Top Interview Questions for Technical Writers?

As I’m back to work this week, and just coming out of interviewing mode, I’d like to capture some of the questions I so recently encountered, as part of my job-search, at various companies.

As an experienced technical writer, I’ve heard some iteration of most popular interview questions. At one recent company (not my current situation), this question still gave me reason to pause: “If you had to eliminate a state, which one would it be?” For me, that question ranks up there with the occasion, years ago, when I was asked if I were a fruit, what kind would I be. (Any guesses how I responded? Come on…I dare you…) 🙂

Though not a big fan of questions like these, I must say they do force respondants to think on their feet, and possibly reveal more than traditional questions, which may invite canned replies.

Most questions I’m asked are typically much more traditional. Below, I’m listing questions I often hear, to help others better prepare. (I’m also jotting these questions down, as many of them would make good topics for future blog posts.)

  1. Describe how you get information for your documentation.
  2. Describe how you get documents reviewed.
  3. Describe how you work with engineers. Have you worked with engineers in different time zones?
  4. Have you ever worked in an agile development setting? How does it compare to other development settings?
  5. How do you feel about wearing multiple hats?
  6. What management style do you prefer?
  7. How do you work with difficult people?
  8. The product isn’t complete yet, but the documentation is due next week. What do you do?
  9. How do you set priorities for your own work? What if you have conflicting priorities?
  10. Are you more comfortable with the back or front-end?
  11. What is software as a service?
  12. What are web services?
  13. Have you written API documentation?
  14. What tools do you suggest, for developing online documentation?
  15. Describe the process you followed, when you developed your last help file.
  16. What is an Alias file?
  17. Describe any translation issues, for your last help file.
  18. Have you worked with source control?
  19. Have you done any other kinds of writing? Can you write process documents? marketing documents?
  20. What was your favorite project?
  21. What was your most challenging project? (or What was your biggest challenge, on your last job?)
  22. Have you written documents from scratch?
  23. How do you take an existing documentation set to the next level?
  24. How do you repurpose information?
  25. How do you meet the needs of different audience levels (beginner through advanced), in the same document?
  26. Why did you become a technical writer? What do you like most about technical writing? the least?
  27. Why do you want to work for this company? How can you contribute here?
  28. Do you have any specialized interests or skills?
  29. What collaborative tools have you used, with other members of the team?
  30. Provide an example of a way you collaborated with Customer Support.

What do you think of this list of questions? Are there any you might add? Please feel free to add your favorites (or otherwise), in the comments.

About This Blog: Copyright Information

Contacting the Author: Content for a Convergent World – Peg Mulligan’s Blog

6 thoughts on “Top Interview Questions for Technical Writers?

  1. Hi Peg

    Great list of questions! I can’t imagine how you answered the one about eliminating a state.

    I like to ask questions about styles – If I asked you to create or apply a style in Word, what would you do? Do you know what a CSS file is? Have you ever used a styleguide? If so, which one?

    An HR person once asked me: What do you want to learn next? Now I could think of a hundred answers, but at the time I was completely flummoxed.

    Jenny.

    • Hi Jenny,

      Thanks for adding your questions.

      As for the “eliminate a state” question, I don’t think the answer mattered. A Customer Support person asked me the question, and I think it was to illustrate that sometimes we must make tough choices & can’t please everyone, so long as we are able to make & abide by the tough choices. If that were really the case, it was one of the smartest business questions I’ve been asked, on an interview.

      Thanks again, Jenny, for dropping by, and for your helpful comments.
      ~Peg

  2. Peg,
    I often find general interview questions and have prepared for interviews based on those. I’ve never seen a list for tech comms – what a great idea! Thanks for posting this list!

    • Hi Sherri, Glad to be of help. I’m sure there are other good interview questions, and I plan to update this list, over time. All feedback is very welcome, if you come across other interesting questions, in your own travels.

      Best,

      Peg

  3. Thank you for sharing this list – I have not seen questions specific to tech comm in suggested or sample interview question sets before. Helpful!

  4. Well, a nice list of Questions. There can be some additions such as:

    “What was the time-work schedule for your last job?”, “What Kind of documentation format do you follow?”, “Are you comfortable with programming languages?”, and most important “Will you be comfortable to work in a team with flexible shifts?”

    Tnx for the topic. I am really thankful someone wrote it down. I was planning to write one for my blog. Regards.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s