How to Choose Samples for Your Technical Writing Portfolio

Posted by
Anastasia in Technical Writing on 8/12/20204 min read

man pc coffee notebook

Can you land a job in technical writing providing no writing samples at all? I believe so, yes. But this will likely be an entry-level role. Hiring you for something more serious, your potential employers would like to see some of your work. And, today, we are going to be talking about the best practices in developing samples for a technical writer interview.

Make Sure You Can Share It

If this is not just a generic technical writing sample you created but actually part of a real project you’d been working on in the past, you need to contact the client you did the job for before disclosing this piece to anyone. If this is done for a public user manual, there should not be any issues - they will let you use it for your portfolio, most likely, but you should ask first anyway.

Explicitly Mention What Part of the Sample You Did

The employer is going to evaluate many aspects of your sample like: structure, language, design, visual elements. Being honest about the scope of work you did is the best choice here - if you had nothing to do with structuring the material, it is better to mention this because there will be questions you might not be able to answer. People do different things to land a role, but starting off with some kind of deceit is a really bad choice. And, don’t be shy either, if you created a page layout, do mention this. Technical writers are involved in design to some extent, so such skills are always appreciated.

woman writing on paper

Be Ready To Answer Questions

Revise the samples before going to the interview. You will be asked questions about your samples. Some of the popular ones:

  • Why did you decide to choose these samples?
  • What skills do they showcase?
  • Were you the only author?
  • What tools did you use?
  • What would you improve?

Only Provide Samples That Really Showcase Your Value

Your main aim is to pick up short but informative pieces of text. Here are some tips on how to choose the best samples to demonstrate your strongest skills:

  • Focus on quality, not quantity. Sometimes people just throw in piles of samples thinking that it proves their help authoring experience. But what it does really is it confuses your potential employers. They won’t read all the files. Most likely, they will skip through some of them. That won’t leave any strong impression if any.
  • Here’s something to help you figure out what to actually include in a portfolio: try to think about the exact skill you want to showcase using each particular sample. You like how you structured a section? Add it! Proud of the clear instructions accompanied by screenshots? Add it!
  • Add diverse samples. As you know, there are tons of technical documentation types. So, to prove you are a valuable asset, you can add all kinds of samples: software documentation, presentations, whitepapers, process documentation, technical reports, etc.

Things to Pay Attention to Regarding Content

To make sure your samples are good enough to showcase your value, pay attention to the following aspects:

  • Structure. From the highest level of the entire user manual and to the level of an individual paragraph, the content structure should be thought-through. This is what stands out immediately.
  • Grammar and punctuation. Do we really need to talk about this? :)
  • Design. This can be something out of your scope, but, nevertheless, make sure the samples are readable and look professional. If you do not want to waste your time playing with fonts and colors, you can simply use a help authoring tool, like ClickHelp, that has a number of pre-made templates developed by designers.
  • Complexity. Well-written documents on a difficult topic can impress your employers. They will see you as a real techcomm pro. If you have complex projects you are proud of, consider adding them first.

two women on job interview

Conclusion

Having a good portfolio of samples is very important for a tech writer. And, it is hard to develop it over night with projects scattered across years of work. Try being proactive and keep the works you are proud of in one place. When the time comes to go job hunting, you’ll be able to transform them into an impressive collection of samples.

Good luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices

 

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