RE: Interviewing writers

Subject: RE: Interviewing writers
From: David Castro <thetechwriter -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2000 11:33:19 -0800 (PST)

--- Lydia Wong <lydiaw -at- fpoint -dot- com> quoted Eddy Skau, who said:
> <snip>
> To me, a person who takes umbrage over writing a test would display:
> 1) Doubt about their abilities
> 2) Inability to work with a team (subtle)
> 3) Insubordination (where applicable)
> 4) Not serious about securing the job in question.
> <end snip>

I had a very disappointing experience with a writing test, recently. It was the
first time I had ever been asked to take one. But, I knew that every other
stage in the interview had gone well (phone interview, samples, and stuff like
that), and everything seemed a "go," so I went into it with high hopes.

Then I found out what topics I had to choose from.

The company had an audience of programmers. I had been writing for programmers
at my current job for over two years. I program on my own, <plug>even writing
an application for Techwr-l members who subscribe to the digest</plug>. I had
even written some API documentation. So, I should have been able to ace any
writing test that a company that produced tools for programmers would ask me to

But, the topics I had to choose from were completely different from what I'd be
writing at this company. This company would not be asking me to write
directions for how to copy a file using Windows Explorer. I wouldn't be asked
to write how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Unfortunately, I bombed the writing test, and actually got angry emails from
the interviewer, in which she implied that I was unprofessional and that my
writing skills were not up to par.

Needless to say, I decided that this would NOT have been a good match. I took
my lumps, and hopefully have learned from them.

What I would recommend to anyone on the list who wants to create a writing test
for applicants is that you create writing topics that are *relevant* to what
the writer will be doing at your place. If they will be writing application
help, give them a screen capture from some part of your application, and ask
them what they'd be able to write from just seeing the interface. Or, if they
will be writing to programmers, give them an API method and ask them to
document it. Don't ask them to write how to copy files using Windows Explorer.

-David Castro
techwrtr -at- crl -dot- com
thetechwriter -at- yahoo -dot- com
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