Thursday, August 12, 2010

Lost In Translation: What Job Postings Really Say

Today I'm going to look at some actual job listings and analyze what they actually are saying, and what a job seeker should see in these posts. I have removed the identifying information about the company.

Subsidiary Rights Assistant. Candidate should have experience in book publishing, preferably in subsidiary rights. Wow, that's really specific. While having prior experience is great, experience in subrights is unlikely for an entry-level position. Also note it says "should" not "must". Don't not apply because you don't have experience. Candidate must also be extremely organized and have a demonstrated ability to handle a large workflow. There will be a ton of paperwork and scheduling, and you'll probably be putting in more than 40-hour weeks.

This position will support the Subsidiary Rights Department, reporting to the Director of Subsidiary Rights. That is likely who you'll be interviewing with, so now you can google them to find out A) who to apply to (never only apply through HR), B) who to address your cover letter to and, C) everything you can about them so you won't be surprised in your interview.

Primary Responsibilities:
* Process and track foreign/domestic contracts, tax forms, and payments.
* Organize mailings and submissions for foreign/domestic subagents and publishers.
* Organize and prepare rights guides and arrangements for international book fairs.
* Provide administrative support for the Subsidiary Rights Department.
Your résumé and cover letter MUST emphasize your organizational skills. If you've worked as an assistant in an office, detail that. If you've organized an event for your fraternity, organized a volunteer group, a reception, or really anything at all, be sure to talk it up. This is not only a very important part of the job since they've now mentioned it 4 times, but I'd also bet the last person wasn't very well organized and you might be coming into a mess.

Required Skills: Remember, even though they say required, these are more likely their "wish list."

* Ability to prioritize, meet deadlines, and work independently. This means your boss won't be around much. It's good to mention if you're a self-starter.
* Exceptional organizational and interpersonal skills. Wow, mention #5. "Interpersonal skills" means a perfect time to mention that you've waited tables/worked retail/done any other jobs with the public.
* Experience at multitasking while working in a fast paced environment. Again, retail and waiting tables would be perfect.
* Superior verbal and written communication skills. You should have some experience with writing in college. If you've ever answered phones or done any public speaking, mention that.

Please email your cover letter and résumé w/ salary requirements to: XXX, subject line “Subsidiary Rights Position.” Résumé submitted without salary requirements will not be considered. Ouch. Hate this. Do your research. Check out the PW salary survey, and other job listings to see if they say how much they pay. Don't shoot for the moon - if your salary requirements are too high they'll assume you won't be happy doing this job for significantly less and they won't even interview you. But if you lowball yourself, you might have dug yourself a hole that's hard to crawl out of. Also, in all applications pay particular attention to any specific directions such as this note about the subject line. If you don't get that right, you won't get an interview. Instead you will have just proven you do not pay attention to details.

Executive Assistant, Literary Agency
This job will put you on the front lines running a top literary agency from soup to nuts, this may sound scary, but assistants usually run the office. That's not too uncommon. including foreign rights, audio and first serial rights, managing interns, redlining contracts, working with the bookkeeper and utilizing our software for managing author accounts. This could sound scary, but they'll train you on all the above. Applicants should have made the choice to become a literary agent and want to enter a job that is an intensive training period for becoming one. This means no wannabe authors for one, and also preferably no wannabe editors. If either of these apply to you, keep your mouth shut about it. You should be a voracious, comprehensive reader, have an open mind to all forms of great writing, both contemporary and historical fiction and nonfiction, adult and young adult, Seriously, you need to have read a lot more books in the past 4 years than just canonical Old Dead White Men. Expect to be grilled extensively in the interview about what books you've read lately, and you ought to be able to name at least 10 that have been published in the last 2-3 years. And they ought to be in a few different genres. Read up. and have a creative, entrepreneurial personality. Not entirely sure what this means. Creative I get, but entrepreneurial is a little trickier. A way to address this would be if you have ever helped start anything. Did you create your own club in college? Were you a charter member of any organization? Expert knowledge of Apple computers, website management, social-networking, and Dreamweaver software preferred. Remember "preferred" never means "required" so don't let a sentence like this stop you from applying. A demanding form of multi-tasking must come naturally to you because of your adept organizational skills. Ah, more organization, like the last job listing! Seeing a pattern here? Your writing skills must be top-notch and demonstrate the ability to "pitch" the essence of a book in a sentence as well as write intelligent, inspiring submission letters. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they asked you to "pitch" them a book or two of the ones you've read lately. It really needs to be just one sentence, but it needs to be intriguing and interesting, not just plot. Again, you should have some writing experience from college. After two years of employment, you will be eligible to attend the London and Frankfurt book fairs. Good but not really relevant here unless you're unable to travel abroad for some reason. You must have publishing work experience or be a graduate of one of the college publishing programs. They say "must" but it isn't true. It's something they'd really like, and it would put you ahead, but you still should apply even without it.

