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I took a writing test once as a candidate. I was to write instructions for a
group of Russian eighth grade students who suddenly had to create a report
using "modern" (i.e. American) office equipment such as a stapler and tape.
They'd already clued me in on their writing style, which was to
alphabetically list one or two page descriptions of commands -- no bullets
or numbered lists.
Aside from the insulting description, how does writing for a stone age group
(not the Russians, but the fictitious group in the assignment) compare at
all to writing programming instructions for process control equipment that
will be run by scientists or highly-trained and educated technicians?
I blew the job, on purpose, with this writing test. I find culturally
denigrating comments (see other thread of the day on sexual harassment) to
be extremely offensive.
I guess I don't know what they gained from this test!
To: Multiple recipients of list TECHWR-L
Subject: Re: Regarding tests
Date: Saturday, 6 May, 1995 11:11PM
>We use a writing test for all potential contractors (as well as traditional
>interview methods). Becuase we're a consultancy, and come up against a wide
>variety of documentation tasks, the test has to be as generic as possible.
>We ask the writers to describe how to make a telephone call to someone who
>has never seen a telephone.
An interesting challenge. Are they supposed to describe how calls
are placed in general, or are they supposed to describe how to make
a specific kind of phone call from a specific kind of phone? The
general case gets pretty nasty, what with area codes, dialing "1"
on non-local calls (which is inconsistent across the country, by
the way), the possibility of encountering voicemail, country codes,
time zones, calling cards, cellular, etc., etc., etc.
It was a lot easier in the old days, when all calls went through an
operator. The entire concept of dialing was eliminated (though there
were always phone numbers, the operator made the connection for you),
and you always had help available, whether you wanted it or not.
If you glossed over long-distance dialing, the biggest challenge would
be in the "telephone etiquette" section, that told people how to behave
on the phone. The instrument itself is pretty simple.
Robert Plamondon * Writer * robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (408) 321-8771
4271 North First Street, #106 * San Jose * California * 95134-1215
"Writing is like plumbing -- even people who know how to do it will
pay top dollar to keep their hands clean."