Four Steps to Create a Knock-Out Writing Portfolio for Job Interviews

Evelyn Hayman is working as a proofreader in the Wilmington, Delaware area. She holds dual bachelor degrees in English and political science. In her free time, she enjoys writing, taking naps, and hanging out with her corgi. She is also busy planning her upcoming wedding to her Prince Charming. Visit her website, evelynhayman.com, to read more of her work. Follow her on Twitter @Evie_Edits if you want to try and keep up with her!

Job and internship interviews are scary for anyone, regardless of college major. But for many people in the writing/editing field, it can be even harder to showcase your skills. You can tell people about all the great work you’ve done — but why not show them? A portfolio is an excellent way to distinguish yourself as an accomplished writer and highlight your best pieces. Even better, it helps you take charge in an interview and remember important talking points. Your work is right in front of you, so you can actually show the interviewer what you’ve done and describe how it helped you grow professionally.
The biggest challenge here is sitting down and creating your writing portfolio. A little hard work and concentration before your interview will set you up for success once you’re sitting across from a potential employer. The following are the steps I used to create my own knock-out writing portfolio (a portfolio that has helped me land internships and jobs in my field!).
1. Get organized
Before choosing your best pieces, decide how you will organize them. You could divide up your pieces by each job or internship you’ve had, or by the medium (print or online), or by school year — whatever works best for you. Just make sure that you are able to break up your work evenly between each section. You don’t want to have just one good piece from your sophomore year and ten from your senior year. If you’re a little organization crazy like me, you can have major sections with sub-sections. I personally broke up my portfolio into three major sections: Work Samples, Academic Samples, and Extracurricular Samples. From there, I broke it up further into sub-sections such as each club I participated in (Extracurricular) or each individual job I held after graduation (Work). During my interviews, it was easy for me to flip through and show the interviewer my progress from college student to professional.
2. Choose your best pieces
This can be tough! Remember what I said about keeping your portfolio even? Here’s where that comes in. Even if you wrote ten amazing stories for the college paper junior year, you can’t include all of them! My recommendation is to pick about three to six representative pieces for each section. Choose pieces that are dynamic and visually interesting. Flipping through several critical reading essays during your interview won’t do much for you. For my portfolio, I mixed newspaper clippings, magazine articles, blog posts, and brochures. Your interviewer won’t have time to sit and read everything you present, so choose pieces that make a big statement about your achievements without requiring much reading or explanation. Examples of published pieces inherently show that you are recognized by your peers as a talented writer. If you have any letters of recommendation, make sure to include those as well!
3. Make it look great
This is a portfolio to last your entire professional career, so make it last. Buy yourself a nice binder and plastic sleeves to keep everything protected. The binder I chose had pockets for me to place extra copies of my resume and copies of the magazine for which I was the co-editor-in-chief. Create dividers for each section and a Table of Contents. Make it simple for someone unfamiliar with you and your work to go through your portfolio without guidance.
4. Put it online
So now you have a stunning portfolio ready to wow a potential employer. But how do you get your foot in the door — and how do you keep a company’s attention? Put your work online for potential employers to see. This is where you can showcase more of your work than could fit in your binder. You can direct the interviewer to your website so he or she can read more of your work once your interview is over. Having all your work online also makes you stand out when you submit your initial application. You immediately come across as a dedicated, successful potential employee. There are plenty of free platforms out there for building a website (Weebly, WordPress, etc.). You don’t need any HTML or web design experience to build a site, so don’t let that hold you back. I can tell you from experience — it’s easier than you think!
Creating a portfolio is the perfect way to give yourself that little boost you need when competing for a job. You can impress the interviewer right when you walk in and leave a lasting impression. It might seem like a lot of extra work, but once you get that “you’re hired” call or email, you’ll know it was worth the time!

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