Applying for a Job in Publishing: Résumé and Cover Letter Tips (Part 1 of 2)

Canadian publishing has experienced its share of highs and lows this past year. With more stellar brains graduating from university or college and  hoping to get their feet through the publishing door, the competition for employment is steep, and there seem to be less job opportunities as time goes on. Applying for a job (especially an entry-level position) can be a lot like sending mail into a black hole – because very few employers have the time or resources to respond to every application, if you aren’t chosen for an interview you will rarely get any feedback explaining why.

In an effort to help, UTP Journals would like to provide some “tips from the trenches,” based on a combined 30+ years of experience in reading cover letters and résumés for (mostly entry-level) publishing jobs. Below are 12 of 25 résumé and cover letter tips — the remainder will be posted later this week. Stay tuned!

1.   You can get a Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo address for free, so there’s no excuse not to have a professional-looking email address to use for job applications. We can’t stress this enough: if your usual email handle makes reference to your libido, your dessert preferences, your fetishes, your favourite children’s song, etc., do yourself a favour and GET ONE THAT DOESN’T. It’s very hard to take you seriously as a potential co-worker when you tell us to contact you at

2.   No matter how awesome you are, your cover letter does not ever need to be more than one page long. Similarly, a person who has been working for four years does not need a four-page résumé — and if your experience only warrants a one-page résumé, don’t try to stretch the material to fill two pages. Didn’t your mother ever teach you to be concise?

3.   If you worked somewhere as a casual and your supervisor had to speak to you repeatedly about playing on Facebook when you were supposed to be working, that’s probably not someone you want to list as a reference the next time you’re looking for a job.

4.   Also, don’t bother applying for another job in that office. Just don’t. You won’t even get past our inbox.

5.   Please include your name in the filenames of your documents. You’re only applying for one job at Company X, but Company X has lots of job applicants – it’s not helpful to us if all of them send us résumés with the filename <CompanyXrésumé.PDF>. We also like it if you combine your cover letter and résumé into a single file – it saves us time and ensures they won’t get separated.

6.   Ever heard the writing advice “show, don’t tell”? Make sure what your résumé shows us is the same as what it tells us. For example, if you tell us you’re a skilled proofreader, your cover letter shouldn’t be full of typos. Don’t tell us you’re an “expert” Word user, but you’ve used the space bar to centre and indent text and extra hard returns to add leading between paragraphs. If the files you send us don’t showcase the skills you’ve listed for yourself, we’ll wonder what else on your application has been equally embellished.

7.   Please send us your documents in a format we can actually read. In most cases, that’s going to mean Word or PDF; don’t send your résumé in LaTex or WordStar. In fact, if you can generate a PDF, do it: instead of having to trust that what looks good in Word on your computer will also look good on ours (it might not!), PDF will lock the display so you know anyone can read it.

8.   Just because fonts like Algerian, Vivaldi, and Comic Sans exist, that doesn’t mean you should use them. Also, using a funky green brushstroke background does make your résumé stand out … but not in a good way.

9.   Hyperlink your email address in your résumé and your cover letter. It shows that you have some appreciation of the value of interactivity — and we may actually use it to email you.

10.  Learn how to properly format a business letter. When in doubt, err on the side of formality – too formal is generally better than too casual. If you know the hiring person’s name, use it!

11.  A functional résumé may be useful in some applications, but a chronological résumé generally shows us the best snapshot of your skills and experience. We want to know what you have accomplished with which employers.

12.  If any of your professional work (publications, portfolios, websites) is on the Internet, link to it. Link to your employers, too — it doesn’t hurt.

We hope these tips help you in your quest for the perfect job. UTP Journals currently has a number of open positions, both employment and intern, that have upcoming deadlines. Check out our Career Opportunities page if you’re interested!

More helpful résumé and cover letter tips to come!


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