Re: Interviewing technical writers

Subject: Re: Interviewing technical writers
From: Chris Despopoulos <despopoulos_chriss -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: Gene Kim-Eng <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>, "Joyce -dot- Fetterman -at- L-3com -dot- com" <Joyce -dot- Fetterman -at- L-3com -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2012 09:04:44 -0700 (PDT)

First, I don't think there's anything stupid or tricky about asking somebody to explain something that he knows about.  The underlying question is, do you know how to explain stuff?  If you're not asking that question, hand the interview over to somebody else. 

Second, I agree that assuming ignorance of toilets equates to ignorance in general is a bit harsh.  But if you put "musician" on your resume, why can't I ask about the octave?  If you put "interest in biology", why can't I ask about great apes?  And why can't I ask for an explanation of how toilets work?  It's a mundane thing many people do understand...  The way you translate your understanding into an answer is precisely what I want to know about.  If your answer is, "I don't know anything about toilets", then I can ask you to name your topic and explain something interesting about it.  Why not? 

As for puzzle questions...  Again, if the idea is to see how a person thinks, why not?  If you think it's nonsensical when asked in an interview, then you're headed for trouble.  It's a specific probe designed to find something out.  I've gotten these before, and I figure it's just part of the game. 

And don't forget that the interview is a place for the candidate to find things out, too.  If I really hate that kind of question, I've just learned something.  Maybe I don't want to work there. 

From: Gene Kim-Eng <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>
To: Joyce -dot- Fetterman -at- L-3com -dot- com; Chris Despopoulos <despopoulos_chriss -at- yahoo -dot- com>; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2012 10:26 AM
Subject: Re: Interviewing technical writers

My approach is to place a small device or part on the desk, one which I'm pretty sure the candidate won't recognize, and ask the candidate how he or she would go about finding out what it is, what it does, how it works and how to use it if someone were to drop it on a table and say, "We need a document tfor his ASAP."

I hate stupid trick interview questions.  I have more than enough stupid trick real-life questions I can ask, and I might get answers I could actually use.

Gene Kim-Eng

----- Original Message ----- From: <Joyce -dot- Fetterman -at- L-3com -dot- com>
"That part of your reply caught my attention. I completely disagree. I have plenty of technical curiosity about things that interest me. I simply don't care how a toilet works. I do, however, know how to ask questions and do research, so if I ever NEED to know how a toilet works, I can definitely (and quickly) find out. Isn't that a more important attribute, especially in our line of work?

I dislike the trend toward asking nonsensical questions in an interview just to see the reaction. Interviews are difficult enough. Throwing out a ludicrous question won't give you a true idea of how well the interviewee will respond once she or he is no longer worried about securing a paycheck. BTW, I do very well in interviews and I've managed similar questions without any problem, but I still think it's ridiculous.

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Re: Interviewing technical writers: From: Chris Despopoulos
RE: Interviewing technical writers: From: Joyce . Fetterman
Re: Interviewing technical writers: From: Gene Kim-Eng

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