When Employers Want Work Samples ... But You Don't Have Any

Business people with laptop meeting in lobby
Getty Images/Caiaimage

I got this from an AOL reader:

I've been an independent consultant for the past few years and my work is all confidential for clients. I was asked to show some samples of my work in a recent interview for a full-time job and I don't have anything current or that I can show. What should I do?

Methodology Matters Most - Create Samples Showcasing Your Expertise

When you are unable to show actual projects you have worked on due to confidentiality, you need to create a set of samples you can bring to interviews that mimic what you did in your past projects. Identify 2-3 typical problems a potential employer would need you to solve as part of your work and then design a basic overview of the methodology you would use to solve each problem. It's even better if you can design a simple example to prove your point.

Don't Have Time to Create Samples? Focus Your Answers on the Process

If you find yourself in a situation where you don't have time and/or access to samples you created, then you are going to need to punt in the interview. It's very important to focus your answers to interview questions around examples of projects you have worked on. While you can't name the client or some of the specifics, you should be able to at least outline the process you took to execute the project successfully. And that leads to the next tip...

Always Prepare Examples Prior to the Interview

Good interview preparation means writing out what you can and can't say about your work with a former employer. Take the time to list out exactly what you can share and then rehearse it. That way, when you are in the interview and the pressure is on you'll have some answers ready to roll. There is nothing worse than seeing someone stumble with a response like,

BAD: "I, uh, um, I don't have any samples with me, and I can't really talk about my former work because it was proprietary. So, I, um, not sure how much I can share."

This looks like you are unprepared and not the level of professional they want. Instead, prep your answers so you can confidently say,

GOOD:"While I'm not allowed to disclose certain information about my work with former employers due to confidentiality, I have mapped out a few things I can share about my work that will hopefully give you a sense of my methodology when working on projects like this."

Knowing how to respond will make you appear confident and prepared, not confused and overwhelmed.

The goal is to always to try to have samples of your work, but sometimes it's not possible. Yet, it's still your responsibility to find the alternative. You are a business-of-one marketing your services. Find a way to create tools and deliver the message that won't conflict with your need to keep client confidentiality, or suffer the consequences of being seen as unprepared.

First time reading my posts? Nice to meet you! I write for AOL on a variety of topics. Here's another you might find of interest:

No. 1 Way to Jump Start A Job Search
Read Full Story

From Our Partners