Which Writing Sample Should I Choose?

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The current job market is very competitive. In addition to requiring a resume and cover letter, many professional jobs also require candidates to submit a writing sample. No longer is this practice only for jobs that require a lot of writing like journalism or publishing, or marketing. A writing sample allows employers to do two very important things: (1) evaluate your writing skills, and (2) eliminate candidates who do not read and follow all instructions.

Selecting an appropriate writing sample is essential to moving forward in the job search process. The first thing you should ask yourself is what document exhibits high quality writing. Select only your best writing and review it for grammar, spelling, and content.

Consider the type of writing that would be required in the job. Avoid highly controversial topics like religion or politics unless the company has taken a clear stance on the issue. A paper submitted for a recent school assignment where you received a high grade, a professional blog post, or articles published in print or online are good choices. Ensure that the piece you select relates to the position you are applying for. If you do not have a writing sample that meets these criteria you can write a new one.

Please follow all the employer’s instructions related to length and format. Your goal is to show that you can read, retain, and disseminate data in a clear and concise manner. Submit writing that is 1-3 pages long if the employer doesn’t specify length. Be respectful of the employer’s time. Do not submit entire research papers or 20 pages documents unless requested. It is better to extract and label excerpts from longer pieces.

Do not require employers to visit a website or blog post as the only method to see your writing. If your writing is from an online source you can include the link at the end of your sample should the employer choose to look further.

If you submit a writing sample from a previous job, please be sure that you do not include any confidential or identifiable information.

Never tell an employer that you do not have a writing sample. You can prepare in advance and include writing samples in your professional portfolio. Bring several copies of your writing sample to job interviews along with copies of your resume and list of references.

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Nicki Sanders, Chief Visionary Officer of Packaged For Success, helps both youth and adults discover their personal power, dream big, and achieve success on their own terms. Ms. Sanders is an experienced trainer, group facilitator, and program manager who holds a Master’s degree in Social Work. Ms. Sanders has over fifteen years of direct experience with diverse populations in residential, school-based, and community based agencies.

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