Re: Writing Samples

Subject: Re: Writing Samples
From: Michelle Nichols <mnichols -at- HEALTHPOINT -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 27 Mar 1998 07:25:06 -0500

I have read the posts about writing samples with some interest. Back in
October, I was looking for a job and sending out my resume with the tag
line "Writing samples available upon request." I had three interviews
lined up, only two of which asked me to bring my writing samples with me.
I did not have a fancy leather portfolio carrying case, I just put the
stack of documents in my usual briefcase and off I went to my interviews.

I only carried the writing samples with me, in case they were to ask about
them. In some ways, this was my test to see just how interested they were
in my writing abilities. The first company, at the very end of the
interview (with 5 minutes to spare), asked to see them and they quickly
skimmed through them, passively with no questions. Just flipping through
the pages with a soft comment like, "Nice" or what-not. Needless to say, I
was not all that impressed with this company. It told *me* a great deal
about how they ran their department and how they valued writing.

The second company, asked to see my writing samples half-way through the
interview, and spent at least 30 minutes talking about my writing samples
with me. The manager flipped through, and when he landed upon a screen
capture with callouts, he asked, "Why did you feel it necessary to add
callouts to this screen capture?" He did this for many other pages that
contained some typical, and not so typical, technical writing constructs,
asking me to explain why I did something that I did. I was able to
demonstrate my knowledge about the technical writing field, while showing
off my actual writing, within the interview. I was VERY impressed with
this interview, and therefore with this department, and that one aspect
made me WANT the job. I knew that I would be respected, I knew that
writing was valued, and I knew that there would be an open dialogue about
technical communication issues as the most important aspect of my job.

Yes, I do work for this second company now. And, I am happier than I have
ever been with my technical writing positions. (I left a development
editing position, which I miss terribly, but I am working with my current
manager to take over some of the editing responsibilities for the team, so
I am getting the best of both worlds!)

Anyhoo, just wanted to share my thoughts about writing samples and how they
can be a good interview tool for both the employer and the prospective
employee. <smile>

Michelle Corbin Nichols

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