Write the perfect CV and cover letter

When applying for a job or internship, your CV and cover letter should be well written and specific to the job you are applying for. Highlight transferable skills from previous experiences, even if they were unpaid or not directly associated with publishing. For example, an administrator needs to have good timekeeping, show attention to detail, and have strong written and verbal communication skills which are all transferable skills for an editorial assistant.

CV Tips

  • Take care checking for typos – use tools to help you like grammarly.com, ask a friend to proofread it for you, and read it out loud to catch any grammar, punctuation, or spelling mistakes.
  • Make sure you have tailored your CV to the role you’re applying for. Avoid using the same CV or cover letter for every application – it should be specific to the role and company you are applying for.
  • Don’t make it too long – CVs should be kept to two pages. Avoid long paragraphs and keep your sentences short. Try bullet points to demonstrate your skills and responsibilities under each position.

For more careers advice from people across the publishing industry on what – and what not – to put on an entry level publishing CV, view this video:

Covering Letter Tips

Take time to write your cover letter. Ask yourself why you want this position at this particular company. What is it you love about the role? Why do you think you’ll be the perfect candidate?

Research the company and, where relevant, the imprint*, and tailor you application. Look at types of books and/or journals they publish, what recent successes have impressed you, and who are their competitors. Reading the Bookseller (a magazine specifically about the bookselling and publishing trades) and following publishers on Twitter are great ways to keep up with industry news!

Remember that your cover letter is not just an embellished CV – it is an opportunity to show you have your own ideas, are aware of industry trends, and (most importantly) can do the job. Work through the list of required skills provided in the job description and give examples of relevant experience. When giving examples, be specific and show results, for example “In my time running my football club’s Twitter account at university, I introduced weekly sports quizzes that doubled our followers from 50 to 100 in one month”.

Be honest if you don’t have any experience of a required skill and present it as an exciting opportunity to develop.

  • Address the cover letter to the hiring manager. This is usually included in the job description. If it isn’t, don’t be afraid to contact whoever posted the job and ask.
  • Always err on the side of caution and use formal conventions in any correspondence, e.g. “Dear Sir/Madam” or, if you know their name, “Dear [Ms/Mr/Mx] [Surname]”. Remember that every interaction with the company is an opportunity to impress so be polite and respectful. Sending too many emails to check up on the status of your application can be annoying for those involved in the hiring process, who may be juggling hundreds of CVs.
  • The first paragraph should come straight to the point, for example: ‘I am writing to apply for the position of [role name] that I saw advertised in [media/agency]. Please find my CV enclosed.’
  • Use key words from the job description and give concrete examples of your skills.
  • Some companies will let applicants know if they are unsuccessful, but this is not always the case. If you don’t hear from a company after the deadline, you can probably assume that you won’t be offered an interview.

Interview Tips

Research is key! Find out everything you can about the company, the books or journals they publish, the people that work there, and, if you can, the people who will be interviewing you.

Be prepared to answer these questions in an interview:

  • Why do you want to work at this company?
  • Why do you want to work in this role?
  • Tell us a bit about yourself.
  • What are your biggest strengths?
  • What is your biggest weakness?

It’s also a good idea to prepare examples of your creativity, problem-solving abilities and organisational skills. Using the job description, consider if there are any other key skills you may be asked to give examples of in the interview.

Always come to an interview with a list of questions and remember that you are also interviewing them! This is your opportunity to find out if the company is right for you – what is the company culture like? Are there opportunities for training and progression? Who are the rest of the team?

Build rapport with the interviewers by asking about their careers, what they like about working there, and what they hope the successful candidate will get out of the role. Finally, don’t forget to ask about the timeline and next steps for their final decision. This is especially important if you have multiple interviews in the same week as you may be offered another position while waiting to hear back from them.

*An imprint is a publishing term for subdivision of a publishing company. A publisher may have multiple imprints under the same division. In a very large company with several divisions, there can be hundreds of imprints, each with their own distinct list of books. To figure out where the team that you are applying to join fits within the overall structure of the business, visit the About page of the parent company. For example, if you are applying for a position at Penguin Random House, you can find a description of their divisions and imprints here.