A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Technical writers have no formal professional certification to demonstrate their expertise. If you need a position as a documentation specialist, how do you present yourself as a qualified, quality applicant? Here are a few articles that should help you.



Analysis, Plus Synthesis: Turning Data into Insights

In this article, I will outline an approach to gleaning insights from primary qualitative research data. This article is not a how-to for creating the design tools that are often the outputs of primary qualitative user research—such as personas, mental models, or user scenarios. Instead, it identifies an approach to generating overarching insights, regardless of the design tool you want to create.

Ellerby, Lindsay. UXmatters (2009). Articles>User Centered Design>Interviewing>Research


Answer the Phone? Sniff Armpits? Top 10 Interview Gaffes

Hear the one about the job candidate who brushed her hair during an interview? Or the man who sniffed his armpits on the way into the interview room? They may sound like jokes but these are two of the top 10 gaffes to feature in an annual survey of the most outrageous interview mistakes by candidates compiled by online job site CareerBuilder.com.

Goldsmith, Belinda. Reuters (2008). Careers>Interviewing


The Art of Asking Questions

Asking questions is one of the most powerful ways to open up a text and begin a discussion. It’s not a new technique, of course, but it’s one a philosophy professor in college taught me years ago.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2010). Articles>Interviewing


Asking Questions is Key

I think one of the hardest things in technical writing, especially for new hires, is to be assigned to document a product or feature that you know nothing about.

Technically Speaking (2009). Articles>Interviewing>Technical Writing>SMEs


Asking Your Users, Part 1

We tech writers need to know what our readers need. One of the simplest ways to find out is to just ask the users. However, the most obvious questions aren’t necessarily the best ones. Today, I look at some questions that don’t work as well as you might think.

Weber, Kai. Kai's Tech Writing Blog (2010). Articles>Web Design>Usability>Interviewing


Attraction to Organizational Culture Profiles: Effects of Realistic Recruitment and Vertical and Horizontal Individualism—Collectivism   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Today's organizations are challenged with attracting, developing, and retaining high-quality employees; thus, many firms seek to improve their recruitment and selection processes. One approach involves using realistic job previews (RJPs) to communicate a balanced view of the organization. The authors explored the effects of organizational culture (hierarchy, market, clan, and adhocracy), recruitment strategy (RJP vs. traditional), and personality (horizontal and vertical individualism—collectivism) on attraction to Web-based organizational profiles using a sample of 234 undergraduate students in a mixed two-factor experimental design. Results indicate that the clan culture is viewed as the most attractive. Traditional versus RJP recruitment produced higher levels of organizational attraction. Finally, predicted relationships between the personality framework of horizontal and vertical individualism—collectivism and organizational attraction were supported.

Gardner, William L., Brian J. Reithel, Richard T. Foley, Claudia C. Cogliser and Fred O. Walumbwa . Management Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>Management>Interviewing>Organizational Communication


The 'Be Yourself' Myth

You have to create a professional persona. That persona is a full-fledged adult who demonstrates a tightly organized research program, a calm confidence in a research contribution to a field or discipline, a clear and specific trajectory of publications, innovative but concise, non-emotional ideas about teaching at all levels of the curriculum, a non-defensive openness to the exchange of ideas, and most importantly, a steely-eyed grasp of the real (as opposed to fantasy) needs of actual hiring departments, which revolve ultimately, in the current market, around money.

Kelsky, Karen. Inside Higher Ed (2012). Careers>Academic>Interviewing


Beatrice Santiccioli: Specializing in Color  (link broken)

A visual designer discusses why Swatch, watercolors and cooking can inspire the design of color. Louise Sandhaus draws out how Beatrice Santiccioli came to be the Queen of Color.

Sandhaus, Louise. AIGA (2005). Articles>Graphic Design>Interviewing


Before the Interview

People often turn down the chance to be interviewed because they're nervous, or afraid they'll say the wrong thing. Instead, think of the interview as a golden opportunity for you to convey your message. If perceptions about you, your school, or youth in general have been wrong in the past, this is your chance to set the record straight.

