Damn Those Recruiters and Managers…!

– Tabir Mishra

“Hi Everybody,
I have an interview to attend for Technical Writer position, I am technically fresher in this field. Can anybody guide me, what type of questions are asked … ”
I want to know what is the process most of the companies follow to appraise a Technical Writer…”
“I have gone through the course contents offered by various institutes and am not able to decide whether joining a course and obtaining certification really helps. I am one of those people trying to break into technical writing and was planning to attend a course if it was really required. Can anyone clarify this?”

“Hi Everybody,I have an interview to attend for Technical Writer position, I am technically fresher in this field. Can anybody guide me, what type of questions are asked … ”
“Hi, I want to know what is the process most of the companies follow to appraise a Technical Writer…”
“I have gone through the course contents offered by various institutes and am not able to decide whether joining a course and obtaining certification really helps. I am one of those people trying to break into technical writing and was planning to attend a course if it was really required. Can anyone clarify this?”

Questions like these plague the new and the old alike. What does the recruiter look for? Why does the company favor one employee and neglect the other? Why does a manager listen to one employee, but disregard the other? Why do employees get bad performance appraisals? The answer seems to span industries, and some of the issues technical writer faces are also shared by people in other professions.

Before attempting to answer these questions, let’s make a couple of assumptions:

  • Assumption 1: The candidate/employee is reasonably good professionally, and does not have any serious personality kinks
  • Assumption 2: The manager/recruiter does not have a grudge against a specific employee or candidate
  • Assumption 3: The company policies are reasonably employee-friendly, and the company is doing reasonably well in terms of revenue; hence lay-offs are not the order of the day.


In order to understand the management perspective, it is helpful to first understand the business model of an average company. Companies work to earn a profit. They do this by selling products or services. Each new product or client requirement is treated as a project.

In a product or service-based company, a project would go through the following stages:

Click to enlarge.Every stage in the project life-cycle involves a cost to the company, in terms of infrastructure, salary, and taxes, which must be recovered from each employee. This is done by ensuring that the employee is productive enough to justify the salary and facilities being given to him, and is also doing enough work to earn the company a profit.


Final Product Price/Quotation = Project cost + profit markup + taxes.

Taxes (service tax, VAT etc.) go to straight to the Government kitty; the project cost is pure expense. The company benefits from the profit markup.

The project cost is calculated as follows:

  1. Development Costs = Salary per day of employees involved * number of days
  2. Manpower Costs
  3. A manpower requirement estimate is calculated depending on the project complexity and duration. For example, for a very small project, manpower cost estimates could be calculated as follows:

    Employee Profile Salary per month (Indian Rupees) Monthly Seat Cost (Indian Rupees) Work Involvement for productivity
    Project lead (existing employee) 45,000/- 20,000 Must oversee and deliver at least 600 pages per month
    Tech Writer 1 (3-4 yrs exp) 35,000 20,000 At least 10 new pages/day + language review of 10 pages/day
    Tech Writer 2 (1-2 yrs exp) 20,000 20,000 10 new pages per day
    Graphic Designer 20,000 20,000 6 diagrams per day
    Total 1,20,000 80,000 Total Manpower Cost = Rs. 2,00,000/-

    where Monthly Seat Cost per employee= (Office space rent + electricity bill + office maintenance + miscellaneous costs) / number of employees.

  4. Marketing and Liaising Costs: Costs incurred by the marketing and liaising team in getting the project sanctioned, liaising at the management level to sort out issues in coordination, advertising and marketing the product.
  5. Logistical costs: Travel costs for site visits, cost of support staff such as graphic designers in getting documents ready for the project, cost of software that may need to be procured for the project, product shipping costs.

Each company then decides the percentage markup at which it wants to operate. for example, a company may decide to work on a 10% profit margin. If the only taxes to be paid are service tax @ of 10.3%, the final costing for a project cost of Rs. 50,00,000/- might be

Final cost/Quotation = 50,00,000 + 10.3% + 10% = 60,66,550/-


A company evaluates each employee in terms of financial return vis-à-vis cost to company.

  1. An employee who does not complete his work on time (contributes to project delivery delays), has bad language skills (increases review time and effort), argues with the manager (wastes productive manager man-hours), does not inform well in time before taking leave (brings instability into the project timelines) is considered a bad employee.
  2. If an employee earns his salary and also covers his seat costs, he qualifies as an average employee.
  3. If he exceeds this figure, he’s good.
  4. The exceptional performer exceeds the CTC/output ratio expected by the company manifold.

The grading is awarded based on feedback given by the Project Manger or Team Lead, and also by the amount of work accomplished by the employee per day/week/month during the project. In the ideal scenario, this is just about as impartial as an evaluation process can get.

