Hiring Technical Writers: Best Practices

Technical writing is a specialized skill that requires a unique blend of technical expertise and strong communication skills. As your organization grows, you may find the need to expand your documentation team by hiring technical writers. 

Attracting and hiring the right talent can make a significant impact on the quality and clarity of your product documentation. Let’s explore the best practices for hiring a technical writer who can effectively communicate complex information and enhance your documentation.

Identifying the Need for Technical Writers

As your products and services grow in complexity, the demand for clear and concise documentation becomes crucial. Technical writers play a vital role in translating technical jargon into user-friendly content, ensuring that your customers and internal teams can effectively understand and utilize your offerings. Some key reasons to consider hiring a technical writer include:

  • Streamlining the onboarding process for new employees by providing thorough training materials and reference guides
  • Improving customer satisfaction by creating user manuals, tutorials, and support documentation that are easy to understand.
  • Enhancing the overall quality and consistency of your company’s written communications, from marketing collateral to internal policies
  • Freeing up software engineers to focus on core product development and innovation by offloading documentation responsibilities
  • Maintaining a centralized knowledge base that can be easily updated and accessed by your entire organization

Defining the Technical Writer Role

Before beginning your search for your technical writer job, it’s important to clearly define the role and responsibilities within your organization. Consider the specific tasks and deliverables you expect the technical writer to handle, such as:

  • Producing user manuals, online help documentation, installation guides, and other end-user facing content
  • Collaborating with subject matter experts to translate complex technical information into easy-to-understand language
  • Maintaining and updating a centralized knowledge base or documentation repository
  • Ensuring consistent branding, tone, and formatting across all written materials
  • Additional writing, editing, and proofreading support for various company communications

Outlining the day-to-day duties and required skills will not only help you attract the right candidates, but also set clear expectations for the technical writer’s performance. This will also allow you to determine the appropriate level of seniority and compensation for the role.

Crafting an Effective Job Posting

When it comes to attracting top talent for your technical writing job, the job posting itself is a critical first step. Craft a detailed and compelling job description that clearly outlines the responsibilities, required skills and qualifications, and unique value proposition of working for your organization. Be sure to highlight their potential career path, along with any perks, benefits, or growth opportunities that set your company apart.

Consider including the following key elements in describing your technical writer jobs for typical employment boards or social media.

Detailed Job Responsibilities

Provide a comprehensive overview of the day-to-day tasks the technical writer will be expected to handle, such as:

  • Producing instruction manuals, white papers, online help documentation, installation guides, case studies, and other end-user facing content
  • Collaborating with product experts to translate complex technical information into easy-to-understand language
  • Maintaining and updating a centralized knowledge base or documentation repository
  • Ensuring consistent branding, tone, and formatting across all written materials
  • Providing editing and proofreading support as they assist in work with internal and external company communications

Required Skills and Qualifications

Outline the essential skills and experience level you’re seeking, which may include:

  • Excellent written and verbal communication abilities
  • Strong research and analytical skills to comprehend technical concepts
  • Proficiency in content management systems and documentation tools
  • Familiarity with industry-standard writing styles and best practices
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a cross-functional team
  • Bachelor’s degree in English, communications, or a related field
  • Master’s degree in a specialized field like technical communication, proposal writing, or grant writing

Company Overview and Value Proposition

Give candidates a clear understanding of your company, its mission, and the unique benefits of joining your team. It’s important to avoid using a generic template for this, as the factors that matter to entry level writers are very different from the things a senior level candidate will consider.

Highlight aspects such as:

  • Company culture and core values
  • Opportunities for professional development and growth
  • Employee perks and benefits
  • Impact the technical writer role will have on the business
  • Work from home opportunities

Interviewing Technical Writer Candidates

Preparing for the Interview

When evaluating technical writer candidates, it’s important to go beyond just reviewing their resumes and portfolios. Conducting a thoughtful interview process can help you gain deeper insights into their skills, experience, and cultural fit. Here are some tips to prepare for effective technical writer interviews:

Identify Key Competencies

Determine the most critical competencies for success in the role, such as technical aptitude, writing prowess, attention to detail, and collaborative abilities. Develop targeted interview questions to assess each of these key areas.

Review Sample Work

Ask the technical writer to provide writing samples or documentation projects they’ve worked on. Analyze these materials to gauge their communication style, technical expertise, and ability to translate complex technical content.

Involve the Experts

Include subject matter experts from your engineering or product teams in the interview process. Their technical knowledge can help uncover a candidate’s depth of understanding around your products and industry.

