Re: Agency and interviewing questions

Subject: Re: Agency and interviewing questions
From: Peggy Schillinger <peggys -at- STLNET -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 7 Dec 1996 13:54:54 -0600

Melissa Hunter-Kilmer wrote:

> The agency does what we ask, but it takes them some time to dig up samples.
> Why is this? Am I asking for something non-standard or unreasonable? Are
> writing samples usually brought only to the interview? If so, how the heck
> can you tell in advance if the person is worth interviewing?

This is a wonderful question. I have a huge, widely-varied portfolio,
and I have trouble providing writing samples for these reasons:

* I frequently work under nondisclosure agreements that prevent me
from sharing or even discussing the projects. I have had a client for
10 years that is so sensitive about confidentiality that I cannot
even include them on my resume. Some clients, understanding that we
contractors need to show our past work, will stipulate that we can
show the publication in an interview but not leave it unattended.

* I negotiate for a portfolio copy when I start a writing project.
This means that I have only one copy of what you want to look at.
Such a sample might not be valuable, but it's irreplaceable. I'm
not going to leave this treasure anywhere because people don't
return writing samples no matter what they promise. I actually
have holes in my portfolio because I supplied writing samples that
weren't returned.

* A potential client often is not clear about the type of project
to be done. Is it a reference manual? A set of job aids? I'm surprised
at how many people are uncomfortable discussing the project over the
phone and "would prefer to discuss this with you in detail when you
come for the interview." Such reluctance means that I might not
bring an appropriate writing sample with me.

* I like to discuss my samples as the potential client looks at them.
I relate the pleasures and aggravations of the project, to what extent
the project was a collaboration, any special problems I solved, how
awful
the deadline was, etc.

* Even though I like to look at writing samples, I have been suspicious
of them ever since I saw a woman take all the leftover unclaimed
displays
at an STC Publications Competition award banquet several years ago.

* Sometimes I can't tell exactly what you (the generic "you"--the
potential
client) want to find when you look at a sample. Do you want to see the
most
recent job? The biggest book? The most challenging PageMaker job I have
ever
done? The book with the statistical equations? Are you going to look at

book I wrote 18-months ago and say "Do you have something more recent?"
Does the job have to be 100% mine or can I show you a team effort? If a
book has a lot of artistic graphics and spot color, are you going to
like
it better because it's prettier?

> Does anybody have some hot tips on how to tell if an
> applicant has such high-level [PageMaker} skills?

Why don't you just ask the applicant? If you explain how tough the
project
is going to be and that training is not provided, the applicants can
judge
for themselves.


Best regards....Peggy Schillinger


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