Re: Agency and interviewing questions

Subject: Re: Agency and interviewing questions
From: "Nancy B. Delain" <nbdelain -at- ALBANY -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 10 Dec 1996 07:52:48 -0500


I disagree with you that anyone who's been a tech writer (or even a student
of technical writing) has a complete package of writing samples. I've been
a tech writer for 15 years, I have a M.S. in technical writing from
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (15 years old now), I've written some
really neat stuff, and I can't show any of it. Nondisclosure agreements
interfere. I don't wanna go to jail; I have a life that does NOT include
prison. I don't have the money or the time to spend in defending a
breach-of-confidentiality lawsuit.

Leave a writing sample with an agency??! Not!! Again, confidentiality
agreements come into play.

Testing by agencies is a good idea; I wish more of them would do it. Most
of my jobs come from people I've worked with before, so it may or may not
apply to me, but I've been on the job with some real ditzes whom testing
would have weeded out.

Experience can also be gotten at by the potential client by requesting
references, and then following up on them. The references, who generally
own the documentation prepared by the technical writer, should be the ones
to share the doc. with any potential client -- or not. Contract tech
writers have no ownership of their product, and generally have no right to
show it around, unless that right is specifically negotiated with each and
every client.

Nancy Baum Delain
Delain Associates

>In response to the question of writing samples:

>Anyone who has been employed as a tech writer or has just graduated from a
>writing program (such as our University of North Texas Masters Program
>in Technical Writing) should be well-equipped with a portfolio of writing
>samples. This goes back to my less-than-diplomatic rant of yesterday for
>which I take this opportunity to apologize (spelled correctly this time).

>The point is that many people applying for tech writing jobs are doing
>this for the first time, thinking that "anyone can write". What they do
>not realize is that there are some protocols and "givens" if you will,
>that any knowledgable tech writer will practice. One is a resume that is
>well-written and which highlights writing skills/achievements (not
>just proficiencies with word processing packages). The second are
>writing samples. This does not include English composition papers
>or term papers. Third is some sort of evidence of education, training or
>experience in tech writing.

>Testing by the agency (which is done more and more by the really good
>firms in Dallas) is becoming quite popular. It's conducted online, it's
>timed, and it requires not only a proficiency with software packages but
>the ability to structure and write information in a manner that any
>tech writer would be able to do. From there, the agency can take some of
>the responsibility in assessing applicants' skills.

>Yet, anyone that writes for a living, is trained to do so, and takes
>pride in their work, takes writing samples to an agency and leaves them
>with several copies of a resume. It shouldn't be an issue actually. And
>most companies can see through the smokescreen of the confidentiality
>agreement response. If a writer has *no* samples to show, that is a
>definite red flag. It's analogous to someone interviewing for a job as a
>webmaster with no homepage (printed or online) to show someone. How do
>you tell if they are qualified?

>stet -at- connect -dot- net

>> The agency does what we ask, but it takes them some time to dig up samples.
>> Why is this? Am I asking for something non-standard or unreasonable? Are
>> writing samples usually brought only to the interview? If so, how the heck
>> can you tell in advance if the person is worth interviewing?<<
>> Melissa,
>> Your question is not unusual; it may, however, be unreasonable. Most people
>> who come through agencies have worked in many environments, each one of
>> which has had them sign a confidentiality agreement. We contractors could
>> go to jail bigtime -- lotsa years -- and/or face massive fines if we
>> violate those agreements; we're also looking at a credibility issue as to
>> whether we share other people's property (documentation) with a potential
>> competitor. Therefore, any documentation done on the job is usually
>> unavailable for the interview process?
>> Nancy Baum Delain
>> Owner,
>> Delain Associates
>> Training * Technical Documentation

Nancy Baum Delain
Delain Associates
Training * Technical Documentation

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