RE: Hiring TW without a test

Subject: RE: Hiring TW without a test
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: Jen <jennee -at- gmail -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 27 Mar 2013 11:29:42 -0400

I'm late to this party, but....

Hire a local teacher (perhaps a substitute teacher looking for a little extra money) for a day or an afternoon.
The teacher will be your arms-length front-person to lead the following scenario.

Have all five techwriting applicants in a room together. Instigate a group discussion (participation mandatory) to create a list of criteria on which a techwriter's writing and editing ability should be judged, with you guiding the discussion to ensure that it mostly reflects your criteria. Suggest that hiring can't proceed unless everybody present submits a writing sample, created on-the-spot, TO THE GROUP, for critique. Not to you. Not to the company. You need never actually see it. You could suggest a sample task (like the peanut-butter sandwich) as an example, but tell them that the group can choose to substitute any other simple task that would reveal as much, in as short a time.

(Set a time limit on the sample-task selection step, or they'll argue all day. Tell them to also agree on a time limit for the writing of the sample.)

Tell them to grade submitted samples according to your/their agreed itemized criteria. Preferably, they'd do their writing on computer (so no identifiable handwriting), and identify their sample with only a number or code-name that the teacher conveyed privately to each participant. Each person grades and ranks all the others on each of the criteria, but at the end, the grade for her/his own paper is dropped (possibly retained for evaluation of integrity, but not included in the group tabulation).

Each writer/evaluator has printouts of all five samples, and must shuffle the scoring for each of the criteria until all papers are ranked by each evaluator/writer - no ties by any one evaluator ("I think both paper 2 and paper 5 are equally strong on 'clarity'")... tests applicant's ability and willingness to make a decision.
You and the company did not choose among them by a writing test. You evaluated them on their ability to evaluate written material. And they agreed to the eventual choice by collectively assigning the highest score to it.

The teacher is asked to evaluate the participants on the non-writing aspects of the task - who was best at evaluating material they did not write themselves, and who was most honest, for example.
At the end, the teacher reveals whose name corresponded with the identifying number on the winning sample.

If there's a clear winner, that's who is hired. If there's a tie, then the teacher's evaluation of the non-writing aspects is used to break the tie.
If there's STILL a tie, hire them both!
Or ask the teacher if she/he wants a full-time job.


Diabolical, I know. :-)

-----Original Message-----
From: Jen
Sent: March-22-13 2:09 AM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: Hiring TW without a test

Gene, you're absolutely right. We're not hiring a tech writer, but someone who we hope can become a tech writer. I'm not doing the interviews myself, but my team leader is paying attention to what you said. It's just hard to gauge someone's writing skills without actual... writing. I hope we'll get writing samples, even if it's after the initial interviews. (We weren't involved in selecting the candidates, HR basically said "hey we scheduled these 5 interviews for you" and we couldn't contact the candidates

Steve, the legal trial period in this country is 3 months and I hope that it's enough to figure out if the person can do the job or not.

Dana, not critical, it's the truth! That's actually why I asked for the whirlers' advice - with our written test gone, I couldn't think of a way to figure out if they are able to put their thoughts in writing, clearly and concisely.

On Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 4:48 PM, Dana Worley <dana -at- campbellsci -dot- com> wrote:

> I hate to be critical (well, maybe just a little), but if you are
> hiring a team of inexperienced writers, when to use bullets and when
> to use numbers is the least of your worries. IMO, the trivial details
> of technical writing are not going to make or break your team. Whether
> or not they have a good command of the language and are able to put
> their thoughts down in writing, clearly and concisely, are where you should focus your efforts.
> I agree with Gene (I think it was) who suggested conducting
> prescreening interviews via email.
> Dana W.
> -----Original Message-----
> We actually had the first interview today and my team leader used some
> of them - specifically the following: when to use bullets and when to
> use numbers

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Hiring TW without a test: From: Jen
RE: Hiring TW without a test: From: Debbie Hemstreet
Re: Hiring TW without a test: From: Gene Kim-Eng
Re: Hiring TW without a test: From: Jen
RE: Hiring TW without a test: From: Dana Worley
Re: Hiring TW without a test: From: Jen

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