Interviewing New Technical Writers

Candidate Name: Referred from: Interview Date: Interview #: For Position:


  1. Tell me about your education, technical writing background, and any general information you want to share. How did you get interested in technical writing? (Objective: Establish framework for subsequent answers and interest level in tech writing as a career.)
  2. What tools have you used to develop manuals/online help? What did you find as the strengths and weaknesses of those tools?
  3. What books do you keep close at hand when you are writing? What style or standards guides do you use to resolve grammatical or other issues in your writing (other than your company standards guide)?
  4. What is the goal of technical writing? (Objective: “help the user” is good, “accurate doc” is bad)
  5. What is your exposure to the technical side of computers? Do you know anything about networking? Client/server technologies? The internal guts of a computer?
  6. How familiar are you with using e-mail programs like Outlook? Are you familiar with how e-mail and the Internet work? (how information is transferred from your computer to someone else’s computer)?
  7. Describe your ideal job. (Objective: Benchmark of how far off their ideal job is from what the present position has to offer. Measure on the feel-o-meter with regards to fit for the position.)OR What’s the worst environment you’ve ever worked in, and why? What is the best environment you’ve ever worked in? Why did you like it?
  8. Who was the best manager/boss you’ve worked with, and why?
  9. Describe an example of a project or task you were proud to have been involved in, your contribution to the project, and how the project turned out. Conversely, give me an example of a project you did not want (or were not enthused about), why you felt that way, and how the project turned out. (Objective: Determine ability to cope with different situations, work for the higher objective, types of projects liked and disliked. Provide an opportunity for the candidate to showcase the writing sample they may have brought.)
  10. Can you give an example of a time you needed to make an important decision, but there was inadequate data? (Objective: Decision making process)
  11. When you’re on the job and you discover you’ve made a huge mistake (forgetting to save and losing 5 hours work when Word crashes), what is your reaction, and how to you go about fixing the problem? Describe such a situation.
  12. Describe a time when you’ve had to deal with an obnoxious, bossy, or otherwise difficult person who was your only source of information. How did you (or would you) deal with that person and still get the information you needed?
  13. Discuss a time when you were given a task that you didn’t completely understand. What was your approach to learning about the task and getting answers to your questions?OR What has been your experience in working with conflicting, delayed, or ambiguous information? What was your response?
  14. If you complete a task earlier than expected, and find yourself with nothing to do, what do you do?
  15. Tell me about a time you were pressured to complete a big project or task sooner than you had planned. What was your response and how did you arrive at that response? (Objective: Determine ability to pre-plan and respond tactfully in pressure situations)
  16. What would you hope to learn from/get out of this job?
  17. What are your top three strengths? What are your top two weaknesses? (Objective: Opportunity for candidate to “sell” themselves (tell me why I should hire you)).
  18. What do you feel you bring with you as assets to our company? (Objective: Another chance for the candidate to sell him/herself.)
  19. Tell me about the writing samples you brought. (Objective: Gives candidate an example to showcase their best work. Question not necessary if we got to writing samples during other questions.)
  20. Describe the process you used to develop one of the items in your writing samples (Interviewer: Choose one if you want, or let interviewee choose), from conception to final product. How does this differ from the process you use for online help? (Objective: Determine if working processes are compatible with the work environment. Probes: Team player and level of involvement with others? Requires editing or illustration support? Standards? View and/or involvement in the feedback loop?)

Writing Samples

Sample 1

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Sample 2

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Sample 3

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Sample 4

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Sample 5

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After Interview

General Impressions: Technical Knowledge: Ability to Learn and Adapt Quickly: Cultural Fit for Your Company? Impressions and Comments from Other Interviewers? Contributed by Allison Marshall.