Interview

17 Technical Writer Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from a technical writer, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

Just about every industry relies on skilled technical writers to make complex information accessible to the average reader. Technical writers translate research studies, clinical trials, project plans, and technical instructions into clear, concise prose. Technical writers excel at written communication, but some may be anxious about expressing themselves with the same clarity during a job interview. Knowing how to provide thorough, thoughtful answers to technical writer interview questions will be key to landing a job in this growing field.

During the course of your interview conversation, you’ll cover a variety of topics. The interview may start with simple introductory questions such as, “Tell me about yourself” or “Why should we hire you?” before proceeding to industry-specific technical writer interview questions. Not sure what questions to expect? Climbtheladder can help. Read on to learn how to prepare for a technical writer interview.

Common Technical Writer Interview Questions

Are you familiar with the concept of user stories? How would you use them in your work as a technical writer?

User stories are a common concept in the software development industry. They’re brief descriptions of what users can do with a product or service, and they help technical writers create more effective documentation for their clients. Your answer should show that you understand how user stories work and how to use them effectively.

Example: “User stories are an important part of my job as a technical writer because they allow me to write better documentation for my clients. I start by asking my client about their target audience and what goals they want their customers to achieve when using their products or services. Then, I break down those goals into smaller tasks that describe exactly what users will be able to do once they’ve installed or used the product.”

What are some of the most important skills for a technical writer to have?

This question can help the interviewer determine if you have the skills necessary to succeed in this role. When answering, it can be helpful to mention a few of your strongest skills and how they relate to the job description.

Example: “I think one of the most important skills for a technical writer is strong communication skills. This is because I need to clearly explain complex ideas and concepts to my audience so that they understand what I am saying. Another skill that is useful is attention to detail. As a technical writer, I need to make sure that all of my facts are correct and that I am using proper grammar and spelling. Finally, research skills are also very important as I need to do extensive research on topics before writing about them.”

How do you organize your thoughts when you’re working on a new project?

This question can help the interviewer understand how you approach your work and organize information. Your answer should show that you have a system for organizing your thoughts, ideas and research materials so you can complete projects on time.

Example: “I use several different tools to keep track of my progress while I’m working on a project. I find it helpful to create an outline or table of contents at the beginning of each project so I know what topics I need to cover in my writing. I also like to use a word processor with outlining capabilities so I can easily move sections around as needed. Finally, I always make sure to save my work frequently so I don’t lose any important data if something happens to my computer.”

What is your process for conducting research before starting to write?

The interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your writing process and how you apply research to your work. Use your answer to describe the steps you take when conducting research for a project, such as identifying sources that are relevant to your topic and ensuring you have enough information to write an effective piece.

Example: “I always start my projects by researching the client’s objectives and goals before I conduct any other research. This helps me understand what they want from their content so I can use my research to support those objectives. Next, I search for industry-related resources that will help me better understand the client’s business or product. After that, I do some general research on the topic at hand to get a feel for the subject matter.”

Provide an example of a time when you had to explain a complex concept. What did you do to make it easier to understand?

Technical writing requires you to explain complex concepts in a way that is easy for the reader to understand. Employers ask this question to see if you have experience with this type of writing and how you would approach it. In your answer, try to describe what you did to make the concept easier to understand.

Example: “When I was working as an IT writer, I had to write about a new software program. The company wanted me to create content that explained how the software could help businesses increase their revenue. I started by researching the different ways companies can increase revenue. Then, I created a list of all the ways the software helped users do this. After that, I wrote several articles on each method.”

If you were given a project to write instructions for a new software program, what would be your approach?

This question can help the interviewer understand how you would approach a project and what your thought process might be. You can answer this question by describing the steps you would take to complete the task, including any research or collaboration that may be involved.

Example: “I would first read through the software program’s user manual to get an idea of how it works. Then I would create a list of all the questions users have about the program and use these as a guide for my writing. I would also make sure to include screenshots in my instructions so users could see where they need to click.”

What would you do if you were assigned to write documentation for a product that you knew had major issues?

Technical writers often have to write documentation for products that are still in development. This question helps employers understand how you would handle writing about a product that has issues and may not be user-friendly. Use your answer to show the employer that you can remain positive, even when working on a challenging project.

Example: “I’ve worked with many products that had major bugs or usability issues. In these situations, I try my best to focus on what is good about the product rather than its flaws. For example, if I’m documenting a software program, I’ll highlight all of the features that make it useful to users. If I’m writing about a new phone, I’ll talk about all of the ways it’s better than other phones currently on the market.”

How well do you know the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII)?

The American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) is a coding system that allows computers to understand text. The interviewer may ask this question to see if you have experience with ASCII and how well you know it. If you do, explain your knowledge of the code in detail. If you don’t, discuss other coding systems you are familiar with.

Example: “I am very familiar with ASCII because I used it when writing my last job’s website content. It was important to me that all of our information was searchable by users, so I made sure to use ASCII codes throughout my work.”

