Re: Agency and interviewing questions

Subject: Re: Agency and interviewing questions
From: Roger Morency <rogerm -at- ONTARIO -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 1996 14:45:30 -0500

Have any of you ever been given a test when interviewed? I have used this
technique in the past and have been pleased with the results. Simply set up
a fictional task requiring a fairly simple procedure to written for it.
Pick a task that will take an hour or less to document. You, as the
interviewer, doubles as the SME. This precess reveals a lot about the
candidate, such as:

1) Does s/he ask about a style guide?
2) Does s/he ask intelligent questions about the task?
3) Does s/he work well under pressure?
4) Did s/he document the procedure thoroughly?

The test should not be the only criteria for evaluating the candidate, but
you will find it to be a very effective way to weed out imposters.

Beware: Senior Tech. Writers may be 'offended' by this tact. The good ones,
however, will simply use it as a way to show off their talents.

Roger M.

>Here are some answers to the questions Melissa Hunter-Kilmer posted on

>>Are writing samples usually brought only to the interview?

>Yes, usually.

>>If so, how the heck can you tell in advance if the person is worth

>The resume itself can tell you that. Not only would you look at a
>applicant's experience and education, but also how the candidate
>prepared the resume. Is it well written, edited, and formatted? Is it
>professional looking? Did the applicant organize the information well?
>The applicant's resume can tell you a lot about his or her writing and
>formatting proficiency.

>>Does anybody have some hot tips on how to tell if an applicant has such
>high-level skills?

>When you interview the applicant, ask questions about how he or she
>performs certain tasks with PageMaker. Here's where the samples can be
>helpful: You can point out interesting formats and ask how the candidate
>did them. Also ask how the candidate learned those particular skills. It
>will reveal a lot about the candidate's abilities and willingness to

>One more thing about writing samples: I don't depend on them a lot for
>making hiring decisions. For starters, you don't know how much of a
>manual is the applicant's own work. I've come across job applicants who
>claim that a manual they did was theirs, even though it might have been
>heavily based on boilerplate, and the applicant did just a few changes
>(and heavily edited ones at that). I'll look for the basics in a writing
>sample: professional appearance, a clear and active writing style, good
>organization, and easy-to-follow procedures. I put more emphasis on the
>interview and ask for specifics about how the candidate perfomed certain
>writing tasks.

>Hope this helps.

>Matthew Stern
>Sr. Technical Writer
>Platinum Software Corporation

>e-mail: mastern -at- platsoft -dot- com
>Personal web site:

>Opinions expressed here are solely my own.

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