Assess Presentation Skills

Require candidates to prepare a brief presentation on a technical topic of your choosing. Observe their ability to convey information in a clear and engaging manner.


Structured Questions

Craft a set of structured questions that allow you to thoroughly evaluate each candidate’s qualifications. Some examples include:

  • Describe your process for researching and learning about new technical concepts.
  • How would you approach documenting a complex feature or functionality for our product?
  • Tell us about a time you had to collaborate with engineering or product teams. How did you manage that partnership?
  • What tools and technologies are you most experienced with?
  • How would you ensure the consistency and usability of our documentation?
  • Provide an example of a technical document you’ve written that you’re particularly proud of. What made it effective?


Evaluating Candidate Responses

As you conduct the interviews, pay close attention to not just the answers provided, but also the candidate’s communication style, problem-solving approach, and overall fit with your team and company culture. Look for indicators such as:

  • Strong active listening and clarifying questions
  • Ability to break down complex topics in an easy-to-understand manner
  • Enthusiasm for continual learning and process improvement
  • Demonstrated track record of successful collaboration
  • Alignment with your mission, values, and work environment


Characteristics of a Great Technical Writer

In addition to the core skills and experience required for technical writing roles, the most successful candidates often exhibit a set of attributes and qualities that make them exceptional communicators and documentarians. When evaluating technical writer candidates, look for individuals who demonstrate the following:

Curiosity and Adaptability

A great technical writer is naturally curious, with a strong desire to continuously learn and understand new technologies, processes, and the topics they’re writing about. They approach each documentation project with an open mind, quickly adapting to changing requirements and evolving products.

Attention to Detail

Technical documentation requires meticulous attention to detail, from ensuring grammatical accuracy to maintaining visual consistency. The best content writer has a keen eye for detail and a commitment to producing high-quality, error-free content.

Empathy and User-Centricity

An effective technical writer must be able to empathize with the end-user, understanding their pain points, knowledge levels, and information needs. They craft documentation that anticipates user questions and provides clear, step-by-step guidance.

Collaborative Spirit

Technical writers rarely work in isolation — they must regularly collaborate with software development, engineering, product managers and more. The most successful writers are adept at building relationships, facilitating knowledge transfer, and incorporating feedback.

Storytelling Abilities

While technical accuracy is paramount, the best writers also possess strong storytelling skills. They can transform complexity into engaging, easy-to-follow narratives that guide users through processes and concepts.

By prioritizing candidates who embody these essential characteristics, you can build a technical writing team that consistently delivers exceptional documentation to support your products and services.


Onboarding and Training Resources

When bringing on a new technical writer, it’s important to provide them with the necessary resources and support to get up to speed quickly. This includes:

  • Comprehensive onboarding materials that cover your company’s products, services, branding guidelines, and existing documentation standards.
  • Access to experts who can serve as technical mentors, answering questions and providing deeper insights into your offerings.
  • Training on the specific tools, software, and content management systems used for documentation authoring, publishing, and maintenance.
  • Style guides, templates, and other writing resources to ensure consistency across all technical content.
  • Dedicated time for the technical writer to shadow customer service, implementation, or information technology teams to gain firsthand experience with real-world use cases.
  • Opportunities to attend internal training sessions or external industry events to continually expand their skills and knowledge.

By equipping your new technical writer with the right resources, you can empower them to hit the ground running and make an immediate impact on your organization’s documentation efforts.


Determining Appropriate Compensation

When determining the appropriate compensation for a technical writer, there are several factors to consider. The salary range can vary widely depending on the candidate’s level of experience, the complexity of the materials they’ll be documenting.

In the event you’re looking to hire a consultant, expect to pay an increased rate, as contractors generally don’t receive benefits. Short-term contracts come with higher per hour rates.

It’s important to research industry benchmarks and data for your specific location and company size. You might need to adjust salary based on the technical writer’s specialized skills, such as expertise in a particular software, programming language, or industry. 

Ultimately, the full salary and benefits package should reflect the value the technical writer brings to your organization in terms of enhancing documentation, improving customer experience, and supporting business objectives.


Is your organization interested in hiring a technical writer? Whether you’re exploring hiring a technical writer for the first time, or looking to add to an existing team, we’re ready to walk you through the process. With more than 20 years of experience in documentation, we can help you through the process of identifying your needs and find the best technical writer – personally and professionally – to help your team! Contact us to find out how TimelyText can help.

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