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How to Respond to a Work Sample Request

Post by Mary Ann Kelly

“It was great talking with you… Can you send a work sample?”

Work samples aren’t reserved for people on the Creative side of the business only. More and more, we’re getting work sample requests for Account Managers, Strategists, Biz Dev people – even Analysts. Employers are interested in seeing how you communicate, tackle and solve problems.

But what should you send? Here’s our advice on making sure you put your best foot forward:

1. Send it ASAP. Just as you would with a thank you note, you should send over the sample promptly after the interview. If you need time to get a hold of something or polish it up, let your recruiter or interviewer know. Don’t leave this lingering.  A prompt reply demonstrates your interest in the employer and position and it also shows how quickly you can address a request.

2. What to send. Persuasive recommendations, an interpretation of campaign performance, or research findings are often the most compelling. Whether it’s a deck or POV, the content should include not only the background or data, but your narrative of it, conclusions and actions. Employers are looking at the way you organize information, sure, but they’re also interested in how you make sense of it.

Make sure the sample you send showcases your best work. Emphasis on your. Even if it was a collaborative effort – as is frequently the case – make sure you can speak to every word on the page. And don’t feel as though you can’t revise a sample to make it truly reflect your abilities and contributions. If you are unsure, discuss it with your recruiter or a colleague.

You may also consider tailoring the sample to the agency you are speaking with. For example, if they are a social agency, focus on a social project you completed.

Finally, is it too long? Please step away from the 30-slide decks of dense information. An employer may spend 10 minutes looking over your work, so plan accordingly.

3. Provide context. Just as you would when presenting a case study, it’s important to set up the document you’re sending. What was the purpose? How did you go about compiling the data and coming to the conclusions you did? This can be done in a simple email to travel with the attachment, or as part of your thank you note. Don’t just send the sample. It’s the equivalent of sending concepts to a client with no explanation.

4. But everything I do is top secret.  OMG, you’re a spy?! I know, Jason Bourne, we’re all bound by confidentiality agreements, and especially if you’re interviewing for a competitor, you don’t want to reveal proprietary data. There are a couple ways around this: Choose something that’s no longer time sensitive. Or, blind the client name and key metrics.

If you’re worried about something being circulated, you can always bring it to the interview and step your interviewer thru it. Employers are looking for a representation on how you organize and present your thoughts. This is not an espionage attempt, promise.

If you’re still unclear about what to send, feel free to drop us a line. Or, you can always ask for clarification from the prospective employer. Your decision about the work sample you choose also sends a message: I get what you’re asking for and here it is, or I’m going to be difficult to work with and make excuses.

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