03 April 2010

The Layoff Chronicles Part 74: Job Search

I applied for a job doing what I used to do, but in a different industry.

My old job was basically technical writing - a lot of time spent translating complex weirdness into English, making sure the writing conformed to company style, tracking the progress of massive amounts of information through the pipeline, making sure all the tasks got completed on time, and producing large, heavy documents which no one would ever read.

Company X called me and said they wanted to do an assessment over the phone and we set up a time. I figured an "assessment" was some kind of pre-interview thing.

The woman called and the "assessment" was that she wanted to test my Microsoft Word 2007 skills on the phone. To be precise, on speakerphone with other people in the background.

What the everloving hell?

I was stunned. First of all, how exactly does one assess computer skills on the phone? And second, I dunno about you, but I don't THINK about the software I use - I just use it. That is part of being good at using it. You don't think "Step 1: Open a new document by pulling down the 'file' menu." It is just automatic, and I can't tell you how I do most of what I do.

Third, but probably most important: if you think that MS Word skills are the most salient thing about a technical writing job, you are so far off base that I don't want to talk to you because you are an idiot.

I did not tell her this. I escaped the horror by asking her if the job could be done from home, because I live 2 hours from their HQ (their ad didn't specify). She said no and I said goodbye.

It is a weird, weird world out there.


mar said...

dude, all i can think/type is: wtf!?!?
yeah, that's pretty much my experience with computers in general. i just do it; i couldn't tell you how unless i walked myself through.
that's messed up!

thordora said...

I had an assessment once where they wanted to test me on Excel, which was fine. Except I had been using the newest version for some time, and they had 2007 or some such shit. And you could only try to find stuff ONCE. So I failed, because on the newer version, things has moved.

When I asked if there was a test for 2009, I got a blank stare. You become so used to finding things in a certain place, you don't look for the old version. And seriously, only having once chance to find something? Shouldn't the actual end result count? I could see her giving you instructions over the phone to send a file to her or something...

gah. I don't think you wanted to work there anyway. :P

SUEB0B said...

It just stuns me. I mean, you can teach about anyone to use Word fairly quickly, but finding someone who can think and write and communicate with different personality types and organize and meet deadlines - that's a little more elusive, I think.

I wonder if they have had a terrible experience with someone who claimed they knew Word but had never actually seen a computer before?

mayberry said...

That is totally bizarre. Even weirder than the time I had to take a (paper-and-pencil) filing test. Like with little pictures of drawers and I had to say into which drawer I would place each piece of paper.

But that was in 1992.

claire said...

Oh, that's just super.

I'm a technical writer, too, and the idea of having to walk someone through a process like that over the phone just gives me the willies. For the most part because the two companies I have worked for as a tech writer, both kept the old Word 2003 version (sans "tabs") and I only use 2007 at home. Which means I am like 90% less proficient on the new version.

If they're going to test you on your Word skills, they obviously don't value their technical writers. I would think they would want to test your I DON'T KNOW? WRITING SKILLS? How about a writing sample? Too complicated for you guys?

Ugh, that would piss me off, too. You're not a secretary.
(Not that there's anything wrong with that!)

Suzanne said...

That takes the cake for effed up interviews. Damn.

Glennis said...

I once had an "assessment" for an event planning job, where they sent me to a computer and asked me to start typing up event planning documents.....for an event I was supposed to imagine.

If that wasn't weird enough, (I made up a visit from an obscure dignity) the keyboard was one of those weird non-Qwerty ones.

If I had to TALK about how I use Word, or any Office applications, I would totally get stuck. So much of what I do is with RightMouse, and I do it instinctively - impossible to explain.

lizgwiz said...

I had to take a word-processing test at a job interview once. Open a file, type a letter, print and save--the kind of thing anyone with a brain could do in their sleep. It was an administrative assistant job and I just kept thinking they must have had some real doozies in this job if it's come to this.

Ericka said...

huh. weird.

i got a job once 'cause during the phone interview, his computer crashed and i walked him step by step through fixing it (go to tools, down to...). but i was the student assistant who kept the computer labs running for the dance, theatre and arts administration departments in college. they were generally the sort of people who used the cd drive as a drink holder, so i have experience with idiot.

but, sounds kinda like a narrow escape for you.

Laurie said...

Absurd. I'm not even sure I can verbally walk someone through saving a file. I just do it. That's why it's so hard to explain anything about this kind of process to my mother, who asks me endlessly. I have to show you, or just do it.

Better off without those people, you are.

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