Meeting Notes from September 2018: Hiring Manger Panel

Meeting Notes from the September 2018 San Francisco STC Meeting: “Hiring Panel: Ask Hiring Managers your Questions”


by Frank Welsch and Karen Schwarze


At the September 19, 2018 meeting of the San Francisco STC chapters, technical communicators had the fortune of hearing first-hand from a panel of hiring managers and recruiters who volunteered to answer questions on the minds of technical writers. The panel participants were:

* Andrew Brown, Director, Technical Documentation at Splunk.

* Michael Rutledge, Staff Engineer at Scality.

* Helena Jerney, Information by Design.

* Andrew Davis, Synergistech Communications, technical content developer recruiting.

Cheryl Solis, senior manager of Information Development, was scheduled as a panel member but could not attend due to an injury.

David Hulbert, President of the San Francisco STC Chapter, asked the following questions. In the conversation that ensued, the audience not only got answers to Hulbert’s questions but also gained insight into other areas of the hiring process.

Do you control the budget for hiring technical writers?

The consensus of the panel seemed to be that the compensation package range for technical writers is controlled by other groups in the company.

Michael Rutledge said that he does not control the compensation budget of technical writers that he hires. He estimated that hired writers in the Bay Area earn 90-95% of the average salary for comparable positions as reported on He finds that he can stretch the hiring budget by hiring writers more economically in EMEA countries.

Helena Jerney offered up her experience as well. While she does not have direct control over the hiring budget, she can influence the amount.

Does a bachelor’s degree or professional certification make an employee a better worker?

The panel unilaterally expressed the opinion that a degree or certificate is not necessarily a barometer of how well an employee performs.

What can you say about resumes that you reject?

This question evoked a chorus of opinions stating that a candidate should demonstrate interest in the company and the job role. And the resume should reflect the candidate’s research into the company and job description.

Jerney said the obvious: A technical writer resume that shows poor attention to spelling and grammar is an automatic turn-off. She also observed that if the resume does not demonstrate direct experience in the qualifications posted in a job description, the cover letter should convince the hiring manager that the candidate has sincere interest in the position

Andrew Brown expressed his opinion that a cover letter should accompany a technical writer resume when a candidate applies for a position. A good cover letter is a natural complement to the resume of a technical writer as the letter conveys communication skills that are part and parcel of the technical communicator role.

For Rutledge, the cover letter and resume as a package should demonstrate that a job candidate has done some research to be generally acquainted with the company and the job opening.

Do keywords in a resume play an important role in the hiring process?

Rutledge thought it was more effective to tailor the resume to a specific job opening than to concentrate on matching keywords.

Do you ever let an employee work remotely 100% of the time?

Everyone on the panel said yes—with a qualification: the speakers don’t let new hires work remotely from the outset. The panel expressed the need for new employees to work onsite for a while to build trust with the company before telecommuting.

But once a technical writer has established their credentials and working relationship, the managers seemed enthusiastic to let an employee work offsite. In fact, it was voiced that in some cases remote employees were working too many hours!

Jerney also noted, “99% of the time I get outstanding results from employees who formulate a flex-time arrangement.”

What non-technical traits do you look for in a job candidate?

The panel concurred that passion for technical writing and inherent curiosity about the subject matter are crucial traits.

Andrew Davis recommended that a technical writer could demonstrate passion for technical writing by documenting an open-source technology that lacks information deliverables.

What are your favorite interview questions?

One of Brown’s favorite questions is “How do you define success in a technical documentation project?” And he wants to hear the word “user” in the answer.

Brown and other panel members also expect the candidate to interview them as much as they interview the candidate. The best interviews involve a 2-way dialogue. Brown mentioned that he is particularly impressed when the candidate ends the interview with the question “Was there an interview question that I should have asked?”

Other Words of Wisdom

The discussion among the panel spontaneously segued to other issues about the technical writing hiring process. These “digressions” provided candid tips for writers who are applying for work:

  • Ask for a salary above the range that you are comfortable with. When the company comes back to you with a lower salary counteroffer, you can negotiate a more realistic salary and show to the hiring manager that you are accommodating.
  • The afternoon is generally a better time to interview than first thing in the morning. During the morning, people on the hiring team often are distracted by a barrage of emails that have come in overnight.
  • Hiring managers prefer resumes that have been submitted through internal referrals from current employees. Generally, hires who come through internal referrals work out better.



