Requesting work samples

A work sample is a product (such as an example of writing/editing) that applicants are requested to bring to the job interview. These samples are reviewed by the hiring supervisor as examples of work that can be produced by the applicant, and the review becomes part of the overall selection process.

This review of work samples is different than asking the applicant to produce something at the time of the interview, which is considered a performance test. Whether a work sample or performance test, both constitute a test under the law and under equal employment opportunity guidelines. Performance tests are not allowed at UCOP without the prior review and consultation of the Employment & Staffing Services staff.

When to request work samples

Work samples should be requested when you are scheduling applicants for interviews rather than posting the work sample requirements in the job advertisement or posting. This will decrease the volume of paper required for pre-screening. Until you review the work sample directly with the candidate, you won't know whether he/she personally and independently produced the sample. Work samples should be requested of all interviewees rather than a select number.

What to request

The material requested must be JOB-RELATED and must be material that can be objectively evaluated. Areas that may be pertinent to work samples could include writing, editing, publicity, graphics, forms design, manuscript production, report writing and correspondence. Many other job skills are more difficult to review through work samples for a variety of reasons. This would include conference coordination, calendar control, supervision, interpersonal skills, fabrication and maintenance. Work samples should not be used for the latter group of skills or whenever manifest job-relatedness cannot be drawn between the work sample and the job that was recruited.

Instructions of what to bring to the interview should be clear. For example:

  • "Please bring with you no more than two or three examples of brochures that you personally developed;" or 
  • "Please bring an example that would demonstrate your analytical writing skills. It should be no longer than 3-4 pages and have been researched and written by you personally;" or 
  • "Please bring an example of your manuscript typing ability that would include Greek symbols, equations, and footnotes. Five to six pages will be enough, and it should be work that you performed yourself."

The clearer the instructions provided, the easier it will be to evaluate the samples presented by the candidate.

Determine, during the interview, what role and responsibility the applicant had for producing the sample. For example, "Did you produce this independently, or what portions of this were developed by you?" "Which of these recommendations were yours, and which were implemented?"

Evaluating the work sample

The criteria for evaluating the work sample and the "weight" or importance of the work sample in the selection process must be predetermined. You need to determine if you are going to "grade" pass/fail, or 1,2, or 3 ,or use another grading system. This grading needs to be as tangible, measurable and objective as possible relative to the posted requirement. You need to clearly outline what will be passing, what will be a 1, 2, etc. Also, you need to understand the weight of this work sample relative to all selection criteria. For example, if response to correspondence constitutes 15% of the job and is weighted as 15%, the review of the sample and evaluation of the sample cannot constitute more than 15% of your overall selection criteria.

Be sure when you are evaluating work samples for quality and content that you do not over-evaluate "style." You need to determine the person's ability to do your job within your context. Too often, we tend to downgrade applicants for not providing information "the way we want it," rather than assessing their ability to produce our way after orientation and with our supervision. Also, remember that work samples are often like personal references. A personal reference will rarely give anything other than an outstanding recommendation. Likewise, a work sample can be representative of the best that an applicant can do rather than an "average" sample of his/her production talents.

Also, you need to predetermine how to evaluate an applicant who, for whatever reason, is unable to provide the work sample. For example, "My materials are back in Boston;" or "I didn't have access to a copy machine;" or "My best work is with my employer at the review stage."