technical writer interview questions that not only gauge technical prowess but also assess cultural fit and problem-solving abilities.
- Incorporate Practical Tasks: Provide a short writing or editing test to evaluate their hands-on skills and approach to real-world challenges.
We advise assessing their research skills by digging into their process; it’s often the distinction between good writers and great ones.
- Discuss Past Work: Ask them to elaborate on past projects, highlighting challenges faced and solutions implemented.
- Evaluate Soft Skills: Beyond technical aptitude, assess their communication, teamwork, and adaptability by presenting hypothetical workplace scenarios.
- Connect with References: Ask candidates to provide at least 2-3 professional references, preferably from their recent employers or colleagues. Reach out to the references via phone or email. For authenticity, use company phone numbers or official email addresses instead of personal contacts.
Here are 3 of the most crucial questions you should consider asking:
- How effectively did the candidate translate complex technical information into clear and understandable content for the target audience?
- How did the candidate handle feedback and revisions? Were they open to collaboration with technical experts and other team members?
- Can you provide an example of a particularly challenging technical topic or project that the candidate worked on, and how they approached it?
5. Get to Know Them Through Their References
When speaking with a reference for a technical writer candidate, you’ll want to focus on questions that give you insight into the candidate’s proficiency, adaptability, and communication skills. Technical writing is unique in that it combines technical expertise with the ability to effectively convey information. Here are three questions that can help you gauge these qualities:
- Can you speak to the candidate’s ability to understand and explain complex technical concepts?
This will give you an idea of how well the candidate can grasp the subject matter they will be writing about. It’s not just about writing skills; the candidate also has to understand what they’re writing about to explain it clearly and effectively. If possible, ask for specific examples that demonstrate this ability.
- How well does the candidate manage deadlines and handle revisions?
Technical writing often involves working on projects that are time-sensitive and require multiple revisions. A candidate’s ability to manage time, be responsive to feedback, and adapt to changes is crucial for success in this role. You’ll want to know if they are proactive, how they prioritize tasks, and whether they are able to maintain quality while working under tight deadlines.
- How does the candidate collaborate with subject matter experts and other team members?
Technical writers often work closely with engineers, scientists, or other experts to produce accurate and effective documentation. Their ability to communicate and collaborate across departments is essential for the quality of the final product. Ask for examples of how the candidate has worked within a team, handled disagreements or clarifications, and whether they take the initiative to gather the information needed for their writing.
These questions should provide a well-rounded view of the candidate’s technical proficiency, adaptability, and interpersonal skills, which are all critical for success in a technical writing role.
Tips for Avoiding Red Flags During the Hiring Process
For specialized sectors, it’s crucial that the technical writer has a foundational understanding of the industry. If they seem unfamiliar with basic industry concepts or trends, it might indicate a steeper learning curve. These red flags include:
- Inconsistent Employment History: Review their resume for frequent job changes without valid reasons or significant gaps. This might indicate a lack of commitment or potential performance issues.
- Lack of Relevant Samples: A technical writer should be able to provide samples that reflect the type and complexity of documentation needed for your business. If they only offer unrelated or overly simplistic examples, it may be a cause for concern.
- Vague Descriptions of Past Projects: Be wary if they can’t clearly explain their role in past projects, the challenges they faced, or the solutions they implemented. This might suggest an exaggerated resume.
- Overemphasis on Technical Jargon: While technical knowledge is essential, an effective technical writer should be able to simplify complex topics. If they consistently use dense jargon without breaking it down, they might struggle to make content accessible to your target audience.
Remember, while these red flags can guide your hiring decision, it’s essential to consider the entire picture. Sometimes, an honest conversation with the candidate can clarify concerns and ensure you make an informed choice.
Technical Writer Job Description
Job Title: Technical Writer
Company: [Your Company Name]
Job Type: [Full Time / Part Time / Contract]
Salary: [Salary / Competitive / DOE]
[Provide a brief description of your company, its history, values, sustainability and work environment.]
Join the passionate team at XYZ Tech Solutions as a Technical Writer and play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between our innovative tech solutions and our diverse user base. At XYZ, we pride ourselves on creating state-of-the-art software tools that empower businesses globally.
As a Technical Writer, you’ll collaborate closely with our product developers, engineers, and customer support team to craft clear, concise, and user-friendly documentation. From in-depth user manuals and API documentation to quick-start guides and online help content, your ability to simplify complex technical concepts will ensure our customers can harness the full power of our offerings with ease.
If you’re a detail-oriented professional with a knack for making intricate topics accessible and a passion for user-centric content, we’d love to hear from you. Dive into an environment that values your skills, encourages continuous learning, and offers a chance to impact thousands of users worldwide.
What You’ll Do:
- Collaborate with product development teams to gather in-depth product knowledge.
- Produce high-quality user manuals, FAQs, and installation guides for our software tools.
- Create detailed API documentation for developers and technical users.
- Work with the support team to identify common user issues and address them in documentation.
- Simplify and explain intricate technical concepts, ensuring accessibility for a diverse user base.
- Regularly update existing documentation to reflect product enhancements and changes.
- Utilize industry-standard technical writing tools and software for content creation and management.
