Re: Testing: how long is too long?

Subject: Re: Testing: how long is too long?
From: Kirstin Mercer <kirstin -at- INTERCON -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 11 Jan 1996 11:06:40 -0400

Yvonne DeGraw wrote:

Perhaps long tests help you avoid both extremes in hiring. You can avoid
hiring bad people, but the good people won't bother.

When I was looking for a job recently, one of the companies wanted me to
write a white paper about *their* product. They said they couldn't evaluate
me through writing samples about other products. I finally told them I had
other offers, and I don't write white papers for free.

Another company has standard tests for all their employees. I finished the
test earlier than they expected, then had to sit around for 30 minutes
waiting to be interviewed. That gave me time to think about how valuable my
time is -- and decide to start freelancing.

Wow. In my opinion, these scenarios are both ridiculous. I'm not
saying that the way InterCon tests is the right way, but if a=20
candidate finishes the test early, we adapt the rest of the=20
schedule so that he or she is not sitting around. I've responded
privately to several people who asked about the content of our
tests. I'm going to post my response here. Then I'll shut up about
this whole testing thing--I promise. :-)

Here's my response: Unfortunately, I am unable to give you the=20
specifics of the two tests we use here at InterCon, but I can tell=20
you this much (and it should give you a general idea).

The first test is a half hour long. The candidate is given a topic
related to technical writing and is asked to write a short essay.
This test gives us a general feel for the candidate's writing
ability. Because of the topic of the essay, we can also determine
how much or how little the candidate knows about what technical
writing is and what it encompasses. The candidate sits at a
computer and composes the essay in a word processing package.

The second test is also a half hour long. The candidate is shown
how to do something using one of the software progams our company
develops. It is something that is not too complicated, but that=20
provides enough substance to write about. The candidate is then=20
given a half hour to write a procedure on completing the task he or=20
she was just shown how to do. This test lets us see how the candidate=20
writes procedure-oriented material (which is used a lot in our manuals),=20
and how he or she would format such writing. The candidate
also composes this test at a computer using a word processing
package, while having access to the software he or she is writing
the procedure about (what an awful sentence that is).

As I said in my posting, we have found these tests to be very
beneficial in our hiring process. If anyone wants to flame me or
disagree with something I wrote, go ahead and email me privately
so as not to clutter everyone's mailboxes.

Thanks!
Kirstin Mercer
Technical Editor
InterCon Systems Corporation


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