RE: Interviewing technical writers

Subject: RE: Interviewing technical writers
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "Joyce -dot- Fetterman -at- L-3com -dot- com" <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" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2012 17:14:22 -0400

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Joyce -dot- Fetterman -at- L-3com -dot- com
> Chris Despopoulos wrote:
> At interview time, one question you should ask might be a puzzle of
> some sort.  Not to see whether the person gets the right answer, but
> just to see the thought process.  Or the classic unrelated, open
> question...  A friend of mine always asked prospects how a toilet
> works.  If the person simply didn't know, my friend assumed a lack of
> technical curiosity -- there's some merit in that. [snipped]
> 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 agree here. Somebody who has lived with money or otherwise
never had reason to care would have little need to know
about the workings of a toilet. Think any middle-class
youngster who took the academic path, and hasn't been in
her/his grown-up apartment long enough to have had a toilet
fail... or who just lived with people who had the knowledge
and who took over in the emergency....

Twenty years later, most people would have had their own hands
inside the tank of at least one toilet, whether they were
an apartment dweller or a homeowner.

I'd be suspicious of a 40-year-old who didn't have a
reasonable idea how a toilet works, but not necessarily
of a 22-year-old.

> 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.

I don't find the toilet question nonsensical. But I'd come back with
a barrage of clarifying questions that might make the interviewer
think twice.
Do you want to know about the tank-to-bowl mechanical aspects?
Or are you interested in the bowl-to-sewer siphoning and flow?
What kind of toilet? Ordinary gravity-fed? There are several main
sorts of flushing mechanisms and tank styles - which one?
Or did you mean a pressurized toilet? I know of a couple of
different systems, perhaps you mean one of those, but you'd
best specify, in case you are thinking of a third kind.
Or was that a composting toilet?
A chemical toilet?
How about a marine incinerating toilet?
Air-line toilet?
Would you prefer a simple schematic, or a bunch of words?
Oh, is our time up already?


The information contained in this electronic mail transmission
may be privileged and confidential, and therefore, protected
from disclosure. If you have received this communication in
error, please notify us immediately by replying to this
message and deleting it from your computer without copying
or disclosing it.

Create and publish documentation through multiple channels with Doc-To-Help. Choose your authoring formats and get any output you may need.

Try Doc-To-Help, now with MS SharePoint integration, free for 30-days.


You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-leave -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Looking for articles on Technical Communications? Head over to our online magazine at

Looking for the archived Techwr-l email discussions? Search our public email archives @


Re: Interviewing technical writers: From: Chris Despopoulos
RE: Interviewing technical writers: From: Joyce . Fetterman

Previous by Author: RE: "Allow" vs. "Require"
Next by Author: RE: Interviewing technical writers
Previous by Thread: RE: Interviewing technical writers
Next by Thread: toilets - Re: Interviewing technical writers

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads