On Recruiting (part 2)
In the first post in this two-part article on recruiting I spoke with Carrie Scoone, a woman who worked for an agency that supplies transcribers and interpreters in one of the most populated parts of the country, the Washington, D.C. area. For this second post, I spoke with Jason McKenna, supervisor of speech-to-text services at Utah Valley University (UVU), where he provides captioning and interpreting resources specifically for his campus, in one of the least-populated areas of the United States.
"We have about 20 transcribers working on-site, serving about 30 end-users," he said. "Transcribers here start between $14.47 and $15.18 per hour, depending on their educational level. After their first year, most transcribers here make between $17.51 and $22.15 per hour."
And what does Jason look for in a potential hire?
"Typing ability is huge," he said. He's less concerned about whether applicants have a college degree or exceptional English skills. "We prefer applicants who type 70 words per minute or faster on the TypeWell test. Apart from that, we try to assess how the applicant would be as an employee. Some transcribers become faster and faster. Some stay at the same speed."
UVU has lots of applicants for the available transcriber positions.
"A lot of them fall through. Some don't pass the preliminary tests," Jason said. "Some just don’t type well enough and the limiting factor there is usually speed."
Other characteristics he looks for: an ability to be responsible and a solid job history.
I also interviewed T. J. DiGrazia, the Operations Manager for Alternative Communications Services (ACS), which is based in Lombard, IL, a suburb of Chicago. ACS provides thousands of hours of remote service each month. With over 50 consumers on an ongoing basis, ACS employs more than 200 service providers throughout the United States.
"We want to make sure all applicants have a year of on-site experience," he said. "And here is why: you have to be able to understand what goes on in the classroom before you try to understand what goes on when you’re not there. If you’re working remotely, you may wonder why a student doesn't move the mic closer when asked to do so in an instant message over Skype. Well, he may be in an auditorium with 500 people and he doesn't want to interrupt the lecture. And no one wants to be stared at! We want remote writers who understand these situations."
ACS was featured on Chicago's ABC 7 Disability Issues with with Karen Meyer
"Then we look at their TypeWell educational history. We want to see how strong they were when they began. In some cases, we'll contact their references. I think because we treat our transcribers with respect and pay well, folks are drawn to us."
But there is one critical ingredient in the recipe for a good transcriber that T. J. stressed during our interview.
"In my first phone conversation, I can recognize quickly when folks are committed to the craft, and excited about the opportunity to provide services for individuals with hearing loss. That, for me – the passion – can set them apart from another candidate."
Recruiting may get easier in the future for both transcribers and the agencies and institutions that do the hiring. TypeWell hopes to develop an a searchable, online directory of service providers. This would allow potential employers to quickly locate and contact transcribers who want to be found for new job opportunities.