RE: Tech Writer screening questions (long)

Subject: RE: Tech Writer screening questions (long)
From: David Arran <darran -at- aatech -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2000 16:13:39 -0400

Mary Hightower wrote:

Personality may be important, but hobbies really have little to do with the
job in the office. Hobbies say things about a person, however. I think the
purpose behind asking about hobbies is to gain insight about the person's
personality or character. Someone who jumps off cliffs on the weekends may
be a bit on the active or energetic side; someone who enjoys sitting and
reading or writing may be more of a solitary worker. Someone who claims to
be "Trivia Master", well...oh, and don't wear an empty gun holster to an
interview---I have no idea what that says, but it scares the heck out of

Emerging from lurk mode, blinking in the sunlight, then quickly scribbling a
couple of thoughts on this debate.

When considering the foillowing please bear in mind that:

1. I'm not a technical writer, I'm a trainer, although I do write/have
written technical training manuals.
2. I'm an ex-patriot Brit living and working in the USA and am not,
therefore, as thoroughly steeped in American corporate culture as some.
3. Err....
4. That's it really.

In my humble opinion, having been a professional trainer/instructor for
going on 13 years now, hobbies, interests, spare time activities or whatever
you want to call them, can have a tremendous bearing on how a person
performs in the workplace. This is particularly true when recruiting or
training entry-level or inexperienced staff (please note, I'm not just
referring to technical writers here), but is not limited to these
situations. A lot of hobbies require skills, as Pat Anderson so rightly
pointed out. In a huge proportion of cases these skills can be transferred
into the workplace in some way (surprisingly enough, in the training
profession we call these "transferrable skills"). Here is an example from
personal experience.

In my spare time, I have been known to indulge in a hobby (it shall remain
nameless to protect the guilty) which requires me to stand up on a stage in
front of an audience of between 50 and 15,000 (fifteen thousand) people and
perform. I have become reasonably successful at it, it has improved my
confidence, projection and various other facets of my character. Another
aspect of this pastime I have been involved in has been the assistance of
other people involved in the hobby through coaching, teaching, mentoring
etc., in other words passing on the benefit of my knowledge, skills and
experience to others.

In my other life I'm a trainer, this involves:

1. Standing up in front of a group of people and putting on a performance.
2. Passing on the benefit of my knowledge, skills and experience to others.

Does anybody see the correlation here? Being a performer has improved me as
a trainer, and being a trainer has improved me as a performer. The two go
hand in hand, and, in interviews, I EXPECT to be asked about what I do in my
spare time, mostly because people who recruit in my profession know about
transferrable skills, and because it's a vital part of the interview process
in my view. Indeed, if not asked, then I will introduce the subject (apart
from anything else it gives you control of the interview which is never a
bad thing in my book). It seems to me that some people need to be a little
less sensitive and paranoid about what kind of questions they are asked in
job interviews, and realise that what they do outside work can be VERY

'Nuff said

David J. Arran
Corporate Trainer
Applied Automation Techniques, Inc.
darran -at- aatech -dot- com

"If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to
consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family
anatidae on our hands." - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, by
Douglas Adams

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