How to hire an editor – a comprehensive guide

how to hire an editor comprehensive guide

Editors don’t just edit books – an excellent editor can take your content marketing to the next level.

According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute, 83% of companies attribute their content marketing success to great content. However, 63% of companies say their top reason for content marketing failure is content creation challenges.   

Thorough content editing can help overcome these challenges.

Refining and polishing your content produces better results and enables your writing team to focus on other projects so that you create content faster.

But hiring an editor has its challenges.

It isn’t easy to determine the expertise of an editor. It can be tricky to use CVs since many editors are freelancers who won’t have held job positions for extended periods.

Portfolios might not give you the full picture of their skills either. They can show their editing experience, sure, but what if the piece was perfect to begin with? Was it the result of great writing or great editing?

We’re going to explore seven steps you can follow to hire an editor online, from creating a detailed job description to assessing applications to testing candidates with proven skills assessments.

Table of contents

7 steps to hire an editor

Hiring a professional editor will improve your organization’s written work and provide your content creators with valuable feedback.

You can hire an editor in seven steps:

1. Define your editing requirementsDescribe what you need to be edited, your budget, and if you need a freelancer or full-time editor
2. Create a robust job descriptionWrite the specifics of what you need, such as the amount of editing, hard and soft skills, and SEO knowledge
3. Launch your editor adChoose your job board(s) and launch your perfect ad
4. Assess candidates’ applicationsGo through applications, assess candidates’ qualifications, and communicate with applicants
5. Meet with eligible candidatesConduct an interview and ask specific questions
6. Test the best candidatesPut the best candidates through online skills testing
7. Put a job offer togetherCreate a job offer for your chosen editor

Here are the steps in depth.

7 steps to hire an editor

1. Define your editing requirements

Let’s tackle your first question.

“Why should I hire an editor?”

Editors are a crucial part of your content marketing strategy. Hiring an excellent editor will reduce the number of errors and revisions in your content and free up your writing team for more projects, enabling you to produce better content faster.

The primary forms of media created as part of a solid content strategy include blogs, case studies, ebooks, and whitepapers – all of which can benefit from professional editing.   

Now, you know that you need an editor. The first step in hiring one is defining what you need in an editor.

The role of an editor is like any other job position – editors have different skills, specialties, and backgrounds.

You want to hire an editor who perfectly suits your company and projects.

The first three questions you’ll need to answer are:

  • What are they editing?
  • What level of editing do you need?
  • What experience or background do you need?

Determine what content they’ll be editing. Do you need copy for a website? Do you need long-form content and whitepapers?

All editing isn’t created equal. Website copy editors need to be in tune with SEO and keyword trends. Whitepaper editors must be much more detail oriented and may need more technical knowledge. 

There are many different types of editors, and the experience they require isn’t mutually exclusive. Different editors may have backgrounds in copy editing, proofreading, or sensitivity editing.

However, all editors have job roles that require strong attention to detail. You can say that the best editors have a tendency to be nitpicky. 

Still, you have to know what kind of editing you require.

Here are some different types of editing:

  • Substantive editing – also known as structural editing, this type of editing focuses on organization and presentation.
  • Line editing – this involves going through the text line by line to check style and word choice.
  • Copy editing – editors performing this kind of editing check for grammatical and factual errors and ensure adherence to the style guide.
  • Proofreading – this is the process of editing the final draft of a piece of content. Think of it as the sieve that sifts out anything the copy editor missed, including formatting issues.
  • Sensitivity editing – also known as diversity editing, this type of editing ensures that a piece aiming for diversity and inclusiveness is accurate and unoffensive.
  • Technical editing – this is often done by subject-matter experts, who fact-check chemical formulas, equations, and specialized terminology.
  • Developmental editing – a type of editing that is mainly done on books by editors who work alongside an author to refine their stories. Developmental editors focus on characters, their relationships with each other, and the overall narrative.

Two more things you’ll need to define are:

  1. Your budget
  2. Whether you need a full-time or freelance editor

Specifying these details in advance will give you a solid idea of your needs and help you outline your job description and ad.

2. Create a robust job description

The job description is where you get specific with the details of what the editor will do and define your expectations. 

