Re: Suggested job interview questions

Subject: Re: Suggested job interview questions
From: "Higgins, Lisa R." <eilrh -at- EXCHANGE -dot- WCC -dot- ATT -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 5 Jun 1996 11:11:00 -0400

I've never been in this situation exactly, but I have been with a lot of
companies in the past eight years, and you're right to be concerned
about large companies. Personally, I prefer the small ones, but it's
probably not a good idea to paint them with too broad a brush. They tend
to be a LITTLE more stable than the smaller ones, and you do have more
support for your projects.

Some questions that might help are:

1. What are the starting salaries for entry-level tech writers and
entry-level programmers with the same amount of education?

2. What are the salary ceilings for TWs and programmers?

3. What is the salary grade? (I know of one company that, while they
often pay comparable salaries, classifies tech writers as
"administrative" and developers as "professional" or somesuch. And it
shows in the way they run their doc department.)

4. How is the documentation department structured, and where would I fit
into that structure? Many large companies have big incestuous doc
departments with detailed style guides, editors, illustrators, indexers,
writers, desktop publishers, etc. (Oh, OK. Probably not "many," but some
do.) This has its benefits and its drawbacks. More drawbacks, IMO, but
you decide for yourself.

5. If I were to decide that the best way to approach topic X were to use
a medium that hasn't been tried before in your company, how would I go
about making the proposal, and how, in your opinion, would it be
received? What are some examples of this happening?

6. What is the overall corporate philosopy? (I was once being actively
recruited by a very large company that required random periodic drug and
psychological testing, made "suggestions" about which planned community
you should live in, and required that you be available 24/7. Fine for a
reform school, a little scary for a hardware manufacturer.)

It's usually pretty educational to get a look at their corporate style
manuals. If their standards look like Mad Libs--with all the topics and
headings already laid out for each type of manual, where all you have to
do is fill in the blanks--you can be sure that they're running an
assembly line operation. Ask them to see some of their manuals as well.

And just the act of asking a lot of questions tends to weed them out. If
you're running a concentration camp, you tend not to look kindly on
those who show too much independent thought. On the other hand, if
you're running a decent, creative company, you appreciate someone who is
intelligent and concerned enough to want to know what they're
potentially getting into.

Lisa Higgins
eilrh -at- ei -dot- att -dot- com

----------
From: Gravlin, Bob and Betty
To: Higgins, Lisa R.
Subject: Suggested job interview questions
Date: Tuesday, June 04, 1996 11:30PM

Hi Techwrlers;
My company's software may be bought by a "systems integration" company
from Texas that has 95,000 employees and $12.4 billion in sales revenue.
I will have to interview with this new company, since I would become
their
employee. I've never worked for such a large company and I am concerned
what it will be like. I've been the only writer for the last five
years, so I got to
call all the shots about the documentation. I want some suggestions
about
what questions I need to ask. For example, are technical writers
respected
as professionals on par with systems developers, or will I get shafted
at
raise time? If you have different standards, will I have to re-format
5000 pages
of documentation and convert it to different DTP software?

In other words,what questions do you wished you had asked before you
took
your job? I want to know what will be expected of me and what I can
expect of
the new company. I need to know if I will survive this or if I should
hit the eject
button now. It may be the best thing that ever happened to me but I'm
worried
about the unknown future. It's been too long since I've interviewed for
a job so
I'm rusty at this. Please help me out.

BTW, if you are a tech writer for this new company (I think I gave you
enough
clues), please respond off line to me about your experiences. I'm not
at liberty
to mention company names because it's just a strong rumor at this point.

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