Re: Tech Writer screening questions

Subject: Re: Tech Writer screening questions
From: Glen Warner <gdwarner -at- ricochet -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 03:08:50 -0700

Elizabeth Ross <beth -at- vcubed -dot- com> wrote:

> My HR department has asked me to come up with a list of 7-10
questions that
> can be used for pre-screening technical writer candidates. I've
pondered the
> issue for a few days and realize that this is not as simple as it
might seem
> to be.


> What sort of questions would distinguish an experienced technical
> from a beginner? I don't think questions about tools (FrameMaker et
> really get to the heart of the matter. Can this even be done? I
wonder if
> such a process would helpful or harmful.

This depends on your HR-folk, somewhat. How technical are they? Will
they be able to distinguish a good correct answer from a lengthy
BS-fest, wherein the applicant uses a lot of buzzwords, but doesn't
actually say anything? :o)

> I'd like to hear your thoughts and opinions on the matter. Thanks in
> advance!

Well. In the "Careful What You Wish For" department ....

Ideally, your HR-folk should be able to check the resume for "X"
number of years of experience, "Y" type of
degree/certificate/whatever, combined with "Z" months of work (paid
or voluntary). Asking specific questions about the tools your company
uses in producing its docs/help/etc. is a good idea also -- just to
judge how much training you will have to do.

If the applicant fits in those areas properly, then s/he should be
sent on to you and (some of) your staff for a "team interview," where
each of you ask the applicant questions, look at his/her portfolio,
get a "feel" for the applicant, etc.

Make sure you have the person explain selected (by you or your
teammates) bits and pieces in the portfolio (I've heard disquieting
tales of recruiters finding projects the recruiter had worked on being
passed off as the work of an applicant -- whom they know was not on
their doc team).

Probably not what you were looking for unfortunately, but hopefully
still helpful. Basically, cutting HR out of the loop beyond the
basics (check resume for education, experience, or a good combination
of the two) plus the "team interview" method should work.

Good luck!


> --
> Elizabeth Ross
> Senior Technical Writer, V3 Semiconductor Corp.
> beth -at- vcubed -dot- com
> Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum.

Obligatory .sig:

".... so the teacher says, 'Can anybody tell me anything about
thermodynamics?', and I said, in my best sleazy late-night sex line
voice, 'Hot stuff!' ... and that's how I got thrown out of the
engineering program at the UW."

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