Are you wondering what type of questions are frequently asked in a technical writer interview? Then you are at the right place.
Technical writers are an integral part of any technical industry. They assist with in-depth analytical articles and documentation of complex technical processes, such as executive summary statements, briefs, and reports.
The employment interview is an essential part of the recruitment process. Even though the academic background and experience listed on your curriculum vitae are important, face-to-face technical writing interviews allow the hiring manager and interview subject matter experts to meet and learn about you.
During interviews, managers are interested in learning three things about you:
- Your background, personality, and character as a professional.
- Your experience in the field of technical writing.
- The value you can bring to the organization.
In this article, we will list the common technical writer interview questions and the relevant answers.
Technical Writing Interview Questions: General Questions
Most interviews for the technical writer position start with some general questions. These questions are for the interviewer to learn more about you and why you applied for the technical writing position.
1. Tell Us About Your Experience With Technical Writing
This is an open-ended query designed to get to know you better. It has no correct answer. One crucial thing to remember is that you do not have to restrict yourself to technical writing. Instead, treat this question as a chance to sell yourself and improve your credibility.
If you are an experienced technical writer, you can share many details about your previous experiences. For example, you can share details about the organizations and industrial sectors you have worked for and your successes—the challenges you faced and how you overcame them.
Skills in other forms of writing will probably be valuable for the hiring organization. If you have previous experience in medical writing or copywriting, you can also share that.
If you have managed and led teams, share that with the interviewer.
Since this is a less concrete question that does not deal with a specified aspect of technical writing, it gives you much flexibility in answering it. So use it to your advantage to build your image.
2. What Do You Understand By Technical Writing?
Being a technical writer is not as simple as it sounds.
The job description involves planning the writing, conducting market research, analyzing data related to a product, collecting additional information by talking with a Subject Matter Expert, and then creating a document based on the findings.
Technical writers must also revise the draft multiple times to generate a final document free from misinformation, errors, and mistakes.
3. Do You Have Any Certification In Technical Writing?
There are two ways you can answer this question, based on if you have a certification or not.
- Yes. I had brilliant mentors who guided me in the field. I have completed various relevant technical writing courses. Moreover, I got my first job through a placement the course providers offered. I am X trained and concentrating on advancing my level as a technical writer through continuous learning.
- No. When I started my profession as a specialized writer, no classes were present for this kind of profile. But with time, I gathered adequate experience and understanding related to the field. I have attended many seminars and workshops. I even conducted workshops and spoke at seminars on technical writing.
4. What Motivated You To Pursue a Career In Technical Writing?
This is a valid question because an active interest in your work is essential for success.
Therefore, the interviewer and, most likely, the senior technical writer must want to know if you have an active interest and if you can back up your interest with tangible reasons.
A professional can have many reasons for choosing a career as a medical and scientific writer, such as:
- Technical writing helps people understand technology better and thus increases the capacity to adapt to new spheres of technology that affect our daily lives.
- It helps us increase our feeling of adequacy in life and increase our resilience to cope with the challenges of everyday life.
5. What Are Your Greatest Strengths As a Technical Writer?
As a professional, it is important to know your strengths. For example, as a writer, you certainly need excellent writing skills.
When answering this question, you need to demonstrate self-awareness and confidence. Don't come across as arrogant or unnecessarily humble.
The skills you share need to be relevant to the job you are applying for. So share some of your strongest, most relevant skills backed up with success stories.
Some examples of strengths you must mention are:
- Excellent Verbal and Non-Verbal communication
- Research Skills
- Planning and executing
- Strong knowledge of SEO
- Editing Skills
- Organizational Skills
- Ability to collaborate with other writers
Remember to back up your claims with examples from your professional experience.
Technical Writer Interview Questions: Skill-based Questions
1. What is The Function of a Technical Writer?
The job of the technical writer is not as easy as it sounds. However, you can answer the question by mentioning the following responsibilities of a technical writer.
- Conducting market research
- Analyzing data related to the product you have to write on
- Writing articles
- Collecting additional information by talking with the Subject Matter Expert
- Creating a document based on the findings
- Document development life cycle
- Revising the draft multiple times to generate a final document free from errors and mistakes
2. What Are the Barriers a Technical Writer Faces During Information Gathering?
Information gathering is not an easy feat to master for a technical writer. However, there are various challenges a technical writer usually faces.
Some of the typical challenges are:
- Collecting information from authentic sources
- Corresponding with the SMEs
- Improper assessment of a write-up by SMEs
- Vague expectations
- Wrongly defined products
- Handling numerous projects at the same time
- Lack of transparency on expected audience
3. What Publication Tools Have You Used Most Frequently?
You can list down any or all documentation and publication tools you have been using.
Some of the publication and software tools include:
- XML author
- MadCap Flare
4. What is Your Process When Starting a New Topic on Technical Writing?
You can take multiple approaches to answer your brainstorming and writing process.
Two examples of an answer are:
- I start by going through the guidelines provided. After that, I start evaluating my questionnaire for the SME. After the SME meeting, I restate all the relevant information in a flowchart. Following that, I look for any other information on the internet. I go through all my results and start reporting on the topic. Then I send it for review to my editor. Based on their input, I make the modifications needed and go ahead with the publication.
- I have a habit of following the five stages recommended for technical writing. I start with Preparation by assessing the requirements of the technical writing project. I evaluate the target audience and look for inquiries to best reach them. Then I begin my Research and look for specific details related to the prerequisites. I gather all the crucial information by inquiring the SME with relevant questions. Then I move on to the Organization of knowledge. I finish my First Draft, rework it, and then dispatch it for Review to my editor.
5. Describe Your Most Recent Technical Writing Project
Long-term projects are most significant for a technical writer. Therefore, you want a concise answer to this question because it will allow you to plan and learn further about how the writer approaches projects.
Moreover, depending on your company's specifications, you can learn more about the candidate's aptitude for certain subjects.
- Experience with different projects and deadlines
- Dedication to proper research for the task
- Experience in your specific field of focus
6. What Citations Styles Have You Used?
Being able to reference correctly is necessary for a technical writer, especially with more advanced projects.
When you tie back to academic papers and other technical websites, you want to be reliable. Learning more about what the potential employer likes to use can give you a good feel for their preference.
What to say in an answer:
- Experience with MLA and APA citations
- Understanding how to apply different styles as needed
- A preference in style according to specific projects
Technical Writer Interview Questions: HR-Related Questions
These are some of the questions the human resources department tends to ask prospective technical writers.
1. How Can You Contribute to Our Organization?
Employers often interview a job candidate based on their resume or skills. Still, the people they hire also need to showcase their ability to be able to fit into the company culture, get along with coworkers and contribute beyond a set of skills.
An inquiry like "What can you contribute to this company?" allows a recruiter to learn how you envision yourself in the company culture, your approach to working within groups, your work ethic, and how you can be an asset to the organization.
"What can you contribute to this company?" helps you expand on the facts listed on your CV with examples and specifics. Consider the following approach to answering this question in the most meaningful way.
2. Provide concrete examples from your past
For example, suppose your resume indicates that you managed multiple technical writing projects. In that case, you can describe the nature of one project, explain how many other writers were working with you, and describe the successes, such as meeting deadlines, internal company awards, or writing endorsements.
1. Discuss your skills
Your resume should categorize your skills, but it does not always elaborate on how you were able to employ those skills to bring significance to the company you worked for.
Saying "I have excellent writing skills" does not explain how you applied that skill well.
Instead, it would help if you tried something like, "One of my roles as a technical writer was to help branch out the writing and make it accessible for everyone. So I developed and trained all employees on a program with technical writing jargon."
2. Demonstrate how your skills fit with the company
Human resources want to know if you have researched the company you are interviewing with and if you have some knowledge of the company's culture and values, as well as an understanding of the specific job.
Next, structure your response to show your concept for this position. For example, suppose you believe you have excellent writing skills and learned that the company takes great pride in its articles and documents. In that case, you need to explain how your previous experience has trained you to work for a company with this mission.
3. Support your answers with data
Suppose your job experience includes statistics you can cite to demonstrate your past performance. In that case, it can be useful to show a hiring manager measurable ways you have contributed in the past.
Stats like how many people read or share your articles and how you implemented revisions to a process or met deadlines show what you can contribute.
3. What Would You Do If You Faced a Challenge
Focus on the personal attributes the company requires the candidate to have, the nature of challenges they are likely to face in the position, and the essential requirements for the job.
Try to find a challenging example that demonstrates your competency in the job you are applying for and draws parallels between this and past positions you have held.
Your two answer choices are:
- Tell a personal story: One that relates to an occasion in college or life that shows your communication or leadership abilities. Best fit for those who do not have a lot of professional work experience.
- Tell a workplace story: One that puts a situation in front of the interviewer and what strategies you utilized to overcome the challenges you faced. Good for those with previous work experience.
Technical Writing Tips
Numerous technical writing tips are helpful, so you can choose to list down any two or three from the list below.
1. Understand what your audience is already likely to know
When writing to educate or inform, knowing just how much your audience already knows about your topics is crucial – particularly when discussing technical subject areas.
It is not useful to explain the inner workings of a subject topic if the audience does not have a foundational understanding to work from. It is the equivalent of trying to teach multiplication before you teach numbers.
