RE: Technical Writing Tests

Subject: RE: Technical Writing Tests
From: Lyn Worthen <Lyn -dot- Worthen -at- caselle -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 13:35:11 -0700

Jumping in on this topic...

As a manager, I've never given a writing test, and don't think I'm inclined
to unless one or more of the following situations exist:

1) Testing is required by HR which case, I'd first try to adjust the policy, second ask that the
testing occur very late in the selection process (see situation 2, below),
and finally ask to help construct the test so that it actually asks
something reasonably relevant. (The last HR-required test I took had so
little relevance to the job of a TW that it was truly a waste of my time.)

2) After interviews, samples, and reference-checks, I'd narrowed the field
down to two or three candidates, none of whom was the clear choice because
of differing skillsets which case, I would follow the test format that has twice been
provided to me: give the candidates some source material about a
product/concept used in-house, ask them to create a sample document (user
guide, brochure, etc., based again on the job they've applied for), and give
them a couple of days (i.e., until the next interview) to do it.

This method allows the candidate to not have to work under a microscope, and
to use whatever tools they are most comfortable with. (Note: if they do not
have access to resources at home, on-site workspace should be made
available.) It allows me to evaluate candidates I'm already comfortable
with on something closer to a level field - candidate samples are usually
wildly different.

This type of test, in my experience, usually comes with instructions like
"Here are some samples of the type of source material you'll be working
with. For this exercise, assume that it's complete and correct. If you
have questions about any of the information, feel free to call me. Create a
User Guide. Include anything you think should be in the document."

I put together a little booklet, complete with full front matter, TOC, a
brief index & glossary, and about three pages of content (concept,
instructions, clip-art graphics, etc.) based on the material they gave me.
I later learned that my competitor (who had been given exactly the same
assignment) had created a one-page list of steps to showcase his skills.
I got the job.



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