RE: The writer who didn't work out

Subject: RE: The writer who didn't work out
From: Karen Field <kfield -at- STELLCOM -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 8 Dec 1999 11:13:43 -0800

I respectfully disagree with Andrew. If I had asked more questions about the
history of the tech writing department at my former company, I probably
would've learned before I took the job that no writer had stayed in the
position for more than six months--ever. I would've noticed that the woman
who was hiring me got defensive when asked about past employees, that she
never had anything good to say about people who left, that she currently
wasn't getting along with the other writer who worked there. She was a
terrible liar, and I would've gotten the information I need before I took
the job and got this information the hard way.

To me, Andrew's advice sounds like worrying too much about whether someone
else likes you and not enough about whether you like the other person. In
this job market, tech writers can often pick from among several offers.
Asking a lot of questions shows prudence. It shows that you want to be happy
where you work and you view your job as a commitment.

Karen Field
Sr. Technical Writer
Stellcom, Inc.
kfield -at- stellcom -dot- com


-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew Plato [mailto:intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com]
Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 1999 7:36 PM
To: TECHWR-L
Subject: Re: The writer who didn't work out


>
> "I heard that the previous writer 'did not work out'. What were the
problems
> that writer faced? How did the writer's source material, availability of
> subject matter experts, planning, coordination, and scheduling come into
> play--if at all--in the departure of that writer? What solutions would
> remedy the problems that the writer faced? Was the writer offered any
> solutions? If they get too detailed with personal information about that
> former employee, this will also give you a clue on their professionalism
and
> well they respect that former employee's privacy...and quite possibly
> everyone else's privacy too!
>
> Yes, the interview is a test for *both* sides!

But not an inquisition. There is a fine line between asking about the
company,
the environment, expectations, and work load and grilling them.

Grilling a prospective employer about a person who "didn't work out" is a
super-fast way to get your resume dumped in the garbage.

A) It isn't your business why the previous employee/contractor didn't work
out.
The fact that the interviewer volunteered this information is merely a
warning
that they have been burned and are probably going to be more careful with
their
hiring.

B) It is very likely the person who didn't work out was a moron. There are
metric tons of really bad writers out there who continue to brownnose their
way
into jobs for which they are not qualified. If an interviewer told me a
person
didn't work out, I would assume that the previous writer was a dolt. Give
the
employer the benefit of the doubt. Sheesh, they called you, right? They
can't
be *THAT* stupid.

C) If a company "scared off" a competent person, more than likely they will
reveal their problems in other discussions and questions. Grilling the
interviewer why a previous writer didn't work out is a mega lame way to find
out about the company.

The best way to impress interviewers is to remain focused on you, your
abilities, and what you can do for the company. If you want to ask
questions,
try asking some that make you sound like more than a paranoid freak

Such as:

How formalized are their projects? How does the documentation fit into the
lifecycle of each product? Who is responsible for reviewing the docs? What
is
the company's long term market goals? Who finances them? What avenues are
their
for advancement?

If possible, ask a specific technical question - even if it is dumb. Like
what
languages they use to develop the software, what databases they use, etc.
This
makes you sound curious - which is good for a job that involves finding out
how/why things work.

If you ask about the company, their products, and their people - you are
more
likely to get the interviewer babbling. Most people (especially engineers)
love to babble. You get an interviewer babbling you can often find out all
sorts of information about the company (including why they sacked the last
guy). However, the interviewer needs to connect with you to babble.

You come at an interviewer at full paranoid impulse, he'll throw up his
shields
and phaser the crap out of you. Be gentle.

Lastly, don't jump to conclusions about the company, interviewer, or
documentation. Ohhh, it is so frustrating to interview people who assume
they
understand everything after hearing six words. Lock up the ego, Hoss, and be
a
cool cat.

Somewhere a meatball sub is being eaten by a nude man.

Andrew Plato
Not currently nude or eating a meatball sub.

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