Publishing Trendsetter is a production of Market Partners International and Publishing Trends.

Somewhat Qualified Advice: Things to Avoid in a Job Application

Here at Market Partners International/Publishing Trends, we recently hired an Editorial Assistant / Office Manager. That, of course, meant an outpouring of applications from very talented, impressive people looking to get into publishing. The application process was classic, to submit a cover letter and resume. I’ve rounded up a few of the most common things that I encountered during the search process that hindered an application instead of helping it in the case of this particular job search. Before we begin, I’d like that make it abundantly clear that I am of course only one person, simply the first reader of the incoming applications. I do not work in human resources. I am not representative of what all of those who review job applications in the publishing business look for. My aim here is simply to offer a few suggestions. In the case of the below examples, they are based on real things that I saw in applications, but altered so as to not hurt any feelings.

Things to avoid:

The snail mail correspondence: I understand the urge to do this. It’s a personal touch, and that’s memorable. Many books and websites suggest taking the time to write a personal letter, but the fact of the matter is, sometimes publishing hirings happen quickly out of necessity. When relying on a system that takes days – instead of seconds – to deliver an application or thank you note, there’s a significant possibility that it will arrive too late.

The unprofessional email address: This is an age where we can all get as many email addresses as we want for free. Using the email address of “[email protected]” is maybe not the right one to use to submit job applications.

The strange salutation: Our job posting had my name in it as the contact person. Many people addressed their resumes and cover letters to me because of that, and rightfully so. To me, that meant he or she was reading the listing carefully. Using “To Whom it May Concern” even makes sense, because perhaps someone looked me up on LinkedIn and saw I am not running the company. However putting “To Sam (I presume)” or “Dear Sam (or whomever)” is a bit off-putting. In my opinion, stick with the name listed as a contact, “To Whom it May Concern,” or “Dear Hiring Manager.”

The email with no body: There were several applications that said nothing in the email itself, and only had the attachments of the cover letter and resume. Sure, that’s what we asked for, but it’s a bit startling to open an email that only has attachments from someone I haven’t emailed with before. A few didn’t even have a subject line either.  In that case I don’t know whether an email without a subject line or text in the body is a job application or that the attachments are safe to open. Even if it’s just a short note saying “Dear Sam, My cover letter and resume are attached. Very best, Applicant” that’s easier to stomach than a stark blank email. Some applications had their cover letter and resume pasted into the body of the email and attached. That works as well.

The oversharing of your personal internet presence: Many of us have a space to let loose online. However, it’s perhaps not the best idea to provide a link to a personal tumblr or Twitter on your resume if it’s not mostly focused on business. The rules for this are presumably different when the job heavily focuses on social media experience, but that wasn’t the case here. A few times, I clicked through to an applicant’s blog or twitter and found many, many thoughts on baseball, sandwiches, or a friend’s experience at the dentist, but nothing about publishing, books, or writing. Of course no one is expected to be totally professional in their time online outside of the office, but that’s not something that needs to be shared on a job application.

The I-don’t-really-know-what-I’m applying-to: Be sure to read the job listing and do some quick research on the company. I got some really great resumes and cover letters that spoke of a deep love of editing books. That’s great! But, that’s not something that actually happens in this office, so that bit might be best saved for an application to Simon & Schuster.

The I-don’t-really-care-about-this-application: It’s hard out there for someone without a job. I know. But to not take the time to change the company name in a cover letter from the last job application to the one you’re currently applying for is going to make me stop reading in my tracks.

There’s no doubt about it, publishing can be hard to break in to. Hopefully these tips help. Just remember to take a deep breath, re-read your application, and make sure you’re putting your best self forward before hitting the send button.

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