On-the-spot writing tests

Subject: On-the-spot writing tests
From: Paula Puffer <papuffer -at- psquareddoc -dot- com>
To: "'TECHWR-L'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 13 Nov 1999 11:44:22 -0600

On Saturday, November 13, 1999 2:00 AM, Keith Cronin Writes:
> Subject: On-the-spot writing test during a job interview?
> From: Keith Cronin <kcronin -at- daleen -dot- com>
> Date: Fri, 12 Nov 1999 09:10:40 -0500
> X-Message-Number: 10
> I have been asked to be one of several people who will each individually
> interview the same applicant for a copy writing job at a software developer.
> I'm the company's proposal writer, and have previously worked as a technical
> writer for this company. The company is looking to me to help judge the
> applicant's "writing skills and creativity."
> What do you think of giving the applicant a writing test during the job
> interview?

I don't think it gives you enough of an indication about someone's
writing skills, however neither can an interview. I've been tested
once on an interview and found the experience a bit disconcerting
since I had almost completed my master's work in TW and had
brought several writing samples in a portfolio. So I was a bit surprised
when I was asked do a grammar test and a writing test.

> I thought it would be a good idea to administer something along the lines of
> "the stapler test," but 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'm used to writing under pressure any more between the last two places
I have worked plus the volunteer work I do. But I do know that work places
vary in their intensity 8-)

> What do YOU (fellow TECHWR-L members) think? Thank you for your input!

To which Jim McAward responded:

> I won't hire a writer unless they have performed well on a live
> writing exercise - I've been using the stapler test for years. I
> don't, however, spring it on anyone blind - I tell them before the
> interview that I'll be asking for a writing sample. In almost all
> cases, I save this for the 2nd interview (when I have the candidate
> talk to their potential co-workers and/or other managers).

Now this makes sense to me. Have the writing test on the second
interview would mean that the person might be a bit more relaxed
than in the first interview and able to perform a writing test better.
Therefore you'd get a better indication of what they could do.
It's true that a writing test will apply pressure to those who "don't
> test well"; but the job will do that also, and exact a much higher
> cost if they fail!

Agreed. We've had two people at my current workplace who had
to leave because they didn't perform well with or without pressure.

Paula Puffer
Technical Writer

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