Re: Agency and interviewing questions

Subject: Re: Agency and interviewing questions
From: Dianne Walsh <ldwalsh -at- VOICENET -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 8 Dec 1996 15:39:54 -0500

At 04:05 PM 12/7/96 -0600, you wrote:
>In response to the question of writing samples:

> If a writer has *no* samples to show, that is a
>definite red flag. It's analogous to someone interviewing for a job as a
>webmaster with no homepage (printed or online) to show someone. How do
>you tell if they are qualified?

>> No samples a 'red flag?' Maybe not. If the job applicant is fresh out of
school, or hasn't been working in the field for very long, I wouldn't expect
much, if anything, in the way of samples. Few would want to show papers
written at school for fear of looking silly (one job applicant told me
this), not to mention that they might be marked up with professor's
comments. The confidentiality issue is a very real one, as well. There are
writing samples that could be in my own my portfolio, but aren't; for
example, a set of manuals I wrote for the Navy. Flash those around, and I
could be in big trouble. The bigest problem I have with writing samples is
that they have often been through several rounds of editing and thus may not
be truly indicative of the person's writing skills.

When I'm hiring, I ask to see samples if the applicant has them, but I put
most of my faith in a grammatical skills test that each candidate must take.
There are a number of tricky questions that measure the candidate's ability
to spell, punctuate, make subject and verb agree, and untangle awkward
sentences. If they make more than three errors, they never get a second
interview. If they make it to round two, I then give them a run-through of
one of our software applications and make notes on how fast they can pick up
the flow of the system and how comfortable they are with using it--and the
PC (yes, I still occasionally get applicants who really have not used a
computer before).

The last item in my hiring equation is personality. I look for a
'sponge'--someone who is eager to learn and quick to learn--someone who can
soak up everything quickly and is flexible enough to jump from one thing to
the next without too much grumbling.

Writing samples are fine, but I'd never depend on them completely.

Dianne Walsh E-Mail: ldwalsh -at- voicenet -dot- com
Sr. Technical Writer or: ldw -at- locke -dot- ccil -dot- org
MEDecision Inc. URL:

If things improve with age, I'm nearly perfect.


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