How to Hire a Copywriter

By Robert Half on November 2, 2018 at 11:00am

“The copywriter is the poet, salesperson and closer all in one,” says Natalya Spicker, branch manager of The Creative Group in Coral Gables, Fla. “They must accurately display the true soul of a company in a way that inspires people to become a brand ambassador of that company’s product or service.”

If you’re trying to hire a copywriter, you likely understand the challenge of finding a candidate with the right combination of these and other skills for the job. 

Because many firms are focusing on content optimization, especially on the digital and interactive side of the business, says Spicker, copywriters are in extremely high demand.

Alex Kreutler, division director of The Creative Group in Dublin, Ohio, adds: “Demand is even stronger for hybrid positions combining writing and design, like web content specialists or digital content specialists.” 

So how do you hire the right copywriter in a competitive market? Here are some tips:

Define the role

Your first step is to create a copywriter job description specifically tailored to your company’s needs. The clearer you are, the better match applicants will be. 

Consider the projects you’re hiring a copywriter to work on: Does the candidate need only writing expertise, or also digital and content optimization experience? 

“When a client is looking for a candidate with hybrid skills, such as someone to write copy, as well as design and organize content, it’s important to state the technical skills in the job description,” says Kreutler. “If a hybrid candidate is what you need, listing the specific software, like Adobe Creative Suite, that is pertinent to the position will help attract the right candidates. 

Kreutler adds that some clients looking for web content producers mistakenly believe that design skills always come first, thinking that most people can write, even if they aren’t professionally trained writers. However, writing and storytelling, just like design, are skills honed over many years, and it’s not always easy to find someone who feels comfortable doing both. 

“Ultimately, a copywriter is a person who can really trigger a reaction or action based on a clever use of words,” says Spicker. Hiring managers can think of a copywriter as the marketing spokesperson for the mission and vision of the company’s product or service: They’re a hybrid salesperson who uses written, not spoken, words to close the deal via digital and traditional marketing and advertising. 

Hire a copywriter with the right expertise

For straightforward, traditional messaging for your industry, you’ll likely want to hire a copywriter with experience working with your audience and product or service.

But what if you’re looking for huge change in tone for an advertising initiative? Consider hiring a copywriter with a non-traditional background to bring a new perspective. For example, a financial services company might hire a novelist to help create a compelling story about how their services are appealing. 

If you’re staffing for a digitally focused content role, you could hire a copywriter certified in Google Analytics/Adwords. Someone with agency experience should understand consumer behavior and adapt copy to increase the effectiveness of your campaigns. 

“You want someone highly resourceful, creative and collaborative who can adapt to a client’s voice easily,” says Spicker. She recently placed a person she calls a “copywriter powerhouse,” who had written for almost every industry on the traditional and digital sides of the business.

Kreutler adds that clients often look to hire copywriters with at least some Adobe Suite experience, as mentioned earlier, and knowledge of AP Style. Or they may want someone with more specific skills: One of her clients was seeking a copywriter for instructional writing and needed someone with educational experience who was also familiar with medical terminology. 

Other hiring managers are looking for expertise speaking to a millennial audience: “They want someone who has created engaging copy with a casual tone and who is able to effectively use acronyms like FYI and BTW, or even using emojis, in the copy,” says Kreutler. 

Take the time to consider the skill set you’re seeking in a copywriter by considering the project they’ll be working on. You’ll waste less time interviewing candidates who aren’t a match for your project. 

Ask the right questions

Once you understand the skills necessary for the job and have created a clear job description, you’ll want to develop some questions to ask every candidate — and for consistency, compare their answers. Here are some questions you can ask when hiring a copywriter:

  • How would you describe your writing style?
  • What is your creative process like?
  • Do you specialize in short or long form copy?
  • What industries have you worked in?
  • Do you have in-house or agency experience?
  • How do you handle criticism?
  • How well can you communicate with fellow creatives, such as graphic designers and art directors?
  • How do you tie in your work to the big picture or the bottom line?
  • How do you learn about your client’s service/product?
  • What volume of work/projects are you used to working on at one time?
  • What is your favorite brand for copy inspiration?
  • Is there a product category you prefer to write for?

Next, when reviewing a copywriter candidate’s portfolio, you can ask: What was your involvement in the project, concept and execution? Is your work collaborative or yours alone?
You’ll also want to conduct a writing test with examples of the types of projects the candidate would be working on for the company.

Get compensation right

Because they’re in high demand, it’s important to offer a competitive salary when hiring copywriters. The annual Salary Guide from Robert Half provides salary projections for copywriters. A copywriter with more experience or hybrid skills — writing and Adobe Suite expertise, for example — could receive more than the median starting salary, depending on their location and level of expertise.

Move fast 

Finally, both Spicker and Kreutler warn clients hiring copywriters to move quickly and understand that every need you have will likely not be met. “Our candidates are hired very quickly,” says Kreutler. In many instances, she says, clients ask to see many candidates and hold off until they think they’ve seen all the available options. By the time they’re ready to hire someone they interviewed, the candidate they want most has been placed somewhere else.

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