Who Would You Hire, the Rookie or the Veteran?

I’m occasionally asked by clients whether we have a writer with a specific background. Are/were they in IT, in finance, in animal husbandry?

I can usually find someone with a skill set that matches what the client is looking for, but it’s not always possible. But, it’s not always necessary either. We have two things going for us that make it unnecessary to have a solid background in the client’s industry:

    1. The client provides us with all the information first, and then they approve the final post. If anything is incorrect, they find it before it gets published.
    2. Our writers are smart enough and spend enough time working with a client that they get pretty good at the client’s issues, their value to the client’s, and the features that make the client’s business so awesome. They become marketing copywriters for that company.

So this presents an interesting problem for us. Do we hire a good writer who is smart and can learn the product, or do we hire someone from the industry and fix their writing?

Think of it this way: You’re a baseball coach, and you need to sign a hitter to your team. You have a choice between a rookie who can run from home to 1st in 3.5 seconds, and a veteran who run the same distance in the same time. Who do you pick?

Most people will pick the veteran, because he knows the game and is a proven talent. But the best pick is going to be the rookie. If he can run to 1st in 3.5 seconds right now, think of how great he’ll be if you can hone his technique and teach him a couple tricks to make him run faster.

That’s how we choose our writers. I prefer to work with writers who don’t have the industry skills, because I can teach them about the industry, and help them become better “runners.” But hiring the industry veterans who have reached their writing peak is problematic. I can’t teach them anything new. They’ve gone as far as they’re going to go as writers, unless they dedicate themselves to becoming better writers. (That’s not to say that these adults can’t become writers. It’s just that they have to make a major commitment to improving and becoming better, but I don’t have time to wait for that.)

Who would you choose? Would you go for the industry rookie and teach him or her the ropes, or would you get the industry veteran who has a wealth of knowledge on the topic? Leave a comment and let me hear from you.

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency He co-authored four social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (3rd ed., 2017, Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.


    1. Erik, I entirely agree with you. It is far, far easier to teach someone about IT or finance and animal husbandry than it is to teach something to write. There’s a fundamental difference between writing, which is a skill, and learning the information necessary to blog, which is usually (though not always) a matter of reading, research, and synthesis of information.

      With few exceptions, someone who can synthesize IT information well enough to write a good blog post can do the same with animal husbandry. But hiring someone with no writing experience to be a writer just because of their strong background in IT is a recipe for disaster.