On Recruiting (Part 1)

two transcribers in a conference room with their transcript projected onto an overhead screen

One of the most important goals for agencies and institutions that hire transcribers is to continue to discover new talent, people who have more going on than just the ability to type fast. But what are the qualities that make a world-class transcriber?

For this two-part series, I talked to people in different parts of the country who oversee TypeWell services. The first was Carrie Scoone, a communication specialist at Vital Signs LLC, a large agency based in Silver Spring, MD. With over 100 employees, Vital Signs utilizes CART, TypeWell, and sign language interpreting services, both on-site and remotely.

“When you’re recruiting transcribers, you look at a number of things,” said Scoone. “Typing speed is a huge part of it, of course. Someone must have the ability to process information through listening, and be able to transcribe quickly. We look for people who are flexible in their schedules and who are willing to travel. That’s important because we don’t know what’s coming from semester to semester. We can’t guarantee location or hours, or even a consistent schedule. So one of the most important things we look for in people is availability.”

The people recruited by Vital Signs come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and they represent a large age span.

two transcribers in a conference room with their transcript projected onto an overhead screen

Vital Signs LLC employees, John Trujillo and Matthew Graville, team transcribe at an industry meeting.

“We require a bachelor’s degree for all our transcribers,” she said. “The reason is that we need people who can navigate a college course. They will have to interact with professors, and they have to have a general awareness of vocabulary in a college setting.”

Another Vital Signs requirement is that transcribers must be comfortable with the technology of transcribing.

“They have to understand linking and have a good concept of what is going on,” said Scoone. “There are certain people I use for certain assignments because I feel confident they can troubleshoot or respond quickly if needed.”

Scoone also looks for how potential transcribers present themselves.

“I’m always happy to get an e-mail from someone who is reaching out,” she said. “We ask for a résumé, and like to see one that’s tailored to transcribing. If the candidate has experience working with people with disabilities, that’s a plus.”

Vital Signs has a prequalification test for all applicants, and the agency maintains a list of people who might be slotted into the training schedule.

“We feel that the TypeWell screening tests are rigorous as anything we could devise,” she said. “I encourage people to keep practicing and work on their speed. The candidates and I will talk first on the phone, and I describe what a typical day will look like for a transcriber. We are always happy to work with people who have trained on their own, but we can also mentor people through the TypeWell course. When they have passed the TypeWell Comprehensive Skill Check, they can list me as a potential employer and based on their grade, we may then meet in person. The summer is a great time to do all this because classes aren’t as busy.”

But what does Carrie Scoone look for in a potential employee besides typing speed?

“We look for someone who is comfortable to be around, someone who is aware of professional boundaries. We also look for someone who is sensitive to, and has experience with, people who have disabilities. But one big quality we like to see is enthusiasm. We always want to find people who are eager to jump in there!”

In the second part of this two-part article, Ken interviews Jason McKenna at Utah Valley University and T. J. DiGrazia at Alternative Communication Services.


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Ken Deutsch was born in Chicago but now calls Sarasota, Florida home. He is happy to have shoveled through his last snowbank.