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What Does It Mean When a Job Description Says to Submit a Writing Sample?

The phrase ‘writing sample’ can be found in quite a few occupational descriptions, but what does it mean? More importantly, how will a writing sample help you determine whether or not you’re suited for the position? Before you begin preparing for your writing sample, make sure you are aware of what the job entails.

Know What To Submit

If you’re not sure what a writing sample is, then you should probably look into what to submit for the job. Even if you assume that you know what a writing sample is, you should still look into what exactly it is that you’re expected to produce. You might be surprised by what they ask for and think that you have to write a novel or create a Wikipedia article; both of which you might find quite challenging. In any case, the job description will tell you what to submit.

Format Is Key

When it comes to job applications, most employers will expect you to submit your work in a particular format. Even if you have no idea what this format is, you can usually find out from the job description. In general, you should aim to emulate a business manuscript as much as possible. That is, make it look like you’ve been commissioned to write a book and present it in a consistent format with the appropriate structure and formatting.

Length Matters

Just because you’ve been asked to submit a writing sample doesn’t mean that it will be a lengthy piece. In fact, you should try to keep it to three or four pages at most. If the assignment is longer than that, then there’s probably a good reason for it. Remember, you’re not applying for a creative writing job; you’re applying for a technical job in a field where writing is a necessity.

Avoid Plagiarism

Even if you’re applying for a job in your field, it doesn’t mean that the employer will give you special consideration. Your resume will be assessed based on your skills and experience as it relates to the job. One thing employers will be looking for is originality. If you’re applying for a position at a reputable institution, then you should know that they will check your work for plagiarism before offering you a job. Plagiarism is considered a serious offence and could lead to academic disciplinary action or even dismissal. Unfortunately, as a student, this might be something that you have to learn about firsthand. Ensure that all of your works attributed to you are completely original and cannot be found in another source. It is usually a good idea to cite your sources in the footnotes or in the text itself.

Quality Matters

When it comes to academic writing, most employers will value publications over simply having a job. Your professor might value your published work highly enough to consider you for a tenure-track position even though you have nothing more than a bachelor’s degree. In general, a good rule of thumb is to aim for a minimum of 6 publications with a minimum of 2 in top-tier journals. In addition to that, having an H-Index of at least 4 is a great way to make sure that your professor values your work highly enough to consider you for a position.

If you’ve been directed to submit a writing sample by your job description, then you should probably ask yourself; ‘Is this a good idea? Will it help me get the job?’ You never know where the information might come in handy, even if it’s just to give you an idea of what to write about. Of course, if you think that you might have something to offer based on your special expertise, then by all means, go for it.