Re: Evaluating Candidates Using Tests, Logic Questions, and Similar

Subject: Re: Evaluating Candidates Using Tests, Logic Questions, and Similar
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: sharon -at- anthrobytes -dot- com
Date: Thu, 16 Nov 2006 19:48:43 -0800

Sharon Burton wrote:

In the writing test instructions, I suggest maybe headings might help
organize the info, how perhaps bullets or numbered steps might be useful as
a way to organize the text. The text is pretty simple and lends itself
easily to these devices. I just want to see if the ideas of logical
organization occur to you.

In our environment, I'm looking for super stars that automatically think
about these devices if they have 4 days to help a "fix" manual for a product
they have never seen before. It may be all the time we have. Our products
are also very complex and I can't spend the time teaching you to think - I
need to see that you can logically think before I hire you. I see way too
many "senior" writers who can't logically think and are also slow writers.
In my particular group at this moment in time, I need fast writers who grasp
technology fast and develop logically organized docs.

Your test is a sort of filter designed to trap those writers who clearly won't work. Having passed some of these tests myself, I want to add to your post that passing the test doesn't mean you get the job, only that you're not eliminated by the test.

As a test, I think it is fair to ask a candidate to rewrite for a particular audience. To me, being asked to do this in interview is like an ice-breaker, socially speaking. When we have discussed my test answer, the way is clear to discuss the writing assignment and we can move along more collegially. A surprising number of people who market themselves as tech writers don't have the expectation of structure in information, or the awareness of audience requirements. Here's an example you might update and adapt as a test. It was written in 1942. I've also included the author's explanation, which is inexplicably quaint :-)

In _Usage and Abusage_, by Eric Partridge, Barnes and Noble Books, 2006. $7.95), under the discussion of Jargon:

"The pure research chemist will say , 'Chlorophyll makes food by photosynthesis.' The practical engineer does not know what he --the scientist--is talking about. But if the statement is rephrased, 'Green leaves build up food with the help of light', anyone can understand it. So, says [C.F.] Kettering, if we are going to surmount the boundaries between different kinds of technical men: 'The first to do is to get them to speak the same language."

Anyway, Sharon, I agree that a coarse filter test is a practical instrument for a detecting those who do have a grasp of the mission and how to accomplish it.

Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com


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RE: Evaluating Candidates Using Tests, Logic Questions, and Similar: From: Sharon Burton

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