You thought you were done writing essays when you graduated from school, didn’t you? Think again. More and more frequently our clients are requesting writing samples from all candidates, not just those being considered for a formal communications role.
Consider this. As companies have slashed costs, the administrative ranks have been particularly hard hit. The admins that remain are often shared and almost always overworked. With the sheer volume of written communication demanded in the business world today most of us are our own “admins.” When‘s the last time you actually dictated a document?
Just as the quantity of written business communication has exploded, the quality has imploded. In addition to errors in grammar (my personal favorite is their / there / they’re) many times people forget that a sentence contains a subject and a verb, starts with an upper case letter and ends with punctuation. I admit to being guilty of this – as well as an over reliance on both the m-dash and the phrase “as well as.” Factor in the proliferation of tweet speak, emoticons and acronyms, and IMHO the ability to communicate clearly and concisely in writing has taken on increased importance.
Enter the written interview. Its purpose is to illustrate both your thought process and your writing ability. A typical written interview includes 6 to 10 open ended questions. Topics covered usually include past successes, challenges, your business philosophy, and a couple of situational questions. A written interview requires timely completion, unlike a resume or cover letter which can be wordsmithed for weeks. It demonstrates your ability to process the question and engage the reader with your answer. And just as when you were in school, neatness and grammar count.
Rather than resist this trend as just one more hoop to jump through, I encourage candidates to use it to their advantage. A written interview allows you to position yourself as the best person for the job by providing you an opportunity to address issues of specific importance to the employer. You get to state your case, unfiltered, and without reliance on the memory or note taking skills of the interviewer. The questions also give you insight into the priorities and culture of your potential next employer so you can better assess your fit with the opportunity offered.
So fire up your laptop and get to work. Your next career opportunity may depend on it!