How to Write Content Writing Samples that Nail Your Spot (Every Time) for a Writing Job Opportunity

how to write content writing samples

Picture this:

You’ve finally found your DREAM JOB.

You know the months of searching and questioning what you really want are over.

Your career can take off and every day will now be exciting, inspirational, and successful (because it’s true—success is 1000% about doing what you love).

But suddenly a roadblock jumps out and hits you in the face.

It’s just two words, but it changes your horizon from sunny to bleak.

WRITING SAMPLES.

Every dream employer you want to write and get paid for is requesting one.

What are writing samples?

What if you don’t know how to write content writing samples your future employer will even look at?

In a panic, you dig through your computer’s folders for pieces you wrote in the past.

There’s nothing you can use. All you find are:

  • The stuffy papers you created for that cheap academic writing platform you used to work for
  • The half story you wrote when you were young and in love
  • The academic paper your professor graded A, but doesn’t feel right for the online writing world. (Hint: It’s not.)

What do you do?

Walk away with dragging feet? Let go of your dream job?

Of course not.

Remember: you might not have the perfect sample to stun your interviewer right now. But you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

If you don’t give it a try, you’ll NEVER get the job you want.

The good news?

I’ve put together this guide to help you craft the perfect writing sample from start to finish. This guide will help you stand out in a crowd of applicants, even if you don’t have credentials or experience. Ready to get started?

How to Write Content Writing Samples that Nail Your Spot (Every Time) for a Writing Job Opportunity: What's Ahead

What Are Writing Samples and Why Are They Important?

How to Write Content Writing Samples: Be the 1% Companies Hire

The Four-Step Process Big Brands Use to Sort through and Hire the Best Content Writers

Step 1: Review Initial Writing Samples

Step 2: Send the Interviewee the Guidelines of Creating Content

Step 3: Send the Interviewee the Final Test

Step 4: Evaluate Your Final Test

How to Write Content Writing Samples: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Write Content Writing Samples, Step #1: Do Your Research

How to Write Content Writing Samples, Step #2: Brainstorm Ideas for Your Sample

How to Write Content Writing Samples, Step #3: Select One of Your Ideas

How to Write Content Writing Samples, Step #4: Write Your Sample

How to Write Content Writing Samples, Step #5: Edit Your Sample

How to Write Content Writing Samples, Step #6: Submit Your Sample

How to Write Content Writing Samples that Win You Your Dream Job

how to write content writing samples

What Are Writing Samples and Why Are They Important?

Writing samples are pieces of content you submit to a company you want to work with. They demonstrate your skill in a certain discipline, especially disciplines which require extensive communication skills.

Why is it important to nail your perfect writing sample?

Because that sample is a sneak peek of the work you’re capable of doing. If your ability matches what an employer or client is looking for, you’ll be hired in no time.

How to Write Content Writing Samples: Be the 1% Companies Hire

A quick background before I go in-depth on how to write content writing samples.

I run a content agency Express Writers, and it always amazes me how many applicants we get per year (think thousands!).

A ton of these people come to me with all the right credentials:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • Writing experience
  • Certificates and badges from workshops and courses they completed
how to write content writing samples - what you don't need

The only problem?

They don’t know how to write.

Let me clarify. They DO know how to write. In fact, a ton of them have great GPA scores and even degrees in writing-related courses.

But their writing is simply not the kind of writing I’m looking for.

They DON’T KNOW how to create the content I sell: engaging, quality content created for a web-based audience.

That in itself is enough to turn away 99% of applicants (I only hire 1% of the people who want to work with me!).

Sound intimidating?

It’s not.

Actually, it’s super simple.

Create the kind of writing I’m looking for, and you’ll be part of the 1% of applicants I hire.

(Hey there! You know what’s SUPER exciting? I’m creating a new course called Unlearn Essay Writing: Your Professional Online Writing Course, where I teach you how to be part of that 1% of online writers who get hired on the spot. Not only by me, but by the major content agencies, companies, and brands out there. Get on the waitlist to stay updated.)

It all starts with the writing samples I get from applicants. These alone tell me whether or not people will fit in my team.

Not their education. Not their GPA scores. Not even their experience.

So, how do you write these winning samples?

What are interviewers thinking as they go through your work?

The Four-Step Process Big Brands Use to Sort through and Hire the Best Content Writers

Before we go into the step-by-step process of creating winning writing samples, let’s get into the minds of interviewers as they sort through piles of samples and decide who to hire.

This will help you prepare for what’s coming and get an idea of how you’ll impress them.

Step 1: Review Initial Writing Samples

In this step, interviewers sort through tons of samples and choose the ones that catch their attention. Here’s what they’re looking for:

  • Clean writing free of grammar errors and typos
  • An interesting and stimulating topic (for example, they’ll choose “The Little-Known and Surprising Benefits of Getting a Mortgage” over “All there is to Know about Mortgages)
  • Engaging writing style crafted around a deep knowledge of the topic and audience
how to write content writing samples - what interviewers look for

Yes, they might also ask for your resume. But don’t worry. In most cases, they’ll overlook your lack of education and experience if you can prove you can do what they need you to do (create amazing content).

Step 2: Send the Interviewee the Guidelines of Creating Content

If you make it to this stage, give yourself a pat on the back!

Your writing samples stood out from A TON of noise and now you’re onto the next step of the hiring process.

At this stage, take extra care. Your interviewer will send you a handbook of rules and guidelines to follow when you take the next test. These include:

  • Formatting guidelines
  • Style guidelines
  • The kind of content they’re looking for

Remember, pay close attention to this. If you follow everything to a T, you’ll show your interviewer that you won’t be hard to train and work with.

Step 3: Send the Interviewee the Final Test

The final test is usually a writing sample based on real work you’ll be doing if you get hired.

If you’re applying for a content agency, you’ll likely get a brief describing exactly what you’ll create. This brief contains:

  • The topic of your writing sample
  • Your target audience
  • Word count (although usually you don’t have to write the whole thing)
  • A background of the client you’re writing for
  • The point of view and tone of voice to use

At this point, you want to get into your interviewer’s mind and know exactly what they want to see. This will help you pass the test and get the job.

Step 4: Evaluate Your Final Test

Follow the instructions on sending in your final sample.

After it’s sent, your interviewer will decide if your content is what the company is looking for.

If it is, congratulations!

If it’s not, give yourself a pat on the back. Failure is the first step towards success, and you’re now one step closer to the job of your dreams.

How to Write Content Writing Samples: A Step-by-Step Guide

Before we get started, I want you to remember one thing.

If you finish reading this guide with only one takeaway, let it be this.

All companies are looking for JUST ONE THING: the ability to do the job.

Everything I talk about, all the steps I mention in this guide all boil down to this.

You can have half-a-dozen degrees and 20 years of writing experience. But if you can’t write the kind of online content the company is looking for, all these bells and whistles mean nothing.

how to write content writing samples quote

Want proof?

Here are three job descriptions on LinkedIn.

This is for a content writer at Ten Square Games.

job requirements Ten Square Games

Source: linkedin.com

This one is from Mondo.

job requirements Mondo

Source: linkedin.com

And this one from Info Tree Global Solutions.

job requirements for Info Tree Global Solutions

Source: linkedin.com

Any of them mention a bachelor’s degree?

Nope.

It's all focused on the skill these companies need. That’s it.

(Tip: 'Writing skills' doesn’t mean the skill your college professor gave you an A for. In fact, this skill will get you an F from content agencies and brands looking to engage an audience. Get on the waitlist for my new course, Unlearn Essay Writing: Your Professional Online Writing Course, to find out more.)

How to Write Content Writing Samples, Step #1: Do Your Research

“Gain in-depth knowledge on the company you want to work for before your interview.”

You’ve heard this tons of times.

And it’s true.

Before going in for an interview, it’s important to find out exactly what this company does. What it believes in. Its goals, mission, and vision.

Why?

  • You’ll show your interviewer your passion and attention to detail.
  • You’ll know how to approach the job. For instance, if the company’s vision includes sustainable marketing, you can showcase your knowledge and skill in that area.

The same is true when crafting your perfect writing sample.

Before you type in the first sentence, you need to dig deep and find out what the company WANTS. You need to help them envision how great it will be to work with you.

1. Dig Deep into the Company’s Website

When I say “deep” I mean it. Dig deep.

Don’t content yourself with browsing the company’s homepage and coming up with something like, “Yeah, OK. They offer content writing services.”

Sink deeper. Study every page on their site.

Let’s imagine you’re applying for a job at Express Writers.

Here’s content you’ll see on one of the pages.

Express Writers how it works

Source: expresswriters.com

From this page alone you’ll learn:

  • The kind of writing done for “content mills” just won’t work at my agency
  • A writing sample with grammar or spelling errors will never pass
  • This is a company that values writing passion and lifetime learning

But don’t stop there. If the site has a blog, go ahead and steep your mind in it.

Take note of titles they publish. Here are mine.

The Write Blog writing samples

Source: expresswriters.com

But don’t stop there! Read the posts and absorb:

  • The point of view
  • The writing style
  • The word choice
  • The tone
Express Writers content writing sample

Source: expresswriters.com

Notice the tone of voice? It’s:

  • Fun but not lightweight
  • Authoritative but not yawn-inducing
  • Creative but not fantastical

Why is this important?

Because you can be the #1 dissertation paper writer in the world, but never get hired because you simply can’t write the kind of content a company is looking for. So, be aware of what content they do publish and love. This will give you a huge bump up in their hiring process.

2. Study the Job Ad Carefully

A company’s job ad will give you a ton of clues on how to craft your content writing sample. 

Let’s look at a job ad posted by The Corporate Agent.

job ad for direct response copywriter

Source: directresponsejobs.com

What insights can we grab from this ad?

  • A skillset for promotional email writing is a plus
  • They’re looking for a writer who can create engaging conversion copy
  • Grammar errors and typos are big no-no’s
  • They’re looking for writing with a sense of urgency

About to send off your first round of samples to this company?

Don’t dig into your computer files and send them your best how-to article (even if it really is the best you’ve ever seen).

Create a writing sample that’ll make the interviewer say, “Hey, I can see myself working with this person!”

Idea: your sample can be a zero-fluff, urgent, well-polished, engaging email.

Sound good?

Here’s another example from Guru.

copywriting job at Guru

Source: directresponsejobs.com

What kind of writing are they looking for?

  • Well-researched
  • Creative
  • Centered around big ideas

To get the interviewer’s attention, sit down and create a writing sample that fits all these criteria.

how to write content writing samples
Unlearn Essay Writing - sign up for the waitlist

How to Write Content Writing Samples, Step #2: Brainstorm Ideas for Your Sample

It’s time to sit down and let your creative juices flow!

The trick here is not to hold yourself back. Don’t go for the perfect idea. Perfect ideas don’t exist.

You simply let ideas flow, get them all down “on paper,” and you can refine later. Perfect ideas are created, not found.

how to write content writing samples quote

So, let’s begin!

1. Think of Your Audience

All GREAT writing needs to have at least one outcome for your audience.

  • They’ll learn a new skill.
  • They’ll solve a nagging problem.
  • They’ll buy something.
  • They’ll feel a certain way.
  • They’ll enter into a certain belief system.

To figure out what you’ll write about, you need to know your audience and what they want.

Let’s say you’re applying as staff writer at an auto repair company.

When you start your job, you’ll be writing to people who have car problems.

Now, let the brainstorming begin!

Do research on the common problems car owners face. By “common” I don’t mean generic. Go deep. Enter these people’s car nightmares. Be part of their car goals and dreams.

Write down all your ideas.

If you’re feeling stuck, you can always go online for inspiration. Type in a keyword on Google like: top car problems.

Check out the top websites and scour their content for topic ideas.

getting ideas for content writing samples

Source: moneymax.com

You can also check out Google’s suggestions based on what people searched for.

related searches on Google

You can spark up hundreds of topic ideas with these suggestions. Write them all down without refining them for now.

Examples:

  • How often should I replace my spark plugs?
  • 10 ways to solve a dead starter problem
  • How much air do my car tires need? A complete guide on PSI (plus, 10 gauges you can use)

You can also visit Reddit and Quora to see what your audience is talking about.

Remember, write your ideas as fast as you can. Slowing down will stem the flow of your creative power.

2. Think of Your Employer’s Goals

When you start writing for a brand, you’ll need to understand what your employer wants to achieve from your content.

Is it:

  • Increased site traffic?
  • Higher rankings on Google?
  • Sales?
  • Brand awareness?
  • All of the above?

Go back to the job ad and try to figure this out.

Let’s say the auto repair service put something in their job ad about well-researched, authoritative content.

This means they’re goal is probably to set themselves up as an authority in the industry.

To gain traction with them, your topic should be built on insider auto industry knowledge.

Did they mention something about SEO?

You’ll want to optimize your content to be found on Google’s search engines.

Write all your clues and ideas down.

3. Find the Best Format

You can always be creative about structuring your writing sample, but it’s best to stick to proven formats industry experts love.

Here are three every content creator (and reader) adores:

  • The how-to format. This format is super attractive because it guarantees your audience they’ll gain a new skill after they’ve read your content. (How to Make Kimchi Like a Korean. How to Gain a Natural French Accent.)
  • The listicle. This is a list-based format that’s compelling and easy-to-digest. (13 Texts Guys Can’t Resist. The Top 100 Watercolor Artists to Follow in 2020.)
  • The ultimate guide. This is an in-depth piece teaching people valuable knowledge and skills. (The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Landing Page that Converts Like Crazy. The Ultimate Guide to Content Strategy.)

Now, take your topic ideas and create as many titles as possible.

  • How to Find the Best Spark Plugs for Your Car
  • 30 Ways to Keep Your Tires Healthy
  • The Ultimate Guide to Maintaining Your Car at Home

4. Discover Amazing Pieces on Your Topic Using BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is a paid tool (which I absolutely love, by the way), but the great news is you can use it for free if you’re just starting out and simply want to brainstorm a few ideas.

Just type your keyword into the search bar.

Here are the top three results for “car trouble.”

getting ideas for content with buzzsumo

These can spark up ideas on what to write about.

Examples:

  • What Is a Belt Check?
  • 10 Steps to Do a Belt Check Like a Pro
  • How to Fix a Leaky Boot

How to Write Content Writing Samples, Step #3: Select One of Your Ideas

By now, you’ll have a ton of ideas listed. 

The next challenge is to pick one of them to use in your writing sample.

Follow these steps to make it easier:

  • Eliminate all the ideas that don’t excite you (if you’re not excited about a topic, you’ll never convey passion and energy to your audience).
  • Eliminate low-quality ideas.
  • Eliminate obvious ideas (for example, The Benefits of Regular Car Maintenance)
  • Eliminate overused ideas (for example, How to Make Your Car Last Longer)

Go over your list again.

  • Are there any topics that excite you?
  • Are there any topics that can be blended together?
  • Which topics will help your audience most?
  • Which topics will you enjoy writing?

Let your list sit for a couple of hours. Then, go back to it with fresh eyes. Run the ideas through the criteria mentioned in the brainstorming stage:

  • Choose a topic your audience cares about
  • Choose a topic that’ll help your employer reach his/her goals
  • Choose a topic that’s exciting to you

Voila! You have your perfect topic and you’re ready to get writing.

How to Write Content Writing Samples, Step #4: Write Your Sample

Here comes the fun part!

It’s time to sit down and actually create your sample.

1. Do Your Research

Let’s say your chosen topic is: Five Signs a Guy Is Interested in You.

What are those signs?

Hit Google and find out. Watch YouTube videos. Sign up for email lists.

Remember, don’t stick to the obvious (think deep eye contact and other over-used signs). Dig out signs not everyone knows about.

2. Write an Outline

This isn’t hard if you’ve already chosen a format.

For example, if you chose the listicle format you can create an outline like this.

example outline

Your outline doesn’t have to be fancy. It’s simply a guide to the flow of your content.

3. Write a First Draft

Start typing! Just go with the flow and get your ideas down.

Don’t stop to edit. Just submerge yourself in your topic and keep your creative juices flowing!

How to Write Content Writing Samples, Step #5: Edit Your Sample

Always remember. Good writers write. Great writers edit.

Follow these steps to come up with a perfectly polished writing sample.

1. The First Read-Through

Read what you’ve written once, quickly. Don’t stop to edit or criticize your content. Simply come up with a first impression of it.  

Is it interesting? Engaging? Trite and boring? What will your audience feel about it? Can they get anything out of it that isn’t obvious or overused?

2. Check if Each Paragraph Supports the BIG IDEA of Your Sample

Let’s say your piece is titled: The Top 50 Science Fiction Books of All Time.

Let’s say you find a paragraph in your content that’s about the history of science fiction.

Now, that’s OK. But the editing process needs to be brutal to be effective. Ask yourself: do you really NEED this paragraph? Really?

Cut out all paragraphs that don’t support your BIG IDEA, no matter how beautifully they’re written.  

3. Attack How Your Sample Is Organized

As I mentioned, good content needs to have a single desired outcome. And all the paragraphs must flow smoothly towards that outcome.

Look at your sample again and ask yourself:

  • Do the sentences and paragraphs flow naturally and smoothly?
  • Can you organize the content better?
  • Can you break sections into lists or bulleted points to make them easier on the eyes?
  • Does the whole piece flow naturally towards your content’s goal?

4. Read Your Sample Out Loud

Borrow a little time from a friend or family member. Read your sample out loud to them.

Do they smile and nod, entertained with what you’re reading? Or do they give you puzzled looks?

Reading your sample out loud to someone will tell you if it’s engaging, interesting, and conversational.

5. Brutally Cut Your Word Count

This can be painful if you’re trying to reach a required word count. But it’s essential if you want a high-quality sample.

You need to cut out all useless words and sentences.

Remember, less is more with great content. Your readers aren’t here to ooh and ahh at beautiful wording. They’re here to accomplish a goal (like how to unclog the sink or how to beat writer’s block).

Here’s an example of redundant writing.

example of redundant writing

Source: writedone.com

Notice that sentence #2 and #3 (plus paragraph #4) all say the same thing?

To polish your piece, cut and combine sentences until you have fluff-free, succinct writing.

(I’m creating this new course where I share a TON of good and bad writing examples. It’s called Unlearn Essay Writing: Your Professional Online Writing Course, and I teach you the EXACT process for cutting fluff from your writing. Want to know more? Get on the waitlist today.)

When you cut down on fluff, you’ll notice your word count diminish. Not to worry! You can always do extra research to add additional (and better) words to your content.

For example, instead of writing four sentences saying that the best person to edit a manuscript is the author herself, you can:

  • List the reasons why the author is the best editor.
  • Find stats showing authors who edit their work are more successful.
  • Pull a great success story from a writer/editor who rocks.

When you cut the fluff, you’ll find other ways to make your content magical.

6. Check Your Formatting

This step won’t feel as weighty as checking the content itself, but never leave it out.

Formatting can mean the difference between whether you get the job or not.

Sounds harsh, but interviewers are keen on hiring someone with a keen eye for detail (I know I am).

Why?

It means less work for them. They won’t need to constantly correct and edit their writer’s work.

So, make sure you get it right from the start.

Here’s an example of a formatting guide.

coschedule formatting guidelines

Source: coschedule.com

Follow. It. To. A. T.

Trust me.

7. Check for Grammar Mistakes and Typos

To do this, read your content from the bottom up. This will train your brain to focus on typos and grammar mistakes instead of the meaning of your content.

8. Do a Final Read-Through

Put your work aside for at least a day. Then, come back to it for a final read-through.

Doesn’t it look amazing? 😀

How to Write Content Writing Samples, Step #6: Submit Your Sample

Well done!

You’ve put together a writing sample that’ll wow your employer. Reward yourself with a chocolate ice cream (or whatever makes you happy)!

The last step is to submit your sample.

Remember, don’t relax at this point yet. Check and re-check to make sure you’re submitting it right.

  • Do you email the sample?
  • Upload it on a platform?
  • If you’re sending an email, do you need to write something in the body?

Follow your interviewer’s directions with care and precision.

How to Write Content Writing Samples That Win You Your Dream Job

Remember, following this guide doesn’t 1000% guarantee you your dream job.

But it DOES guarantee:

  • You’ll have a beautiful, engaging, well-polished writing sample ready to send in to your dream company.
  • You’ll hone your writing skills so you’re one step closer to your dream career.
  • You won’t feel like a failure (because failure is only the inability to try!).

Ready to rock the content world with your samples? ⚡

how to write content writing samples

4 thoughts on “How to Write Content Writing Samples that Nail Your Spot (Every Time) for a Writing Job Opportunity

  1. Amazing as always! Thanks for this blog, Julia. It gives a deep insight into what hiring managers are looking for and how to create a sample article that hits all the right notes.

    I am wondering how great it would have been if I had access to this blog a couple of months back (When I had applied for your medical writing team). Therefore, thanks for sharing.

    Looking forward to more of your tips, insights, and suggestions.

    Regards,
    Aniket.

    1. Thank you so much, Aniket! It's never too late to apply these rules to new writing job applications. 🙂 Really glad you found this helpful. My goal is to give new writers a thorough resource that prepares them for any writing jobs, including ours.

  2. Amazing and to the point article. I am sure the internet lacks this kind of content which helps writers not obviously marketers. Thanks so mcuh

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