General Question

global_nomad's avatar

What kind of writing sample should I include?

Asked by global_nomad (1899 points ) October 7th, 2011

I am frantically applying for potential jobs and internship opportunities right now as I will be graduating in May. One of the internships I am applying for seems really simple, all I have to do is send them an email with a resume, cover letter, and writing sample. I have a resume and am confident that I will be able to write a great cover letter, the only thing I’m unsure of is the writing sample. The internship duties are listed on the webiste as follows:

“Duties are not limited to, but will include:
– Conduct research to support the activities of the Center.
– Manage program contacts and knowledge.
– Draft correspondence and take notes at Council roundtables and strategy sessions for program archives.
– Handle logistical issues for program events and activities.
– Help draft policy briefs and other Center publications.
– Follow current events in one region or country and produce a daily briefing.
– Develop and maintain contacts for the Center.”

Am I supposed to write something specific for this or just attach a former essay that I’ve written? How long should it be?

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6 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I would attach any essay you’ve recently written showing your ability to research. In other words, one with plenty of citations from sources and maybe a good bibliography. I think the subject matter should be academic or current events. I wouldn’t use a paper on a piece of fiction.

Stinley's avatar

You could try and get hold of one of their briefings and write something along those lines

Jeruba's avatar

I’m guessing that they are mainly interested in knowing whether you can string sentences together logically and grammatically to make a point and whether you can convey factual matter clearly and coherently. If you’ve written a paper for a class that shows your ability to do those things and that was well received by your instructor, that would make a good sample. I’d look for one that was about 5 to 10 pages in length.

@Hawaii_Jake, why not an essay on a piece of fiction? You can do factual research about fiction as much as about any other subject.

marinelife's avatar

I would write something specific to their work arena such as one of their briefs. It should be about a page long.

Jeruba's avatar

Well, your advice might be best, @marinelife, but here’s why I wouldn’t do that if I were in the OP’s place. When you try to write about something about which you know nothing, your ignorance shows, and that disadvantage tends to spill over into your prose work, making you resort to vagueness, generalities, and cliches. The subject matter shouldn’t be important, but if your audience is expert in the very content in which you’re inexperienced, it’s hard for them not to be distracted by your faulty grasp of the topic. In order for your sample to be transparent and showcase your writing skills, I think the content has to be neutral to the audience.

A page is enough to show how you handle the language, but it might not be enough to display your ability to marshal facts and discussion toward a logical and effective conclusion.

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