RE: More on Tech Writing Tests

Subject: RE: More on Tech Writing Tests
From: "Giordano, Connie" <Connie -dot- Giordano -at- FMR -dot- COM>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 17:08:39 -0500

Use of test can be helpful in predicting success, no more or less so than
skilled interviewing, reviewing a portfolio, and doing the dreaded
background checks. Rely on one to make decisions and your doomed to failure
at some point. As for me, whenever possible I use all four. Lack of
writing tests has cost me dearly in the past, but I rarely look at just the
content of the test. And I never make them write about lunch preparations,
because it has nothing to do with what a job here would entail. However, if
you, like me, you need to be able to figure functionality out on your own,
design web pages, build help systems, write press releases, lay out user
guides and half a dozen other things , your test may need to incorporate
some generic approach.

The results the one poster described were absolutely dead-on... For that
company. Not for a position that John would want (I guess the Lord of
Techwhirl wouldn't need that anyway!) but it's right for the company where a
writing team is part of the culture.

Know what kind of writer/information designer/multi-media guru you want, and
tailor a test to identify that (if that means having a SME standing over the
shoulder, then so be it). But take a good look at the portfolio, and do
some in-depth interviewing. Do them all.. because there are people who can
ace an interview, steal a portfolio, and or cheat on a test, and because
there are plenty more who won't, but may not be a good fit for your


Connie P. Giordano
Senior Technical Writer
Advisor Technology Services
A Fidelity Investments Company
704-330-2069 (w)
704-330-2350 (f)
704-957-8450 (c)

"You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do." - Henry Ford

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Strasser [mailto:paul -dot- strasser -at- windsor-tech -dot- com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 11, 2003 3:42 PM
Subject: Re: More on Tech Writing Tests

John Posada wrote:
> AH! You write ENCYCLOPEDIAS! Cool!

I think the original post said something very important in the following:
"We used it for more than a year as we added new writers to the team, and
found we could tell exactly when we had found "one of us."

"One of us." They were looking for a particular mindset in a writer,
someone who fit into their company's lifestyle, and the techwriter group's
culture. Sure, this "testee" was clever, and did some stuff above and
beyond the call of Skippy, but the key is that she was a fit for the culture
of that company. Maybe this applicant went to the company website and found
out there was a high whimsy factor in the writing, and she adapted her
results accordingly. If so, bravo. She got the gig.

The problem with the "history of the peanut" approach is that there are a
lot of places where such overkill is both unneccessary and a dreadful waste
of time. "Take as much time as you need" is not something I commonly hear
(if ever!), but it was part of the test.

This is not a criticism of this test, nor its results. This techwriting
group wanted a certain mindset in their writers, and apparently this test is
a good indicator of that. She'll be a great fit.

I wonder, though, what will happen when there is a true deadline and not
nearly enough time to do a half-decent job, and the database is down, and
other fun stuff that is part of everyday life in a lot of companies. Maybe
the standard "SMEs staring over your shoulder" is a better test for the bad

Paul Strasser
Windsor Technologies, Inc.
2569 Park Lane, Suite 200
Lafayette, Colorado 80026
Phone: 303-926-1982
FAX: 303-926-1510
E-mail: paul -dot- strasser -at- windsor-tech -dot- com


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