It is next to impossible for the readers to keep up because they don't have the knowledge that they need to understand what you are writing.
With gratitude for your audience's knowledge and capacities, you can enlighten them in a way that helps them create the basis they need to appreciate your insight.
2. Think about how you present your information
When it comes to teaching highly technical information, how you say it is just as important as what you say. It is very difficult to develop engagement with an audience when the subject matter is somewhat complex.
Considering this, it is worth figuring out how your audience would like to engage with the details you have to communicate. The more you make the education you are offering engaging, the more significant the value of your output.
3. Include supporting imagery
This is probably a bit of an apparent one, but the everyday reader has a shorter attention span than before, so you want to engage using a variety of support.
By incorporating images in your writing, you are not only breaking up your copy with something different, which helps improve flow and avoid unattractive chunks of text, but you also engage with those who don't connect well with written words.
Your audience will likely be visual thinkers, so accommodating these people with great complimentary imagery makes good sense.
4. Simplify language at every opportunity
Technical writing is an art form; it can be very easy to overcomplicate what you say just because you can.
However, it is worth trying to keep your technical creativity in check when you aim to help your audience understand a particular system, concept, or process. For example, a common pitfall in technical writing is that writers don't consider the reader unfamiliar with the subject.
There is a failure to accommodate these audiences; in many cases, these people are the masses. The smaller the barrier to entry for your writing, the sounder for all. Remember, the easiest way to explain something complicated is often the best.
5. Be precise about what people will get from your content
Highlighting what your writing will cover at the earlier stages of your content guarantees readers exactly what to anticipate from your offering.
This is necessary for setting and fulfilling expectations. You do not want to waste your reader's time, and if they are searching for a certain piece of information, delivering an overview of what you are covering at the start will help them find precisely what they are looking for. Good technical writing offers readers what they want and when they want it.
6. Do not take yourself too seriously
Most technical writing talks about serious matters, but that does not mean everything has to be taken seriously to the point where there is no space for humor or wit.
Sometimes a technical subject needs to entertain the audience, and stepping back and being a little silly with the subject is a great way to do that.
Remember, you are writing your technical content so individuals will read it, and while in a perfect world, knowledge is the only thing needed, most of the time, this is not the case. Therefore, incentivize the reader to engage for the greatest impact at every chance.
7. Avoid references to time-sensitive information
The best content remains evergreen for the long run, so you will want to step over references that relate to time. Phrases like 'During 2019' and 'present year' will quickly date your writing and reduce the validity and value over time.
You want to keep your writing alive. So if you need to refer to a period, try to generalize with phrases like 'in the last three years or 'following the last decade' – these ambiguous references give your argument a time reference without sacrificing its long-term significance.
8. Analyze your competitor’s content for pointers
See what works for your competition. Take a look at how they are engaging and take the best bits for yourself. There is no shame in sneaking at how your competition is discussing technical topics; it is the best way to determine how good your current writing is comparatively and where you can improve.
Do not be afraid to welcome other technical writing articles to improve your own.
9. Update and revise your content over time
Everything changes fast in the technical world, especially knowledge, so it makes sense to update your content accordingly. In addition, when seeing regular traffic on particular pieces, it is in your best interest to keep them reworked so your audience can get maximum value.
This optimizes the prospect of your writing and reflects the current state of your work.
10. Get a third party to review and proofread all writing before publishing
We will round off with a simple and easy tip that applies to all general writing but is arguably more critical in the technical field.
Remember to get someone to review and proofread everything you write. This person needs to be looking for grammar errors and, ideally, fact-checking to ensure the statements you have made make sense and are accurate. It is amazing what a 3rd party can pick up – if you can avoid it, do not QA your writing.
Technical Writer Interview Tips
- Dress professionally: As a technical writer, you should show up in your professional attire. Dress formally.
- Brush up on English grammar: Many organizations take the written test on grammar before hiring a technical writer. Brushing up clauses and subject agreements is an excellent idea.
- Portfolio: Carry a portfolio of your professional writings. You can take printouts of your published work, or you can even carry a pen drive that has links to your published work.
- Latest trends: Technical writing is a growing field. Latest technologies are arriving to assist technical writers. Thus, staying up-to-date with information as it comes is a great idea. Familiarize yourself with the latest publishing technologies and trends.
These are some of the questions you will encounter in a Technical Writer Interview when you apply for a technical writer job.
If you have detailed knowledge about technical writing, then interviews are an easy job. However, along with knowledge about technical writing, you need to also have great proficiency in English and be well versed with the latest trends in technology.
If you are new to technical writing and are looking to break in, we recommend taking our Technical Writing Certification Course, where you will learn the fundamentals of being a technical writer, how to dominate technical writer interviews, and how to stand out as a technical writing candidate.