Here’s an example job description: 

  • Job title
    • Editor for E-commerce Blog
  • Goal
    • Ensure content is consistent, accurate, and polished
  • Responsibilities
    • Edit 10-12 blogs per month
    • Edit/approve initial outlines
    • Ensure piece fits with client’s style
    • Check for keywords and SEO
    • Fact-check and verify links
    • Rewrite text when necessary
    • Give writers constructive feedback
    • Communicate with other editors, marketing director, and project lead
  • Qualifications
    • Essential: native English speaker, deadline oriented, and well versed in Google Docs
    • Desirable: basic Spanish skills, experience with Trello, familiarity with APA Style, and at least five years of experience as an editor 

This is also where you’d describe scheduling details and the number of revisions required. Don’t forget to indicate the pay as well. 

According to one study, 61% of candidates say pay is the most important part of a job ad, closely followed by qualifications (49%) and job details (49%).

When listing qualifications and skills, you should follow two major rules to help you hire an editor:

  1. Include hard and soft skills; a good editor needs both
  2. Split skills into two lists – necessary and preferred

71% of employers split job requirements into must-haves and nice-to-haves. Doing this ensures you receive a more diverse pool of candidates.

Soft skills for a content editor include:

  • Organization
  • Time-management skills
  • Communication
  • Attention to detail
  • Great interpersonal skills
  • Good judgment

Don’t forget that excellent workplace writing skills are essential. Rewriting is a huge part of editing. You have to be a good writer to be a good editor.

3. Launch your editor ad

You’ve written a detailed job description, and now it’s time to launch your ad to hire an editor.

Where should you advertise?

There are many well-known places to post a job ad, such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and Monster, although you can also look into more niche, specific job boards.

Behance and Authentic Jobs specialize in creative work, and job boards such as We Work Remotely and FlexJobs specialize in remote jobs, which is what many editors look for. 

The cost of posting a job ad is another thing you have to consider. Remember to include this when calculating your hiring budget.

Depending on the job board you choose, you can pay anywhere from $100 to upwards of $1,000 to post a job ad.

Next, what does a good ad look like?

A clear, concise, and eye-catching job ad is essential:

Include the most important details but don’t get too wordy. Job posts within the range of 1-300 words receive 8.4% more applications than longer ones.

You’ll need to grab attention fast and include vital details.

Here are a few tips on what to include:

what to include in your job ad
  1. An accurate job title – the more descriptive, the better (e.g., Experienced Editor for E-commerce Blog, Longform Article Editor)
  2. A strong job summary – describe the goals of the position and its role in the company’s processes
  3. Duties and responsibilities – explain the daily tasks and requirements
  4. Clearly defined skills, both required and desirable – list the necessary and preferred skills, both hard and soft (e.g., tech know-how, communication skills)
  5. How to apply – provide the application email/link or contact person’s details and what to include in the application (e.g., cover letter, link to sample work)
  6. Pay rate or pay range – specify how much you are going to pay and if you pay per piece, per hour, etc.

4. Assess candidates’ applications

Now that you’ve launched the job ad and received applications, compare them with your editing requirements from step 1 and your job description from step 2.

This is when you check that candidates meet your minimum requirements and look for those who satisfy your preferred requirements.

Most recruiters will also research the candidate online, with 90% of employers assessing candidates through social media and 98% conducting any type of background research online.

Once you do your due diligence, it’s time to start arranging an interview or skills test.

Remember to contact candidates who didn’t make the cut to inform them of the outcome.

It’s a good practice to communicate with both accepted and rejected applicants about their application status.

A simple “Sorry, we aren’t moving you forward” will suffice, but some candidates may merit a few pieces of feedback to assist their next job application.

5. Meet with eligible candidates

Applications only tell you so much. In reality, you need to meet people to determine whether they are the right fit.

Conducting an interview with an editor is similar to interviewing for any job role. However, there are specific interview questions you should ask to reveal the details you need to make an informed decision.

Here are a few questions to help you hire an editor:

  1. How do you stay motivated when working on repetitive tasks (like editing and proofreading)?
  2. What does your editing process look like?
  3. What publishing platforms have you used?
  4. What word-processing platforms are you familiar with?
  5. What are your best SEO practices?
  6. Do you have experience creating style guides?
  7. How would you give constructive feedback to a writer (who makes a lot of typos)?

How a candidate answers the last question is vital because giving effective feedback is one of the marks of a great editor.

James Thornton, the inspiration content lead at Typeform, leads an entire team of writers. He says that he believes proper feedback is a sign of respect that writers need and deserve.

Feedback is the foundation of continuous improvement. Editors must give clear and useful feedback to improve the content your business produces.

Typically, job interviews only last an average of 40 minutes. Remember to respect your applicant’s time as well as your own.

