I want to apply to an internship related to growing plants in closed containers that look more like art objects than indoor plants. The job listing says to send a 'motivation letter and portfolio to' an email address. The main responsibilities are related to testing prototypes, recording data and identifying pathogens, not design and photography, so this portfolio request baffles me as I don't remember ever hearing of portfolios for plant care/plant testing/horticulture jobs.

I don't really understand if they're asking for a collection of pictures of plants I've cared for, or a file including photos, resume, and achievements, or something else all together. I haven't had any contact with the company yet. Is it okay to ask the company to clarify what they are looking for? How do I ask in such a way that doesn't make me look bad?

  • Most jobs ask for a resume/CV and sometimes a cover letter ("motivation letter"). Is it possible that "portfolio" is just a bad translation? Have you asked the employer to clarify what they are looking for?
    – David K
    Sep 29 '17 at 15:02
  • @DavidK The site is in English although it belongs to a Dutch company. I didn't ask the employer. Is it ok if I do? I mean this would be my first contact with them.
    – Alina
    Sep 29 '17 at 15:06
  • 1
    Alina, I rephrased your question a little bit to hopefully be more helpful. We can't tell you what the company is looking for since we don't work for the company, but we can give advice on how to approach this. I don't have a good answer for your question, but hopefully someone else here can help!
    – David K
    Sep 29 '17 at 15:14

If the company itselfs sells "art objects" but this time is looking for an horticulture intern, I would bet that they copy/pasted their usual job offer, and changed the job description but forgot to change the generic part about sending a resume and portfolio.

I would send a full "classic" application - with detailed CV including achievements etc, and motivation letter - and add something to the email along the lines of:

The job listing mentioned a portfolio. I'm not sure what was meant by that in the context of this particular position, but if you can clarify that for me I'd be more than happy to send you anything you might need.

(Feel free to work on the phrasing, english is not my first language.)

The point is, as you said: no-one has ever heard of a portfolio for science jobs, and you can't guess what they want.

  • If they do want a real portfolio, they'll explain and you'll make one (or not, up to you). They already have your CV, which gives them the opportunity to tell you immediately if you're not a good fit and save you the trouble of putting a whole portfolio together.
  • If it was indeed a mistake and they don't want one, they already have your application without exchanging several clarifiaction emails.
  • In any case, the fact that you still provided a full application makes you look like someone who can think proactively and take some initiative.

If in doubt, there is nothing wrong with asking politely for clarification. It benefits all parties that everyone understands properly. If you think it's a translation issue, pose your questions in simple English to avoid further confusion.

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