Seeking Lecturer for Technical Documentation Course at SF State

The Technical and Professional Writing program at San Francisco State University seeks a lecturer for the course listed below. The opening is for fall semester 2018 only, but repeat employment is a possibility. A link to the full job posting, as well as more information about the benefits of working for SF State’s TPW program, is available here.
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TPW 480: Writing Technical Documentation

Online course
The Technical & Professional Writing program at San Francisco State University invites interested professionals to share their expertise with our students. We are recruiting a Lecturer to teach an upper-division course, TPW 480: Writing Technical Documentation, during fall semester 2018.
The course is delivered fully online. It teaches students to design and develop standard types of technical documentation such as project plans, process descriptions, procedures, tutorials, and usability tests.

Silicon Valley Technical Documentation Management Forum – Oct 9

On Oct 9, 2017, join the Silicon Valley Technical Documentation Management Forum for a roundtable discussion amongst technical documentation management about content delivery challenges in the age of chatbots, voice interfaces, and machine learning. Come prepared to learn what others are doing and to discuss approaches required to meet the content needs of both humans and machines.

Brought to you by The Content Wrangler and Content Rules.

Register now!

Renew or Start an STC Membership Today

It’s membership season at the STC!

Renew or start an STC membership to get access to:

  • best-in-class technical communication education
  • publications
  • CPTC Certification
  • career development
  • professional networking opportunities
  • other exclusive member benefits

When you purchase a membership, don’t forget to add the San Francisco Chapter as your chapter membership. Your support allows us to continue offering monthly meetings to our community.

You can only purchase an STC and chapter membership at

2017 Touchstone Deadlines Approaching

Touchstone is the Northern California Technical Communication Competition. It is a regional competition, sponsored by the Bay Area STC chapters. Proceeds from the competition benefit the Kenneth Gordon Scholarship, which supports technical communication students at local colleges.

Submitting an entry is a good way to obtain valuable reviews by your peers and recognition of your good work. Submit entries by October 7th, 2017. Winners are announced in January 2018.

Looking for another way to help out? Volunteering to judge puts you in touch with local technical communicators whom you might never meet otherwise, and it gives you access to some of the best work going on in our field.

Find out more on the Touchstone website.


UX Awards: Enter Now!

Society for Technical Communication San Francisco Chapter is proud supporter of the 6th UX Awards, the top independent global awards for UX that honors exceptional people, products, process in digital experience. 2017 judges are senior design and UX executives from Cooper, Intel, LG, IDEO, Oculus, PayPal, Amazon, Smart Design, X (Google X), Phillips and more.

Submit your best work for this year’s event by 7/31/17 (6/15 early bird) at: (and use our code TECH for 15%% off).


The UX Awards celebrate and showcase the most innovative people, products, and processes of next-generation digital product, customer experience, interaction, service, integrated industrial-digital and experience design. We inspire technologists to create human-centered products that solve real problems.

The 6th UX Awards Summit will be in Palo Alto, CA November 8-9 2017. Anyone can enter any digitally-focused product, experience or service from May 25-July 31, 2017. Our 2017 theme, “The Future of UX”, focuses on celebrating outstanding UX for both current and emerging technologies, environments and societal challenges.

Looking for Chapter Leaders

It’s been my sincere pleasure to organize the monthly meetings for the STC San Francisco Chapter for several years. However, myself and other current volunteers are unable to continue volunteering next year.

Without a core group of volunteers, we won’t be able to offer monthly meetings to our members. Without this, the chapter may need to combine with other local STC chapters.

That’s where you could come in. 🙂

I’m asking for volunteers to continue running the chapter. Next year, we would need a fresh roster of volunteers in two groups.

Elected (must be a STC member):

  • President
  • Treasurer
  • Vice President
  • Secretary

Non-Elected (doesn’t need to be a STC members, but crucial to the chapter)

  • Program coordinator
  • Event coordinator
  • Communications coordinator (website, social media, emails)
  • Membership coordinator

If you are interested in giving back to the technical writer community and have a few hours to spare a month, please reach out to me via our chapter email, I’d love to hear from you and discuss how you would like to help the chapter.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know!

Thank you very much,

Leah Scampoli
STC SF Chapter President