Re: Interview Questions (a question)

Subject: Re: Interview Questions (a question)
From: Elna Tymes <etymes -at- LTS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 10:45:50 -0700

cheri -

> 1. If you had to hold one technical writing position for the rest of
> your life, what would you be doing (online help, user manuals, etc.)?
> 2. What sources did you implement in creating your manual (a writing
> sample that I sent them)? When I mentioned Weiss and Alred, they
> continued to ask me what I liked and disliked about each of the texts
> that I used.
> 3. What do you think/know about usability testing?
> 4. Can you work on numerous projects at once?
> 5. How did you go about taking your manual from paper to online
> (RoboHelp)?
> I know most of these are not like the ones that others have posted.
> But, I was curious as to whether these questions are at all familiar
> in most TW interviews. My current boss didn't really know what he
> needed, so he didn't ask many questions (and he knew I was in the TW
> program at the university).

These are appropriate questions (among others) to ask of potential tech
writers. "What's your favorite color?" and other non sequiturs are, in
my opinion, completely out of line. However, since my company values a
person's ability to pursue independent research, we often ask questions
about college majors, or something that will give the candidate an
opportunity to show how they research something that has few
guidelines. What we're looking for is a basic curiosity about things,
a characteristic that implies the person can look beyond the source
material and use different ways to find out how something works.

The question about dropping something in the ocean and asking how long
till it gets to the bottom is only marginally appropriate for a tech
writer. In that question, you're ultimately looking for the kind of
knowledge a person carries around in his head, not if he knows how to
find resources to determine the answer. Good tech writers MAY carry a
lot in their heads, but their value is more in knowing where to look for
answers and then how to present the information. If I were asked a
question like that, I'd consider the interviewer a game-player, and
his/her environment one where you had to spend proportionately more
energy dodging politics than producing good material. And I avoid
heavily political environments like the sick workplaces they are.

Elna Tymes, president
Los Trancos Systems

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