Re: Interview & testing

Subject: Re: Interview & testing
From: Eric Ray <ejray -at- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 09:37:26 -0700

At 08:50 PM 3/10/99 EST, Connie Giordano wrote:
>Yes, testing is a way of saying "prove it". And I expect you to prove that
>you can do what your resume says you can do.
>After having been burned by three contractors who claimed experience as a
>technical writer, a test has become an absolute necessity. Personality,
>skills, experience, rapport, etc., are all things I factor in before I make an
>offer, but many peope have perfected interviewing and resume writing, without
>having perfected a decent work ethic. After having three writers (who
>interviewed well, showed portfolios and seemed eager to learn) waste thousands
>of dollars of the company budget, just so I would have to go back and do it
>all over, I will not take such a chance again.
>Sorry if you think it's an insult to be asked to take a test, but I need to
>know how quickly you can grasp what is going on in the application, can you
>document it in a coherent fashion, and are you willing to use your own
>judgement on style--that tells me you can work independently. And I won't have
>to constantly ask you to sit down and work, or to interview a developer about
>an application rather than how many baseball games you watched on ESPN last

Hmmm....sounds like you might want to consider using contractors
or setting up temp-to-perm arrangements. I've taken one "test"
for a job, and thought it was a farce at the time. After I started
working for the company and evaluated some of the same tests
for new applicants, I knew it was a farce. It tested a number of
things, none of which addressed the real issues in a largly dysfunctional
corporation. In retrospect, the test itself should have warned me
off, because it clearly showed the discrepancy between my
priorities (communicating information to users effectively) and
management priorities (make it pretty, make it grammatically
perfect according to 7th grade grammar rules...if it addresses
the content effectively, that's an incidental bonus).

At this point in my career, I can't imagine willingly taking
a test to get a job--I'd have to be pretty hungry. Additionally,
as arbitrary as tests and their evaluation can be, I'd have far
more to lose than to gain from testing, as would most reasonably
experienced writers. However, I'm absolutely sure that I
could handle the tasks you mention.

Perhaps, rather than requiring a test, you should just hire
contractors to do a job, terminate them if they don't make
it or fit in, then convert the ones who meet your standards
to full-time. Or, mention that tests are required in your
job ad and consider tests just one more way to reduce
the number of resumes you'll have to sift through.


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

*Award-winning author of several popular computer books
*Syndicated columnist: Rays on Computing
*Technology Department Editor, _Technical Communication_

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