RE: Samples Query

Subject: RE: Samples Query
From: "Downing, David" <DavidDowning -at- Users -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 2004 15:59:44 -0400

Okay, if we're talking about a situation where a prospective employer is actually asking me to conform to a set of values that I find offensive, I certainly wouldn't pretend to conform to those values to get the job. In fact, I can give you an example. Long ago, I had interviews at several Christian-oriented colleges, and they asked what church I went to. Even though they may not have been allowed to ask that, I always gave an honest answer -- that I tended to choose a church based on how good a speaker the minister was, because I didn't want the sermon to be something I suffered through -- because I figured anybody that would have a serious problem with that would be someone I shouldn't try to work for.

However, there is one value that seems to be pretty much universally accepted in the business world, which is that all references to sexual/erotic/risqué-type subjects should be kept out of the picture whenever possible (except, of course, in the offices of certain magazines). So this is a value that I would think most folks would instinctually conform to -- and if anybody has issues with conforming to it, well this might be the one place where I feel justified in saying you'll have to conform if you want to be gainfully employed.

-----Original Message-----
From: Dick Margulis [mailto:margulisd -at- comcast -dot- net]
Sent: Tuesday, October 19, 2004 3:42 PM
Subject: Re: Samples Query

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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