Thursday, March 5, 2009

Anti-Tech-Writer Bias in Content Strategist Hiring?

I keep a pretty good watch on what companies are looking for when seeking to hire a new content strategist. It's rare that I see a new requirement or new job responsibility listed. Most job ads are pretty much the same, they shamelessly copy one another. So I was pretty surprised to see this listed in a job ad posted by Perfect Link, Inc. in Oakland, CA looking for a senior-level content strategist.

Ignoring the eight or nine blatant spelling, grammar, and capitalization errors in just 30 words of text, and the fact that none of the Top 5 Skills listed are actually skills (impressive), the requirement for No Tech Writers really surprised me.

I'm guessing that this line was added for a couple of reasons.

First, I think there is a subtle bias against tech writers in the more "creative" agencies. They really don't understand a lot of what tech writers do these days and how much of their work is very similar to Information Architecture and Content Strategy. A lot of agency people still see tech writers as the people who produce those awful software user guides. They don't see, or make the connection, to all the online help and performance support system work.

Secondly, and more to the point, I don't think tech writers do a very good job when marketing themselves to agencies for Web content-related jobs. I've seen this myself when recruiting content strategists. Tech writers need to take a few minutes and adjust their resume to show more Web-related experience. In many cases it's just a matter of being a little creative with your job titles and description. Even if your actual job title is 'Technical Writer,' it's acceptable to list the role you performed on a project. So listing your "role" or "responsibility" as Web Writer or Web Editor is fine if that's what you were doing. You should also emphasize any work you did that was focused on marketing or customer communications. This helps reduce the negative impact of other, more technical, writing projects.

I've always said that tech writers make great content strategists. That was my background and I've worked with and hired others with similar backgrounds who were excellent content strategists. Hopefully this is a one-time thing and will not become widespread.


  1. To heck with them all. My first post-medievalist job was as a tech writer and editor (even though it was environmental science and not code, but I've done that too).

  2. How stupid. I've been a content strategist (and it's said so on my business card -- LOL) since 2002. I think that this must have been some dumb ass recruiter who lacked many skills, including the ability to use spellcheck. I do believe, however, there are far more unqualified tech writers than qualified ones, as far as the skill set needed to be a content strategist. If they don't understand all sorts of things outside of English, grammar, and spelling, and have a business mind (not an English major mind) they won't cut in in most content strategy roles.

    That said, great technical communicators (not writers) often make great content strategists. They know it's about communication, but it's also about business.

    It'll be interesting to see where the strategy field takes us. In the meantime, I'll be developing strategies for companies with little or no competition. For now, a great thing! LOL

  3. 1. "Content strategist" is a euphemism for web site architect, period.

    2. Many, many websites are not primarily about "informing" the audience, but rather about influencing the audience to *do* something regarding adding to the company's revenues. OTOH, TWs have traditionally been in the "informing the reader" business.

    3. Not enough info about the context of the Help Wanted ad to make a useful comment.