Employment War Stories

Subject: Employment War Stories
From: "Bonni J. Graham" <bgraham -at- ELECTRICITI -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 6 Jun 1994 09:48:33 PST

Nancy Ott's examples reminded me of when I had to replace myself at a
company I was leaving (the one that started me at $20,000/year). I knew
they didn't want to pay more than they were paying me, but they also wanted
someone with my level of experience (bear in mind that I was leaving
because they weren't paying me enough -- and I've only just begun to
realize how much I undervalued myself. Yes, I know, these people lived in
a dream world).

We advertised for someone with strong writing and design skills. The ad I
wrote said "Ventura Publisher and WordPerfect experience preferred,"
becasue I don't believe that what software you know makes you a good
writer. They changed it (behind my back, I might add) from "preferred" to
"required." We still got resumes from people who knew neither program,

I was stunned at the number of ugly, badly written resumes and cover
letters I received for this job. Some were in Courier (which I used as a
"weeding" factor). SOme had obvious grammatical mistakes (Nancy, at least
"Team Player" and "Authority" were spelled correctly). I had people tell
me they also had experience in Coral Draw and Venture Publisher (watch
those spell-checkers, folks!). One guy sent me a FOUR PAGE DOUBLE-SIDED
resume (I didn't know this much about my fiance when I moved in with him!).

I did some phone "weeding" interviews and felt like I was talking to Beavis
& Butt-head sometimes (Uh...Desktop Publishing's cool. Yeah, heh-heh-heh.
Typewriters suck.). I narrowed it down to six candidates. At the
interviews, three arrived w/o a portfolio. "I just got out of college",
they explained. I wondered, "Did you ever have to write ANYTHING?" I'd
have been happy to look at an essay on the use of light and dark imagery in
Macbeth to see *some* evidence of writing skills. Two of the others
coudln't explain the design and writing choices they'd made in their
samples. The last one was great, but wanted to be paid what he was worth,
ad we've already established that this company didn't do that (talk about
bottom feeders).

1) READ the ad before you send in a resume. If you can't target your
resume, at least target your cover letter.
2) Proofread your cover letters and resume -- and don't just let the
spell-checker do it.
3) Sound educated in a phone interview -- the interviewer had no physical
signs to tell when you're joking.
4) Bring a portfolio, and be ready to discuss it. My first portfolio
(right out of college) had a couple of short stories (not tech writing, I
know, but I needed some writing samples) that had done well in a workshop,
a couple of papers (one that had been published in the UCSD Journal of
Undergraduate Research), some book reviews that I had written for a local
paper, and a procedure manual I had written for the bookstore in which I
worked. None of this was Technical Writing per se, but it showed I could

I know some of this may seem totally obvious, but a lot of the resumes I
got were from people with 15 years experience (in other words, they should
have know better).
Bonni Graham
Manual Labour
Director, Region 8 Conference
bgraham -at- electriciti -dot- com

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