RE: Interviewing writers

Subject: RE: Interviewing writers
From: kimber_miller -at- acs-inc -dot- com
To: <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 01 Feb 2000 11:26:51 -0600

Generally, I don't chime in with "me, too!" But I have to give an example of how
an employer should NOT administer a test to a potential candidate.

I have a master's degree. I've taught writing. After my second interview with a
Dallas tech com agency, I was asked to take a writing test, so that they could
have "an unadulterated sample" of my writing. Sounded okay so far. The test
consisted of moving around information on a sample page and editing an
interoffice memo. The test was administered by an administrative assistant, not
a technical manager or recruiter.
When I was dinged on missing something in the memo header, I replied that I
didn't understand why that would matter, as I wasn't interviewing to be a
secretary and writing memos would not be part of my job requirements, besides
which, email headers are pretty automatic. This didn't win me ANY points with
the secretary administering the test, but by then I was pretty insulted, myself.
I did take the job offered after getting my feathers smoothed by the recruiter
after the test. But that still remains the single worst example of testing tech
writers that I've been subjected to. And despite the number of people who said
that they had also complained about the nature of the test, I believe that
agency is STILL testing prospective candidates this way. It tells them nothing
except whether or not the candidate can use Word or Frame, which is something, I
guess. I have since moved on to greater challenges.

Anyone can understand the employer's need to verify with their own eyes that
someone has the skills and abilities that the job requires. But some of the
inane tests are remnants of secretarial tests that proved how quickly and
error-free a person could transcribe information or enter data. That is not my
job. Nor is it the job I'm applying for. Why waste time and risk looking like an
uneducated, unprofessional, uninformed ninny in front of people whom you are to

But potential employers need to know that tech writers groan inwardly while
smiling indulgently at the requests to document jelly sandwich assembly and
copying something from one window to another in a software interface. We know
that those tests are bogus.

The next time I'm asked to provide a sample, I'm going to have in mind this
thread and question the interviewer extensively about what their intentions are
in administering the test. If they have no good answers, perhaps they'll review
the need for the test and the way in which they administer it.

Thanks for listening. I feel better now.


Kimber Miller
kimber_miller -at- acs-inc -dot- com
Affiliated Computer Services
Dallas, Texas

"The truth shall set you free, but first it's going to piss you off."

-----Original Message-----
From: Eric Ray <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>

For example, if the interviewer is testing for mechanical issues
and sentence-level structure (probably inappropriate for anything
but a very junior writer position, and pretty inane at that), but
the writer is taking the test with the assumption that it's testing
for "how does this writer approach the problem" and "does this
writer understand how to work smart", it'll be an unhappy end,
as there's no possibility to do everything in a writing-test
timeframe. At any rate, as an interviewer, I'm more concerned
with how people approach a problem than with on-the-spot
execution of a trivial exercise.


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