What Is a Work Sample? (Plus Tips on How to Create One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A work sample is a representative example of your previous work that demonstrates your skills and abilities. Potential employers may use samples of your work to assess your experience and suitability for a role. If you're asked to provide samples during the hiring process, learning what employers expect may help you to produce effective examples. In this article, we explain what work samples are, describe why they're important, discuss what variations you might encounter, list which industries ask for them and provide tips on how to present your best work.

What is a work sample?

A work sample is an opportunity to showcase your skills, abilities and talents to a prospective employer. When interviewers ask for a sample of your work, they're asking to see an example of a finished product, a piece of work or a set of results. Examples might include your portfolio, a presentation you gave or evidence of your sales figures.

Interviewers may ask you to present professional samples of your work from a previous role. Alternatively, they might set you a task to complete as part of the interviewing process. They may then assess your finished product against their set criteria to see if you could be a good candidate for the role.

Related: How to Make a Portfolio in 9 Steps (With Valuable Tips)

The importance of work samples

Interviewers might ask potential candidates for examples of their work for several important reasons. By looking at previous examples of your work, they may better understand your skills, the way you approach tasks and the standards you can achieve. Work samples are an effective way for an employer to assess your suitability for both the company and the open role. By creating tests or setting tasks for you, employers can learn how you react under pressure, your ability to meet deadlines and how you adapt to change.

If a potential employer asks you for samples of your work, it's an opportunity to showcase your successes, present work you're proud of and show that you can achieve results. In addition, professional examples can support your resume and lend credibility to your application. If you're set tests during the interview process, the benefits are twofold. The interviewer can consider your suitability for the company, and you can assess whether you'd enjoy working there.

Related: How to Create a Career Portfolio in 7 Steps (Plus Tips)

Types of work samples

There are several types of examples that hiring managers may ask that you bring to an interview. They might ask to see a sample of your work that you're most proud of, one that best showcases your abilities or something that demonstrates how your skills align with the open position. Examples include:

Portfolio

If you're applying for a job in an industry that requires creative abilities or technical skills, hiring companies may ask to see your portfolio. Your portfolio is a collection of your best work, and it's an effective way to showcase the finished products you've created in your professional career. The interviewer can view your presented work and assess your suitability for the role. For example, if you're applying for a job as a photographer, the employer may ask to see a portfolio of your previous photography projects. Other examples of portfolios include:

  • Published articles

  • Sales pitches

  • Marketing campaigns

  • Social media posts

  • Illustrations

  • Paintings

  • Published books

  • Scientific papers

  • Designs

  • Patents

Related: How to Write a Freelance Photographer Resume (With Template)

Results

If you're applying for target-orientated roles, such as a sales position, interviewers may ask to see evidence of your achievements and those times you've managed to reach your professional targets. In this scenario, it may be useful to compile a visual representation of results from your previous workplace. You could create a graph that shows your sales figures over time or produce a spreadsheet that details the turnover and profit you produced over the course of a financial year.

Related: 15 Effective Techniques for Closing Sales to Meet Targets

Tests

A work sample test is a type of performance-based evaluation. Employers may set a test or series of tests that assess your understanding of their industry for jobs that require specific skills or knowledge. For example, if you're applying for a job in a chemistry laboratory, an employer may wish to test your knowledge of laboratory safety. Potential employers might set an assignment for you to complete before the interview for roles that require practical skills or creativity. For instance, if you're applying for a newspaper editor role, the hiring manager may ask you to edit a news article.

Related: Skills Test (Definition and Examples)

Industries that use work samples

Companies in the creative or artistic industries typically require artists to produce work in a specific style. Hiring managers often ask candidates for samples of work to see if their approach matches the style and tone they're seeking. Industries that require technical knowledge may also ask for samples, as could any company that wishes to see physical evidence of your abilities. Examples of industries or sectors that might ask to see examples of your work include:

  • Publishing

  • Media

  • Design

  • Architecture

  • Engineering

  • Marketing

  • Sales

  • Photography

Related: 12 Key Engineer Skills for Your Resume

Tips for providing effective examples of your work

Here's a selection of tips you could use to ensure that you effectively showcase your abilities to a potential employer:

Research the organisation where you're applying

It's important to research the organisation you're applying to before sending samples to an interviewer. It's helpful to understand the organisation's values, as the style, tone and character of its work often reflect its ethos. You could research the organisation by browsing its website, searching for any online articles or profiles or asking existing employees, if you know any, for information on the prganisation's standards and expectations.

Related: Show Hiring Managers That You're Ready to Work

Match your samples to the role

It can be helpful to match your samples to fit the open role's requirements. You can find out more about the duties and responsibilities of the position by reading the job description or asking the hiring manager for more information. You can then tailor your resume and portfolio to highlight the skills and experience that the role requires. For example, if you're applying to be an editor at a travel magazine, it's important to send samples that showcase your ability to write about travel specifically, rather than other subjects you may have written about in the past.

Related: 9 Best Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

Include a variety of examples

Including a variety of examples in your portfolio or on your resume shows employers that you have a depth of skills, experience and abilities. Showing your capacity to produce different styles or tones can prove that you're adaptable and able to change your work to meet business needs. For example, if you're applying for a role in wildlife photography, it might be useful to show that you're also a landscape or portrait photographer. This demonstrates your versatility, showing the organisation that they could confidently set you other assignments when necessary.

Related: How to Create a Stand-Out Resume (With Template and Example)

Be honest about your contribution

You may wish to include examples of work that you produced while working on collaborative projects. This is a useful way of showing an employer that you're a team player. If you use a collaborative project as an example, it's important to state how much of a contribution you made to the piece of work you're presenting. By being honest and sincere about your role in the task, you can demonstrate your abilities while also proving you're able to recognise the help you received from your team members.

Related: How to Answer an Interview Question about Teamwork

Prepare for tests ahead of time

If your interviewer sets you a performance test to learn more about your knowledge and abilities, then it's important to prepare for it ahead of time. The interviewer is likely to inform you when the test is going to take place or when a test assignment is due. They may also supply you with relevant resources. This gives you time to review your knowledge, read through any resources they've provided or practise your skills. If you have any questions, you may find it beneficial to ask the hiring manager or existing employees for tips or further information.

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