Why instructions suck

In a discussion I was having with a group of talented technical writers seeking work, there was a significant amount of time spent on hard skills. Keep in mind that a hard skill is anything that can be learned (as opposed to a soft skill, which represents an ingrained behavior or mindset).

Technical writing spans many areas and each writer had a different set of experiences with a variety of products. However, the pace of technology moves at a breakneck speed. What one person used yesterday isn’t what’s being used today, and that, in their view, is a barrier to hiring. When you consider that applicant tracking systems (ATS) filter out candidates who don’t meet the inputted hard skills (which makes hard skills the initial primary factor), their argument gains credibility.

As our conversation continued, a neutral third-party (non-writer), stated very bluntly “is that why instructions always suck?

<crickets chirping>

Asked what was meant by the statement, he clarified with “why wouldn’t they [employers] want someone who could write?” As in, hard skills should be a secondary factor instead of the primary factor.

He may be on to something. For example, having experience with JIRA would give the illusion that the candidate was also good at writing. But, the very best writers, without experience with JIRA, would be filtered out by the ATS. What are we left with? Writers with strong issue tracking skills. 

Finding a solution isn’t going to be easy. But it reminded me of Gary Vaynerchuk, author of Crushing It and other successful books. In his talk about the 2 characteristics of successful people, he aptly stated:

“Don’t hire for skill… train for mindset.” 

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