Newspaper or magazine writers are not the only ones who need to maintain a portfolio of published work for job searches. Advertisements for communications specialists, public relations professionals and marketing representatives might also call for writing samples. Your cover letter is a writing example in itself and your resume should list your credentials. Therefore, the writing sample you chose should ideally demonstrate your ability to research, summarize and explain a topic that would interest the potential employer.
Research the company you are applying to and its products. Scour everything on its website and read other reports about it from other websites. Much of what you are looking for should be available on the Internet. If the job involves media relations for a city, for example, you should review its annual budget and get an understanding of its departments, services and finances. If it's for a newspaper, read several editions and get a sense of its coverage area and what types of events it covers.
Select an existing writing sample based on what you've learned about the entity that you're interested in. If it's a media relations job for a city, for example, provide a writing sample that outlines a municipality's annual budget or finances, if you have one. If the job is at a newspaper, provide something that resembles a news article: The first paragraph should be two sentences of less, the main idea of the piece should be relatively high up and your information should be attributed to a source. If the reporting job is for a specific beat, like crime and safety, you would be better off sending a write-up about an arrest or criminal trial than you would a sporting event and movie review.
Avoid sending anything that deals with your religious or political views--unless the job is with a church or political party--and don't select anything that attempts to be humorous or lighthearted, unless the ad you're replying to calls for a comedy writer. Katharine Brooks, author of the Career Transitions blog of Psychology Today, cautions against submitting personal essays unless one is specifically requested.
Inspect the chosen writing sample for typos, spelling errors or grammatical mistakes, and make necessary edits if possible. Make sure it's sent in the same form as the cover letter and resume, either by mail or electronically by email. If you sent it by email, make sure it's a separate document from the resume and cover letter.
If your writing sample choices are limited, it is more important to select a high-quality piece that is not related to the job than a low-quality one that is.
Send the documents in rich text format (RTF), in case the person receiving it uses a different operating system.
If your writing sample is an article from a newspaper, see if the newspaper that printed it can e-mail the story to you or allow you to purchase it from a digital archive system. If not, a microfiche system at your local library may have a print function. In the worst case, copy the original onto an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper.