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Great references can be faked or bought, samples can be "borrowed", and
some people interview well and perform poorly. Been there done that,
won't do it again, so everyone takes a simple writing/editing/design
test before being hired here. It's the same test for everyone, gauges
ability to reorganize information, write clearly, and plan a document.
It is somewhat subjective, but it has worked very well for us, and I
have eliminated candidates who called themselves writers or editors and
were neither. Good writers and editors finish in less than an hour,
poseurs rarely finish at all.
We review samples, check references and do behavioral interviewing as
well. The combination of these is really the best way to judge whether
you have a candidate who is capable and fits the environment.
We're not factory workers but we are judged everyday by both
quantitative and qualitative factors by our peers and management.
That's life in the corporate world, no matter where you go.
Knowledge Management Supervisor
Time Warner Cable
From: techwr-l-bounces+connie -dot- giordano=twcable -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+connie -dot- giordano=twcable -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com]
On Behalf Of Phil Gochenour
Sent: Saturday, December 10, 2005 5:15 PM
Subject: Re: Hiring Question
I generally find all kinds of testing to be absurd, especially if
they're the take-home sort - how can you be certain that they weren't
prepared by someone else?
I think employers rely far too heavily on "quantitative" methods rather
than "qualitative" in making hiring decisions. For example, if someone
has good background experience, excellent references, and writing
samples, what does having them take a test accomplish? If the goal is
to hire someone who can perform well on a test, then they're in luck;
if the goal is to hire someone who does good work, and has done good
work, and shows promise of doing good work, then what does the test
demonstrate? Every writer is going to have a particular style, and that
may come out in the test, but they'll come out in the writing samples
The only time I think testing might be useful is in the case of
copyeditors, and then it's largely a matter of seeing how many
"mistakes" they can catch in a given document, and if they are familiar
with basic copyediting marks. But, again, if they've held copyediting
positions already, and have good references, then what's the point of
the test? And if they're right out of school, you're going to have to
train them anyway.
Testing, to me, indicates that the employer is more concerned with your
performance as a factory worker, someone who can process a certain
amount of work in a certain amount of time. Testing to me is indicative
of the employment environment, and generally it indicates one that
doesn't interest me.
I sometimes think that tests are a way of getting free labor, as in the
example you gave below.
On Dec 10, 2005, at 1:28 PM, David Loveless wrote:
> 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.
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