As a niche provider in the recruitment sector, we know that the skills shortage that we have experienced in the past year is increasing. The demand to hire permanent bid writers, bid managers and other bid professionals is becoming even stronger.
We foresee that the recruitment companies won’t be able to meet industry demand if we are all looking into the same finite talent pool. Providers should think about ways of ‘growing great bid writers’ for permanent roles. We already provide assessment at screening stage, writing and editing tests which are reviewed by our directors and a complementary place on our two day bid skills workshop for permanent placements. We also offer ongoing mentoring, – perhaps one day a month to review and catch-up with new starters for the first six months. We like to think of this collaboration with our clients as a ‘bid writing apprenticeship’.
New graduates are not our primary target subjects. We have found that those who have worked in a business environment already, even for a short time, understand the discipline of the workplace and don’t struggle in a new setting. It is also unusual to find new graduates with the ability to deliver accomplished commercial writing or who have formed a sound business acumen, unless their degree has been particularly focused in this area.
Looking at many of the CVs we receive from graduates might lead you to the conclusion that there is a general lack of understanding of the use of the English language in a business related environment, the key rules of selling, understanding generally how commerce works and how to sell a service or product. To this list you can add knowing where an apostrophe goes and how to effectively sell one’s experience.
We have been targeting candidates who are already writing in some form such as journalism, marketing, social media marketing/ blogging, and who have experience editing and proofreading. Even then we know these candidates will not have a true understanding of the discipline required or the sheer hard work of bid writing. The volume of content, often the equivalent of a small book, may need to be completed in just a couple of weeks. Bid writing is a blend of art and science and the requirements of selling and informing; effectively, succinctly, appropriately, combined with a somewhat strange alchemy of creativity balanced with accuracy, proof and compliance. We have found that there are a number of skills required for a good bid writer:
1. Ability to research a market place and a client
2. Excellent writing/editing/proofreading skills
3. Ability to absorb technical and operational understanding in diverse sectors
4. Understanding of the main compliance issues for businesses
5. Understanding of the key rules of marketing
6. Understanding of the key rules of sales
7. Organised and time efficient working manner
8. Confident, diplomatic yet tenacious investigational skills
9. Detail orientated
10. Thorough completer/finisher
11. Prepared to work unsocial hours as a bid gets near to delivery
12. A sense of perspective
As we know there is a general skills shortage and the longer a position is vacant the more it impacts a business. Perhaps filling your role early with someone with potential who is then guided and mentored by us is a better option than ‘making do’ with someone who is available but who is not the best team fit or the best writer?
Understandably, hiring managers tend to lean towards safety rather than take risks, but sometimes that bid writer you envisage joining your team, the one with the ‘proven ability’ that everyone wants, just isn’t going to move into your team, in your sector on your salary package. Are you offering enough incentive to make someone want to jump ship and be in your team?
If you are a hiring manager, reverse the thinking and consider: ’I am asking for a first class bid writer, someone who will play a key role in winning business for us, who has a proven track record, who can run meetings and manage the bid but who will also take direction from me, someone whose personality and approach to work suits me and the team – realistically will that person actually want to work for me, here, in this team, in this environment, in this location, on this salary package?’
We feel that we maximise our client’s investment and reduce their risk when recruiting a new bid writer to the extent that we screen, test writing and proofreading skills and offer training and mentoring. This is a powerful solution for companies struggling to fill their permanent bid team vacancies.
Let us know what you think the answer to the current skills shortage might be. Perhaps the highly rewarding and diverse career of a bid writer just isn't something talented marketers or journalists would think of doing?