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Case Overview Part A
In August, Jason Hubbs submitted a résumé to the human resource department of Big Time Computers Inc. in response to an advertisement in the local newspaper for a senior technical writer. The résumé was forwarded to Big Time’s Manager of Technical Publications, Lisa Cavanaugh, for her consideration. Big Time Computers is a local high–tech firm with sales offices throughout the United States and Europe. At the time of the senior technical writer job advertisement, Big Time employed about 1,200 people. Big Time designs and manufactures high–end computer systems that sell in the $500,000 to $6,000,000 range. Big Time’s products are sophisticated and complex, and the working atmosphere is highly technical.
The engineering department is the largest and most dominant department. Engineers are in management positions throughout the company, including top–level management. Due to the sophistication and complexity of their products, employees in marketing, customer service, and technical publications are required to have strong technical backgrounds; many have engineering or computer science degrees. The technical publications department employed 14 people. This included the manager, two senior writers (Mark Samson and Chris Murray), seven writers, one technical editor (Colton Hamrick), and three editorial assistants. The manager had a business degree and had been working in the technical publications field for 12 years. The senior writers had four–year engineering degrees; the other seven writers had engineering degrees, computer science degrees, or two–year associate’s degrees in a technical field. The technical editor had an English degree and an associate’s degree in electronics, and the editorial assistants had English or liberal arts degrees.
The department had a well–established set of procedures for new manuals and manual revisions. When given a writing assignment, the writer would do the necessary research by reading product specifications and interviewing the engineers involved with the product. The writer would then develop an outline which was reviewed by the appropriate engineers and the technical publications project leader responsible for that product. The writer then wrote a first draft which was edited by the technical editor and reviewed company wide. The reviewer list included key people from each area of the company. After making necessary changes, the writer submitted the manual for a brief second review and made additional changes. An editorial assistant did proofreading and formatting before each review, and when the two reviews were complete, the editorial assistant did the final proofing and formatting.
The manual was then printed. This extensive review procedure gave the writers a great deal of exposure throughout the company. The current job opening was a new position at Big Time that was necessitated by an increased workload. Although some internal people wanted to apply for the job, Cavanaugh believed that no internal candidates had the necessary skills for the position; besides, she thought it would be good to bring in new blood at the top. She found one strong résumé and began the hiring process.
In considering Jason Hubbs’s résumé, Cavanaugh noted that Hubbs had a computer science degree, was working toward a Doctoral degree, and had three years’ experience as a technical writer in a local high–tech firm. Cavanaugh was impressed with Hubbs’s credentials and scheduled an interview date. Cavanaugh included herself, the technical editor and the two senior writers on Hubbs’s interview schedule. Cavanaugh’s interview was general, focusing on background, goals and work habits. Hamrick, the technical editor, asked questions regarding writing skills and techniques, while Samson and Murray, the senior writers, focused on Hubbs’s technical skills.
Cavanaugh then met with the interviewers to determine if Hubbs was qualified for the senior technical writer job. Cavanaugh was pleased with Hubbs’s responses to her general questions and liked the writing samples he had given her. Hamrick felt that Hubbs had answered the interview questions well buthad reservations about his interpersonal skills and ability to integrate into the department. He also had some concerns about one of the writing samples. Samson and Murray thought his technical skills were excellent and had no strong feelings either way about his interpersonal skills. Cavanaugh, Samson, and Murray all felt that Hubbs should be hired; Hamrick disagreed. Cavanaugh checked two of Hubbs’s three references and got good reports on his skills and work habits. She hired him.