RE: Evaluating Candidates Using Tests, Logic Questions, and Simil ar

Subject: RE: Evaluating Candidates Using Tests, Logic Questions, and Simil ar
From: mlist -at- safenet-inc -dot- com
To: gena -at- originalgena -dot- com, techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 16 Nov 2006 12:00:56 -0500

Gena Shurtleff [mailto:gena -at- originalgena -dot- com] asked:

> On my team, we are working to improve our interview process.
> Our current
> process relies mostly on what technical writers (or their
> references) think
> their skills are and does not really give them much
> opportunity to exhibit
> those skills. I am looking for suggestions from other writers
> on effective
> ways to determine a candidate's true skill level with tools
> and writing style.

If a requirement of the job is that the person be able to
read code in a specific language, and they need to start
being intensely productive within a day or so of starting,
then I suppose it makes sense to have a sample for them to

I don't "speak" any modern programming languages (and have
forgotten the ones I learned in the distant past), so it
would likely take me a couple of weeks to be able to read
(say) C# or Ruby or whatever. So, given that I'd be
wasting your time because that's most of what would be
expected of me and I couldn't do it right away, it would
be in your interest to find out in the interview... just
don't spring it on me as a surprise ... or I might find
out where you park your car... :-)

For general writing skills, you'd have my samples,
and if you don't trust me to be presenting my own stuff,
you could ask for a quick para or three on some topic.

Probably the most useful test, and the one that I'd least
resent (and most expect) is an editing test. I should
be able to read a few paragraphs and pick out the goofs.
If there are some parts with which you disagree, I should
be able to defend my choices (to change or to leave as-is).

As for tools... that's a very hit-or-miss thing. I may have
used Word (or Frame, or you-name-it) for years, and not
needed to do the specific tasks that you test for. I'd likely
fall on my face under really short time pressure (in a test
situation). But when it comes to getting the job done, I'd
just figure out the new-to-me aspect of the tool while
working, just as I do in every job. I have a resourceful
brain, and I know where to go for Help and for help.

Just because I couldn't figure out and fix your arcane
header-numbering-and-ToC-munging system in fifteen minutes
doesn't mean that I was lying about my experience with
the tool. I just hadn't done THAT with the tool before.

Of course, if part of your joy in the interview process is
humiliating people who thought they were good for the job...
well that's another story... :-)


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