Caution: Rant Crossing

I never hold out much hope that writing jobs on Craig’s List will pan out, or are even worth the time it takes to respond to them. There are exceptions, naturally, but the majority of companies/people searching for writers on CL have a long list of requirements and high expectations, yet they don’t provide the information a writer would need to meet them. Still, every once in a while I go to CL to see what’s there, if for no other reason than to enjoy a good eye-rolling session. The other day I saw a post that was yet another prime example of what I’m talking about.

After first tooting their own horn about how awesome their own company is, how fast it’s growing, what USA Today said about it, how many Fortune 500 clients they have, blah blah blah, the post asks for a “content writer” who MUST: be a creative soul ready for new challenges, believe in changing the rules of the game (whatever that means), write informative, interesting, thoughtful content full of soul, personality and wit that draws the reader in and makes him smile, know WordPress [sic] and Photoshop, hold a college degree, have excellent English spelling/grammar/proofreading skills, and an “incredible amount of passion,” as “passion is the fuel without which you cannot survive at [company].”

Whew! Well, okay. I’m not going to argue that a good writer shouldn’t have all of those qualities. But instead of asking for portfolios where all of those qualities would conceivably be reflected in the body of work, the post gives candidates a test. They send hopefuls to a url and require them to write a one-paragraph review of it. Then, in two sentences, summarize why a business owner should try the online tool they’re selling there.

But here’s the thing: You can’t ask a writer to come up with a complete appraisal of a website in one paragraph and expect to get anything of value. Especially without sharing the brand position, brand promise, target audience profile, and other key information any good writer would need to do the job. Otherwise, what are the evaluation criteria? And, as good as I like to consider myself at what I do, I would be hard-pressed to show wit, personality, soul, knowledge, thoughtfulness, charm and passion – all while making a business case to entrepreneurs – in two sentences.

Why is it that writers (and designers ) so often are expected to bend over backwards, take impossible tests, and prove themselves to people who don’t even understand what we do or how we do it? Why are our portfolios of produced work not enough for some? You never see an ad for an accountant that requires candidates to “Review the attached Excel spreadsheet and find the 3 errors hidden within it.”  Where’s the post that requires a plumber to “Come to my house and change out the leaking garbage disposal” as a test before he can be considered for a job?

I feel sorry for the company that posted this ad because they will never find what they’re looking for. And if they do luck out and get a response they like, I pity the poor writer who has to deal with these people. Because he or she will be doing a lot more than writing. They’ll be doing a lot of teaching, too. And we all know how vastly underpaid teachers are.

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One Response to “Caution: Rant Crossing”

  1. Marcie Judelson says:

    Mike,

    I feel your pain. You have just described the incredible frustration of answering online copywriter postings.

    It all sounds way too familiar (especially the “passion” requirement…which is now de riguer for every company…you won’t find a job posting that doesn’t include the “P word”).

    But asking for the one paragraph website appraisal? That’s a new one!

    I think the more we blow the whistle on these types of postings, the better. So rant away.
    As one who has answered hundreds of them, I am getting a vicarious thrill.

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