Our Experts | Sally Goodwin

Without a doubt it can be hard to identify the best writing sample to submit during a job search. Once selected you should begin by reviewing the piece for any necessary privilege issues and redactions in accordance with any local rules/statutes.

Additionally, you’ll want to ensure it is a worthy representation of you and your craft and that the product instills confidence in your skill level. Finally, you must make sure it is free of spelling mistakes and typographical errors.

Here are a few things to think about when preparing a writing sample:

  1. Select something recent and proofread it. Then, proofread it again. Review a hard copy with a red pen in hand. Don’t rely solely on software programs. Hunt for typos, formatting, spelling, font consistency, citations accuracy and appropriateness. Place the document aside overnight and then proofread it again.
  2. Clearly mark the writing sample as such. Indicate any redactions and changes made and any portions that are not your work and then save as a PDF. When redacting confidential and privileged information do so in black via computer (rather than with a marker) and proofread the sample again to make sure you have captured everything. For added security, print out the writing sample with the redactions, scan it and then resave it as a PDF.
  3. How long should the sample be? On average 10-20 pages, unless an employer specifies a particular length. That being said the content is key. Does the piece contain solid substance and research? Is it complex and analytical? Is it persuasive? If you utilize a segment of a longer piece, then be sure to draft an introduction to provide the reader with (a) context; (b) clarity as to any redactions/changes and (c) to convey whether it is your work or a product of collaboration. If the sample is a transaction or deal sheet ask yourself, is it well-organized and does it reflect your style. If it is a letter or a memo, again, make sure it is analytical and persuasive.
  4. When you believe you are all done, have someone else proofread it and then proofread it again yourself.


Remember, a writing sample can be the marketing capstone of your eye for detail, practice style and your art of analysis and persuasion. Therefore, since it holds the potential to be a “make it or break it” factor during the hiring process it is a worthy investment of both time and effort.