After you have found new writers that say they want to write for your website, the vetting process should commence immediately (whether you are vetting for paid positions or for Pro Bono Publico positions). This will determine if they will do what they say they will do and how well. After going through this process for years, I have found that some vetting methods work better than others.
Once you have found a writer that says they would like more info about your site or says that they want to write for your site, a.) give them the information that they requested, b.) ask them for a writing sample (or to forward you a previously written article). Asking for a writing sample will instantly aid you in separating the flakes and posers from the people that are serious about writing for your site and getting their voices heard. The flakes will not send you a writing sample or respond to your request to do so.
A proactive, authentic, eager applicant will respond to your request with the requested writing sample or with a previously written sample (either in a .doc, a PDF, or via a link to work previously published online).
If they don’t have a writing sample or writing sample links to send you and they can’t motivate themselves to write a single sample article from scratch to get the writing job you are offering, they will not be able to write for you consistently, will need your constant prodding to do so, and should be avoided. Do not hire someone without seeing their ability to write and that they are self-motivated. Answering your writing ad does not count is not an example of self-motivation. That is self-interest.
If the potential writer answers your job posting with a response riddled with spelling errors or sends you a writing sample with spelling error, this person is probably not what you are looking for in a new writer. If the person can’t take the tine to edit their job posting reply (to make that ever-so-important positive first impression) or writing sample properly (to get the job!), they will not be able to do so writing for you on a regular basis.
What Day and Time can they Contribute
Ask the potential writer what time during the week and on what days they can consistently contribute to your website. If they give you a vague answer, you do not want them. By answering your job posting, they knew before hand that they would have to set aside time to do the actual writing.
If the person can’t give you a time span and the days that they can write, they are not serious (unless they are in between jobs or seeking full time employment). People with full time jobs or classes will typically be able to write after work (or class) and will indicate so in their reply to your query.
The flakes will not want to be locked into a specific day(s) or time span during it (them). They are playing. They are not serious.
If everything is on the-up-and-up and you like what you have heard and read from the potential new writer, bring them on for a trial basis. Send them their log-in information, publication tutorial, and their writing schedule. I have had many people flake and give a creative excuse as to why they can no longer write for the site after receiving these materials.
Once they receive these materials from (or whatever on-boarding materials you give to new writers), they know you are for real, that the writing position is for real.
This is another measurement tool to gauge the flakes from the people that really want to write for your site. The people that may last will be happy to receive the aforementioned materials. The ones that balk and suddenly excuse out (“this other opportunity has all of a sudden presented itself so I can no longer write for your website”) weren’t going to work out. Better that you find out now, at the beginning, than later down the road after you have put time and effort into them.
Set Trial and Watch for Consistency
During the trial, watch the writers consistency with their assignments. Did they do what they said they would do? Did they write at the frequency that you requested? Did they adhere to the standard that you set?
I have had many writers that write consistently for a few days and then began to tamper off. They did not realize that the writing schedule was for real until they were actually writing according to that schedule. The reality of what they had committed sank in and they began to crack. It is better to find this out early.
Bringing them on for a trial basis will help you determine if they can write consistently and if they are in it for the long haul. More importantly, the writer will find this out as well.
Ask For A Resume
A resume will not tell you that a writer will do what they say they will do or that they will be a steady and consistent contributor to your website. It will tell you if they have experience writing or a degree in it. You can use the resume to see how long they have worked for a particular establishment.
I do not require a resume. If they have one, I ask them to forward it. I do not count that as a strike for them. If they do not have one, I do not count it as a strike against them.
Asking for a resume indicates to the writer that you are a serious organization and that the writing position that you are hiring for is not to be taken lightly.
Vetting new writers is not easy but with the methods above, the process can be made smoother and more efficient. Remember: if they can’t write copy without spelling errors and they can’t write consistently on a trial basis, they are not what you are looking for in a new writer.
Writing a good sample from scratch or writing consistently week in and week out are a flakes’ worst nightmare.