TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
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.
>Here are some answers to the questions Melissa Hunter-Kilmer posted on
>>Are writing samples usually brought only to the interview?
>>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
>>Does anybody have some hot tips on how to tell if an applicant has such
>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