There was a job opening in our department this summer, and I got to look at the résumés that came in: 415 résumés + 415 cover letters = 1,140 pages of stuff to at least glance at. (We’re obliged to evaluate every application; HR makes us document our decisions.)
When a busy and (obviously) short-staffed manager hiring a copyeditor is wading through 1,140 pages of applications, you have to forgive her for dispensing quickly with applicants who waste her time. You have to understand why she doesn’t linger over applications that include the following:*
—A stated “objective.” Especially one that’s obvious (“to become an editorial assistant at the University of Chicago Press”), ridiculous (“to achieve greatness and joy in all my endeavors”), or, incredibly, left over from the job you really wanted (“I have made a career commitment to the financial industry”). To me, an objective suggests you shopped at Résumés ’R’ Us. When you apply for a job, your objective is to get the job, which pretty much goes without saying.
—Outlandish displays of creative writing. Copyediting is not writing, and the kind of creative thinking that makes a good copyeditor is not the same as the creative thinking that sells hamburgers. A promising copyeditor’s résumé is concise, clear, and honest. It’s intelligently organized, which means the relevant stuff is specified up front. And did I say concise?
—Attempts to vaunt “no experience” as “significant experience.” Editors know spin when they see it. If you don’t have much to sell, keep it short and straight. Your biggest asset may simply be your potential. Give the manager reason to trust you.
—Trite and emotional appeals. To judge from the amount of passion declaimed in cover letters, copyeditors are much hotter than anyone knew. To quote a tiny sampling from literally hundreds of the same:
- . . . my passion for storytelling
- . . . my passion for the media industry
- . . . my passion for excellence
- . . . a passion for the English language
- . . . a passion for design and multimedia
- . . . my passion for higher education
- . . . my great passion for the written word
- . . . my passion for editing
- . . . my passion for writing
- . . . my passion for journalism
- . . . my passion for learning
- . . . my passion for publishing
As a mom of twenty-somethings who are on the move, I see the job hunt from both sides of the desk. I know there’s a person attached to every résumé I toss aside, and it doesn’t feel good. I know times are tough.
The job in our department was quickly filled—there were actually many fine candidates—but I want you to find a job, too. That’s why I’m telling you what I know.______
*These opinions are those of a single manager, and they pertain to hiring at an academic press. If you’re applying for a job as a comedy writer, journalist, camp counselor, or Disney character impersonator, your résumé might be fine exactly as it is.
Read this post and others from 2010 and 2011 in Moonlight Blogger.