What Recruiters Want in Technical Writers

by Pat O'Donnel, Staffing Specialist and Recruiter 

As a recruiter of writers for five years and a market researcher for more than twenty years in New York City advertising and corporate marketing (marcom) agencies, I have listened to and measured the response of many consumers and clients to proposed communications work in written, audio, or video form. I want to share part of what we look for in resumes and interviews.

For both the door-opening resume and the interview itself, most candidates fail to recognize that recruiters and clients are most likely to approve the pitch with the least risk and highest potential return on investment. Unsupported superlatives are ineffective; case histories that clearly show your contribution to strategies and resulting implementations work best. Your pitch improves if you can show that your brochure or ad built business, saved money, or made your client more efficient.

When job hunting, you do not receive free passes to the next step in the process. You must continuously sell yourself versus other writers with similar experience. The number of competitors you have in the process is much greater than you realize. Always approach your self-presentation as a marketing exercise. The better you can sell yourself in the resume and during the interview, the better the interviewers can sell you to their clients.

Seventy percent of executives do not read beyond half the first page of a resume. Front-load your resume with selling points, like I created a series of brochures that increased IBM sales 25%. Continue using those strategies in the first five minutes of your verbal presentation. Your chance to get a job over someone with similar skills improves as your presentation skills improve.

Next, make the client or recruiter confident in your ability to do the job. The decision makers choose to interview people with the highest percentage of skills alluded to in the resume. Build your resume with a top-line summary of the following points.

Format and Flow of Content: Have you written brochures, radio ads, or paper direct-marketing pieces? Have you written for web sites? How much experience do you have in each area? How many years of total writing experience do you have?

Audience: Have you written for the public or for engineers? Have you written for the decision maker, purchasing agent, or end user? Have you written translations?

Industry Concentration: Are you an expert in telecommunication industry products, or beverage dispensing machinery? Which clients have you worked with?

Name those clients.

Marcom Strategy: Did you write it or inherit it? Did you set the graphic look and feel as well as the verbal content in the pieces you have written?

The Process: Did you do the needs analysis, concept proposal, implementation, editing, print production, or usability testing? Do you do graphics as well as verbal content? Were you the project leader? Did you supervise others?

Tools: Are your skills strong enough and current in the software (Word, PageMaker) the client uses?

Chronological versus Functional: Chronological presentations with sample case histories work better than functional presentations because they show tactics in synergy.

Finally, do not forget to remind the interviewer of your key selling points near the end of the interview and in subsequent phone conversations or interviews. You spend a lot of time making the sale. Do not forget to close the deal.

Fast Facts about Job Hunting

(from industry-wide data)

Resumes a headhunter sees each year                                   6000

Resumes resulting in at least a phone interview                     600

Resumes from all sources available to client for job                 20

Candidates receiving an interview for that job                           7

Candidates who receive an offer for that job                              2

Candidates who accept the offer                                                   1

Back to Features