- Participate in product meetings to stay informed about upcoming releases and features.
- Collect feedback from users, support teams, and developers to continuously improve documentation.
- Ensure consistency in terminology and writing style across all documentation.
- Collaborate with graphic designers to incorporate visuals and diagrams that enhance understanding.
- Assist in developing video scripts for product tutorials and webinars.
- Stay updated with the latest trends and best practices in technical writing and the broader tech industry.
What You’ll Bring:
- Bachelor’s degree in Technical Writing, English, Communications, Journalism, or a related field.
- Minimum of 3 years of experience in technical writing or documentation.
- Proficiency with technical writing tools such as FrameMaker, DITA, or MadCap Flare.
- Familiarity with content management systems and documentation platforms.
- Proven ability to translate complex technical concepts into clear, concise, and user-friendly content.
- Strong research skills to understand and document new and evolving product features.
- Experience in creating a variety of documentation, including user manuals, API documentation, and online help content.
- Basic understanding of software development and IT concepts.
- Ability to work collaboratively with cross-functional teams, including developers, product managers, and support staff.
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
- Ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously and meet tight deadlines.
- Willingness to stay updated with industry trends, tools, and best practices in technical writing.
Our Ideal Candidate is Someone Who Has:
- An advanced degree in Technical Writing, Information Design, or a related field, or a combination of education and significant industry experience.
- Over 5 years of progressive experience in technical writing, with a demonstrated track record of producing high-quality documentation for complex software or hardware products.
- Certification from recognized institutions, such as the Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC) from the Society for Technical Communication.
- Expertise in using advanced features of technical writing tools, including conditional text, variables, and content reuse.
- Experience in applying structured authoring and single-sourcing methodologies, such as DITA or XML authoring.
- Demonstrable experience in working with Agile development teams and integrating documentation workflows into sprint cycles.
- Proficiency in using source control tools like Git or SVN in documentation processes.
- A solid understanding of API documentation tools like Swagger or Redoc, and experience in documenting RESTful APIs.
- Knowledge of user experience (UX) principles, with the ability to work closely with UX teams to design and test user-centric documentation.
- A portfolio showcasing a range of documentation, including complex technical guides, video scripts, and interactive online help.
- Ability to engage with users, gather feedback, and continuously iterate on documentation based on user needs.
- Experience in training or mentoring junior writers, with potential for a lead or managerial role.
- Familiarity with localization processes and tools, ensuring documentation is suitable for global audiences and translation-ready.
Benefits and Perks:
- Competitive salary and performance-based bonuses.
- Comprehensive health, dental, and vision insurance.
- Generous PTO and holiday schedule.
- 401(k) with company match.
- Life and disability insurance.
- A culture that prioritizes work-life balance.
- Flexible work arrangements (remote work, flexible hours).
- Company-sponsored team outings and social events.
- Access to professional associations, conferences, and subscriptions.
How to Join Us:
Please send your resume, a cover letter detailing your qualifications, and any other supporting documents to [email address] with the subject line “Application for Technical Writer Position – [Your Name]”.
[Your Company Name] is committed to fostering an inclusive workplace. We welcome and consider all qualified candidates, irrespective of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, veteran status, or disability, ensuring a fair and unbiased recruitment process.
Closing Date: [Insert closing date for applications]
Please note only shortlisted candidates will be contacted. Thank you for your interest in [Your Company Name].
Note: It’s important to tailor this template to your company’s specific needs and the specific role you are looking to fill. This template assumes a fairly broad role, but you may need to modify it if the role is specialized.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Technical Writer?
Initially, there’s the outlay associated with advertising the position on job boards, company websites, or specialized platforms. For example, Write The Docs charges up to $250 for a featured job post at the top of their job board for 30 days.
Engaging recruitment agencies or headhunters may escalate costs, as they typically charge a percentage (often 15-25%) of the candidate’s first-year salary. Then there are the internal costs: staff hours dedicated to reviewing resumes, conducting interviews, and coordinating the hiring process.
Salary and Benefits
The base salary, often the most visible component, can vary widely based on location, industry, and the candidate’s experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly salary for a technical writer is $78,060 per year but this can be higher in tech hubs or for highly specialized roles.
On top of the base pay, employers often provide benefits such as health insurance, dental and vision coverage, which can add 20-30% to the total compensation cost. Retirement contributions, like a 401(k) match, further increase the outlay.
Equipment and Software
The direct costs begin with specialized technical writing software such as MadCap Flare, Adobe FrameMaker, or Atlassian Confluence. Licenses for these tools can range from a few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars annually.
If the role requires the writer to produce diagrams or illustrations, software like Visio or Adobe Illustrator might be needed, further adding to costs. API documentation tools, like Swagger or Redoc, can also come with their own licensing fees.
Direct costs include registration fees for specialized courses or workshops, which can vary widely but might range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the course’s depth and duration. Annual conferences and seminars, essential for networking and understanding industry shifts, often come with hefty price tags, not only for entry but also for travel, accommodation, and incidental expenses. Membership fees for professional associations like the Society for Technical Communication (STC) or similar organizations provide access to resources, webinars, and discounted training programs but also come at a cost of up to $395/year for Gold membership.