Re: Writing Test

Subject: Re: Writing Test
From: "Wittel, Teresa J." <WITTTJ -at- NCSLINK -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 24 Oct 1997 17:30:00 -0700

Hi Susan,

I am not an expert on this, but we use tasks that a writer would be
expected to perform. A specification change occurs (and we provide the
change as the spec would); the applicant must understand the change and
update the procedure within the time limit - fitting the information
into the existing format. Another procedure is provided that is simply
filled with common writing errors. The applicant must edit the
procedure as best as s/he can within the time limit. The tests are easy
for an experienced writer with 15 minute limits (generous). I had a
miscommunication with the HR person and finished both tests in about 10
minutes total. I was rushed, but did well enough to illustrate that I
understood what was being asked and knew how to accomplish the task. We
are big on active voice here and we look for that as well as some basic
understanding of the task. Occasionally, we get people in who do not
have a clue on these tests and we suddenly are very careful about their
references, their background and carefully review their answers in the
face to face interview. If a contradiction seems apparent, we may ask
the applicant if they experienced some difficulty with the test. Did
they understand the instructions, etc. However, there are usually
enough talented people out there that we don't waste much time on those
that don't measure up.

When I worked for an engineering firm, they based the test on the
ability to read blueprints as well as writing skills. I had never seen
a blueprint before, but luckily I had no trouble. Again, they used a
fairly simple blueprint and asked questions for which the answers could
be found on the print. Then they asked for a brief description of how
the component would operate. They were looking for a clear, easy to
understand paragraph. I surprised to hear that many people failed this

Base the test on actual tasks the writer would be expected to perform.
That way, you have a clear idea of whether the applicant can do the job.
There is a lot to this actually, if the test is too difficult, simple
nervousness could inhibit the applicant from doing a good job. You
should talk to an HR person that has specific training in this area (if
possible). If you can't find such a person, do some extensive research
on your own and consult your legal department.

From: Susan Schionning
To: Wittel, Teresa J.
Subject: Writing Test
Date: Friday, October 24, 1997 4:09PM


We currently do not use a writing test at the company I work for when we
interview prospective tech writers, but I think we should start. What
type of writing task do you use?

Thank you,
Susan Schionning
Symvionics, Inc.
sschionning -at- symvionics -dot- com

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