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What Writing Samples Should You Give Potential Employers?

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By Susan Hoffman
Managing Editor, APU Edge

Communication skills are the #1 skill that employers want, according to Indeed. As you’re applying for a job, writing samples are often requested by potential employers as a means of assessing your communication skills.

Supplying writing samples is particularly important when you seek a job in journalism, social media, publishing, public relations, academia, law, or any other industry where the ability to write well is essential. But what type of writing samples should you provide?

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Why Employers Want to See Proof of Your Writing Skills

When an employer asks for samples of your writing, that employer wants to know if your writing skills will be up to the demands of the job. The inability to write an email with clarity, for instance, wastes other people’s time, since they have to write a second email asking you to explain yourself.

Similarly, a PowerPoint that has multiple grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors is time-consuming to correct and reflects badly on your communication skills. If your imperfect writing is seen by your organization’s customers, it could even cost your company to lose business, since the sloppy quality of your writing could be interpreted as a reflection of the company’s general attitude toward new clients.

Types of Writing Samples to Provide

In job ads, employers may provide information regarding the writing samples they want to see. Be sure to follow the employer’s guidelines – for example, if the employer wants a PDF of your writing samples, don’t submit a Word document.

You’ll be judged not only on the basics (grammar, punctuation and spelling) but also on tone and style. Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to make sure that your writing samples demonstrate your knowledge of that employer’s industry.

Also, bear in mind the type of company to which you’re applying and match your writing samples to that employer. For instance, if you’re seeking a job with a law firm, provide writing samples from a well-crafted legal portfolio. Similarly, if you’re looking for a job in social media or PR, use blog articles or press releases as your writing samples.

Consider Creating a Portfolio of Your Writing Samples

Some employers are happy to have links to the work that you’ve published online. If you don’t have online writing samples, consider putting examples of your writing onto a laptop or tablet, so that you can easily carry them to an interview.

How to Improve Your Writing Skills

If you don’t consider yourself a good writer, there are various ways to improve your writing skills:

  1. Pay careful attention to your grammar, punctuation and spelling. Grammar Girl and Daily Writing Tips are good resources to consult when you need them.
  2. Read – a lot. When you read copiously (books, magazines and newspaper articles, for example), you’ll become more used to seeing good grammar and proper spelling.
  3. Start a personal blog or create LinkedIn articles. Creating a blog on WordPress or Blogger is free and is good practice. If you have a LinkedIn profile, you could also use it to publish articles.
  4. Develop the ability to critically analyze your writing. What seems 100% clear to you may not be clear to your audience. After you’ve written something, take a short break for a few minutes. Then, go back and re-read your writing. Look at your style and tone. Are there statements that could be misinterpreted by another reader? Does your writing have a logical structure behind it?
  5. Consider getting feedback from someone else. If you have a close friend or relative who is a good writer, have that person review your writing and tell you where it can be improved.

The ability to write clearly can make a critical difference in whether or not you get the job you’re seeking. Whether you’ll be asked to create a PowerPoint deck, a blog article, a white paper, or some other form of communication, well-developed writing skills will come in handy.

Susan Hoffman is a Managing Editor at APU Edge, whose articles have appeared in multiple publications. Susan is known for her expertise in blogging, social media, SEO, and content analytics, and she is also a book reviewer for Military History magazine. She has a B.A. cum laude in English from James Madison University and an undergraduate certificate in electronic commerce from American Public University.

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