Monday, April 22, 2013

The Outlook Chronicles: Writing Samples

So here's the set-up: without fail, I meet with students who, upon leaving my office, have a million more questions. Some of these questions they figure out on their own, some they e-mail to me for my two cents. Not surprisingly, I tend to see a lot of the same questions. So for those of you are asking yourselves those ground-breaking questions, like "should I text the hiring manager?," here are my answers to some frequently asked questions.

A Student Writes:

Dear Ms. Paley,

I am in the process of applying for summer internships, and most of my applications request a 2-3 page writing sample. I was wondering if you have any advice on choosing and editing appropriate writing samples.  I don't believe I have any assignments from the past year or two that are less than 3 pages!

Thank you for any advice you might have.


And I answer:


I recommend sending a product no longer than 5 pages and ideally between 2-3 pages. I often recommend sending an excerpt from a larger body of work. If you opt to send an excerpt, provide the entire work’s title, which a brief caption indicating that it is an excerpt. Usually an introduction or a chapter from a larger work make good writing samples.

If the employer has not indicated what type of writing they’d like to see, I’d hone in on a piece of work that matches the job description, i.e. a research paper, literature review, or program evaluation. Usually, the writing sample is used to vet a candidate’s writing skills, rather than verify they are capable of specific type of writing.