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How to Create a Work Sample for a Job Interview

Category: Interview

Bringing a work sample to a job interview can make the difference between a job seeker who talks about his skills and one who actually showcases them!

Writing a professional resume is usually the first step in securing an interview, but adding a work sample to the repertoire can provide a big advantage for job seekers. Work samples give hiring managers and human resource personnel a much greater insight into the qualifications of the person they are interviewing for the position. When preparing a work sample to bring to a job interview, consider the following three steps.

Identifying a Good Work Sample

Once the interview has been scheduled, the job seeker can start preparing a work sample. The job description is a great starting point for this task. Which qualifications are emphasized? Which job requirements seem important? Which skills are highlighted? Reading the job description can spark many ideas for possible work samples that could serve to showcase the job seeker’s talents whether they are technical, clerical, managerial, or creative. For example, an Executive Assistant candidate might decide to create a Power Point presentation to showcase her computer skills, while a MIG Welder might bring in two pieces of steel he has spot welded together to highlight how smooth the weld is.

What about the positions that require work samples or skill testing as part of the interview process? Bringing a work sample to the interview will increase the job seeker's chances of even making it to the skill testing or formal work sample portion of the interview process. For example, most companies will test a MIG Welder's skills prior to making a job offer, however not all candidates that are interviewed are invited to perform a test. An impressive weld sample brought to the interview could make the difference between the job seeker that advances to the test and the one that is sent home.

Deciding Whether to Use an Existing Piece of Work or Create a New one

Once the job seeker decides what type of work sample would be best to bring to the interview, the next decision is whether to create a new piece or find an existing one. There are a few factors to consider when making this decision. The first factor to consider is whether any proprietary violations would be made by providing an existing work sample created while employed at another company. For example, a Sales Manager candidate must not use any company proprietary material such as confidential market, product, or customer information in a work sample; however she may do research on the company she’s interviewing for and create a short presentation to highlight her market analysis skills.

Another factor for the job seeker to consider in making this decision is the feasibility of tailoring the work sample to the company that has scheduled the interview. When possible, this approach is the most optimal. For example, a candidate for a training position may learn via the job description or preliminary phone interviews that safety is a key priority for the company and may use this information to create a brief training job aid focused on forklift safety measures for pedestrians.

Making Sure the Work Sample is Professional

Once the work sample is selected and created, the job seeker should ensure it is void of mistakes. It is better not to bring a work sample to the job interview, than to bring one that showcases problems and raises concerns about the candidate’s quality of work. Written work samples should be produced with a high quality printer and paper and proofread to ensure there are no grammatical or spelling errors. These documents should also be prepared in a professional manner. Other work sample types should be polished and clean.

By reading the job description to identify a good work sample and making sure that all materials submitted are professional, the job seekers are sure to leave a lasting impression with the hiring manager or human resource personnel that will help them land the job they are seeking!