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

Subject: RE: On-the-spot writing test during a job interview?
From: "Chiles, SuzanneX" <suzannex -dot- chiles -at- intel -dot- com>
To: "'salatas'" <salatas -at- micron -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 12 Nov 1999 14:39:01 -0800

I don't think it's particularly bad idea to give a writing test at an
interview. But I think there are some things that should be taken into
consideration. I know that I configure my tools to suit my way of working.
If I have to sit down at somebody else's machine to work, it's hard to get
used to somebody else's configurations. Also, due to a previous bout with
carpal tunnel syndrome, I use a Microsoft Natural Keyboard. When I sit down
at a machine with a regular keyboard, I can't find anything; it takes an
hour or more to adapt to the other keyboard. And consider someone who only
uses a mouse sitting down with a machine with a trackball. These kinds of
variances could prevent a candidate from being able to focus on the writing
task at hand. A pen and paper test presents problems as well; what if the
candidate has sloppy handwriting? If you can't read it, you can't evaluate

Consider a collaborative workout on a topic. I've been through a couple of
these in interviews and found them quite interesting. Pick a room with a big
whiteboard and brainstorm a draft of a document together. It will give both
parties an opportunity to see how they might work together and how each
other's processes work.


Suzanne Chiles
NID Information Engineering
Intel Corporation
suzannex -dot- chiles -at- intel -dot- com

-----Original Message-----
From: salatas [mailto:salatas -at- micron -dot- com]
Sent: Friday, November 12, 1999 9:43 AM
Subject: RE: On-the-spot writing test during a job interview?

Keith Cronin wrote:

What do you think of giving the applicant a writing test during the job

<snip>a well-respected colleague has suggested that for
people who "don't test well," it would apply unfair pressure (in addition to
the pressure inherent to any job interview), and could produce deceptive
and/or potentially damning results.

I tend to feel that EVERY pro writing job is a test of one's ability to
write under pressure; for me such a test was a chance to "put my word
processor where my mouth was." <snip>

Salette Latas responds:

Do you ask applicants for writing samples? Writing samples should show how
well the applicant writes when not under pressure, so they should provide a
balance to the writing test.

The ability to write under pressure is an important skill for any writer who
expects to receive a regular paycheck. The subject of the assignment should
relate to the job: if it's a marketing communications job, ask the applicant
to write a couple of paragraphs describing the benefits of the stapler.

I felt a lot of pressure during a job interview when I was asked to produce
a writing sample using only a pen and paper. I felt much less pressure when
I was asked to sit down with a word processor. (For what it's worth, I got
the job that asked for the pen-and-paper test. Good thing I brought extra

Salette Latas
Technical Writer
Micron Technology, Inc.

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