Re: Interviews & red flags

Subject: Re: Interviews & red flags
From: Amy Smith/Westford/IBM <amy_smith -at- us -dot- ibm -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 2004 11:53:55 -0400

> The portfolio issue of the women in bathing suits: I'm sorry, I have to
> respond to that. A portfolio presented in a professional office
> for a job in technical writing (or web design, or graphics art) requires
> professional portfolio. Unsuitable for that portfolio would be pictures
> children, flowers, monuments or women in bathing suits and any number of
> other "hobby" type stuff. As a hiring professional, I'd shorten the
> interview significantly, not so much because of the content, but because
> the lack of professional capability represented by such a portfolio.

Hmmmm. About 'hobby-type' stuff...where would you draw line on that? What
if a candidate's hobby work demonstrated a valuable skill set that their
'day jobs' didn't? Outside interests and hobbies can often contribute
significantly to the skill set someone brings to a job. And just because
something is a hobby doesn't mean that any efforts in that vein are
automatically less than professional.

I speak from experience. I produce a regional magazine for the
Middle-Eastern dance (aka belly dance) and music community in New England.
It has about 300 subscribers and has grown from a 10-page newsletter to a
60+ page mag. I am publisher, executive editor, ad manager, subscription
manager, and mail room guy. ;-) I deliver hard copy and an online copy. As
the magazine has grown, I've taught myself PageMaker and now InDesign.
I've wrestled with PDF generation problems and designed my own layout. I
learned Microsoft Access so I could manage my business and my advertisers.

I also developed a companion Web site through which I learned HTML coding,
CSS, and some CGI skills. (That site averages 5000 hits a week, btw.)

The magazine (and Web site) are on my resume and in my portfolio. It shows
that I'm able to choose and learn the tools I need to get the job done, as
well as document design/layout and Web design and management skills. It's
a good complement to my day job skill set, which tends to lean toward use
of proprietary tools and highly technical product knowledge.

And yes, that experience helps with my day job. I was able to help a
colleague with a thorny PDF generation problem just the other day, because
I had had to deal with it with the mag.

I would think that you would be doing yourself a disservice if you
dismissed a candidate out of hand just because they included 'hobby-type
stuff' in their portfolio. Ask them why it's there and why they think it's
important. You might be pleasantly surprised at the answer.

Amy Smith
Lotus User Experience/IBM Software Group
Phone 978.399.5009 | Tie line: 333.5009 | Email: amy_smith -at- us -dot- ibm -dot- com
"Any idiot can juggle chain saws. It's the day-to-day balloon
animal-making that wears you out." - Anton the Clown


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Interviews & red flags: From: Sherry Michaels

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