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11 Characteristics I Look for When Hiring Writers for My Blogs

Two months ago I went through the process of hiring a small group of writers to write weekly tutorials for Digital Photography School. I’ve written about the process of how I hire writers previously here on Problogger but today want to share some of the qualities I look for in the writers I hired this time around.

My hope is that it might both help those who are hiring bloggers but also those who are applying for blogging jobs.

Of course it is virtually impossible to find a blogger who is perfect in each of the following areas – however the more they have the higher the chances of me hiring them.

11 Characteristics I Look For When Hiring Bloggers

1. Expertise and Experience in the Blog’s Topic

This is fairly obvious but needs to be said. When I recently hired bloggers to write for my photography blog I of course needed them to show that they were experienced in the area of photography.

My blogs are ‘how to’ type blogs so in order to be able to teach one needs to understand their topic.

This does not mean I only hire highly experienced and trained experts – I have hired less experienced writers who bring other skills to the table – but expertise certainly helps.

When I invite applications to be submitted I always ask applicants to share their experience and to submit previously written work and to show their photographic portfolio. It is usually pretty evident from this as to whether the person understands what they are talking about.

2. Passion for the Topic

Experience is one thing – but being able to write with enthusiasm and passion for a topic is one thing that can add a lot to a blog post so I’m also keen to find writers who LOVE the topic.

In many ways I’d sooner hire someone with an intermediate experience level but who was very passionate than someone who was an expert who writes in a way that makes the reader wonder if the person cares about what they’re writing about.

Passion comes through in the way an applicant communicates in their application but also in previous work and also in the test posts that we have our applicants submit.

3. Quality of Posts

Another no brainer but you’d be amazed how many application I receive that show a lack of attention to detail in the actual application. If you’re applying for a writing job you need to demonstrate some quality control in what you submit and the examples that you give of your previous work.

Our hiring process invites short listed candidates to submit a ‘test post’ (which I pay for) which helps me to see if the person has the ability to write at a reasonably high quality.

I’m not so interested in the style of writing (we hire writers who write in a conversational tone, those who write more technically etc) but I’m looking for posts that communicate clearly and deliver value to readers.

4. Understanding of the Reader

The very best writers that I’ve hired have an incredible ability to understand, have empathy for and connect with readers.

This is a quality that is difficult to describe or teach – but it is something I’m always on the look out for.

I think part of it comes down to putting yourself in your readers shoes and understanding where they are coming from. I also think there’s a real skill in being able to show your reader that you know that they are there and that you want to help them in some way. Maybe it also comes down to writing with a more personal tone or in a way that injects a little of your own personality in your posts.

I’m not sure exactly what it is – but I know it when I see it – and so do readers!

5. Problem Solvers

This comes into a couple of the points above but I’m particularly looking for writers who solve readers problems. This again comes down to the fact that I have ‘how to’ blogs but every post that I write needs to solve a potential problem that someone reading might have.

Being able to teach and communicate in this way is no easy so when i see it I get excited!

6. Ability to Use WordPress

This one isn’t a deal breaker as it is relatively easy to train somebody to use most blogging tools but it certainly is an advantage when I get an application from someone who has experience with the blogging tool that I use – WordPress.org.

Again – it’s not going to stop me hiring you if you have other qualities listed here – but it does help a little!

7. Proven Track Record at Sticking at Projects

One problem that I’ve suffered from a couple of times now when hiring writers is that they start out hot but soon disappear – never to be heard of again.

A little digging into their history online in both of the cases that I’m thinking of reveals that they have a history of starting projects and not sticking at them (with a long string of inactive blogs, sites, social media accounts that started with a flurry but didn’t last.

Of course people chop and change what they do a lot these days but I’m particularly interested in hiring people who will be around for a while to develop relationships with my readers – so these days I do check to see if they’ve stuck at their own projects for long.

8. Applicants Agendas

I want the interactions that I have with those I hire to be win/win. This is why we pay those we hire but also why we give them generous bylines and allow them to do some promotion of their own projects to our audience in those bylines and occasionally in posts.

