TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
It's important to know what kind of writer you are potentially hiring. A
long grueling test is not always an accurate measure of what this person
can do. Also, if you want the test to be close to accurate, you need to
find one that truly represents the kind of situation the writer will
face in your company, not a random test. According to studies performed
by industrial/organizational psychologists, these tests will reveal how
a person works under pressure, it may even reveal the level of talent
possessed by your interviewee. However, the tests will not predict how
well this person is going to work out in the company.
If you want to predict that, one thing you can do is plan on a long
interview, take that person around the company and let them meet the
folks that would be on their team. Ask them questions, such as "what
would you do in such a situation?" or "what is the first thing you would
do to start such a project?"
This is not to say that a test cannot be used. It's a good place to
*start*. Just remember it can't be the only thing you use, but you knew
that already. You might want to check out some books on i/o psychology
-- you can find some info on putting together such a test yourself and
how to increase the accuracy. It's not the quick solution, but it could
be more helpful than a random test.
The information included above is based on a course in
industrial/organization psychology and the book _Psychology at Work_,
2nd Edition, by Lilly M. Berry, August 1997, McGraw Hill Text; ISBN:
Let me also add that my first position in technical writing started with
an interview and a surprise test. I was a little shaken by the surprise
test, but it was not a very long one. The manager gave me a dictionary
and a grammar guide and told me they used Chicago Style. He then left me
alone and told me to take my time. The test was truly a copyediting test
and not much more, but for this position that was appropriate.Along with
the rest of the interview, it gave us both the impression that our
relationship would be a productive one. And it was.