We received a record number of applications for our recent publishing assistant vacancy (the period for application has now ended) – which meant reading a record number of CVs. And we were absolutely overwhelmed by the quality of submissions – reading through everyone’s applications was an exhausting but quite heartening process.
We also spotted a few issues coming up – mistakes that were made, areas to avoid, or things that we wanted to see more of – and so we thought it might be interesting and helpful, particularly for anyone looking for a first role, to post a guide with the essential things to check when you’re applying for a job in publishing. These may seem obvious, but they’re all things that we encountered on several occasions!
A guide to applying for a job in publishing
– Send the correct CV and covering letter! You may be a BRILLIANT candidate, but if your opening line explains why you should be employed by Bloomsbury or HarperCollins, I’ll probably stop reading.
– Address your covering letter to the right person. Not all job adverts give a named contact, but if you know who you should write to, use their name, rather than beginning your letter “Dear Sir/ Madam” – and make sure you’ve spelled that name correctly!
– Get the job title right! There’s nothing more off-putting for me (other than being called Madam) than reading an application for a Publishing Assistant position which refers to a non-existent Editorial Assistant position instead.
– Double-check the closing date for a vacancy and make sure you get your application in with plenty of time.
– Maintain a consistent style and format in your CV. Don’t switch between chronological and reverse-chronological lists, for instance – it will become very confusing.
– Tailor your covering letter to the position you’re applying for. When we’re reading dozens of applications, we can tell the generic cover letters that have been re-used for lots of other jobs at twenty paces. Talk about what interested you in this position, this company, this industry.
– That being said… make sure you get the details right! It’s great when applicants mention particular authors or illustrators on our list that they admire, but it’s easy to spot when someone has picked names at random (by referring to books that haven’t been published, or the long and illustrious careers of authors with only one book to their name, for instance).
– Read the job description really carefully and try to address all of the requirements and functions that it lists – tell us why you’d be suited to each aspect of this position.
– When you talk about the particular skills and qualities that you possess, try to give examples that demonstrate them.
– Try to keep your covering letter to a page and your CV to no more than two pages in length.
– Remember that your CV and covering letter are different! Don’t just repeat the details of your CV in the letter.
– Use your letter to try and convey some sense of your personality (particularly if the role requires copy-writing skills, where wit and character will be welcome).
– …But remember to stay professional, too.
– Read your letter aloud to ensure that it makes sense.
– Check, double-check and triple-check everything – spelling, punctuation, grammar – and if you can, get someone else to read through it too.
And good luck!