RE: On-the-spot writing test during a job interview?

Subject: RE: On-the-spot writing test during a job interview?
From: "Murrell, Thomas" <TMurrell -at- alldata -dot- net>
Date: Fri, 12 Nov 1999 13:30:33 -0500

Keith Cronin asks:

> What do you think of giving the applicant a writing test during the job
> interview?
Your question, and its associated comments, got me thinking (no snide
comments from the peanut gallery; ESPECIALLY from the PB&J gallery).

What would your test be measuring? Ability to write under pressure? (Is
that important? How would your scoring criteria help resolve that
question?) Ability to be coherent on short notice? Willingness to tackle
any project set before you? Will you make spelling, grammar, and
punctuation important? If so, what does that prove? (I have to check
everything to make sure I'm right--or at least consistent.) Will the test
conditions resemble the actual work environment? If not, what does that
mean for the validity of the test?

I'm not trying to be antagonistic to the idea of testing as part of the
interview process. I'm really interested in what you hope to learn from a
test and how you see it helping you make the decision to offer the job to A
and not to one of the other candidates. I, too, struggle with how to know
that a person I am interviewing really knows what he or she is talking
about. Writing samples can be--and have been--faked or plagiarized. You
are right that some people don't do well in a "test" situation but do quite
acceptable work in the actual environment, so how do you account for that?

Only once in my 11 year career did someone give me a test for a position.
After I submitted my rewrite of a section of documentation for the
interviewer's review, I remarked that his was the first such test I had seen
and asked what he expected to learn from it. Turned out that he gave this
test because it was given to him lo those many years before when he had
applied for the job. (FWIW, I came in second in their interview process.
As we all know, job interviews never pay off for Place or Show. I was also
told that my "test" paper was the best of the lot.)

Of course my experience is very limited. I will be very interested to see
other responses to this topic.

Tom Murrell

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