Hiring Criteria and Writing Tests for Technical Writers

Subject: Hiring Criteria and Writing Tests for Technical Writers
From: "Thomas Quine" <quinet -at- home -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000 11:35:56 -0700

I had the unfortunate experience of being asked to do a writing test at an
interview a few years ago for the position of Technical Documentation
I was asked by one interviewer if I could rewrite a page of text. I learned
later it had been written by the other interviewer, and was given to me
without his knowledge. It was funny, in an embarrassing kind of way. Had the
potential to be pretty unpleasant, though...
I've hired a couple of dozen technical writers, and I've learned that I can
tell in less than a minute how well they write from the samples they
provide. Always insist on samples. Unless you believe the samples are fake,
a writing test is usually a waste of time - only because you can learn as
much from the samples in a fraction of the time.
My experience with those who respond to ads for technical writers is that at
least half the respondents make a grammar mistake, a spelling error, or a
typo in their resume or covering letter. Those go straight into the
recycling bin. With the rest, the way the covering letter and resume are
written can tell you more about the candidate than the content.
Once you know they can write, the next most important thing is - what kind
of a team player are they? How well will they get along with the rest of the
Writing is a team sport. Build a team with pleasant people who have good
complementary skills, and you can't go too far wrong.
Good luck!
- Thom

Thom Quine
2395 Oak St.
Vancouver, B.C.
V6H 2J8
(604) 733-3363
quinet -at- home -dot- com

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