Agency and Interviewing Questions

Subject: Agency and Interviewing Questions
From: Rick Lippincott <rjl -at- BOSTECH -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 1996 14:25:17 +0000

An earlier comment regarding writing samples, or the lack of same:

> 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.

And some very good writers have found themselves in that situation
for some very good reasons. A colleague of mine named Bob found
himself in a bind about four years ago. He was put on a special
program writing about a very technical piece of equipment that was so
highly classified by the U.S. Air Force that he wasn't even permitted
to utter the project name outside of the secure project area. He
wrote a rather thick maintenance manual for his particular part of
the project...did an outstanding job...but if he'd produced the book
as a writing sample he'd have been subject to prosecution under the
espionage act. When they cut him and kicked him out the door (the
program was ending), all he could do was name the company where he'd
been employed for years. He couldn't produce a sample, a reference,
or even say on his resume what he'd been doing. (As it turns out, he
will -never- have the documentation from that project available for
use as a writing sample, so there will always be a blank hole...)

It took him quite a while to find another job.

So, sometimes there are perfectly good and legitimate reasons for not
producing a writing sample upon request.

As another observation on this topic, in over a dozen years of tech
writing, I've only once or twice actually been asked to produce a
writing sample. I always bring one with me, but usually have to be
the one to raise it in the interview, and the response is often
somewhat less than enthusiastic. ("Oh, okay, if you have it right
there in your hand I'll take it...") Geez, and I've even gotten a
couple of the jobs at interviews like this, so it can't be that
they've rejected me before they even see the printed page....

I guess the interest in the writing sample varies from company to

Rick Lippincott
Boston Technology
Wakefield, MA
rjl -at- bostech -dot- com

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