As an established technical writer, I occasionally receive requests to grant information interviews to people who are interested in entering the field of technical writing. Teachers in the various technical writing programs around town (Vancouver and environs, including the fantastic program at BCIT in Burnaby) advise their students to seek out these interviews, and I think it’s a great idea.
I recently had the most remarkable experience at an information interview, which has inspired me to write this top ten list of things not to do at an information interview!
- Show up at the interview location extremely hung-over, wearing your best wild animal t-shirt.
- When you first meet the professional technical writer (that would be me) you have asked to interview, who is probably in a position to hire you or recommend you for a job, say “I’m sorry I look like this, I’ve had hardly any sleep, I’m hung-over, and I can barely talk.” That will make her glad she took a precious half hour out of her Saturday to come and meet with you.
- Don’t offer to pay for the writer’s coffee and biscotti. I know you’re probably a starving student and spent all your money on drinks the night before.
- Ask in a smarmy voice, “Who else do I need to talk to to get into this field, besides you, of course?”
- When advised to join the technical writers’ professional organization, or at least come to their meetings, which cost $5 for students, say you’ve gone to a meeting and didn’t find it that interesting.
- When advised to create writing samples for your portfolio, perhaps volunteering for a non-profit organization in order to get some experience, say you don’t want to volunteer because you want to spend all your time playing guitar.
- Ask if the professional writer knows Bob Rock. (Just kidding, I made that up.)
- Present a copy of your resume, totally covered with ink from someone else’s hand-written comments, and ask the professional writer to look at it.
- Remain seated when the professional writer stands to leave. I know, you can barely move.
- Be sure to put a typo in the thank-you email you send to the writer six days later.
I hope this will help all you aspiring technical writers feel confident to seek out and conduct information interviews, knowing that the bar is not that high!