Career Clusters Preparation Stories + Advice

How to Select a Writing Sample

All you need to apply to a job is a resume and cover letter, right? Maybe not! While those are key components of a job or internship application, sometimes employers also want to see evidence of your skills. If they are looking to assess your writing skills, they may ask you for a writing sample. While this question can show up in any industry, it’s especially common for writing-focused industries including journalism, law, publishing, public relations, and marketing. 

It’s important for you to select a piece of writing that you are proud of and that ideally mirrors the type of writing you would be doing at the job you are applying to. You can select something you’ve written for a class, at a previous job or internship (with the organization’s permission), or you could even write something new, specifically for your application. 

In addition to these tips, we talked to alumni working in writing-focused roles to get their advice about how to submit a stellar writing sample:

“What you write about is just as important as how well you write. With that in mind, a sample should convey key points about who you are and the perspective you might bring to the job. Does your piece have a unique, defined voice? Is the subject matter something you care about and can speak to in an interview? Is it engaging and/or entertaining to you? These are some of the important questions to ask yourself when sharing a sample, keeping in mind that you should avoid writing something you think the reader wants; write what you want and convince the reader to care as much as you do.”

Julian Kiani ‘10, Television Writer and Producer

“Before you submit your writing sample, read it out loud. How does it sound? If it sounds jargony or awkward, rewrite it. You want to grab people with your writing, not make them flinch. A lot of writers try to impress readers with long sentences that are stuffed full of clauses and em dashes and five syllable words. That often backfires. If you are reading the sentence and you need to take a breath halfway through, it’s too long.”

Show, don’t tell. Prospective employers want to see that a job applicant understands the bigger picture. That’s important. Hitting on themes and trends is vital. But, don’t forget, your writing needs to be vivid. Show the readers what you want them to see. Give them a different perspective. You want your writing to pick up momentum as it goes, not lose it.”

Damian Paletta ‘99, Deputy Business Editor at The Washington Post

“The most important thing for any kind of writing sample you’re asked for is the ability to create a narrative. As an industry made up of readers, publishing employees are always content-hungry. So whether it’s a reader’s report or social media copy— if you’re able to turn anything into a story, everyone will always want more of you.”

Emily Leopold ‘16, Marketing Associate and Social Media Manager at Penguin Random House

If you have more questions about writing samples, or any other component of a job or internship application, be sure to schedule a meeting with a career coach. You can also take advantage of writing support from BC’s Connors Family Learning Center.

Salome Miclette, Assistant Director, Career Education
Communication, Arts and Media

0 comments on “How to Select a Writing Sample

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: