Re: Samples Query

Subject: Re: Samples Query
From: Dick Margulis <margulisd -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 2004 15:41:36 -0400

David Castro wrote:

The response of at Firm A was sexism and the response at Firm B was

I'm surprised that I'm the first to offer a dissenting opinion from
those who have been posting on this subject. It makes me wonder if the
posts to date really do reflect the opinion of the vast majority of
the list, or if those who are of a different opinion simply didn't
want to be labeled a prude by responding.

Prudery isn't the problem I'm having with your response, David. Responses interspersed ...

Well, maybe I'll be taking on the title of prude, but I think the kind
of photographs that must have been in that calendar really don't
belong in a portfolio of someone who wants to work for mainstream
businesses. Remember, decisionmakers don't tend to go for the *best*
candidate for a job...they go for the *safest*. They want to hire
someone who isn't going to turn out to be a bad fit, because a bad fit
reflects poorly on the person who decided whom to hire.

I won't say that you're wrong, only that you have a one-dimensional view of the employment relationship and a narrow view of what constitutes the mainstream. Finding a good fit is a two-way transaction. I have shibboleths in my résumé that absolutely exclude whole classes of employers. I don't want to work where I'm going to feel that my values are compromised by the corporate culture any more than a company would want to have someone working there who doesn't fit within that culture.

In my response to Michele, I suggested that, although I don't know her views on this issue, she could, if she wished, use the sample in question in the same way.

As for what constitutes the mainstream, I would say that large, public corporations tend to pretty pusillanimous in their hiring decisions, as you suggest. But the vast majority of people work for smaller companies, where managers and owners often have more moxie than the average megacorporation HR drone and often do seek out the best, rather than the safest, candidate.

If I was going through a technical writer's portfolio and saw the
verbiage that was included in an earlier post...much less seeing the
calendar that it would immediately send up red flags
that this person was as likely to exhibit poor judgment in the
workplace as he or she was in putting together the portfolio.

Why do you equate showing off a sample that is edgy with poor judgment? Yes, it suggests that the candidate might see things differently from you, but does everyone who sees an issue differently from you ipso facto exhibit poor judgment? If so, please don't offer _me_ a job.

I participated in the process of interviewing people for a tech
writing position about 5 years ago. One of the candidates, when asked
what she did in her spare time, answered, "I write about SEX"
(emphasis hers). I know *I* wouldn't say such a thing in a job
interview, even if I did do that in my spare time.

Yes, precisely. _You_ wouldn't. Again, you are suggesting that there is only one true way and that you know what it is. Sorry. I don't buy that. I don't accept it from presidential candidates and I certainly don't accept it from hiring managers.

We ended up hiring
her anyway, and she ended up being as loose a cannon in her work as
she was in her interview. She avoided following any style conventions
in the company, and disregarded all feedback on her work.

Well, then she wasn't very professional, and I hope you fired her at the earliest opportunity. But that doesn't, from the evidence you've presented, follow from her interviewing style or her willingness to talk about her off-hours activity.

Think about it. How many times have you gotten resistance to the whole idea of hiring tech writers because someone had a bad experience once with a previous tech writer? That's a topic that's been discussed to death here. Now you've fallen into the same trap: in your mind, if someone demonstrates that they think independently about political issues, you can blackball that person as being a dangerous hire. I don't think that makes a lot of sense, but maybe for you it does.

I'm not correlating this employee with Michele, as that would be a bit
of a reach, but I *would* compare the appropriateness of the portfolio
selection with the appropriateness of the interview answer.

Appropriateness is in the eye of the beholder.




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Re: Samples Query: From: David Castro

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