How to Hire a Grant Writer, Part 2

A good grant writer should write well. That is so basic as to be insulting, but too many employers concentrate on other attributes of an applicant’s credentials that they forget that writing is the single most important skill for future success.

Let’s face it. In grant writing, the text is a writer’s tapestry, and although there are funders who are surprisingly forgiving about grammatical errors, the grant writer you hire should strive to put their best foot forward since the level of leniency will not be discovered until after the fact.

Questioning whether the candidate wrote her own cover letter and writing samples means you have bigger issues. To remove all doubt, build time into the first interview where the candidate can sit down in a quiet room and show you what they can do on demand. The exercise should be timed, 30 to 45 minutes, and governed by specific guidelines. Open-ended writing prompts run the risk of producing a wide range of results that make a fair assessment unnecessarily difficult.

Consider asking applicants to:

  • respond to a question with two clear choices that need to be defended;
  • produce a one-page letter of interest in response to an RFP; or
  • proofread a brief non-sensitive internal document.

The purpose of the exercise is not to aim for perfection. Writing will never be fluid under the pressure of an interview, but it will give you a ballpark sense of the writer’s strengths and weaknesses. Besides, there will be times when the grant writer really will be expected to produce a document with a tight turnaround.

What do you do if you are hiring a remote grant writer? To a degree you will need to exercise a little trust, but your faith need not be completely based on vague potential and suppositions. At the end of the telephone or video interview, make the same request of the applicant. You may not be around to observe the writer in action, but you can adjust the complexity of the assignment to see what they can produce in 30 minutes or so.

Do not hire a grant writer if you are committed to completely rewriting everything they produce. Team work is important to ensure the final product is firing on all cylinders, but learn to separate collaborative feedback from collaborative writing. The latter strategy never works. If the applicant leaves you feeling less than confident, it’s time to move on to the next one.

What did we miss? What would you expand upon? And, if you missed Part 1, read it here.

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