How to leverage the Wikipedia assignment in a job interview

The pandemic has dramatically altered the job landscape. This is especially true for students who might be entering the workforce for the first time. Having learned how to edit Wikipedia truly sets you apart in what is going to be a trying job market. We want to help you convey your exceptional skills to your future employers.

Everyone uses Wikipedia, but very few people (on the whole) know what goes into making that information available. Students—how cool is it that you not only understand that now that you’ve completed your Wikipedia writing assignment, but you can also show that you’ve contributed to this resource that we all know and love!

So many job skills

Producing good work in a Wikipedia assignment means:

You can write. And not only that, you know how to write for different audiences. As you probably quickly discovered, encyclopedic writing differs from academic writing in quite a few ways. Reflect on how the writing styles are different and what you had to learn to make that transition. And think about how the writing style helps with your particular topic area: if you’re in school to become a scientist, translating complex technical topics into language that anyone can understand is a valuable skill for science communication.

You know how to collaborate and accept feedback. Wikipedia is inherently collaborative in that anyone can edit it. It’s exciting that your work will live on beyond your class. It also means that it will change and evolve overtime as other volunteers make edits. Perhaps you experienced the dynamics of this crowdsourcing model during your assignment. An important part of the assignment is accepting and incorporating feedback all along the way. It’s not an easy thing to do and you did it.

You’re adaptable. A Wikipedia assignment is as much about your final contribution as it is about learning how the Wikipedia volunteer community functions along the way. The only way you can make a valuable contribution is by understanding those norms and operating with them in mind. You learned the policies of a community that you were unfamiliar with and thus became a part of a global movement to make knowledge free and accessible.

You’re accountable. You just wrote for a worldwide audience. At times, it can feel like a lot of pressure. But you took that responsibility and made sure you cited the best sources and used the most concise language possible to convey your ideas. That’s both brave and impactful.

You’re a passionate learner. A lot of times we hear from students that they picked their topic randomly or from a list provided by their instructor. (Some already had an interest in their article topic but many did not!) And through the process of writing, researching, and refining the entry, they became passionate about it. Some might even call themselves an expert now. Diving into a topic (not just your favorite topic or one you already know a lot about) and mastering it demonstrates that you know how to learn. This is a quality that employers are especially interested in finding in their employees. Being able to learn and adapt on the job is huge.

You can think creatively and holistically. Even though the Wikipedia page you worked on might be specific, adding content to Wikipedia forces you to connect and position your topic within a vast web of knowledge. You make links to related concepts and disciplines along the way, demonstrating creative thinking and that you’ve really done your homework.

You can engage in critical thinking. A Wikipedia assignment can be “a powerful lesson on bias in history,” notes one instructor who had her students help close the gender gap on Wikipedia (only 18% of Wikipedia biographies are about women). “Rather than just learning about that bias, students got to do something concrete to remedy it.” You’re a digital citizen— one who not only consumes information, but consumes it critically and participates in its creation.

What’s unique about your work?

Think about how your contribution to Wikipedia is specifically valuable for your career path or the interests of organizations where you’d like to work. Perhaps…

Your contribution helps correct misinformation. Take this example about students who improved Wikipedia’s coverage of “deepfakes”, digitally altered videos that are typically spread on social media. When people wonder how to recognize one of these videos or how social media giants are protecting against their spread (or how they’re aren’t), they can turn to Wikipedia. About 2,500 people a day turn to this page in fact. And a medical student added a safety section to Wikipedia’s page about vaccination, counteracting certain non-scientific-based arguments within the anti-vax movement.

You better understand your future patients. For a student studying medicine or psychology, writing for Wikipedia is especially useful for thinking about how their future patients conceptualize health topics. One psychology instructor in our community noted that by understanding how information is created on Wikipedia, “students will understand what information their patients bring to their office, and will be able to answer questions about how well-founded those pre-conceptions are.”

You know how to translate complex scientific information for a general audience. Science communication is a big topic these days and as someone just starting out in your field, practicing this early is HUGE. For many academics, they might only have opportunities to speak to other academics to a point where it could be difficult to transition into language that the general public might use to understand their topic. Research that is important to your field only becomes “usable” to the general public when they can understand it. You are part of making that happen.

You’re freeing knowledge. That’s just cool.

Okay, also? It’s powerful in itself that you have helped free knowledge for the world to use. By freeing knowledge from within your institution, you have given an effort to improve the world outside your university walls. As Rice University student Katie Webber wrote about her Wikipedia writing assignment, “To have some concrete thing that I feel like I can really do right now has made me really feel more confident that I can find other ways to create change going forward. I call my senators, I vote, I donate to the ACLU, and now, I edit Wikipedia.”

Good work. Now go let your future employer know how awesome you are!

As many institutions of higher education are switching to online platforms and as the hardships of the pandemic persist, many students are unsure if online education will meet their educational and personal needs. The Wikipedia assignment can help—see how.

Interested in incorporating a Wikipedia writing assignment into a future course? Visit for all you need to know to get started. And here are some tips for incorporating the assignment into a virtual course.


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