Writing Samples & References

Tips for Writing Samples

  • Do not submit a writing sample unless it is specifically requested. If you are unsure, reach out to the employer and ask.
  • Follow the application instructions. Most employers will specify how many pages they would like for you to submit. Best practice is to demonstrate your ability write professionally by discussing a relevant topic to the position or program for which you are applying.
  • If they do not specify length, submit 2 to 5 pages of writing, double-spaced. You may use an excerpt from a longer document. Mention at the top of the first page that you are submitting only a selection from a longer document. Be sure to specify what the prompt was.
  • Whatever writing sample you choose to submit should represent your best writing. Be sure to re-check your work for style, grammar, and substance to be sure that it is the best possible representation of your writing.
  • Typical samples include:academic papers; policy briefs or memos; news articles; blog posts or web content; or press releases.
  • Clearly label your submission with an appropriate title and origin (if necessary).
  • If providing hard copies, use resume paper and/or put them in a presentation binder.
  • If you are planning to submit a paper, consider meeting with the professor for whom you wrote the original paper for additional feedback and suggestions.
  • Remove any privileged or sensitive information.
  • Do not use anything too old.
  • Submit only your own work. Be sure to cite your sources (A short bibliography does not usually count towards your total number of pages.)
  • Tips for Your Reference List

  • Generally, references should not be listed on a resume anymore--they should be on a separate document. Employers will expect you to have a list of references and typically request the list once you advance to the interview stage.
  • Before submitting a list of references to an employer:

  • Ask permission to use a person's name and contact information to be listed as a positive reference. Ask how they prefer to be contacted.
  • When considering your list of references, identify 3-5 individuals who know you well enough to validate your personal attributes such as integrity and passion and can attest to your academic or professional strengths. These could be past supervisors, professors, coaches, or advisors--do not call upon friends or family.
  • Follow the employer's instructions for the number of references requires and the types of people they would prefer to contact.
  • Unless indicated otherwise, include a minimum of three professional references.
  • List references in order of importance or applicability.
  • You can add a "relationship line" for each reference in order to help the employer understand the context of your interactions.
  • Be sure to send your resume and a copy of the job description to your references. Consider setting up a brief conversation to discuss why you are interested in this position and the employer.