Re: Regarding tests

Subject: Re: Regarding tests
From: Vincent Reh <VincentR -at- SC -dot- HARRIS -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 8 May 1995 08:39:00 EDT

Robert Plamondon's comments about a writing test on how to make a telephone

An interesting challenge. Are they supposed to describe how calls
are placed in general, or are they supposed to describe how to make
a specific kind of phone call from a specific kind of phone? The
general case gets pretty nasty, what with area codes, dialing "1"
on non-local calls (which is inconsistent across the country, by
the way), the possibility of encountering voicemail, country codes,
time zones, calling cards, cellular, etc., etc., etc.


I can relate to what Robert is saying. I'm a marketing writer trying to
break into documentation (it ain't been easy). I've managed to get a few
interviews and one included tests for aptitude and writing (my first
interview with tests).

For the writing portion of the test, I was asked to describe how to use a
bank machine. That was it. No other explanation. I thought they were
talking about an ATM machine, but I wasn't sure. I asked the proctor for
clarification, but all she wanted to tell me was that it was a bank machine.

I really didn't know what they were looking for. I guessed that they were
asking about an ATM and ran with it. I thought about saying something like,
"Look for a slot on the front of the machine with a picture of an ATM card
next to it, insert your card, then follow the instructions on the video
screen." Quick and easy.

But, since this was a writing test, I figured they wanted to see writing, so
I wrote up a procedure---including info on how to get an ATM card and a PIN.
When the proctor came back she said, "This is all wrong! I wanted you to
list the steps on how to use the machine. We're looking for documentation."

I was completely put off by the whole experience. Perhaps my inexperience
with documentation played a role, but I believe the ambiguous instructions
were a big part of the problem. However, I think that was part of the plan.
Maybe they were looking for someone with the right kind of intuition and
found an effective way to screen applicants (I didn't get an offer).

Would the expectations be clearer for someone with documentation experience?

Vincent Reh
Sr. Marketing Writer

vincentr -at- sc -dot- harris -dot- com

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