Re: Writing Samples

Subject: Re: Writing Samples
From: Sharon Key <sharon -at- DRA -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 25 Mar 1998 08:46:12 -0600

Having just completed the process of finding a new job, I can tell you
how one consulting agency handles this issue.

After the initial face-to-face interview with the HR/marketing person, I
was told I would be interviewed over the phone by a second interviewer
who was a tech writer. I was given the following scenario: Write
step-by-step instructions on how to bake a cake. Assume your audience
is a 9 year old boy who is unfamiliar with how to operate an electric
mixer or an oven. Once I completed this "assignment" I faxed it to the
second interviewer who reviewed the instructions and then discussed the
document with me.

It was a rather bizarre process, but I guess it gave them what they
wanted. BTW...I didn't take the job.

Sharon Key
Documentation Specialist
Data Research Associates
St. Louis, MO

-----Original Message-----
From: Horace Smith [SMTP:hsmith -at- WT -dot- NET]
Sent: Tuesday, March 24, 1998 6:52 PM
Subject: Re: Writing Samples

At 10:40 AM 3/24/98 -0500, Mark Baker wrote:
>Jon Leer writes:
>>Any writer who shows up without writing samples is hopeless.
All writers
>>are judged by what they write.
>Not by me. If a writer shows me a manual they wrote for another
>what am I looking at? Is it a sample of that company's house
style? If so,
>then it tells me nothing about the writer's style. Is it a
sample of the
>writer's own style? Then all that proves is that the writer
cannot write to
>house style. And how am I supposed to tell the difference?
>I judge writers by asking them questions about language. I ask
them about
>the arguments they have with engineers. I ask them about users
and their
>needs. I look for a lively interest in language and its
foibles, and sniff
>out any hint of pedantry or formalism. I try to find out what
matters to
>them and what they are willing to fight for. (Don't tell me you
had a big
>fight over comma usage!) I look for a genuine appreciation of
user needs and
>a healthy skepticism about academic usability findings. I look
for a basic
>acceptance that this is business, not art.
>> Regarding confidentiality, the writer can
>>blot out any obvious tradenames or edit the source to change
the names.
>If that's is your idea of respecting confidentiallity, you are
never going
>to work for me. Published work can be shown unchanged. Company
>material must never be shown under any circumstances.
>>IMO, companies that have the philosophy that the writer can't
use work for
>>a portfolio are treating writers as slaves, nothing more,
nothing less.
>>Perhaps the writer can be selective in showing work that
doesn't divulge
>>patent information. Ideally, the company should establish a
policy that
>>considers a writer's need to build a portfolio.
>Nonsense. Do you imagine that any company anywhere extends that
sort of
>privilege to any other profession? Do you think programmers
keep portfolios
>of the code they have written to show to prospective future
employers? Of
>course not. Writers, in fact, are enormously fortunate in this
>because much of the work they do for a company is published and
>can be shown to prospective employers. You have no rights in
work done for
>hire. None. Zip. Zero. This is a privilege, not a right.
>As a hiring manager I am frankly distressed by the cavalier
attitudes to
>confidentiality and ownership issues displayed by some people
who have
>posted on this topic. If you hired a man to paint your house,
how would you
>feel if he said, "Of course, I'll need a key so that I can
bring people to
>your house to show them samples of my work."?
>This is a words-for-cash business. I keep the words. You keep
the cash.
>Mark Baker
>Manager, Corporate Communications
>OmniMark Technologies Corporation
>1400 Blair Place
>Gloucester, Ontario
>Canada, K1J 9B8
>Phone: 613-745-4242
>Fax: 613-745-5560
>Email mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com

Mr Baker has a good point. Besides, if you really want to see
what a person
can do, have a relevant topic ready when that person comes, and
have he or
she write something about that topic.

My writer's must have a good knowledge of electronic circuitry.
So I
examine them on simple schematics. I think I can teach them how
to write
much faster than I can teach them what to write.

Doesn't have to be technical. I had to write a manual on a #2
pencil at one
interview. I didn't take the job, because the pay was about the
price of a
#2 pencil. >


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>Send all list-related questions or problems to
Horace Smith
Sr. Documentation Engineer
Syntron, Inc.
17200 Park Row
Houston, TX 77084
mailto:hsmith -at- wt -dot- net
mailto:smith -at- syntron -dot- com

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