I have been thinking lately about how to measure the level of stress and difficulty you could expect from a particular technical writing job. Would it be the type of content you write? The output requirements? The deadlines? This post is a result of some ideas my coworkers and I discussed over lunch the other day.
There’s an article called “What Do Technical Writers Find Stressful?” on the techwr-l website. The author divides the stress into categories and then describes each one in detail. Here’s his list:
What categories would you add to the list? What brings you the most stress as a technical writer?
My next question that I’ll try to answer is, how would you discover the stress level of a job while you’re still interviewing for it? Here are my suggested questions.
- Tell me about the last product release, did the doc go out with errors or did it go out late? Give me a specific example of your choices between quality and deadlines.
- Do you feel like you get enough information about release changes? How are changes typically communicated to the writers?
- How many meetings do you attend each week? (Interpreting the answer might be tricky – more than 15 hours a week of meetings probably means there’s plenty of communication, but how will you get the actual work done in 25 hours a week?)
- What processes are in place for product releases? How closely are the processes followed? Does the team use any Agile methodologies? Is it Waterfall method? Is there no method?
- What platforms does your help support? Do you have any concerns about accessibility? How about multiple language requirements?
- Give me an example of how you gather information from developers or business analysts when you need to write a new procedure.
- What are the specs on your computer? Do you run the product on a separate computer or separate server? Do you have two monitors to run the product and to author the content?
In your interview, also try to read the stress level of each writer and manager you talk to. There may be clues in the amount of preparation they had for the interview itself, and whether the writer needs to immediately go to another meeting. What other observations might offer clues to the stress levels there?
I agree with the Brazen Careerist that one question not to ask is, “How many hours do you work per day?” This is a personal question that has to do with the individual’s work and life balance and may not reflect the department or the company at all.
Let us know your personal favorite interview questions when you are a candidate for technical writing and related jobs in the comments below.
Related links about asking questions as a job candidate: