As a first-time Co-op seeker with little real-world work experience, it can be daunting to read the words ‘work samples required’ in a job posting. Although your degree does an excellent job of teaching you useful transferrable skills, your classes may fall short in exposing you to the actual work that you will be doing at your first job. On the flip side, Co-op employers are aware of this and won’t expect you to present a tailored marketing piece at an interview (unless specifically requested). So instead of avoiding applying to “work-sample-required” positions, here are 5 useful tips for showcasing your work at your next interview:
1. Always Keep Your Work
Strong work samples show employers what you are capable of and can give you the edge in a job interview. That term paper that earned you an “A” and a comment from the prof? Use it as an example of your best writing. Do you write e-mails or newsletters for a school club? Make sure to save them. Did you take a graphic design course? Keep a copy of your final project. Do you have a blog? A YouTube video you are proud of? All of these can work as samples.
2. Do Your Homework
Yes, you probably spent an hour or two on the mind-blowing cover letter and application that landed you the interview in the first place. But instead of ending all your hard work there, take some time the day before your interview to prepare your work samples. Print any written work. Put your design work or videos on a laptop or tablet. You want to make sure that everything is at your fingertips and ready to be presented offline during your interview.
3. Bring Multiple Examples
If possible, it’s good to have 2-3 different examples of work you’ve done. Perhaps you have a couple of writing pieces that showcase different styles, but you also have some graphic design and video work examples that you’re proud of. Why not bring them all? Having a couple of options to choose from will prepare you for a variety of situations. (And your interviewer may want to see them all!)
4. Bring Extra Copies
While some interviewers will be satisfied with a quick glance at your writing sample, others may ask to keep a copy to help with the final hiring decision. You do not want to give out your original. Make sure you have at least two extra copies of your work with you, in case you are interviewed by two people at once.
5. Be Ready to Talk About It
Your interviewer will be happy to see examples of your work, but they also want to hear about it. Start by giving a general overview of what the piece that you’re showing is (ex. poster for a school club’s annual networking event) then talk about the goal or objective of the piece (ex. to promote an event, deliver a message), and your experience creating it (ex. was it an individual or group project? What tools/software did you use? Did you follow a strict structure or did you have unlimited creative freedom?).
Feeling awkward about bringing up your awesome examples? Often, employers will simply ask you to "submit' an example at the beginning or end of an interview. If not, you can show your work during the interview when answering a question that leads you to discuss one of your pieces. If you do not get that opportunity, simply ask “may I show you some examples of my work?” at the end of your interview. Chances are your interviewer will be very impressed by your preparedness.
Got questions about your work samples? Schedule an advising appointment or mock-interview with your Co-op advisor to prepare for the big day.