Do you have experience working with technical editors? How do you make sure to communicate effectively with them?

Technical editors are individuals who review technical documents to ensure they’re clear and easy to understand. They may have experience in the field or be experts in a particular industry, so employers ask this question to make sure you can work well with them. In your answer, try to show that you value their input and will take it into consideration when writing documents.

Example: “I’ve worked with several different types of editors throughout my career, but I find that working with technical editors is one of the most beneficial experiences. These individuals know the terminology and processes within an industry, which means they can help me communicate more effectively with our clients. When working with a technical editor, I always make sure to listen carefully to what they have to say and incorporate their feedback into my writing.”

When writing for an audience with varying levels of technical knowledge, how do you decide which vocabulary and examples to use?

The interviewer may ask you a question like this to assess your ability to write for different audiences. Use examples from previous experience to show the interviewer that you can adapt your writing style to meet the needs of various readers.

Example: “I have worked with both novice and advanced technical writers in my past position, so I am used to adapting my vocabulary and examples based on the audience. For example, when working with more experienced technical writers, I would use more complex language and examples to help them understand concepts better. When working with novices, however, I would simplify my vocabulary and provide more detailed explanations.”

We want to become known for having clear, helpful documentation. How would you use this interview to gain insight into how we currently communicate with our users?

This question is a great way to see how the company values its documentation and how you can contribute to that process. When answering this question, it’s important to show your interest in the role and how you would help improve the quality of the company’s documentation.

Example: “I’ve noticed that there are some inconsistencies with the language used throughout the documentation. For example, I read through one document where they said ‘the user’ but then later referred to them as ‘he or she.’ This makes it difficult for users to know who we’re referring to when reading our documents. If I were hired into this position, I would use my first week to review all of the documentation to ensure that the language is consistent.”

Describe your experience with using interactive documentation.

This question can help the interviewer determine your experience with using interactive documentation and how you apply it to your work. Use examples from previous projects that highlight your ability to use different types of interactivity, such as hyperlinks, videos or graphics.

Example: “I have used several types of interactivity in my past projects, including hyperlinks, embedded videos and graphics. I find these elements helpful for providing more information about a topic or process while also allowing users to navigate through the content at their own pace. For one project, I created an interactive PDF document that included hyperlinks to additional resources on the company’s website. This allowed users to learn more about the product without leaving the page.”

What makes a good title for a technical writing piece?

The interviewer may ask this question to assess your ability to write titles that are engaging and descriptive. Use examples from previous projects to show how you create effective titles for technical writing pieces.

Example: “I think a good title should be short, but it should also include the main idea of the piece. I recently wrote a blog post about how to use social media marketing tools to increase brand awareness. The title was ‘How to Increase Brand Awareness with Social Media Marketing Tools.’ This title is short, but it clearly states what the article will cover. It’s also easy for readers to remember.”

Which writing style do you prefer to use when writing documentation and why?

This question can help the interviewer determine your writing style and how you prefer to write documentation. Your answer should include a description of your preferred writing style, why you like it and an example of when you used this style in the past.

Example: “I prefer to use a conversational style when writing documentation because I find that it’s easier for my audience to understand what I’m trying to convey. For instance, at my last job, I was tasked with creating a user guide for a new software program. The company wanted to create a user guide that would be easy for their customers to read and understand. So, I wrote the document using a conversational style so that users could easily navigate through the information.”

What do you think is the most important aspect of technical writing?

This question is an opportunity to show your knowledge of the field and how you can apply it. Your answer should include a brief explanation of what technical writing entails, as well as which aspect you think is most important in this role.

Example: “I believe that clarity is the most important part of technical writing because if I’m not able to clearly explain something, then my audience won’t be able to understand it either. In my last position, I was tasked with creating a user manual for a new software program. The company wanted to make sure their customers understood how to use the product, so I made sure to write each section in plain language and avoid jargon wherever possible.”

How often do you update your technical writing skills?

Employers want to know that you’re committed to your career and are always learning new things. They may ask this question to see if you have a plan for continuing your education or training in the future. In your answer, explain what steps you take to keep up with changes in technology and other industry trends.

Example: “I am currently enrolled in an online course on technical writing. I chose this program because it’s offered by my alma mater, so I can complete it at my own pace. It also offers me the opportunity to learn from some of the best instructors in the field. After I finish this course, I plan to enroll in another one next year. I think it’s important to continue learning throughout my career.”

There is a typo in one of your documents. How do you handle this?

Technical writers are responsible for ensuring that all of their documents are free from errors. Employers ask this question to make sure you have the ability to proofread your own work and ensure it’s error-free before sending it out. In your answer, explain how you would handle finding a typo in one of your documents. Explain that you would correct the mistake as soon as possible and learn from the experience so you can be more careful in the future.

Example: “I would immediately stop what I was doing and fix the typo. I would then take some time to reflect on my process for writing the document. I would try to remember if there were any other typos or mistakes I noticed while writing the document. If I couldn’t think of anything else, I would send the corrected version to my editor.”

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