Earlier this week in our MS in Professional Writing program (MSPW), Daniel Meltz, a Manager of Technical Writers at Google, participated in an interactive video conference with a handful of MSPW students. Hosted by Dr. Matthew Vaughan as an extension of his “Technical Writing for Information Professions” course, MSPW students asked questions and gained valuable technical writing insights from this industry expert. In addition to sharing his time with our MSPW students, Daniel Meltz guest wrote the follow blog post for our larger CALA audience on the 5 things he looks for when evaluating a writing new hire:
I manage a team of internal technical writers at Google and have long been involved in hiring writers and interviewing them for other teams in the company. Whether I’m evaluating internal or external hires, these are the 5 things I look for:
This is number one because nobody wants to work with a negatron. Positivity is especially important in the technical world because change is constant and often abrupt, and if you don’t welcome the changes–if you say no to the future–you’ll be left behind. Doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat. Innovative companies welcome dissent, but it’s always best to propose an alternative solution when you object to what’s on the table.
Great writing and strong communication skills
These go together. If you write well by avoiding flab, welcoming readers, putting yourself in their position, that’ll come across in your social skills. Technical writers often have to win over reluctant subject experts and busy engineers, so emotional intelligence is something I always look for. The luckiest technical writers get to sit with their technical teams and learn the nuances of a project simply by associating with the masterminds.
You have to show us you’ve done this before. Your academic portfolio is legit. You can also get creative. We hired two pretty inexperienced writers in recent years who surprised us with their samples. One had been an editor of a literary magazine and included poetry in his packet. The other had contacted a startup on her own and volunteered to write their online manual which ended up as the document they send to new users!
This covers a lot of territory. You have to show that technology doesn’t intimidate you. You should be comfortable with creating online content, working in mobile, knowing a computer language or two, proficiency with HTML (it’s easy to learn). No hiring managers get everything they want in a candidate. So, on the other hand, don’t be intimidated if you don’t have all the requirements spelled out in a job ad.
Something I can’t quite name
Everyone on my writing team has something I can’t really explain. It could be a sly wit but it can’t be a caustic wit. It could be an intensely charming nerdiness, a thoughtfulness you only find in nurses, an interest in flamenco guitar, roller derby, machine learning, working with the blind, a past life as a linguist, actor, Korean translator, cocktail pianist. (I’ve encountered all of the above.) I like to hire people with unexpected backgrounds. Every resume looks the same after a while. It’s your human uniqueness that’ll grab me.
For more information about the MS in Professional Writing program, visit: http://www.scps.nyu.edu/content/scps/academics/departments/humanities-arts-and-writing/academics/ms-in-professional-writing.html
For more information about CALA writing course, visit: https://www.sps.nyu.edu/professional-pathways/topics.html#PS0297