Lying applicants

Subject: Lying applicants
From: Andrew Plato <aplato -at- EASYSTREET -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 21 Sep 1998 01:35:32 -0700

What the hell is wrong with technical writers these days? I want to share
this little story with you because it is driving me nuts.

In the past three months I have had five applicants lie through their teeth
to me about their skills. They sat there in my office and blatant lied to
me about their skills. For example, I hired a person (not from this list)
who claimed extensive knowledge of Windows NT and relational databases. At
my company, a tech writer with good SQL skills is like a hunk of gold. My
clients are so desperate for writers with database experience that
naturally, when anyone comes in the door with claims such knowledge, I am
inclined to overlook some deficiencies to get them on site right away.

Nevertheless, when this person got on-site, she quickly demonstrated her
incompetence with Windows and databases. She could not handle basic stuff
like using a web browser, unzipping archive files, and changing network
settings. She did not know what "relational integrity" or a "primary key"
was. Worse yet, she spent most of her first few days chatting with a fellow
consultant about absolutely nothing. At one point I came on site and found
her babbling away irritating another consultant. I asked her to return to
her desk and that she needed to get up to speed on the application we were
documenting. A hour later, she still had not run through the installation
and was back chatting and gossiping.

The client pulled me aside at the end of the week and said they had serious
concerns about this writer. That was it for me. When the client says they
are worried, it's serious. So I yanked her off the job immediately .
Thankfully, this person elected to subcontract so I was able to term her

Naturally, this person was angry with me. I told her that the client saw
her incompetence and became very, very worried (which they did). At the
rates I charge the client was not willing to pay for an incompetent writer.
They had already cycled through six worthless writers before we showed up.
In fact, they hired us because we have a reputation for fast, solid
documentation work.

This person was adamant that she had all these "extensive" skills. Yet, in
a week on site she managed to A) do nothing B) demonstrate her complete lack
of knowledge of Windows, SQL, databases, etc. C) embarrass other
consultants with her unprofessional gossiping and chatter.

All this lead me to an interesting discovery. People believe their lies.
This person I hired honestly believed she was a Windows NT and SQL expert.
She was just appalled that people could not see that. How do your respond
to that?

"Well, not only are you incompetent, but you have an extremely overinflated
opinion of yourself."

Sheesh, our own damn President thinks it is okay to lie.

Well, I don't want to get into the current political scandals, but I am
bothered about this. I am seeing more and more writers who are just
blatantly lying to me about their skills. I remember I asked a long time
ago what others here did when they had a non-technical tech writer. Well,
now I have a new question. What do you do with liars?

So, I am curious to hear your thoughts. Liars and cheats? How do we ferret
them out? And when you do catch them, what do you do with them? Fire 'em,
whack them with a 2x4, let the ice weasels nibble their eyeballs out?

Respond off list. I'll post a blatantly one-sided summary in a few years.

Andrew Plato
President / Principal Liar
Anitian Consulting, Inc.

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