Wouldn’t it be great to know the secret thoughts of job recruiters—what may irk, what will work, and how you can ultimately convince them to offer you the job of your dreams? At a Career Panel sponsored by the Center for Publishing at New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, graduate students were given the opportunity to do just that. Ali DeBiasi-Intrès, Executive Director of Staffing at Time Inc., and Denise Cunningham, Vice President for Human Resources at Sterling Publishing, gamely answered questions and even conducted mock interviews with two brave students, followed by a candid critique of their performances. Read on for discussion highlights, and don’t forget to make this your handy checklist before submitting your next job application.
1. Network! While there’s no one way of getting hired, personal referral is one of the best routes to ensure that your resume gets to the right person. So rule number one is, “Start to build your network,” said DeBiasi. Added Cunningham: “Networking is huge. It’s the best way to get your foot in the door.” But for those who want to apply online, don’t think for a second that it’s a futile attempt. Both experts confirmed that applications submitted to their websites do get read; whether or not they make an impression is entirely up to you.
2. Get an internship. Both experts highly recommended getting an internship, which could be your springboard to a regular position after graduation. “For book publishing, internships are almost like entry-level positions,” said Cunningham. “Experience counts. Get it!”
3. Don’t rule out other possibilities, but have a focus. Let’s say you applied to multiple positions within a company, and your interviewer asks you which one you really want. A big no-no is “I’m really open to all of them,” said DeBiasi, who explained that recruiters are interested in applicants who have a clear sense of their goals. Even if the position at hand isn’t exactly your dream job, remember that you may be able to transfer departments after six months to one year in some companies. Take note: it’s easier to transfer from editorial to public relations or marketing than the other way around.
4. Send relevant sample works. Sample work requirements are usually indicated in the job posting, so the recruiters expect directions to be followed. If the directions stipulate a one-page sample, give exactly that. If an attachment is called for, don’t place it in the email body. And most importantly, make sure the sample is relevant to the position you’re applying for: don’t send a fashion feature if you want to be a business writer. “We actually read them, so following directions is important,” emphasized DeBiasi. No published works yet? Do your best to make up for that through class project samples and a riveting cover letter.
5. Beware of the social network. Think of it this way: if employers Google your name and something pops up, it might affect their decision to hire you. “We don’t research everyone who’s coming in, but anything on your resume—a Twitter account, for instance, we’ll probably check. So if you have any vulgarities on Twitter, don’t place the link on your resume!” said DeBiasi. Cunningham added that social media can have positive benefits by providing a way for employers to learn more about an applicant’s interests and activities.
Resume Dos and Don’ts:
• Do proofread your resume and watch out for typos. For many companies, one typo means end of story.
• Don’t bother with references: if they want them, they will ask.
• Do eliminate your high school activities.
• Don’t skip jobs not related to the position you want. Both experts agreed that jobs in retail, bartending, or waitressing for instance, show that you can deal with people and multi-task, and that counts.
• Do prioritize relevant work experiences at the top of the resume. All others (such as that bartending job) may be placed in “Other Work Experiences.”
• Do include your hobbies. They’re great conversation starters at the beginning of an interview. But don’t make things up! You’ll never know what you might be asked about your love of “backpacking in Europe.”
• Do use PDF attachments for your resume and cover letter. They’re clean, nice, and don’t get distorted in online formats. Remember: garbled resumes don’t get read.
Cover Letter Dos and Don’ts:
• Do get your personality across. “If you’re applying for a position in children’s book publishing, mention one of the books that inspired you while growing up. I’ll say, ‘Wow! This is a person who loves children’s books,’ ” said Cunningham.
• Do limit your letter to one page.
• Do include a salary requirement, if asked. Clueless on entry-level salaries? Here’s an estimate from our experts: For book publishing, it’s $33,000-$35,000, depending on the publishing house. For magazine publishing, it’s $28,000-$35,000, usually with overtime. When giving ballpark figures, use the 10,000 range. But don’t worry if your estimate’s too high. “It’s not going to stop us from calling you, because we can still negotiate,” explained Cunningham.
Interview Deal Breakers:
• Bringing in your coffee cup inside the interview room. Cunningham recalled an applicant who actually placed a bag and coffee cup on her desk at the start of the interview: “I was thinking, ‘Are you moving in?’ ”
• Being late—or too early. Ten to 15 minutes ahead of time is okay, though. Do a commute dry run to make sure you know how to get to the interview location. And if you’re late? Acknowledge it: “Say, ‘I’m so embarrassed. I’m really sorry, ‘ ” said DeBiasi.
• Cleavage and skimpy skirts. You don’t have to wear a suit, but consider the position you’re applying for. Look fashionable for a fashion magazine; look like you have a sense of style for a design position. The general rule is, keep it clean and professional. (P.S.: sales and publicity positions usually require more corporate attire.)
• Forgetting to bring a resume copy. Don’t assume your interviewer printed it.
• Ignorance. Research the company, the position, the brand.
• Long-windedness. Get to the answer immediately.
• Wandering eyes. Maintain eye contact, but don’t make it a staring contest. If you need time to process your answer, say, “Can you give me a minute to think about it?” advised DeBiasi. “Silence is okay. It means you’re thinking and in the moment.”
After the mock interviews with Rebecca Hytowitz and Felipe Cruz, who performed admirably under pressure, Cunningham commented: “It’s just a conversation you’re having. Don’t get worked up. Learn. Be in the moment. If you think two steps ahead, you’ll only get nervous. Let your passion come through.”
And that was an important message of the two-hour panel: while getting the job is an art—a skill that takes preparation and practice to truly master—it’s also a chance for you to showcase your personality, passion and potential, not only to the employer, but to yourself.
by Jillian Gatcheco