However every time we open up applications to hire writers there are a handful of people who see the job as an opportunity to promote themselves above anything else (and at the expense of the site and readers).

These are the applicants who use their test posts to link back to their own blogs, eBooks and social media accounts in every paragraph rather than using the post to showcase their expertise and helpfulness – which in turn will make our readers want to check them out.

I have no problem with our writers building their profile by writing for our site – but when that is the clear #1 agenda of an applicant and the usefulness of their submissions suffers as a result I’m unlikely to hire them.

9. Meeting Deadlines

I’m a little lenient with our writers on this one because I don’t want the quality of posts to suffer as a result of them being rushed – but it certainly helps your chances of getting hired if you submit your application and test posts when or before you say you will.

10. Proven Engagement

One thing that makes a writer stand out above the rest of those who submit applications is when you can see that they have a proven track record of community engagement on their own blog and when they answer the comments of those who interact with their test posts.

In this last round of hires there was a couple of great writers who submitted quite good posts who didn’t acknowledge any of the comments that they got. Contrast this with a writer who didn’t write a post that set the world on fire but who answered every single comment left and who showed a willingness to learn from the commenters. I hired this last writer because I could see he was genuinely interested in our readers.

On a similar note I also look to see if writers promote their own content to their own social networks. While writers don’t need to have a big social media following (although this can be a bonus) demonstrating that you’re willing to share what you write with the network you have helps.

11. An Understanding of Writing for the Web

The last thing that I’m looking for in applicants are those people who have an ability to write content for the web.

If you write content that can be scanned, that uses images well, that is well optimised for SEO, that uses great headlines, that is the kind of content that people will share on social media etc – then you’re going to be in with a better chance of being hired.

What Would You Add?

While I’ve never hired a writer that scored a 10 out of 10 in each of the above areas these are the types of characteristics I’m looking for when hiring a blogger.

What would you add to the list?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Monu Alagh says:

    helpful article for me because i am looking for content writer on my blog…. i follow all your tips when hiring writer on my blog…

  2. Bill says:

    I’d add ability to write an engaging content that build your business simmlessly.

  3. I tend to think I have a rather unique perspective on how I judge potential writers. I look for perfectionists.
    I look for people that write the way they think is correct, rather than laying out strict guidelines on how I think they should write – because once you start doing that, the writer loses their voice, and the article suffers.

    One tactic I’ve used is to send the potential writer a copy of an already published article and ask them, “How could this be improved?” If they say there’s nothing that can be done to make it better, they don’t get the job. It doesn’t matter if they’re a world recognized blogger, if they don’t strive for perfection, they’re not good enough to write for me.

    • I liked your choice of tactics potential writer. I’ll have to remember :)

    • Barzrul says:

      This one is another great method to hire a writer. Thanks for sharing James.

    • I love the fact that your goal is perfection but not at the expense of flexibility. As a newcomer to this arena, I am voraciously researching all the advice I can find. But the main thing that stood out to me was that you look for the writer’s voice.
      The voice is, for me, the key quality that should shine through. The other things are important of course and it also depends on the subject matter being written about.
      Thank you

  4. Shin says:

    I must admit that I do not have all the characteristics that was presented above. However I would definitely work hard on my weakness. That way people would hire me! Thank you for this article. It also helps those people struggling to get a job in the writing/blogging industry.

  5. Karan Patel says:

    Wow, Wonderful article it is, it is very necessary to check sample of writers that you are hiring. There are many fake people on internet. They just write article, no SEO nothing, so its better to check samples before hiring them to check quality of posts they write.

  6. Vina CNTT says:

    Thank you !

  7. Zenelia says:

    hii
    Well great tips for the selection of the quality writers…well I would like to add one more thing is that internet savvy guy..because if he/she is internet freak then they can surely help in engaging the maximum audience via the most recent topic up in the market that thing not only will help you in reaching more people but even can get the token of admiration too if he/she has addressed the topic interestingly in a proper manner.

