Without scouring the internet for very long, you will find a million and one postings on how to land your dream job. Advice on how to fix your resume, what interview questions to expect, and what you should wear can be found anywhere. This two-part piece, however, is written to help you find your technical writing dream job and determine if your job prospect is a prince or a frog.
You’re on the job hunt and scrolling through job board after job board. You know what kind of technical writing position you’re looking for. But, do you know what shouldn’t be there?
Red Flag #1: The Wrong Title
It seems simple enough, but the wrong job title is a major red flag. While the job posting may detail the work you want to do, not having the correct title tells you something is off. Documentation specialist, communications manager, and editor may all have similar descriptions, but drastically different realities from a technical writer. If the title is similar, but does not match, keep your eyes open.
Red Flag #2: The Wrong Duties
Similarly, if a position has the correct title, but the wrong duties, examine it carefully. This could be a sign that an HR representative mis-titled the position. Make sure each duty aligns with exactly what function you are aiming to perform. For example, if you are unfamiliar with XML, SharePoint, or Security+, make sure these do not appear in the description.
Red Flag #4: Generic Description
Similar to Red Flags #1 and #2, posts with generic descriptions should be approached with caution. If the text reads as if someone Googled “technical writer” and then copied the definition, odds are they did. This shows that hiring authorities are not entirely aware of what the job entails. Perhaps it is a new position or and old position they never fully defined. Either way, it shows that no one really knows what you will be doing. If proceeding with a position like this, press hard for daily activities, who you report to, and what they anticipate your first 30 days will entail.
Red Flag #3: Duty Overload
Businesses, being frugal as they are, often try to combine positions to save money. Sniff these out when on the job hunt by inspecting the range and volume of duties. Typically, technical writers are combined with business analysts, administrative assistants, SharePoint administrators, web developers, etc. The job functions listed should only cover what you are willing to perform.
Red Flag #5: “Other Administrative Tasks”
While less of a red flag, having “other administrative tasks as assigned” is not a positive phrase to read. This is a sign that the office does not have an administrative assistant and will put the clerical work on your desk. Additionally, it might indicate that the technical writing tasks are few and far between and you might be performing more administrative tasks than you hope. Inquire about this and make sure you are satisfied with their response.
Red Flag #6: Low Experience Level
If the position requires a lesser degree or fewer years of experience than you have to offer, odds are you want to avoid this position. At the very least, it shows the company is aiming at a lower salary point than what you are seeking. At the most, it says the company is unaware of the complexity of the work and is under the impression anyone can do it. Neither are positive thoughts.
Red Flag #7: Contract Contingencies
Many postings for technical writing positions might toss the phrase “contingent upon contact award” at the bottom of the page. This tells you that the position does not currently exist, and may never. While you are free to throw your resume in the pile, these positions should not be your top priority if you are actively searching.
Red Flag #8: Old Posting
Full-time technical writing positions are hot commodity that many professionals search for. On that note, a stale posting is a red flag. Postings more than 30 days old have most likely received numerous responses from qualified candidates. Its continual availability shows that something is deterring others from the position. Perhaps the contract is about to expire, or the company has a bad reputation. Either way, research and keep your eyes open to identify the flaw before proceeding too far.
About the Author
Greta Boller is a technical writer located in the Washington, D.C. area. For more information, please visit her bio page.