Here are a few tips to improve your job interviews:

  • Outline what your hiring process looks like
  • Keep the number of interviews to a minimum
  • Consider compensating editors for interviews and tests
  • Avoid giving generic rejections and instead offer feedback

Another way to get the most out of your time is to incorporate probing, tough interview questions to get a deeper insight into the applicant.

6. Test the best candidates

Samples aren’t going to tell you everything. 

A well-written article may be the work of an excellent writer and not the editor – you won’t be able to tell at a glance. You’ll have to give the candidate an actual editing test.

Here are a few tests that can be useful for editing assessments:

Cognitive ability testsAttention to Detail test; Reading Comprehension test
Software skills testsMicrosoft Word test; Google Docs test
Role-specific skills testsSEO Copywriting test; Content Strategy test
Situational judgment testsCommunication test; Time Management test

So what does a good editing test look like? Here’s a quick example:

  1. Provide a document for a sample edit. It is best to use documents you’ve previously edited so that you know what to look for in terms of mistakes and improvements.
  2. State the instructions clearly: Spot grammar errors and typos, rewrite sentences or paragraphs for better readability, etc. You should also give candidates your style guide.
  3. Use your current system to see how the applicant works within it, i.e., send a link to a Google Doc and ask the editor to make edits in “Suggesting” mode.
  4. Ask the editor to provide feedback to the writer.

Here are some things you can do to assess the quality of an editor’s work:

  • Check that the applicant followed your instructions and the style guide.
  • See if the applicant spotted and corrected the errors, such as mistakes related to grammar, punctuation, and facts/statistics/links. 
  • Examine the rewritten sentences/sections. Does the editor’s style fit what you need?
  • Go over the editor’s feedback to the writer.

Attention to detail and a keen eye are signs of a good editor, of course, but there’s more to it. Sound judgment and communication are crucial to assessing content and providing feedback.

Take a look at these examples:

Good feedbackLacking feedback
“This wording is a bit awkward. I would add a sentence before it.”“Unclear. Please rewrite.”
“A bit unusual for this context. Could you think of another word?”“I don’t like this phrase.”

Editing requires sensitivity to the nuances of the text and changing only what’s necessary without destroying the original vision. There isn’t always a single right or wrong answer like on a math test.

It’s worth noting that an overly fussy editor may be a better choice than a relaxed editor.

You can ask the finicky editor to edit with a light touch. However, you can’t instruct someone with low attention to detail to just “notice more.” There’s only so much you can teach them.

Another way to assess quality is to consider your needs and style. Editing isn’t just based on technical knowledge. It also comes down to preference.

Someone could be an excellent editor but not be the right editor for the job because of their style.

7. Put a job offer together

Look over each of your candidates’ experience and test results to choose the one who’s the best fit for your business.

Then it’s time to offer the job to your chosen editor. Send an offer in writing or invite the candidate to a video call to give them the news.

Here’s a quick example of a job offer:

Dear [Candidate],

We are delighted to offer you the position of [job title] with an anticipated start date of [date].

As [job title], you’ll have responsibilities such as [list responsibilities and duties].

You will report directly to [manager/supervisor/director].

The salary is [pay rate]. Payment is on a [monthly, weekly, etc.] basis by [check, direct deposit, PayPal, etc.] starting on [start of first pay period].

Your employment with [Company] will be on an at-will basis, which means you or the company are free to terminate the relationship at any time, with or without cause or advance notice.

This letter is not a contract.

Please confirm your acceptance by replying to this letter.


[Your signature]

[Your printed name]

[Your job title]

Once they accept, it’s time to send them a personalized onboarding package to get started.

If your chosen candidate is a freelance editor, this may be a trial period for both of you. Sometimes one assessment isn’t enough, and you’ll find out more from working together and building a relationship.

It’s time to hire your next editor

Knowing how to hire an editor properly will be the difference between hiring an average performer and a star player who can elevate your content marketing strategy.

Remember key factors such as creating a job description that includes the nature of editing required, qualifications, expectations, and pay rate.

When interviewing candidates, ask specific questions to dig up the answers you need about their editing history, experience using relevant software, and other skills.

Interested in hiring talent to improve your content marketing strategy? Read our guides on:

Then assess the best candidates using TestGorilla’s bias-free skills tests. This will make it easier to hire an editor by eliminating the need to screen CVs, which many editors don’t have. 

Pre-employment testing helps you choose an editor based on solid information, like attention to detail, communication, and copywriting skills.  Get started for free today and start making better hiring decisions, faster and bias-free.

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