    Thanks for sharing the tips
    Nice Post

    Keep Posting

    Zenelia……

  8. Johnw says:

    I think first three characteristics are most important while hiring a writer. Expertise and experience for particular topic, passion for particular topic and maintaining the quality of the posts.

    If someone has a kind of ability than we can consider them perfect writer.

    • Akshat says:

      Yes, I also think that expertise and achievements are the most vital points to consider while hiring a writer. Only then we get quality blog posts.

  9. Excellent article and most enthusiastic one. Every blog writers should read this article and judge themselves whether they have all the capabilities to became the best bloggers. Every bloggers are thinking only quality is necessary but they fail to target their audience.

    This article will definitely acts as a foundation for the evolution of many new bloggers in this world with all the characteristics.

  10. Lakhyajyoti says:

    Another great post. Surely I’ll keep in mind all the characteristics when I’ll hire writers for my blog. Thanks for the share.

  11. Gaurav says:

    passion for blogging and expertise in writing blog posts are i think two most important things to analyze before appointing a writer (freelancer or employee). great post Darren and thanks for sharing….

  12. Olumide says:

    I think having passion for a topic and being able to express and connect with readers is very important. Thanks for the post.

  13. Angel Cuala says:

    This is huge and useful list, Darren.

    As a full-time paid web content writer since 2010, I think I can add that “a writer who can treat his client as a partner and not just an ordinary customer.”

    I believe that if a writer has this kind of attitude, he is willing to provide suggestions rather than just simply following orders. He is also the type of writer who can put himself in the readers’ shoes and who can write as if the readers are his own web visitors.

    It is also this kind of writer who can write articles that can connect with the readers, and can convince them to make an action.

  14. Daryl says:

    Someone who always keeps the lines of communication open.

    It’s very irritating to work with someone who takes several days to reply to emails and other forms of communication.

  15. I agree on those 11 characteristics and I really believe that a writer who have passion for the topic can write good articles because some writers who cannot relate the topic what they did is to search on the web related on the topic and the ideas are the same and the output is like they re-write the article.

  16. Eve Adams says:

    Right now, I don’t have the budget to hire for writers who will write on my site but these lists will help me improve my judgment on picking the great one. Thanks.

  17. Lucian says:

    This list is great if you have the budget and prove that good writers cost you money but can help you make money. However, since not everybody is capable of hiring the best of the best, I think that most important is to go for quality posts, good English and dedication. It might seem easier to find such a writer, but it actually is not.

  18. Kai says:

    As a writer, this list makes me wonder if I’ll always be stuck in the content mill ghetto. I’m well aware that great markets can be as picky as they like, but it’s almost like one has to be an internet Shakespeare with a plump,flawless portfolio before good sites will even glance in your direction.

    I suppose it gives me something to work towards.

  19. Mi Muba says:

    Most of the employer also hire native English writers for popular blogs; secondly most of the employer prefer to hire young writers who usually have more passion than the older lot and in their contents there is no impression of a sermon or a detailed narration of dos and dons; this is my observation everyone has right to differ with it

  20. Hammad says:

    Great tips Darren. I am also planning to hire writers for my blog and will definitely take few of these tips in mind.

  21. nikhil says:

    Hiring a writer for your blog is not an easy job you need to look at all the things mention above thank for sharing this helpful post.

  22. Susan Mather says:

    A sense of humor, optimism, and a love of learning – not just from reading but thru engagement with people ( esp those who critisizeyour writing, etc. As Will Rogers once said, “We’re all ignorant, only on different subjects.” Also, a great sense of fairness + character, another hard-to-define quality but easy to see, well, sometimes.

  23. Ankit Singh says:

    I guess its a tough job for you :P

  24. Daryl says:

    Great tips for those writers looking to figure out if they have what it takes to make it to the big leagues!

    My only tip I’d add is: Easy to communicate with. Nothing is more frustrating than awarding a project and then you can’t get in touch with that person, or they take several days to get back to you on an important question or with the project itself.

  25. kazi says:

    Another great post , Darren . The points are placed in correct order,too. The first four are the crucial ones. It will definite help me when hiring a good blogger .