Based on these parameters, let us now take a look at the hiring process.


Manpower hiring is done on the basis of a Job Description prepared by the Project Manager or someone who has a clear idea of the project requirements. The Job Description tries to give the HR team a visual picture of the perfect candidate. The intelligent candidate guesses the contents of the Job Description, and tries to fit into that perfect picture.

Some sections of a Job Description could be:

1) Perception of duties – exact details of what the new hire is to do once employed, down to the daily schedule to be followed. For example, a content writer’s Job Description could read:

“Conceptualizing, suggesting, and finalizing the template design, selecting images, deciding color schemes and writing content for

Brochures and flyers

Client projects (web content, newsletters, magazines etc.)

Advertisements for online branding campaigns, newspapers, magazines and other media

SMS’s and promotional emails ”

2) Domain Knowledge – A detailed description of the technical skills expected of the candidate e.g. BE Computers with 2 years of telecom documentation experience

3) Tools – The tools the candidate should be familiar with (optional for freshers)

4) Personality Traits – Depending on the seniority, what is expected out of the candidate in terms of office interaction and responsibilities. e.g. No fixation regarding work timings, Pleasant to speak to, with good client interaction skills

5) Suggested Company Background: What kind of companies should the candidate have worked for? E.g. must have worked as a Technical Writer for a telecommunications company such as Nokia-Seimens Network or Ericsson.

6) Rounds of selection – What should the testing process involve? What kind of questions should be asked? The Manager often prepares a written test to be used by the HR team.

· Round 1: Grammar and spelling check Refer to test sheet 1

· Round 2: Comprehension Refer to test sheet 2

· Round 3: Prepare a User Manual on “Configuring a Windows XP Firewall”

7) Salary – A salary range, depending on the rough experience level available e.g. 17,000 (for 2 years experience) – 22,000 pm (for 3+ years + of experience)

This effectively means that a company has already defined what it wants the new hire to do. The question is more of getting the right candidate. Hence, getting rejected in an interview may not necessarily mean you’re not good; it could very well mean that you’re not fitting into the company requirement for the current project, but they may call you back for the next project. Good resumes are always filed away for future reference.


Let’s try and answer the question specific to the Technical Writing field:

Freshers: For a fresher, the recruiter would probably look at plain grammar, basic writing skills, maybe some IT skills, and good knowledge of MS Office. The project manager is going to use a fresher as (putting it bluntly) cheap labour! Without being offensive, this means that the project lead is going to allocate that part of the project to the newbie that doesn’t require technical skills – maybe preparing PPTs, proofreading or writing very basic descriptions.

To be fair, the project lead is going to give the newbie a chance to learn by interacting with seniors, so that a long-term asset is created for the company. If the fresher has basic knowledge of tools or a certification – good! It’ll speed up the learning process, but the management knows that actual learning will take place on the job. In any case, a good recruiter sets a stringent test, and relies on first-hand feedback before making a decision. (This should take care of questions asked by newbies regarding the need for certifications and knowledge of tools)

Middle Level: After an experience level of maybe 2-3 years, the recruiter would start looking for domain knowledge (telecom, IT, automobiles) and also tools depending on what domains the company is working in, or the kind of tools required frequently. Favorable personality traits would involve the ability to support seniors by taking on extra work at times of crises, accepting positive feedback, being ready to learn, regularity in attendance, team-working, cheerfulness, enhancing the atmosphere of the workplace and so on.
Senior: After around 5 years of experience, the recruiter looks for domain expertise, excellence in tools, leadership capability, the ability to interact with counterparts on the client side, planning and organizing skills and the ability to carry through projects in tough times.
(Middle and Senior level writers should have their doubts solved here, regarding the perspective when evaluating the performance of a technical writer. Disclaimer: We’re assuming a reasonably congenial working relationship between the management and employee).


Arriving at a loose link between salary or performance with capability, highly-paid and highly-valued employees are those who are capable, and are ready to take on responsibility. Hence, employees who are keen to take initiative and act as solutions rather than another headache for the manager (aren’t the boss and the client enough!), are looked upon as company assets.

Such employees are valued, cultivated and nurtured by an organization. They contribute to the productivity within a project and help the company grow. From the point of view of the management, hiring and training a new employee is a major investment in terms of time and effort. It’s also expensive in terms of resources, because a new hire means time spent on creating a Job Description, tests, time taken in interviews, initial training and alignment – massive involvement of the manager and the HR team. It is far more productive to retain good manpower and treat them well.

About the author:

Tabir Mishra (tabir@conwiz.in) is working as DGM(Projects) at ConWiz, Noida.

About the illustration:

Used with permission from Anagha Chandratrey.