RE: Hiring Question

Subject: RE: Hiring Question
From: "Melissa Nelson" <melmis36 -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: daveloveless -at- gmail -dot- com, techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Sun, 11 Dec 2005 10:37:05 -0500

HI David,

While I have never hired a tech writer, I have had to do the interview tests, personally I am not a huge fan of made up tests. The structured "here is a generic tech writer/editor test" tests are great in a situation where you can do them at home, etc. The tests I have done the best with are the ones where someone says "This is what we do here, see what you can do with it in a half hours time"...those tests give you a quick chance to show what you can do, as well as give you a quick chance to see if you want to do it. I do not think there is a perfect test or a perfect interview...but the two times I was in that situation, I got the job! :)

Melissa

From: David Loveless To: TECHWR-L Subject: Hiring Question Date: Sat, 10 Dec 2005 14:28:56 -0700

Over the last three years, I have hired multiple technical writers and interviewed at multiple locations for myself. I have always used writing/editing tests in my hiring decisions, and have more often than not been subjected to the same.

So I began to wonder, in your opinion, do tests have value and what value? Are there problems?

Here's my answers, but I'd like to know yours.

I think that tests have value. As one interviewer once said, "Hiring a writer based on interview skills is like hiring a football player based on verbal skills." Harsh, but not without value. On the other hand, I have been subjected to tests that are so insanely long and complex that I feel like I should have been paid for my time. The tests I administer to my candidates are timed, short, simple, and (most importantly) done in the comfort of the candidates home instead of in an unfamiliar office with unfamiliar equipment. One recent test that I was offered involved editing by hand a document over 15 pages long (both substantive and mechanical) AND a technical writing test where I was supposed to create a procedure doc not for a simple operation but a complex series of operations with multiple objectives in mind. All told, the total test would probably have taken me well over 5 hours. Fortunately, I had the brains to walk out (especially since, as I found out later, they were only offering $12.50 an hour for contract work).

On a further note, I find editing tests irrelevant since most, if not all, editors/writers will not turn in their work blind. They will have access to spell checkers, dictionaries, and hopefully other editors/writers. I find that you can get a pretty solid feel for their editing skills based on their cover letter, resume, communications, writing samples, and writing tests. After all, those types of documents are more accurate in terms of how they would actually create documents for you since they were created at the author's own pace, style, and using technology familiar to the author.

One more question, would you ever test specific types of software? The answer is an obvious "duh" for many people, but as one of the wisest men I know once said, "You can teach anyone to use RoboHelp, DreamWeaver, whatever. But you can't teach anyone how to write." That being said, we require DreamWeaver at my current employer, but I have never hired a writer (I've hired five over the last two years) that knew it because I can teach them what they need to know in a few hours. It's the writing I'm more concerned about because I couldn't teach them everything about writing in a whole semester of classes.

Thoughts?

Dave ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Now Shipping -- WebWorks ePublisher Pro for Word! Easily create online Help. And online anything else. Redesigned interface with a new project-based workflow. Try it today! http://www.webworks.com/techwr-l

Doc-To-Help 2005 now has RoboHelp Converter and HTML Source: Author content and configure Help in MS Word or any HTML editor. No proprietary editor! *August release. http://www.componentone.com/TECHWRL/DocToHelp2005

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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Now Shipping -- WebWorks ePublisher Pro for Word! Easily create online
Help. And online anything else. Redesigned interface with a new
project-based workflow. Try it today! http://www.webworks.com/techwr-l

Doc-To-Help 2005 now has RoboHelp Converter and HTML Source: Author content and configure Help in MS Word or any HTML editor. No proprietary editor! *August release. http://www.componentone.com/TECHWRL/DocToHelp2005

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