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

Subject: RE: On-the-spot writing test during a job interview?
From: "Blaine, Karen L." <karen -dot- blaine -at- unisys -dot- com>
To: "WinHelp List (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 15 Nov 1999 09:17:23 -0500

Karen,

Personally, I have no trouble taking tests. However, my ex would freeze up
whenever he had to take a written test, and invariably fail the test even
though he not only know, but understood the material. Interestingly, if you
gave exactly the same test orally, and with the same time limits, he could
perform excellently. By the way, he finally made it through school, works
now as an anaesthetist, and is in great demand by the surgeons at his
hospital because of his competence and drive to do the best job he can. Tell
me that keeping someone alive in an operating room isn't a high pressure
job, which obviously has little to do with how he could perform on a written
test.

Written tests do not always bring out the best in people. My daughters, for
instance, take oral tests mostly because they perform very poorly on written
tests. Each has a different learning disability. Yet both of these children
are very bright, and extremely creative. In my view, it is not the ability
to deal with pressure that is important, but the ability to organize your
time and to pace yourself to meet a deadline. How does one of these written
tests demonstrate long term time management skills?

I've worked with some highly creative people who couldn't sit down at their
desks for more than 5 minutes at a time. Yet these same people were among
the best technical writers I've ever encountered. They meet deadlines, and
produce excellent work. They all had difficulty in school taking written
tests, and did not have the best of grades.

The bottom line is that the more we try to measure performance
statistically, the less we are able to assess the true worth of an
individual. There are too many unmeasurable characteristics that go into the
mix of a successful employee -- the atmosphere of the company (structured
and rigid, or open, supportive, and friendly), the degree to which a company
is willing to let an individual fail and learn from it, how creative is the
individual, how willing is the company to trust the creativity of the
individual, how personally organized is the individual as well as how well
can he or she organize material, how willing is the individual to ask
questions and seek out answers, etc. How do you measure the intangible with
a written test?

K

-----Original Message-----
From: Metzger Karen [mailto:Metzger_Karen -at- prc -dot- com]
Sent: Friday, November 12, 1999 2:56 PM
To: TECHWR-L
Subject: RE: On-the-spot writing test during a job interview?


I can't comment on the protocol of it, but from a purely moral standpoint
(if I can use that word in this context), I believe testing an interviewee
is perfectly fair in all respects. They ought to be ready to demonstrate the
skills they claim to have.

I have a good friend who is asked to interview nearly every potential new
hire in his company, just because he has a peculiar talent for weeding out
the riff-raff. If a person says he has a skill in a particular area, he
takes them into a room, puts them in front of a computer with that package
on it, and says, go ahead--show me your stuff. More than half the time, the
person freezes up. Is that unfair to the person? I don't know--I think if
they can't handle that, perhaps they should get a job as a security guard or
something (no offense meant to security guards!!).

My thoughts. Good luck!
kcm

-----Original Message-----
From: Keith Cronin [mailto:kcronin -at- daleen -dot- com]
Sent: Friday, November 12, 1999 9:11 AM
To: TECHWR-L
Subject: On-the-spot writing test during a job interview?


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 had to take such a test for a previous tech writing job, cranking out a
description of how to use a stapler, assuming no "stapling knowledge" on the
reader's part.

The job in question here is a marketing-oriented copy writing job, NOT a
tech writing job, but the applicant IS expected to be able to write about
high-tech and/or abstract subject matter.

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 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." But I don't want to be unnecessarily harsh on
a job seeker.

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

-Keith

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