How to Prepare for a Technical Writing Interview

Three Parts:Learning about the Company and JobPreparing for Interview QuestionsGetting Ready for the Interview

Technical writers are hired to work with subject matter experts and professionals to explain highly technical information to specific audiences in fields such as engineering, manufacturing, science, technology, and agriculture. They are responsible for writing, editing, and maintaining manuals, catalogues, documents, user guides, and other reference materials, both print and digital. Technical writing job interviews focus on past experience and technical skills, as well as writing ability. Prepare for a technical writing interview by studying the job description and the company, and by practicing your answers to the questions you can anticipate.

Part 1
Learning about the Company and Job

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    Read the job posting carefully.[1] Search committees can’t put everything into a short job posting, but they will highlight the most important expectations regarding experience required, job duties, etc. Reading the job posting thoroughly can help you decide if the position is a good potential fit for you, and then how to tailor your application and/or responses to interview questions.
    • For example, if a job posting mentions that the search committee is looking for an “independent worker,” make sure to stress how you have been able to complete projects successfully on your own.
    • Expect specific questions about your technical writing skills. Prepare to discuss any computer programs you use, such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Framemaker, Dreamweaver, and Visio. If you have experience with databases, prepare examples.
    • Summarize examples that show how you organize information and projects, handle revisions and collaboration, and prioritize your tasks to meet deadlines.
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    Review your application. If you are invited to interview for a position, make sure to reread your application very carefully, especially if you have recently been applying to many jobs.[2] Look at your application materials (such as a cover letter and resume) together with the job posting, and think about how you have the skills or knowledge requested in the posting. If you think that you do not have enough experience in a particular area requested by the posting, be prepared to explain. You might emphasize other skills or experiences that will make up for any deficiencies.
    • For example, if a job posting requests “five years in-house technical writing experience,” and you only have four, you can emphasize your diversity rather than a lack of experience by mentioning any other writing experiences that have enriched your training beyond in-house work.
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    Research the company.[3] Being familiar with the company interviewing you helps you perform well in an interview. It also helps you determine whether or not the company is a good fit for you. You can find out information about a company by visiting its website, by reading any of its publications, from other people who have knowledge of the company, or other means. Look to find information to answer questions like:[4]
    • How is the company organized?
    • How many employees does the company have?
    • Who manages the company? The department you would work for? What kind of educational and professional background do they have?
    • What kind of projects has the company worked on?

Part 2
Preparing for Interview Questions

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    Prepare an “elevator pitch.[5] This should be a short statement (1-3 minutes) that summarizes your career goals and skills. It should be well-rehearsed, so you know exactly what to say, but it should not sound stilted or unnatural. The “elevator pitch” provides a quick and easy way to describe yourself to potential employers and colleagues.
    • You may have the opportunity to give your “elevator pitch” in the course of an interview, but be prepared to give it informally—you never know if you might end up next to your interviewer on an elevator, in a coffee shop, or elsewhere.
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    Prepare short answers to potential questions.[6] One of the best ways to prepare for an interview is to anticipate the questions you will be asked during it, and how you will answer them. Your responses should be specific and meaningful without rambling. Make a list of key points you want your interviewer(s) to know about you and plan on working these into your responses during the interview. Common questions you may be asked during an interview for a technical writer position include:[7][8][9]
    • “Tell me about a recent project.”
    • “What experience do you have working with subject matter experts?”
    • “Describe your knowledge of X industry.”
    • “What experience do you have working as part of a team?”
    • “How well do you work independently?”
    • “What do you like most about technical writing? What do you like least?”
    • “What content development tools are you familiar with?”
    • “What instructional design methodologies have you used?”
    • “What markup languages (graphics tools, page layout programs, desktop publishers, etc. are you familiar with?”
    • “Do you belong to any professional associations?”
    • “What do you like to do in your free time?”
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    Practice answering questions. Once you know how to answer potential questions, you should practice giving your responses again and again until you are very familiar with them. They should be well-rehearsed, yet still sound natural during the interview.
    • You can begin by practicing in front of a mirror. That way, you can also pay attention to your body language as you give your responses.
    • You can also have a friend ask you the potential questions, and listen to your responses. Your friend can tell you whether or not everything sounded clear, if you were speaking too fast or too slow, how your body language appeared, etc.
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    Prepare a portfolio.[10] Since technical writer positions hinge on the quality of work you can produce, it is a good idea to have a portfolio representing past projects with you during the interview. Even if you already submitted writing samples or other work as part of your application, bring a portfolio with extra copies to the interview, so that your interviewers can review the work as you talk about your skills.
    • Include some of your best work in your portfolio, but also consider showing the diversity of work you have produced, if it is relevant to the position.
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    Prepare to be tested. Many technical writer interviews include some form of writing test.[11] This is so that your employers can get a sense of your skills and preparedness for the position. You can ask your search committee beforehand if there will be a test as part of your interview, and if there is one, what the format will be.
    • A test will assess your writing and computer abilities. The writing test will likely ask you to take some technical specifications or other material and develop a paragraph or two that explains them. You might also be asked to use programming language, such as Java or Visual Basic, and to demonstrate a knowledge of HTML and other web writing codes.
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    Be ready to ask your interviewer(s) questions.[12][13] Usually, there is a point during an interview when the interviewers ask you if you have any questions for them. This is often a signal that the interview is coming to an end, but it is also an opportunity for the interviewers to gauge your interest in the position. Don't ask questions that will put your interviewers in an awkward position; for example, if you ask them if the company has resources for professional development, the answer might be “no.” In many cases, it is also considered aggressive to discuss salary unless the interviewers bring it up first.[14] Questions to consider asking include:
    • “Tell me about your management style.”
    • “Can you tell me about one of your recent projects?”
    • “Who are your typical customers or clients?”
    • “Do you use a particular style guide?”
    • “What role does technical communication play in your company?”
    • “How do you train new writers?”

