With September on the horizon, vacations are coming to an end and a new wave of marketing initiatives may be about to begin. For many organizations, 'tis the season to shop for talent, especially copywriters.

It looks easy enough. Just scroll through Craigslist or tap your talent agency, and you'll attract loads of well-scrubbed writers carrying handsome leather portfolio cases packed with clever, catchy copy.

But it's awfully hard to look beyond the leather to identify the talent who will really work for you. Too often, the new writer "just doesn't get it," cannot cooperate with your other talent or otherwise simply fails to articulate messages that really resonate with your audience.

Given human foibles, there are no fool-proof formulas for finding winners. But you can take measures—right at the start of your relationship—that give you a much greater probability of success. Here are some things you should look for in a writer at your very first meeting:

1. Connects creative work to underlying objectives

Face it: All the samples the writer proudly slides across the table to you are going to look pretty good. After all, your would-be writers cherry-pick their best work. Unless they're truly incompetent (most professionals are not), everything you read is going to be clean, smooth and attractive.

Your job is to dig deeper, to uncover the "why" behind each creative decision evidenced before you. Why was one benefit highlighted over others? Why use a particular catchphrase? What was the reasoning behind the diction, tone, point of view of the piece?

Good writing is never arbitrary, and every writer worth her salt should be able to connect her creative decisions to the underlying objectives of the project or the overall strategy behind the marketing campaign. Consider this your opportunity to expose the writer's thinking.

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image of Jonathan Kranz

Jonathan Kranz is the author of Writing Copy for Dummies and a copywriting veteran now in his 21st year of independent practice. A popular and provocative speaker, Jonathan offers in-house marketing writing training sessions to help organizations create more content, more effectively.

LinkedIn: Jonathan Kranz

Twitter: @jonkranz