RE: Writing Test?

Subject: RE: Writing Test?
From: "Giordano, Connie" <Connie -dot- Giordano -at- FMR -dot- COM>
To: "'Ivan Gelicall'" <ivan_gelicall -at- hotbot -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 15:37:53 -0500

Most of us in support of writing tests use them in conjunction with
interviews, portfolio reviews, reference checks, and plain old gut instinct.
I always explain in the posting and the screening interview that a test will
be given. I don't set a narrow time limit, and I make it related to the
work they'd be doing. I don't expect it to be perfect, and I don't give it
a grade, I use it to see how quickly they grasp the system concepts, how
well they listen to instructions, and how willing they are to ask questions
and experiment. It has proven very advantageous in uncovering
less-than-desirable work habits and other social quirks, but no single
aspect of the interviewing and hiring process will uncover everything.

I'm not an idiot, but I have lots of painful experience interviewing writers
with beautiful portfolios and great presentation skills who couldn't grasp
the difference between a Window and a font file, and spent more than half
their time copying pasting question marks into document templates because
they were too lazy to figure it out on their own and too snooty to ask
questions of the people who had the answers. A similar thread in February
illustrated the dangers of assuming lots of experience and pretty books make
a great tech writer. Ultimately, when you interview, you do have to prove
to me you have the ability, and a nice portfolio and mile-long resume isn't
complete proof.

Someone may be a Senior Writer by title and years' experience, but it
doesn't prove he/she has a clue about new technology, can understand system
architecture, or that he/she can write a user guide, a help system or a
training manual for real-world users or specs for the developers. (It's not
age-bias, it's ego bias--don't tell me how great you are, show me.) I have a
stack of awards that would fill an 8 x10 room and more 16 years in this
writing game, but I LIKE having to go out and prove myself everyday. Gives
me a new challenge to look forward to.

In my experience, the companies that require a writing test as part of the
hiring process had a better understanding of what it takes to be a good tech
writer, as well as the kind of person they needed to fit into the corporate
culture. I wish it were true more often, but you could miss out on some
great opportunities by assuming a writing test is an insult.

Connie Giordano

Ivan wrote in part:

I would not take a test to prove to some idiot that I can do my job. If you
cannot ascertain from the interview that I can do the job, then I dont want
to work for you. Ive worked at start-ups and established companies, such as
Netscape. Only one company ever put a test in front of me, and I regretted
every moment that I had to work for that company, but I was young and Naive.
It seems to me that the most successful companies have eliminated this
archaic practice. Besides testing never provided any insight into someone's
quirks and personality. And there are allot of damaged people out there. For

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