Written by Sophia LaFontant

Have you ever found yourself torn between two candidates, and one had stronger writing skills than the other? My recommendation… Hire the writer. 

As a talent acquisition consultant, and having interviewed hundreds of career candidates, I can say that writing ability has not received the attention it is due. Solid writing skills are critical to most jobs in the social sector. The National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 80.3% of employers desire candidates that have strong written communication skills. Strong writing ability was the third most desired skill, after leadership and collaborative skills.

I like how Jason Fried, founder of Basecamp, explains why the value of a great writer on staff:

“…a good writer is about more than writing clear writing. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate.”

I could not agree more! No matter how brilliant a person, if they’re writing doesn’t come across crystal clear then the entire message is scarified. So, How much effort do you put into finding out who is the better writer? 

-Request writing samples

-Provide a short prompt response that can evaluate the candidates’ passion for your mission or population served

-For positions with significant writing demands, conduct automated writing assessments

If we haven’t yet made the case for why strong writers are the way to go, here are a few reasons why you need a strong writer on your team:

They are collaborative: Even though the act of writing is an independent activity, the process often involves gathering input and analyzing the ideas from others. From collecting information from others in the research process to bouncing ideas of others for direction or in final edits, a strong writer knows that good writing is a collaborative process.

They are open to changes and feedback: Strong writers understand that the magic of good writing happens in the rewrite and with edits. More often than not the editing and proofing process is often done by others which encourages writers to get in the habit of seeing their work in the eyes of others and being receptive to feedback.

They simplify complex ideas: Effective writers learn to master the art of uncomplicating complicated ideas then presenting them in simple and clear language for their intended audience. This skill transfers to stronger discernment and understanding of complex processes or subject matter in the workplace.

As you look for candidates to fill your talent needs, look to hire strong writers to fill diverse roles and why not go a few steps further and aim to develop a culture of good writing. With that, I will close with a nugget from Josh Bernkoff, co-author of Groundswell:

[A culture of good writing] means that the material that ends up on your desk will be clear. Senior managers can waste time rooting through their subordinates’ fuzzy writing, or they can spend effort changing the culture to one that prizes brevity, clarity, and directness.  That’s worth the effort, because it means everyone in the organization–especially management–will end up more productive.


Sophia LaFontant
Talent Acquisition Consultant
slafontant@nonprofithr.com