Matching the Candidate to the Development Environment

by Arnold Burian

There are many factors to consider when selecting an appropriate candidate for a technical writing position, but one that is often overlooked is correlating the work environment history for each candidate with that of the current position. Ideally, a candidate should be able to demonstrate the ability to be effective regardless of the development model – after all, it is not uncommon for organizations to shift strategies and change development models to keep pace with the business climate. An open-minded and well-rounded writing team will be successful regardless of the environment.

However, the desire to adapt to and succeed in a new or changing environment is a very personal decision. Some writers prefer one type of environment over another, and may eventually become dissatisfied with change. To that end, closely inspect the work history and experience of each resume to identify any trends or patterns in work environments.

There are typically three development environments:

  • Scenario 1 – Well defined processes and requirements. Some industries require an exacting level of control over every stage of a product development cycle, such as medical and telecommunications.
  • Scenario 2 – Minimal defined processes and almost no requirements. Frequently found in startups, this environment focuses on delivering a product with little regard for repeatability or process management.
  • Scenario 3 – A combination of the two. Writers with experience in both scenario 1 and 2 often yearn for a compromise that captures the best of both worlds (organized yet flexible), and hopefully not the the worst (disorganized and inflexible).

The transition between scenarios 1 and 2 can be jarring for many writers. If the work history of an applicant is centered around a scenario that does not match that of the open position, careful analysis will be required to determine if the candidate can be successful working in a different environment.

Some suggestions for ensuring success (for both the organization and the candidate):

  1. Ideal – hire a writer as a contractor first. This allows you to see the writer in action in your specific development environment.
  2. Acceptable – define a probation or trial period. Work with your human resources department to see if this is possible, but be aware of the additional complexity and overhead of managing this process.
  3. Minimum – clearly communicate the responsibilities of the position. Although you should have already done this during the interview process, a candidate may have been overwhelmed and provided answers that did not truly refect his or her desires. If you find a great candidate whose experience does not match your development environment, consider calling the candidate one last time to review his or her willingness to do what needs to be done in this position.

As a technical writer, ensure your resume demonstrates success across these different types of work environments. If your history is limited to only a single type, be prepared to identify and discuss elements of your experience that support your ability to be successful in a different environment. If, of course, that is what you want. 🙂

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