Our Young Readers Sales Division is seeking an assistant to provide administrative support aka answering phones, filing, opening mail, etc. to the Vice President, Director of Field and Mass Merchandise Sales and the juvenile field sales force. This is an assistant to a pretty high-level person. You'd learn a lot but you'd have limited supervision. Again, you can find out who this is in advance, so start googling. This is a great entry level opportunity to liaise with various departments and learn about the business side of the publishing industry! Notice they're actually the first job that is trying to "sell" itself to you, the applicant, as sales isn't as glamorous as other departments.

The Sales Assistant:
1.Maintains and distributes sales materials, seasonally and weekly.
2.Manages Title Information sheets.
3.Distributes materials to trade shows and sales conferences.
4.Manages travel and expense tracking for the department.
5.Processes orders for author appearances.
6.Gathers samples for account presentations.
Guess what? All of the above again means: Organization! Pretty basic trafficking and paperwork.
Please apply if you meet the following requirements:
•4 year college degree or equivalent work experience In sales one doesn't always need a college degree but these days it's more necessary than not.
•Ability to lift/move packages weighing up to 20 lbs yep you'll occasionally be schlepping around boxes of books. Think of it as on-the-job weight training. Remember, lift with your legs, not your back.
•Strong organizational skills and the ability to prioritize multiple assignments Hm, this keeps coming up, again and again. What do you think should be repeatedly emphasized in your résumé and cover letter?
•Excellent written and verbal communication skills again, writing from college, and verbal communication you should address in any previous experience where you were dealing with people a lot.
•Strong follow-up skills and attention to detail another way to say "good organizational skills".
•Proficiency with Microsoft Office, especially Excel you should know enough from school to get by, and the rest you can learn on the job.

When you're reading through a job listing, you want to be sure that each and every skill, requirement, and attribute they mention is addressed in your material. Often it won't be so obvious on your résumé, which is precisely what your cover letter is for. It's where you explain how you gained a lot of communication experience dealing with irate customers at your summer movie theater or theme park job. You can talk about how organized you were while administrating a $40,000 budget for your sorority's Social Board (not to mention the events you organized). You can discuss how you came up with a new filing system while you were a student assistant in the history department, or how you helped the campus bookstore with ordering the textbooks for the new semester (organization, deadlines, and communicating with dozens and dozens of professors and departments - jackpot!) You'll need to think back over your own jobs and experience and pick out the details that will apply to this job, and point them out. Never ever let "requirements" hold you back. Worst-case scenario: you won't get the job. But you've got to apply.

My friend K applied for a job she wasn't remotely qualified for at a publisher. A day or two later a position 2 levels down came open at the house. Since her résumé was already in-house, they interviewed her for the lower-level job right away and she got it. Personally, I am sure I've not had all of the requirements for any job I've ever had, and yet I got those jobs. On the other hand I've applied for plenty of jobs where my background couldn't have been more perfect and I didn't even get a call, so you've just got to keep plugging away. Just be sure that you tailor every résumé and cover letter to each individual job listing.


liz deeny said...

so THANK YOU!! i just read your post like 6 times and updated my cover letter & resume 6 times!! i hope it works ;) i have been applying for all those jobs u mentioned PLUS tons more for the last year!! love the tips! u rock.

Carin Siegfried said...

SO glad this is helpful, Liz! Be sure to read the individual posts about those specific jobs as well. You might find more info. Good luck! Let me know if you have any questions or anything.

Carin said...

I love these posts and maybe someday I will live in a place where I can get one of these jobs you've been blogging about. Unfortunately I live in a tech city, so there isn't much around here that I can apply for! Maybe someday. These are some of my favorite blogging posts to read though (even though I haven't been commenting on them lately).

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

I love these posts Carin! So incredibly helpful!!! If only I lived closer to a publishing house to apply to.....