RE: Technical Writing Tests

Subject: RE: Technical Writing Tests
From: "Carey Jennifer (Cry)" <jennifer -dot- carey -at- cdi -dot- cerberus -dot- ch>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 17:16:12 +0100

Ok, I'll bite. I'll try to respond to your points one by one.

John wrote: "However isn't it true that ANY situation that you design for
the purpose of
testing is not going to be representative of how the situation is played out
in real life? Doesn't a test simply show how well you can take a test? There
are things I would do on a test that I wouldn't do in a real situation and
vice versa. Please don't assume that you are smarter than me taking the test
and that you would know."

Of course I realise that the 'test' is not the end-all be-all measurement of
ones ability. These people had a short amount of time to create a document
and certainly couldn't respond as well as they could have had they all the
resources they might normally have. Calling this a 'test' is misleading.
There wasn't an answer key or one right way to do it. What ultimately
mattered was the document and how much time was necessary to create it. My
aim was to replicate the actual working environment as much as possible. By
being available for questions, we were able to see how they approached the
problem of documenting an unknown system. I was interested in the nature of
the questions that they asked. For example, it's interesting to see whether
they ask about the user or how the product will be used, or simply go
straight to the procedures without this background. Do they use a lot of SME
time, or do they resist asking questions? How they approach their work can
reveal experience level as well as where their focus is. There are some
other advantages as well. One is that they get to see what the work
environment is really like and evaluate that in their own decision making
process. Another is that since we would be working together, we both get an
brief glimpse of how the other works before making the commitment.

In the end, I still think that you really can't KNOW what a person is like
to work with until you've actually done it for a while, but how do you go
about choosing a candidate? Ultimately we have to try to make as informed a
decision as possible with the information we have. We used interview
questions, scenarios, writing samples and the 'test' to get the most
information possible.

John wrote: " "...not only to see how they wrote, but how they worked..."
Does this mean
that if you prefer a specific WAY of working, and I don't work that way, but
still get the results, that I'd be an unsuitable candidate? "

Actually, I didn't watch over their shoulders while they worked. They were
given a space and a PC to do the work with total freedom to come to us
whenever they had a question or problem. I never saw a draft. I don't care
about drafts. I care about the final product, deadlines and how they behave
with their coworkers. Those were the points I paid attention to.

What it gets down to is how do you go about making a decision about someone
you know very little about? I tried to find the most reasonable way to do
this. From just an interview, it's very difficult. After a good deal of
research and exchanges with others who have done a lot of hiring in this
field, it seemed that the best way to find out how someone works is to have
them do the real thing. But, I remain open to other ideas if you have them.



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