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I have very few writing samples available for over 35 years of writing
experience. Some were impossible to obtain, since they were
classified. Others were covered by proprietary restrictions. For many
years this did not present any problems. While there were some who had
no idea how to determine my skills and abilities, those were the ones I
did not want to work for anyway.
The best boss I ever had knew my job better than I did. With very few
questions he was on top of where i was and what i was doing. Besides
knowing my job, he was also fantastic in other ways--when a manager came
to his office to congratulate him on a good job, his response was 'wait,
don't tell me, tell them, they did it. If someone came into his office
with a complaint about something, his response was that 'he' was
responsible and would take care of it. There were many damp
handkerchiefs when he left the company.
The problem seems to me to be that if you are supervising an activity,
you have to know what goes into it. If you know, you should be able to
question the prospective employee to see if s/he has the capabilities
you need. Writing samples prove nothing. A writer may have been one of
ten writers working on a program, and his contribution was
miniscule--yet that writer has some proprietary interest in the end
result and could provide it as a sample. If i am going to lie on my
resume (deadly) or in my interview, I will lie with the samples I
As an interviewer, you have a couple of options. Ask for and check
references. Keep in mind that some peopel are more social than others.
i am sure my friends would give better references than some of the
managers I've worked under. In fact I found once that a manager I never
worked for or even near in a large company wanted to block me from a
position. To this day I have no idea what he held against me. I was
hired (actually transferred in) anyway, and was successful in the job.
If you think you found your employee, arrange to hire them through an
agency (job shop) for three to six months. At the end of that period,
you can release them, renew the contract for a few months, or hire the
the person with some confidence you made the correct choice.
I have often felt that the interviewer who wants samples just doesn't
know =my= job.