RE: Advice for interviewing new tech writers

Subject: RE: Advice for interviewing new tech writers
From: "Robart, Kay" <Kay -dot- Robart -at- tea -dot- texas -dot- gov>
To: Gene Kim-Eng <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>, techwr-l List <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 22 Jan 2015 19:09:33 +0000

Actually, I disagree with Gene on his last point. It depends upon why they have asked you to participate in the hiring. I have been included on hiring committees for other departments precisely because I was a writer and no one in that department was. In fact, if I had not been included in one set of interviews, no one would have looked at the applicants' samples except me.

I also think that samples are very important and that it is fairly easy to tell if they have been written by the same person. We all fall into patterns of expression. If a person brings in several samples, you should be able to tell if the same person wrote all of them. And if they are for several different jobs, then that answers your question about whether they wrote all of them. And, for the most part, people are honest. Of course, you may occasionally run into people who lie or exaggerate, but for the most part, you can just ask them what they did on each sample. Most people will tell you the truth about whether their work was edited, whether they had co-writers, which chapters or topics they wrote, and so on.

Also, in all my years of tech writing, I have worked with only one person who lied about her samples, and we quickly figured out she was not a competent writer and she did not have the degrees she claimed.

I have ruled out many job applicants because of poor samples, which it seems like I have seen more than good ones.

I suggest you ask the other department whether they have a specific role in mind for you when you participate. And if you don't want to do that, just assume that you are there to make sure the person is a good writer.

You can ask about the writer's processes, for example, how they handle SMEs who are difficult to pin down, what things they do to get familiar with the product, and so on. You can ask about style guides, what they are for and how they use them. I think those types of questions tell you more than the typical "What is your best and worst quality for this job?"

I remember someone asked me what I would find most difficult about an editing job I was interviewing for and I said probably getting people to meet their deadlines. Then he held it against me that I had answered that instead of admitting that, yes, that might be difficult. Good reason not to take the job!


-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+kay -dot- robart=tea -dot- texas -dot- gov -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+kay -dot- robart=tea -dot- texas -dot- gov -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf Of Gene Kim-Eng
Sent: Thursday, January 22, 2015 11:54 AM
To: Kelly Smith; techwr-l List
Subject: Re: Advice for interviewing new tech writers

Talk to them about the issues you encountered when you hired on - the issues, not how you handled them - and ask them what they have done in similar situations.

Talk to them about their normal MO in seeking information and getting reviews.

You should concentrate more on how they will work with you than on their nuts and bolts abilities, since you are just "sitting in" on the interviews and not doing the actual hiring and won't be managing them.

Gene Kim-Eng

Doc-To-Help: The Quickest Way to Author and Publish Online Help, Policy & Procedure Guides, eBooks, and more using Microsoft Word |


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Advice for interviewing new tech writers: From: Kelly Smith
Re: Advice for interviewing new tech writers: From: Gene Kim-Eng

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