Assessing an interviewee's writing ability

Hello and Happy New Year to you all!

When recruiting, we consider the candidate's technical ability via a test or asking for evidence of qualifications, however I was wondering if anyone had tips or suggestions on how to assess a candidates ability to write clearly and concisely? It is obviously a very important part of the role but often gets overlooked at interview stage in favour of technical ability.

Thank you!


  • The initial thought I had was that you could request a covering letter with the CV as part of your recruitment process. However if you use recruitment agencies this may be difficult to arrange.

    The only other way is for them to show you examples of reports they have written in the past (obviously anonymised). The only issue here is if they are templated you possibly won't get much of a feel for their writing style.

    Alternatively, either ask them to write something in the office, or give it to them to take home and email back to you when it's completed.

    Hopefully some of that will help, although I have not yet been involved in recruitment so someone who has may have better suggestions for you :smile:

    Good luck!

  • richallumrichallum Administrator

    We use a case study to test tech ability and writing skills.

    Paraplanner. F1, Apple, Nutella, ice cream. No trite motivational quotes. Turning a bit northern. 

  • Thank you both. I like the case study idea, as a means of combining. I prefer the idea of having them write something whilst in the office.

    One thought I had was to ask them to write 250 words on what they think the role/importance of a Paraplanner is? As well as testing their written skills it gives an idea of their mindset on what the role entails.

  • That's probably a good idea and could also serve as a discussion point as everyone seems to have a different idea on this!

  • For more junior paraplanners, we ask them to do a technical test and also give them an article to summarise in a technical bulletin email for advisers. I tend to try and find relatively long technical piece from Prudential/Standard Life etc and ask them to summarise the key points in 300 words.

    For more senior paraplanners they get the same technical test and we have asked them to complete a case study in between interviews 1 and 2 with a response of around 1,000 words, to be sent prior to the 2nd interview. Yes, there is a risk they could crib from a template but I can't really ask them to spend a couple of hours in the office, as well as do the test and an interview!

    I may change this in the future to combine technical and writing as Rich does, seems to make a lot of sense.

  • Hi @Gustavo_Fring

    Like Richard, looking for a candidate myself in the past, I've used case studies, and these have been used on me too! They are a really good way of assessing a candidate's skills and writing style, and their initiative in some cases if you give them a fact find or case where they would need to ask questions, as in real life!

    Another way could be to, if they have got past the initial interview stage and this is a second phase of the process, get them to write a piece, with a limited word count, on what they could bring to your business. This will give you an idea of not only their writing style but also a little of their personality, and you'll also be able to tell how much homework on your business they've done, if they talk about your business background, ethos, values etc that you can get from a bit of pre interview research. It may also demonstrate how keen they are and if they are a good fit, which is often very difficult to tell at the recruitment stage.

  • We like to use a case study too (alongside other technical tests).
    Dan Atkinson FPFS CFP APP Chartered FCSI
    Chartered Financial Planner
    Certified Financial Planner
    Head of Technical at Paradigm Norton

  • Thanks everyone. Some really useful ideas there, some of which I will use. :)

  • My writing assessment is completely different to what we are used to everyday.

    I select two cars of the same value, one is the highest spec and one is the lowest.

    I ask the candidate to write me a suitability report for the one he or she would recommend.

    This prevents use of other people’s material and you can see if they have the ability to communicate verbal reasoning.
  • I would love this! I do love aspects of the job like distilling objectives, rationale and all round suitability goodness, just a shame that financial services is so dry sometimes! I've often used a bit of an SR running order when needing to be persuasive.

  • Hi,

    This seems like a good thread to ask.

    I'm a pensions administrator currently doing the R0 exams, I've worked for 1 year at a pension provider and 2 years at an IFA office and would like to do paraplanning.
    However in my current company I won't have anything to do with the advice or report writing, unless I tell them it's wrong, the business can't be done or things are missing etc; but the report writers would then re-do it.

    Is there any rough guides for how to start report writing, as by the looks of it I'd be struggling with just a first stage interview.


  • Hi, can you ask internally if they can give you some exposure to the report writing side of things?

  • richallumrichallum Administrator

    @MB15 does your current employer have a compliance service? If so they probably have a suite of templates that would be a good starting point. I'm not a fan of most of the examples I've seen as they are formulaic and 'throw the kitchen sink' style. You could also sign up for a report writing service such as Genovo to see how reports can be structured and the content needed. The wizards in their system would be quite useful to learn. Other than that, just try having a go based on your own knowledge and intuition. I'm sure there are plenty of people on here who would be happy to give you feedback and guidance if you ask.

    Paraplanner. F1, Apple, Nutella, ice cream. No trite motivational quotes. Turning a bit northern. 

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