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The best jobs are usually the most competitive. When interviewers need to determine a job candidate’s eligibility as concretely as possible, they will often request work samples. 

 It is legal for you to show work samples from prior employers as long as no trade secrets are disclosed. 

These are examples of past work which show your qualifications as the best person for the job. 

In centuries past, woodworkers would build elaborate wood toolboxes as “work samples” they would present to prospective customers. In the 1800’s they did not have photos of their work so the toolbox, both carried their tools, and displayed their talent. 

Why You Should Love Work Samples 

1. You Will Stand out in the Crowd 

Gives you an unfair advantage over other job applicants if you submit your work samples before or during your interview. Most interviewers will not do this, and so you instantly become outstanding and may get onto the hiring list right away.  

2. Proof Positive of Your Ability 

Work samples are actual examples of your talent and ability to do the job well. Interviewers are comforted by being able to see real work completed. Otherwise, they have to estimate your actual knowledge as opposed to what you tell them while being interviewed.  

Remember the work samples do not need to have been published, nor purchased they just have to have been done by you.  Many beginning designers create portfolios of work that is not for any particular client – just samples of their designs. 

3. Demonstrates Your Attitude 

Many interviewers use work samples as a way to judge how you react to the unexpected and if you can perform on the spot. By anticipating and preparing for work samples you can show your resourcefulness and quick thinking positively.  

Be like a Boy Scout- Be Prepared! 

Below is a detailed list of the most common types of work samples by industry and profession, that you will encounter while job hunting.

Here’s how to prepare for each one brilliantly:

1. Expect to Be Asked for a Work Sample

 Many job hunters hope and pray that they won’t get asked to write an essay or do a sales presentation, so they choke when it comes up. Smart job hunters expect to be asked for such demonstrations of their skills at every interview. Preparation and anticipation are your allies in these situations.  

2. Past Work Projects

You may be questioned about which past work project you are most proud of. Have a list of a few such work done on an index card with a few notes on each about what skills of yours you used to achieve the good results and what you are most proud of.

Remember to include team projects also, because many interviewers use this question to determine your ability to work successfully within a team.

3. Writing Samples

Many interviewers will request writing samples before or during your interview. Have a few copies ready to submit different types of writing, which correspond to the job’s requirements such as blog posts, ad campaigns, business letters, and sales proposals. 

4. Answer an Essay Question 

This is a typical second-round interview task, but it can pop up at any time. Candidates are asked to write a short essay about subjects such as; Why are you the best candidate for the job; What can you contribute to this company; and what career achievements are you most proud of.

Create an outline of these questions and practice writing essays in general. Perhaps it has been a few years since college for you, like me.  With an outline and a little bit of essay writing review, you will be equipped to handle this task expertly. 

5. Sales Presentation

 The classic and most dreaded work sample of all is to be asked to “sell them the pen they are holding”.

 Instead of worrying, be proactive, and create a sales presentation for the pen, or the companies products, complete with features and benefits and practice it in front of a mirror before your interview.

Even if you aren’t asked to make this sales presentation your confidence from being well-prepared and rehearsed will impress the interviewer and help you feel more comfortable.

Bonus Post-interview Tip

Instead of sending the same boring thank-you note that every other candidate sends after an interview, instead send a work sample. If you are applying for a graphic design project, design a logo or brochure and include it with your thank you note.

For social media marketing jobs write a few Facebook or Twitter posts and slip them into your thank you note.

By taking initiative and demonstrating your talent and enthusiasm you will stand out and make a favorable impression and maybe even get the job.

Types of Work Samples Often Requested by Profession/Industry

If you are:

You could include:

Artist Photographs of your paintings, illustrations, sculptures, etc.
Chef or baker Photographs of your culinary creations
Dancer, actor, musician Video and/or audio recordings of your work
Designer Photos of graphic, interior, or web design work
Facilitator or trainer Copies of presentation or training materials, participant evaluations, and video recordings of your presentations
Mechanic Pictures of auto restorations
Multimedia specialist Copies of interactive programs you have created
Photographer Prints of your photographs
Public relations specialist Copies of presswork and marketing plans as well as results event promotion
Office support staff Brochures, reports, newsletters, spreadsheets, and other examples of work that you have completed
Researcher Copies of research reports, peer reviews, technical documents, and articles in newspapers and professional journals, as well as any awards, received
Salesperson Graphs showing sales results
Tailor or seamstress Pictures of the clothing that you have produced (and wear your creations on the job interview)
Teacher Copies of lesson plans, class projects, and assignments
Writer Copies of blogs, newspapers, and journal articles as well as grant proposals, reports, marketing plans, etc.

Other sources of work samples include hobbies, sports, scouts, hunting, fishing, crafts, volunteer work, and other interests.

You could even include leadership, teamwork, or “before and after” examples. Make sure you update your portfolio regularly.

Reference: Minnesota State CareerWise Education

Written By
Marsha Kelly sold her first business for more than a million dollars. She has shared hard-won experiences as a successful serial entrepreneur on her Best4Businesses blog. Marsha also regularly posts business tips, ideas, and suggestions as well as product reviews for business readers. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+

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