Re: Tech writer job descriptions & hiring ESL tech writers?

Subject: Re: Tech writer job descriptions & hiring ESL tech writers?
From: Jen <jennee -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 3 Jan 2014 11:10:36 +0200

Hi Hannah,

I'm an ESL writer and, while I'm obviously not an expert, I can tell you
how we hired people in my previous company. (Note: technical writing was/is
virtually unknown here, so we were hiring people with no previous

The process involved 3 interviews: one with HR, one with the local team
lead and one with the manager (who was in the US). All interviews were held
in English. If the candidates didn't show significant spoken English skills
in the HR interview, they did not progress further. If they did, they were
given a test that included grammar, spelling, rephrasing, word usage... I
can google for some similar questions if you need. The test had been
designed for hiring TWs in the company's UK location, so it was pretty damn
difficult for ESL writers :) This was a good thing, because we could filter
a lot of people out. The other part of the written test was an essay-type
thing designed to test the candidates' ability to explain things. To be
specific, they had to explain, in 1-2 pages, in English, how something
worked, for example a dictionary or chess. If the candidate did well enough
on these tests, they progressed to interviews (in English) with the team
lead and the manager.

In our experience, if people could speak fluently (with minor mistakes) and
passed the written test, their work was good enough, after some training.

Some things I noticed, in no particular order. I'm in Eastern Europe and I
think you're hiring in Indonesia, so they might not apply to you.

* If a resume says the candidate has "advanced" English skills, don't
believe it until you test it. People lie or have no idea what "advanced"

* If your company argues against a written test, try to sway them. My
ex-company dropped the test described above and it was very difficult to
hire after that.

* Remote workers need a lot of peer review. We would have avoided so much
trouble if this was handled correctly in the beginning!

I'll be happy to answer any other questions on-list or off-list. And I just
want to add that, despite the negative (to me) opinion of ESL writers that
seems to exist on TechWhirl, not all of us are awful :)


> Message: 1
> Date: Thu, 2 Jan 2014 10:08:45 -0500
> From: Hannah Drake <hannah -at- formulatrix -dot- com>
> To: techwr-l <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
> Subject: Tech writer job descriptions & hiring ESL tech writers?
> Message-ID:
> <CAMSrMHsdea6TiE=
> hmCZ74wXy1Ne4ZFDL+t8MUnZPzmPN4HpD-w -at- mail -dot- gmail -dot- com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
> Hi everyone,
> First, Happy New Year! Who else is super excited for the snow storm in New
> England? :-| <grin>
> So I've been asked to create "levels" of progression for the tech writer
> team.
> After a bit of perusing, I've seen titles such as Junior and
> Senior, and also I, II, III.
> Does anyone have a good break-down of what it means to be in either of
> these categories?
> This search began because I've gotten approval to hire an additional team
> member to our overseas location -- which brings me to my next question, any
> tips for hiring ESL tech writers?
> My biggest goal is to find someone with a mastery of the written English
> language, as you might imaging -- how do I go about testing that?
> Thanks in advance for your time and responses!
> --
> Hannah L. Drake

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