The dos and don’ts of hiring a UX writer

The dos and don’ts of hiring a UX writer

If you’re going to hire a UX writer soon, there are a few things you should know to make sure everyone’s experience is a positive one!

Michelle Handelman
October 19, 2020


So, you’re ready to hire a UX writer? Great! Let’s start with the basics. 

What the heck is a UX writer?

UX (User Experience) writing is still a relatively new discipline. While the title may be new, UX writers have always existed, as Copywriters, Technical Writers, and Content Marketing Writers. UX writing has only recently become a dedicated role for many companies. Many candidates seeking UX writing roles are also transitioning from other content roles into a full-fledged UX Writer.

A candidate with a background in UX writing, who hasn’t held the title, doesn’t necessarily make them any less qualified or experienced than someone who has held the title of UX Writer, Content Strategist, Content Designer or Product Writer. 

Instead of focusing on titles, look for someone who has a deep understanding of the user journey, from the design, testing, research and the final product of the user experience. They should have a keen eye for design and crafting the perfect microcopy to deliver a simple and clear message for the user.

Most importantly, this person should also be able to work cross-functionally with the design and product teams. Unlike many content and marketing roles, UX writing involves working closely with other teams to plan and develop products, features, and implement new technologies.

DO your research

Before diving into the process of interviewing candidates, do your due diligence. Consult with other organizations and peers to learn about salary expectations, role requirements, and desired UX Writer skills. UX writing is a very tight-knit and welcoming community; connect with other UX writers on LinkedIn or use your personal networks to learn more.

Educating your recruiters is extremely important. They are the first point of contact and are screening candidates. There’s nothing worse than a candidate having to spend interview time to explain what their role should entail. 

UX Writers come in many different forms depending on their experience. Some may be more technical, design-oriented or more product-focused. Depending on your needs, prioritize what’s most important for your needs. If you are heavily focused on research, find a UX Writer who has experience in UX research and A/B testing. If you’re more design-oriented, find a UX Writer who is familiar with design tools like Figma or Sketch. 

DON’T interview just to put out feelers

Make sure you are ready to begin interviewing candidates. You should have your hiring process mapped out and all home assignments prepared to go. 

If you’re not ready to interview, please don’t! The role should have already been approved to hire. Nobody likes to have their time wasted or find out there is no job after investing time to learn your product, research, and a home assignment for a non-existent position.

DO involve UX/UI, product and UX research teams in the hiring process

Before deciding to hire your first UX writer, make sure you have the right person managing the position. UX writing should sit either on the product or design teams. The UX writer will be working cross-functionally with both teams and will need to have ownership of their working process.

Involving your designers, product and UX research teams is a crucial element of the hiring process. It’s essential to prepare them before interviewing potential candidates to understand what they should ask and their expectations. 

If you’re interviewing a candidate, you should look at more than just their resume.

Review their portfolio and be ready to ask questions about it. If you’re doing a Zoom interview, share your screen and do a walk-through to allow the candidate to showcase their work and explain their working methods, challenges, and outcomes. 

Designers — You will be working a lot together and depend on each other to complete certain aspects of your work.

Find out what design tools they have worked with, design terminology knowledge and preferred working methods. You should also tell them about your team and workflow to make sure your expectations are aligned. 

Product Managers (PMs) —The UX writer is there to help you translate your work into words, experiences, and journeys. Find out what task tools they prefer to work with, ask for examples of collaboration with PMs and expectations of working together. 

DON’T give unreasonable home assignments

The dreaded home assignment, or UX writing challenge. No one likes doing this, but we know it’s an integral part of understanding the candidate’s thought process and working methods. 

Don’t give lengthy home assignments. There are so many reasons that you should not be doing this. A home assignment should not require hours of extensive research or fluency in a product for completion.

More than likely, the candidate is currently employed or interviewing for other roles in parallel. The interview process goes both ways and could be the reason a candidate decides not to move forward.

Avoid giving a candidate a home assignment on a live product. For starters, it makes the candidate feel like they are doing free work for a company that may decide to use their work without hiring them. Instead, use a mock product or something that is not directly related to your brand or product. 

Don’t expect a candidate to know your entire voice, tone and brand. This is just an unrealistic expectation for someone to nail it on the first try. It can take up to 90-days for someone to even feel comfortable in their job and really understand a product and their role.

It’s okay to give guidelines and a style guide for an assignment but unreasonable to expect it to be perfect. While the candidate should have basic knowledge of your product, they don’t need to be an expert.

DO give thoughtful home assignments 

Home assignments don’t have to be a tedious process. They should be fun and interactive for both the candidate and hiring managers.  

Ideally, a home assignment shouldn’t require more than three hours of work. The assignment should not require extensive research to complete. A good home assignment will assess several skills from error messages, user flow critiques to notifications. Always ask for them to explain their rationale for everything. It’s difficult to look at someone’s work and understand the why and how of their reasoning.

Part of the process should also include a real-time presentation or review to ask any questions you may have about their process. This is the candidate’s time to shine. Some companies will include the Design and Product teams to simulate what a live working session would be. 

Giving a real-time home assignment or whiteboard review can be a great way to understand a candidate’s working methods. For example, you could share with the candidate product screens and ask them what they like and don’t, what they would change, design features that could be improved, etc. This home assignment method gives you the full picture of what it would be like to work with the person. 

We’re all human; we make errors. Sometimes a home assignment might be almost there but not quite what you wanted. That’s ok! If they interviewed well and they had an impressive portfolio, it may be unorthodox but worth it to let them re-do their task. 

Lastly, don’t be overly critical of small mistakes. There are many different grammar styles and variations. Don’t discount a candidate because they missed a period or their spell checker skipped a word. These things happen; we’re human. 

DON’T be a jerk and ghost candidates

Ghosting candidates is incredibly disrespectful and inconsiderate. Please don’t do this! Remember, the interview process goes both ways. There’s nothing worse than a candidate to go through the entire process and don’t hear back from the company.

If a candidate asks for feedback, give it to them. They invested time into the process and should have the consideration to know the reason why you decided not to move forward. 

DO give candidates feedback

Candidates really shouldn’t have to ask for this; it should be part of your hiring process. In fact, you should provide feedback throughout the process and help the candidates prepare along the way.

The hiring process for a UX writer should be very similar to how you would interview a designer. We thrive off feedback and understanding different user experiences. If you decide not to move forward with a candidate, it’s ok! We’d prefer to get a truthful answer instead of a generic email that you have decided to move forward with another candidate. Your feedback could be the ah-ha moment for someone to fix something that prevented them from getting a job. 

You never know when you’ll cross paths in the future; who knows, they may just be your next UX writer in a year from now. 

TL;DR

Hiring a UX writer could change your life. We know what the user wants, and what they expect in each and every click. UX writers have a passion for optimizing the user journey from start to finish to deliver an amazing product and user experience.

So, are you ready to hire a UX Writer?

Michelle Dara Handelman is a UX Writer previously at WeWork. Connect with her on LinkedIn.


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