Without scouring the internet for very long, you will find a million and one postings on how to land your dream job. Advice on how to fix your resume, what interview questions to expect, and what you should wear can be found anywhere. This two-part piece, however, is written to help you find your technical writing dream job and determine if your job prospect is a prince or a frog.
After reading part 1, you think you found the right position. You submit your resume, and they call! You answered their interview questions and now it’s time to ask your own. Do you know what you should ask, or, more importantly, what they shouldn’t say?
Question #1: Is this an existing or new position?
Regardless of the answer, you will need to dig further.
For an existing position, ask how recently the position was vacated. You are looking for recently vacated position, preferably for a promotion within the company. A long-standing vacancy shows a lack of need within the office for the position.
For a new position, ask why it was created. You want to hear about a long-term need for office functionality. A project-focused or vague need is a sign that the work is not there, or will end very quickly.
Question #2: Who would I primarily be working with?
Ideally, you want to be working with another technical writer or two and various subject matter experts (SMEs) as needed.
Take note if you will be a lone technical writer and consider how you take this responsibility. Lone writers in new positions, come with the assumption that there is no existing process in place. In these cases, you must develop the program and train the office to use you as a resource. This can be a large commitment depending on your aspirations.
Pay attention to the type of SMEs they will have you coordinate with. If they do not mention SMEs or list SMEs in areas you are uninterested in, weigh this heavily in your decision.
Question #3: Who would I report to?
This will give you a clear idea as to the organization of the office. Any ambiguity in answering this question is a bad sign. You want a senior technical writer, or a project manager, who will help coordinate your assignments. Dig further into how their roles coordinate with yours. The cleaner the organization is, the easier it will be to function within the office.
Question #4: What type of projects would I be working on?
Again, ambiguity is the enemy here. Any “various projects,” “multiple teams,” or “as needed” answers say that they are unsure of what you will be working on. This tells you that you will need to find projects for yourself which could be about any number of topics. If you get a clear answer, make sure that the topics interest you.
Question #5: How long is the contract for?
This question mainly applies to independent or Government contracts. Independent contractors should pay attention to the length of the contract and the possibility for permanent hire. Government contractors should look for a long contract towards the beginning of its timeline. Short contracts or contracts coming up for recompete are unstable, regardless of their confidence, and may result in short-term employment despite being a permanent hire.
About the Author
Greta Boller is a technical writer located in the Washington, D.C. area. For more information, please visit her bio page.