What to Bring on an Interview for a Writing Sample

A portfolio case is traditionally a black leather-bound binder.

A portfolio case is traditionally a black leather-bound binder.

Bringing writing samples to a job interview gives you chance to show off your skills as a wordsmith extraordinaire. Whether you're applying for a job as a journalist, or as a worker who will have to draft a lot of written correspondence, your writing samples will help your prospective employer see what you can produce -- so prepare accordingly.

Web Clips

Published writing samples -- typically called "clips" -- are the gold standard for job interview writing samples. If your clips were only published online, print out screen shots of them making sure to include the website's header so the employer knows where the article was published. Some sites might have a "print" feature that will create a printer-friendly version of the article, which is more attractive than the screen-shot version. It's also a good idea to create a page that includes the URL's for your published material, so the employer can navigate to the sites on her own after you leave.

Print Clips

If you have clips that were printed in a newspaper, magazine or trade journal, make copies. If the media outlet's name is not visible on the page, copy the newspaper or magazine's title page -- and then cut out the header and place it above or below your piece. Then make a copy of your clip with the header so you only have to give the employer a single page. Also try to include the date on each clip. If it's not visible on the pages you copied, neatly write the published date near the bottom or top of the page.

Portfolio

If you don't have any published clips, you'll need to either write a few sample pieces related to the company's industry, or look through your old college papers and find a few that are well written and demonstrate your expertise in the industry in which you hope to work. Whatever you use for your samples, you should have at least four or five of them to bring to the interview, unless the employer specifies that she wants to see more or less than that. Assemble the writing samples in a professional portfolio notebook or binder, putting each sample into a page protector. You can also include your resume and reference sheet in the portfolio, if you so desire.

Tailor to the Job

If you're a published writer with a lot of clips, you'll have a lot of material you could bring to the interview -- but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Consider the job in question and try to choose clips that demonstrate the type of writing that suits the employer and position for which you're applying. For example, if you're applying to work at a magazine with a financial focus, choose articles focused on money or investments. If you don't have clips that apply directly to the job in question, choose some that are the closest, such as articles on small business or a travel piece that's focused on setting a budget.

 

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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