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Resume Tips for the Entry-Level Publishing Candidate

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Insider info from one of our recruiters at HarperCollins Publishers:

I’ve been hiring folks into publishing jobs from internships through executive positions for several years now, and in that time I’ve read a lot of really bad resumes and a lot of good ones too! One of the most frequent questions I am asked is: “How do I get an entry-level job in publishing?” I’ll admit, the publishing industry is very competitive. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to say I receive 1,000 resumes for one editorial assistant position if I leave it posted for a week. So how can your resume stand above the others? 

The format of your resume should look good. Perhaps that’s a “duh” for you, or maybe it’s a “huh?”

  • Your resume should be formatted properly, and it should be easy to read.
  • As an entry-level candidate, your resume should be no more than one page.
  • The fonts of all your job titles should match, and the fonts of all the company names, etc.
  • Each of your responsibilities should start with a verb.
  • If you are no longer working at a particular job, that description should be in past tense.

If your resume is a jumble of fonts, or is inconsistent in format, I’m more likely to gloss over it.

Remember: Your resume is a reflection of you, and oftentimes it is the one shot you have to make an impression; make sure it is professional.

Submit a cover letter along with your resume — and I’m not talking about one of those generic “My experience coupled with my professionalism makes me a great match for your firm” ones. When it comes to entry-level jobs, a lot of you are on the same playing field in terms of relevant experience. The cover letter is where you can show your passion for book publishing. I don’t want to see “I am a great fit for [insert publishing company name here]” (which, by the way, I can’t tell you how many times I have received a cover letter with the wrong publisher listed!). I want to know the “why.” It’s great that you want to work at HarperCollins, but why? Why does the imprint (brand of book) the job is in appeal to you? Why are you interested in editorial, sales, publicity? Do we publish one of your favorite authors? Let us know! Have you read a book from HarperCollins so many times the pages are ripping? We want to know that too! If you are applying for an Editorial Assistant position with Harper Voyager, our sci-fi/fantasy imprint, for example, I want to know that you will be happy reading those types of manuscripts ALL THE TIME.

If you don’t submit a cover letter at all, there is a chance a recruiter may make the assumption that you don’t necessarily want this job but a job, and there are plenty of others who genuinely want this one! Plus, writing is a big part of almost all roles in publishing, so reading a cover letter helps us evaluate your writing skills.

And on that note…

There should be no spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors. We’re a publishing company; words are important to us. Have friends or family read it over. Walk away and come back to it.  Make it count!

What kind of experience should you put on your resume? Publishing internship experience is ideal, of course, but I do know that’s not attainable for all. While in school, participate in extracurricular activities relating to publishing like your school newspaper or literary magazine—that looks great on a resume. If you are able to take courses on copyediting or anything digital—go for it! Also, one of the most valuable experiences you can have is to work at a bookstore.

These are just a few tips based on what I personally look for as a recruiter in the publishing industry. Best of luck to you in your job search, and perhaps I’ll see you in an interview…

Carolyn Zimatore, Talent Acquisition Manager, HarperCollins Publishers

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