Now Hiring: 10 hours/week. Needs 8+ years experience (unpaid internship). Yeah. Right.
As I'm transitioning into the world of professional writing, I've been getting to know job boards pretty well. Probably too well. Ok. I'm obsessed. I am so excited to find different companies to write for that checking Indeed, Flexjobs, VirtualVocations, and LinkedIn has become a part of my early-morning routine. And I love it. Here's why:
I finally get to be picky.
I actually get to choose what I want to write about—not to mention for whom—because I have enough experience under my belt to know A) my worth and B) which opportunities will blossom into long-term relationships and which opportunities will go down in flames.
And which ones tend to crash and burn? The ones that ask for *way* too much work from an applicant before a first interview is even initiated. So since I have literally nothing to lose and just drank about a gallon of coffee, I thought I would offer my unsolicited advice for companies looking to hire writers for part-time, contract work. *If you're reading this because I referred you to my online portfolio, this doesn't apply to you. Seriously :) I have the luxury of only applying to companies that I am actually interested in. I just wanted to vent my frustrations on behalf of all those writers out there who can't be as picky yet.* 1) Ditch the cover letter If you're looking for freelance or part-time positions, you're dealing with candidates who are probably currently working and/or searching for multiple jobs at the same time. This is particularly true with writers. And, I get it, you want candidates who are really passionate about the position with your company. But the reality is that there are plenty of AWESOME candidates who are intrigued by the position but don't know enough about it to be die-hard passionate. Plus, a quality cover letter can take hours to create and polish. If every company expects a personalized letter, it's no wonder great candidates resort to templated garbage that fills up your inbox. In other words, the initial job post is too early to be a jealous lover, so save the whole "why do you want to work here specifically" stuff for the interview (besides, if you're looking for full-time commitment, maybe you should be hiring for a full-time position). Pro-tip: Here's a fair compromise I recently saw:
Note the difference? "A few sentences on why you're the best person for the job." Rather than expecting an entire letter that is unique to the position. I would *gladly* provide you with a few sentences on why I'm awesome. Gladly.
2) Stop auto-sending questionnaires This has become particularly annoying with Indeed. The second a candidate sends in an application, an e-mail arrives saying "You received a request from so-and-so company" followed by a message that starts with, "Congrats! Here's the next step in the hiring process..." Then there's the questionnaire to test some type of skill like proofreading, copywriting, marketing, etc. These quizzes usually last between 10-15 minutes and you get one shot to take them. The results are sent to the employer giving them some raw data to weed out candidates. Now, don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with testing an applicant's ability regarding the job they are applying for—even when the position is part-time/freelance work. But stop sending them automatically to unqualified candidates. If you've received a resume, video introduction, and writing samples, (or god forbid a personalized cover letter), you should be able to weed out applications without asking candidates to waste an additional 15 minutes of their time.
From an applicant's perspective, these automatic quizzes give two huge red flags about an employer: a) You're willing to sacrifice talent to make your life a little easier: No one worth their grain of salt is going to sit through many of these auto-quizzes before realizing there are other, more serious positions around. b) You're not an efficient employer: Either ask for only the resume and writing samples OR ask me to do the quiz and ask for more information later. Requiring both right off the bat adds more work for everyone and is likely indicative of your company's workflow. Pro-tip: Look for candidates who met your initial expectations (with a resume and writing samples) and then follow up with an email inviting the applicant to fill out the evaluation.
Note the difference? This is a well-written e-mail sent days later (letting me know they've reviewed my initial application) which includes information about an evaluation that was crafted by the hiring team rather than thrown together in 5 minutes on Indeed.
3) You're assigning homework? To adults? Really?
Yeah, this one's tricky. I have seen A LOT of positions that want a person to "show what they've got" before employing them. And by that, I don't mean with previous writing samples. I mean with brand new assignments that will be in line with what they will be doing on a daily basis. I've read job postings with anything from "write a 1,000-word sample on this topic" to "provide 3-5 original blog post ideas with polished titles." Here's my honest reaction to requirements like that: I totally get where you're coming from, but that $h!t doesn't seem cool.
I get it. I do. You want to qualify that the candidate has the right chops for the content you want them to create. But it really, really comes off like you're looking for free content. Like, to the point where it makes good applicants cringe.
As someone who has been through this process many times, it definitely sets off the alarms. Again, I get it. Just... still... it's gross. You should be able to tell enough about my writing through previous samples and interviews to know whether or not I'm qualified for your 10-15 hour a week position. Pro-tip: If you're going to do this, at least offer to back pay for the work because if you... You know what. Just don't do it. Just... don't.
4) Pay your damn interns I can't, for the life of me, figure out why companies think it's ok to hire college students as interns without paying them even minimum wage. "Oh, but we give college credit and experience so I don't see why we should also have to..." Yeah. You know what else you get? Driven, ambitious employees who are educating themselves and usually bringing more passion and energy to the table than your full-time employees. Plus, you know what college students really need? Money to pay for college.
I'm not saying pay your interns the same wages as your other employees. That'd be crazy. Interns are there to learn, they'll make mistakes, and they need more guidance than more experienced workers. But they're still working; they're still contributing; they still deserve some type of financial compensation even if it is minimum wage. Pro-tip: If an intern isn't worth minimum wage, they probably aren't worth your time. The bottom line? Hiring freelance or part-time writers doesn't have to be super complicated. Here is my (again, unsolicited) hiring flow: 1. Ask for resume, brief description, and writing samples (possibly a video introduction)
2. Send qualified candidates an evaluation (if applicable to the role) before the interview 3. Set up a phone interview (ask for more information like references/experience here) 4. Set up a second phone interview with the team, if necessary
5. Hire them. It's that simple. So please, out of respect for the dignity of all parties involved, don't make it complicated.