Re: Word Expertise

Subject: Re: Word Expertise
From: "Eric J. Ray" <ejray -at- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 1998 07:24:47 -0600

At 02:02 PM 9/21/98 -0700, Melissa Sweet wrote:
>I'm currently preparing for the MOUS certification test in Word. I'm
>considered a "power user" by my friends and co-workers - in fact I don't
>know anyone more competent in Word - but I think a certification like
>this should go a long way toward dispelling doubts about an applicant's
>proficiency. What do you guys think?

I think that there should be better ways of dispelling doubts
about technical proficiency--like asking questions with specific
relevance, or _briefly_ testing, or, best of all, focusing on
broader ability than demonstrated proficiency with a
particular tool.

However, if a hiring manager has decided for whatever reason
that Word proficiency is essential, then effective interviewing
can pretty accurately elicit the information needed.

For example, and I can't imagine actually doing this
in an interview unless we were desperate for someone who
could start proficiently and immediately AND we had no
prior knowledge of the candidate's proficiency:
Q: "Say, we just had a real problem with a manual in Word.
Our junior writer spent half a day trying to get the
footers and headers to work out right. He swears
that he made the changes as prescribed each time,
but the headers and footers moved around as if they
had a mind of their own. First you've got roman numerals
in the first chapter, then no numbering at all in the
front matter, and each change seems less predicatable.
You've said on your resume
that you're a real Word expert--where would you look
to figure out the problem and get Joe Junior back
to work (and get him to quit burning up the laser
printer on bad drafts)?
Poor Answer (points for effort, no points for effectiveness):
Hmmm. That's a good question--haven't seen that
before, but it shouldn't be too hard to diagnose.
I'd probably start by showing all of the field codes etc.
and reviewing the document.
Good Answer: I'd open up the header/footer toolbar
(View-Header/Footer, you know) and try deleting
all of the headers and footers and reinserting them.
It's sometimes easier to just do that than to really
debug the issue, particularly in a short document.
Great Answer: I'd go straight to the header/footer toolbar
and make sure that all sections do NOT have Same
as Previous checked (which will almost certainly fix
the problem), then start at the front of
the document and review all of the headers and
footers in each section for oddities in field codes.
I'd probably consider deleting and reinserting the
headers and footers, depending on the length
of the document, but that really shouldn't be necessary.
BTW, if your writer is burning up the laser printer
on this, why not ask him to use Print Preview or
(if he doesn't trust Print Preview to be completely
accurate, which is justifiable) generate PDF files
and review those online.

Now, there are problems with this approach, one of which
is that the candidate might not have experience with this
particular problem. However, as a hiring manager, I could
easily construct three or four of these scenarios with big
bugaboos in the tool I'm interested in, and look for overall
proficiency. "Proficiency" as evidenced by certification doesn't
do much for me if the proficiency doesn't address the problems
my employees usually encounter.

This approach also shows me a lot about how the candidate might
approach helping other employees (take over, instruct thoroughly,
teach well, or whatever), how the candidate approaches
problem solving, how the candidate communicates and structures
information, and how the candidate thinks on his or her feet.

Without intimate familiarity with the certification process,
I can't speak to how valuable I'd consider the certification,
but I'm not at all sure that certification would show up on my
list of desired or desirable qualifications.


Eric J. Ray RayComm, Inc. ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com

* Syndicated columnist: Rays on Computing
* Technology Department Editor, _Technical Communication_
* Award-winning co-author of several popular computer books, including
_Unix Visual Quickstart Guide_, _Mastering HTML 4_, _Dummies 101:
HTML 4_, _HTML 4 for Dummies Quick Reference_, others.

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