Media-Awareness.ca. Articles>Interviewing>Video


Best Practices in Preparing Students for Mock Interviews   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Studies have shown the importance of employment interview preparation in boosting the confidence and performance of students and jobseekers when they interview. This article reviews several techniques for preparing students for mock job interviews and, hence, actual job interviews.

Hansen, Katharine, Gary C. Oliphant, Becky J. Oliphant and Randall S. Hansen. Business Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>Education>Interviewing>Business Communication


Calculating the Value-Added: What Hiring Managers Need to Know About Academic Technical Communication Programs   (PDF)

Hiring managers need to understand academic programs in technical communication in order to evaluate potential new hires, especially for entry-level positions in challenging, high-tech, international environments. Changes in the profession, in the workplace, and in higher education have led to the proliferation of academic programs. These may offer advantages over non-academic training, in terms of cost, comprehensiveness, content, and control. Academic programs are also different among themselves, based on credentials, institutions, instructors, and program homes. By developing reasonable, informed expectations for what academic programs teach, managers who hire program graduates can experience the payoffs of lower-risk, more cost-effective long-term hires.

Rehling, Louise. STC Proceedings (1996). Careers>Interviewing>Management


Can You See What I'm Saying?  (link broken)

Watch your nonverbal communication and vaccinate against 'um' disease by submitting to videotaped coaching before media contact.

Yewman, Dave. Presenters University (2004). Articles>Presentations>Interviewing


The Cardinal Rule of Interviewing a Subject Matter Expert (SME) For a Document

A technical writer will periodically need to interview Subject Matter Experts (SME) to gather information about a technical document. More often that not, and especially within the context of software development, most SMEs are engineers and software developers. But they can also be mechanical, electrical and other types of engineers, hardware installers, network engineers, testers, site foremen, call center engineers, field technicians, sales or marketing people, local dealers, etc. One cardinal rule of interviewing an SME is to do your homework well, in advance.

Akinci, Ugur. Technical Communication Center (2009). Articles>Interviewing>Technical Writing>SMEs


Challenges and Solutions for Program Administrators

A discussion of challenges and solutions for hiring professional and technical communication specialists at teaching-focused universities.

Adkins, Kaye, Molly Johnson and Bruce Maylath. CPTSC (2005). Presentations>Education>Recruiting>Interviewing


Choose Your Employer Wisely   (link broken)

For years, would-be employees have undergone scrutiny by employers during the interview process. In addition to our resume, we have to provide personal and professional references. We have to pass drug tests and personality tests. We have to prove our education and in many cases, whether or not we actually served in the military. It's all for a good cause of course, but rarely is the topic of employer suitability mentioned in the Job Hunting context. These last few years have been unprecedented in regards to company ethics and business practices. One doesn't have to look far to hear a sad tale of over-promised benefits, stock, and promotions from companies who are now nothing more than memories. The ongoing telecom scandals have even further rocked our beliefs in the stability and ethics of Corporate America. With all the recent layoffs and 'restructuring' now is a great chance for employees to take time out to evaluate their next employer. employee happiness is possibly the most important area of a person's overall professional satisfaction. Thus, it is not to be taken lightly. Nothing else matters if you go to work for the wrong company - not even if you've been out of work for a year and you simply need the money. Sooner or later, you'll be back in the same jam.

Souther, Christopher. GaryConroy.com (2002). Careers>Interviewing>TC


Circumventing HR: Effective Job-Hunting Strategies

A common misconception is that Human Resources departments exist to help job-seekers find their place within a company. In fact, the role of HR departments is to act as the gatekeeper. Savvy job-seekers know how to get around, over, and bypass the gates of HR, to connect with the decision-makers who can really help you. 

Hamer Associates. Careers>Interviewing


Clicking for a Job: Using Job Search Web Sites in a Technical Communication Job Search   (PDF)

Technical communicators should use job search Web sites and other Internet resources (i.e., listservs and email networking) as part of their overall job search strategy. In using job search Web sites, technical communicators should choose carefully from four main categories of such sites: general job search sites, field-specific sites, professional organization sites, and specific employer sites. Each of these categories requires specific consideration. Job seekers should take into account the specific characteristics and purposes of the site and its users. To get the most effective results, technical communicators should also take special care when choosing keywords for job searches.

