Re: Putting the Thumbscrew on Another Hand

Subject: Re: Putting the Thumbscrew on Another Hand
From: Lisa Higgins <lisa -at- DRDDO1 -dot- EI -dot- LUCENT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 16 Jan 1997 09:59:08 +0000

> I am beginning to grow weary of the personality tests that have become the
> fad of the HR folks--at least here in the US of A. I would like to be able
> to chuck a bit of a query back at them concerning their corporate culture,
> but I am not sure just what all to put into my personal bank of questions.

Human factors testing (including drug, psychological, etc.) is IMO an
unfortunate trend in corporate America today. I've been fortunate
enough to be able to turn away everyone who's requested I submit to
this so far. If this "seller's market" atmosphere we've had in the
software industry continues, I expect this trend will peter out
before too long.

> For example, I plan to request a copy of the company's vision statement, the
> company/division/department mission statement, the company's view of ISO9000
> (if applicable), and the company's commitment to TQM. I might consider
> requesting workforce statistics such as percentage of the workforce in
> each decade age bracket. I might ask for information on the percentage of
> positions in each tier of management occupied by women, blacks, and other
> minorities. I might also inquire about the possibilities (probabilities) of
> a technical communicator being able to move onto other promotion ladders.
> But I am not sure what else would be good to ask.

Some additional suggestions:

* How does the documentation group's salary range compare with the
development group's?

* How long is the average workweek?

* Describe the company's social policies. (e.g., Are there lots of
company picnics and retreats and stuff, and how mandatory are they?
This is strictly a matter of personal preference, but it can be
absolutely miserable for everyone if you get a bad match.)

* How does documentation fit into your development cycle?

* What type of background do other technical writers in the company
have? (Is it tech writing, development, English, secretarial?)

* What is turnover like in the company/department?

* If I come up with a brilliant new way to do something in the
company, how would I go about implementing it?

* Is bail posting part of the benefits package? (Yeah, yeah, kidding;
but it would be cool just to see what they'd say.)

* Look at the style guide. Is it draconian or fairly open to
interpretation? (This is another matter of preference. You'll never
guess which side I land on.)

Make sure you look at the type of technology they're using, how open
they seem to be to new ideas, etc. This is one of the most important
factors for me in determining whether I am happy in a position.
Money and vertical industry are secondary. I started giving companies
the third degree some time ago, and I am much, much happier because
of it. (And I, too, have noticed that most interviewers seem to
respect that. Run, don't walk, away from any interviewer who seems
taken aback by your questions.)

> If I am asked why I want this information, I plan to say that I am trying to
> determine whether this company presents the kind of working environment
> which I wish to enter. If the company can screen me, I certainly want to
> make certain I screen the company just as carefully.

Absolutely. You are making a far greater commitment here. The company
is simply hiring another employee. You will be spending a HUGE
proportion of your waking hours with this company. (IOW, the
company's polygamous while you're monogamous.)

You'd be silly not to ask what you're getting into.

Lisa Higgins

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