According to CMI’s 2014 B2B Content Marketing research report, 55 percent of B2B businesses are challenged with producing enough content. 47 percent are struggling to produce the kind of content that engages.

Many considerations factor into meeting these challenges. It’s a safe assumption that the need for skilled writers is near the top of the requirements list. In fact, 64 of the B2B organizations surveyed are already outsourcing content creation. This allows them to stay in step with consumers’ voracious appetite for relevant news, information, and advice. One topic that came up repeatedly during CMI’s Executive Forum was the challenge that content marketing leaders had with finding great writers.  Great writers create original content or translate ideas from subject matter experts.

The issue is not in finding a skilled writer (or at least one who knows enough not to commit any of Weird Al’s “Word Crimes“). The issue is finding a skilled writer who is right for your project. While basic writing skills are, of course, essential, more important are often those intangible qualities. These qualities include having a conversational yet useful tone or the ability to tell a story in an un-contrived way. As with great design, it can be challenging to express what you need until you see it. This can be a very frustrating process.

As the content manager for the CMI blog, I’ve seen firsthand just how difficult it can be to find the right writer to craft a particular piece of content. Insight and writing skill both play a part, to be sure; but in truth, it’s not always about talent and knowledge. Producing quality content also involves communicating information in a unique and compelling way. As I often tell writers, “What makes a post work for us often has more to do with the approach it takes to making insights actionable than with the insights themselves.” So every organization will likely have its own criteria for identifying the perfect candidate.

To get some additional perspectives on the topic, I asked a group of our blog contributors,Online Training instructors, and Content Marketing World speakers to answer the question, “How do you vet new writers before hiring them, and how do you know if a pitch from a writer will translate into strong content that is right for your organization?” Following are some of the best advice points they shared:

One of the best hires of my career was a bartender for the 10 years prior, so I just won’t believe anyone who says hiring great writers is like hiring other marketers.

To adjust, I try to focus on four criteria, in no particular order:

  • Their portfolio: This trumps the resume, and it’s not even close.
  • Culture fit: If your company does content right, writers will end up working with tons of people across the entire company.
  • Adaptability: At Google, we used to talk about hiring the best “mental athletes.” That absolutely applies when hiring writers. Being great at research but not SlideShares, or advice columns but not interviews is a deal-breaker where I’ve worked. Content marketing changes too often to succeed without being adaptable.
  • Attention to detail: This is huge. It’s hard to test for, so I try to bury small tests somewhere deep in the job description. My last one said, “Attention to detail test: Use [word I’d chosen] in your application.” If they missed it, that told me they don’t pay close enough attention to important assignments.