Re: Writing Samples

Subject: Re: Writing Samples
From: Daniel P Read <danielread -at- JUNO -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 7 Dec 1996 16:42:34 EST

My comments on writing samples:

I got a great tip recently from another writer after reading his post in
the Compuserve writers forum. He has developed a bibliography which
lists the documents he has written or participated in, gives a brief
description of each, then specifies whether samples of the document are
available or not. For instance, "Sample Available" or "Proprietary
Document-Sample Not Available." He submits the bibliography with his
resume with the suposition that it communicates experience, scope,
respect for confidentiality, etc. I will be implementing this technique
myself.

Also, I have prepared a bound packet of my own writing samples. Many of
the documents that I have written are proprietary and therefore could not
be included. However, I was able to include excerpts from these
proprietary documents that were "harmless." For instance, 90% of one
user manual I wrote could not be given out as samples, but I was able to
include two passages that explained how to configure a COM port and the
benefits of processing accounting transactions in batches. Nothing
proprietary there.

I would be curious to hear from people in a position of hiring technical
writers what they expect to gain from writing samples, and at one point
in the hiring process they would expect to see them.

I present mine packet of samples at the first interview, which is often
with a human resources person anyway. Also, when I get the first
indication of interest from the potential employer, I let her know that I
have samples available and can provide them now or later. They usually
say that I can either bring them to the interview or wait until later on
in the process.

Finally, it seems to me that there may be a danger for the writer in
providing samples too early in the process. Before I have an appointment
for an interview, everything I do, say, or provide is focused on the goal
of getting the interview. I avoid anything that could be misinterpreted
without my being in front of that person to dispell that potential
misinterpretation. This relates to writing samples in that the styles,
formats, lengths, etc. of your samples may be different than the current
needs of the employer.

If you provide samples written in a "down home" conversational style,
will you be less attractive in the eyes of an employer who needs someone
to write in a formal style? Again, I'm talking about the type of
knee-jerk judgements that tend to be made when one is sifting through
piles of resumes. I would rather be in front of the person in the
interview when the question of style comes up, or at least I would like
to already have the appointment for the interview before the prospective
employer raises the question to himself.

Daniel Read
danielread -at- juno -dot- com


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