Part 3
Getting Ready for the Interview

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    Dress professionally. Unless explicitly told otherwise, you should dress for the interview in “business wear”: conservatively and professionally, in a suit or equivalent clothing. Dressing too informally for an interview will be taken as a sign of unprofessionalism or a lack of interest in the position.
    • Pay attention to your grooming. Make sure your nails are trimmed, your clothes are clean and pressed, your breath smells good, and your hair is neat. You want to make a good impression at the interview.
    • If the interview does not take place in-person, but rather via a video-conference, you should still dress appropriately. Even if the interview takes place over the phone, dressing as though the interview were in person will put you in the right frame of mind.
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    Sleep and eat well beforehand.[15] It is essential to get rest before your interview, so that you will be alert, energetic, and confident. You should also make sure to eat beforehand, so that you are not hungry or weak during the interview. You may not want to eat a large meal, but a protein-rich snack at least will give you some energy.
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    Prepare what you need. If your interview takes place in person, remember to bring a portfolio with samples, copies of your resume, as well as your notes and any other materials (such as a pad and pen to take notes) for the interview. If the interview takes place over the phone or a videoconference, be sure to charge your device(s) beforehand.[16][17]
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    Arrive early.[18] Showing up late for an interview will not be perceived well by your interviewers. Try arriving for your interview about 10 minutes early. This will give you some breathing time to mentally prepare for the interview. If the company has a receptionist or assistant, you can let him or her know that you are there for an interview while you wait.
    • If your interview takes place over the phone or a videoconference, have everything set up in a quiet, private, professional location at least 10 minutes before the interview is supposed to start.
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    Make eye contact, shake hands, speak clearly, and be positive.[19] These are simple tips to help you do your best during the interview. Making eye contact and shaking hands firmly helps show your confidence. Speaking clearly makes you easy to understand, and also conveys confidence. Being positive suggests to your interviewers that you will be a good fit, so avoid talking badly about previous employers, work projects, etc.
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    Refer to your application documents, portfolio, website, etc. during the interview.[20] Sometimes, search committees interview many people, and so referring them to specific documents can help you stand out. Even if you are one of only a few candidates, the specificity is beneficial.
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    Take notes during the interview. You may want to have a pad and pen with you during the interview so that you can take notes. Jotting down a few notes can help you keep track of the questions you are being asked—just make sure that you don’t appear distracted, or stare at your notes instead of making natural eye contact with your interviewers.


  • You may consider joining the Society for Technical Communication, or some other professional society that focuses on technical writers. These societies can help you network, gain valuable skills, learn about the field, and discover job availabilities.

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