Bloch, Janel M. STC Proceedings (2003). Careers>Interviewing>Online


Comparing Apples to Apples: An Interviewing Process and Strategy   (PDF)

An effective interview process better enables fhe selection of thoroughly qualified technical writers. This process is repeatable and ensures comparing “apples to apples. ” The seven steps are 1) advertise the job, 2) receive and review the resumes, 3) receive and review the writing samples, 4) set up the interuiezu, 5) hold the pre-intetiao strategy meeting, 6) hold the interoiew, 7)and hold the post-interview debriefing.

Sharp, Jane and Gloria M.D. Gyure. STC Proceedings (1997). Careers>Interviewing


Conducting Successful Interviews With Project Stakeholders

A simple, semi-structured, one-on-one interview can provide a very rich source of insights. Interviews work very well for gaining insights from both internal and external stakeholders, as well as from actual users of a system under consideration. Though, in this column, I'll focus on stakeholder interviews rather than user interviews.

Baty, Steve. UXmatters (2007). Articles>Collaboration>Interviewing


Conducting Successful Interviews With Project Stakeholders

Looking back over recent months, by far the most common form of research I’ve carried out is that stalwart of qualitative studies—the interview. A simple, semi-structured, one-on-one interview can provide a very rich source of insights. Interviews work very well for gaining insights from both internal and external stakeholders, as well as from actual users of a system under consideration. Though, in this column, I’ll focus on stakeholder interviews rather than user interviews.

Baty, Steve. UXmatters (2007). Articles>Collaboration>Interviewing>SMEs


Conducting Successful SME Interviews  (link broken)   (PDF)

Interviewing subject matter experts (SMEs) is one of the most common and useful methods for obtaining the information needed to create quality documents. Successful SME interviews require careful research and preparation in advance. During the interview, good listening skills, critical analysis, and the ability to maintain control of the range and depth of the interview with appropriate tact are crucial to successful outcomes. After the interview, give prompt attention to notes and any required follow-through. When working with hostile SMEs or those with poor communication skills, emphasize the strengths of the relationship and develop strategies to work around any weaknesses.

Lambe, Jennifer L. STC Proceedings (2002). Articles>Interviewing>Writing>SMEs


Considerations for Hiring Technical Writers

If you have a group of stressed out and overworked technical writers and need to add to your staff, hiring the right technical writer can be a challenge. The author provides some tips on the hiring and interview process and what you might look for in exceptional technical writing candidates that will best fill the needs of your group of technical writers.

Rastocny, Philip. Writing Assistance (2008). Careers>Interviewing>Recruiting>Technical Writing


Contextual Enquiry - A Primer

Designers who don’t understand their users frequently develop products that are difficult to use and understand, do not meet real-world requirements, or provide irrelevant functionality.

Gaffney, Gerry. SitePoint (2004). Articles>User Centered Design>Interviewing


Culture and Usability Evaluation: The Effects of Culture in Structured Interviews   (peer-reviewed)

A major impediment in global user interface development is that there is inadequate empirical evidence for the effects of culture in the usability engineering methods used for developing these global user interfaces. This paper presents a controlled study investigating the effects of culture on the effectiveness of structured interviews in international usability evaluation. The experiment consisted of a usability evaluation of a website with two independent groups of Indian participants. Each group had a different interviewer; one belonging to the Indian culture and the other to the Anglo-American culture. The results show that participants found more usability problems and made more suggestions to an interviewer who was a member of the same (Indian) culture than to the foreign (Anglo-American) interviewer. The results of the study empirically establish that culture significantly affects the efficacy of structured interviews during international user testing. The implications of this work for usability engineering are discussed.

Vatrapu, Ravi and Manuel A. Pérez-Quiñones. Journal of Usability Studies (2006). Articles>Usability>Interviewing>Cultural Theory


Dealing with Discriminatory Questions in Interviews

This handout illustrates problematic questions that may come up in an interview and suggests ways of dealing with them.

conneXions (2008). Careers>Business Communication>Interviewing>Professionalism



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