  26. I guessed I had to work on these 11 pointers in order to guest post on ProBlogger. Nevertheless, they were great goals to aim for. Thanks Darren!

  27. richo says:

    I wonder, how the point number ten applies to Daren himself, especially in this article and comments?

  28. Mamta Sharma says:

    It is really true for a writer to have these qualities but at the same time the employer should also value the writer’s hard work, knowledge and expertise level and this is only possible if the employer is aware of what it takes to write a piece.

    Several people just want to hire a high end writer without respecting his/her worth and expect to use them write ups paying peanuts!

  29. Averol says:

    I believe that if a writer has this kind of attitude, he is willing to provide suggestions rather than just simply following orders. He is also the type of writer who can put himself in the readers’ shoes and who can write as if the readers are his own web visitors.

  30. Saif says:

    Perfect post. I do not hire writers because writers write for Dollars while we write to give knowledge to others. we write to get good quality traffic and to get readers.
    Thanks

  31. Mamta Sharma says:

    So probably you are social worker! Why all the bloggers, writers or any professional are working? It may not be just for money but of course not for social work too. You do what drive traffic that means you are going to use that traffic for earning something not for charity! otherwise you wouldn’t drive traffic to your site!

    There is a certain goal behind every move, without any motive nothing is done ever in this materialistic world! Nothing comes for free here! Everything has its own price and reason in this world! I may be blunt but not real!

  32. Mamta Sharma says:

    Sorry it is not “not real” read it “real”

  33. Averol says:

    very helpful contents. I always in a search of hiring a a good blogger. Great article Dareen

  34. Krishnan says:

    Your Point is very usefull for choosing a good blogger

  35. Rahul Sharma says:

    if a writer is passionate about a topic then we don’t have to worry about quality of that.

  36. vine says:

    LOVE THIS IDEA! Props for the work you’ve put into this so far! I noticed (at least in my latest install of WP) that when clicking on the “Articles” section of the admin, the page title (next to the icon) still read, “Posts”.I’ve tracked down the display element for this, and added one line under line 176 of the functions.php:add_filter( esc_html’, change_post_to_article’ );This took care of the name. Thanks again for the hard work!

  37. When I want to hire writers, first I choose only those who are experienced and have worked before in that niche. But, mainly I prefer to work on my blog myself.

  38. John Smith says:

    Hi Darren,
    I Agree with your ideas especially about less experienced writer, as they bring their skill and ideas into the writing, they made it look natural and original. yes the passion is one most prominent thing in any kind of writing one must have passion on their niche it makes the task of writing easy. It is really a great post to read.
    Thanks

  39. Very informative and interesting. I am just getting started so need all the help I can get. I agree that passion and voice are key elements in any writing. The technical details are important of course.
    I wish I knew more about photography so that I could write for you!
    Thanks for the enlightenment

  40. Sam John says:

    A lot of the employer also hire ancient English authors for well-liked blogs; secondly most of the employer want to hire youthful writers who most often have more passion compared to the older great deal and inside their contents there isn’t a impression of your sermon or perhaps a detailed narration associated with dos in addition to dons; it is my declaration everyone has right to differ about it.

  41. I appreciate the fact that you acknowledge you will probably never hire a 10/10 writer. This is so true, because we, as people can never truly be 100% perfect, however we can excel in many areas. Personally I would iterate on what you mentioned about adding personality to the article. I am a Tech Writer under the pen name “Christopher Wolfe”. In reference to my columns at our local newspaper, I have noticed on more than one occasion, that readers developed a sense of knowing me, the writer on a semi personal level, knowing I speak, think and feel about a topic before they get to reading my articles. This is all because of the personality I have put into my articles in the past.
    Adding personality to a topic you write about not only goes in conjunction with your expertise about a subject, but it adds a nice touch to it. It is kind of like adding a little dash of salt to a soup. It’s a small, gesture, but can enhance the flavor of the soup so much more. Personality in writing is no different.

    Christopher Starks
    Writer / Journalist / Photographer