RE: Interviewing potential coworkers

Subject: RE: Interviewing potential coworkers
From: "Jim Purcell" <jimpur -at- microsoft -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2001 12:52:29 -0800

Lucky Meg gets to interview potential co-workers. Now she wonders what
to ask. There have some good suggestions on this thread already, which I
won't repeat.

It's a good idea to find out what the hiring manager is hoping to learn
from your interview: how does this person deal with conflict, chaos,
ridiculously short deadlines, whether they are a good fit for the team,
whether they seem to have the basic skills and knowledge required to do
the work, or whatever. You'll want to ask more general questions, but
try to spend some time focusing on the areas your manager identifies.
You will have your own goals, too. Is this someone you will feel good
about working beside? Will she be a help, or will you end up carrying
her? Do you have totally opposite ideas about what documentation should
be like?

Open-ended questions are best. That doesn't mean hopelessly general
questions--your questions should be as specific as you can make
them--but rather questions that the candidate cannot dispatch in a
sentence. Remember, you want the candidate to do most of the talking. At
Microsoft, we're very big on specific incidents that reveal something
about the candidate's working style. These questions usually begin with
"Tell me about a time when ..." For example, "Tell me about a time when
you had a strong disagreement with your editor." "Tell me about a time
when you had to change your entire approach late in a project." "Tell me
about a time when you had to present your document plan to the
management team." Questions like these will get you beyond the
interviewing cliches ("I'm a fast learner," "I love to write," "I've
always found software fascinating.") and into some areas that can at
least give you a hint as to what it would be like to work with this
person, and at best will lead to some interesting conversation.

You will inevitably develop a set of canned questions, but also have
some questions ready that come directly out of the person's resume.
Given the way many people come to tech writing and editing, career path
questions can be revealing. ("You started out as a well driller, then
you went to college and majored in Renaissance French music, and for the
last three years you've been a tech writer. Tell me about your career
transitions. How do you think your earlier jobs have contributed to your
success as a tech writer?")

Be flexible. There are some areas you need to cover, but if the
interview takes an interesting turn be ready to follow it. You can
always come back to your prepared questions later.

Always give the candidate an opportunity to ask you some questions. It's
a nice thing to do, and it gives you the chance to see what kind of
things the candidate is curious about. Some candidates ask great
questions, others ask terrible ones. If the candidate only asks if
she'll get a window office, you will have learned something about what
she values that you wouldn't have otherwise.

One last thing: talk to your manager or some responsible person in the
company about the legal aspects of interviewing. Interviewing isn't the
mine field some would have you believe, but there are things you should
be aware of. Somebody in your company is probably responsible for
knowing this stuff and making sure you know it, too.

Hope this helps.
Jim Purcell
mailto:jimpur -at- microsoft -dot- com
My opinions, not Microsoft's


Develop HTML-Based Help with Macromedia Dreamweaver 4 ($100 STC Discount)
**New Dates!!** San Francisco (Apr 16-17), San Jose (Mar 29-30) or 800-646-9989.

IPCC 01, the IEEE International Professional Communication Conference,
October 24-27, 2001 at historic La Fonda in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.

You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as: archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Previous by Author: RE: Personal development plan
Next by Author: RE: Was: Interviewing potential coworkers -- longish
Previous by Thread: RE: Interviewing potential coworkers
Next by Thread: Re: Interviewing potential coworkers

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads