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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

Upskilling Tips for Application Questions

By Sukhpreet Chana, Grace Edwards, Misha Manani and Lydia Marshall

There has been an increase in publishers replacing cover letters with application questions. So, candidates are only required to submit their CVs and answer those questions. This allows recruiters to filter through the list of applicants more easily as they get an idea of a candidate’s personality and suitability for the role. According to the Bookcareers podcast on “Answering Application Questions,” 80% of candidates fail to make it to the next stage because they don’t tailor their answers to the position or make the mistake of not answering all of the questions. We have excellent tips to help you approach application questions correctly and get that interview.

Top Application Questions

Marketing Assistant questions: A common application question asks you to write about a recent marketing book campaign and why you consider it successful. For this, you can talk about understanding specific target audiences, different marketing techniques that were used and the overall effectiveness of the campaign.


Editorial Assistant questions: Time management and task prioritisation are essential skills. Application questions for these positions often give you the chance to highlight these skills and refer to your relevant experience through questions like “Can you provide an example of when you have had to meet a tight deadline for a project?”


Publicity Assistant questions: They often support their team on important events such as book launches or author tours. One question you may be asked is “Have you ever been involved in planning or coordinating events? If not, how would you approach it?” Even if you cannot draw on previous experience, this is a great question to show off knowledge about management, teamwork and organisation.


Sales Assistant questions: You might be asked a question like “How do current trends within the publishing industry impact book sales?” This is a good chance to draw on any knowledge you have about what influences sales in the modern book market (e.g., campaigns, BookTok, author popularity) and what book trends are selling well.


Understand the keywords: Focus on which words stand out that link to the publishing industry. For example, there may be some that indicate what the role is looking for and apply it to experience and skills that support them. This highlights to recruiters how you are an ideal fit. For example, organisation, being proactive and detail-oriented.

Answer truthfully: This helps the recruiters distinguish facts and experiences that show your passion and ownership for a career in the publishing industry.

Consider the structure: Lead with a clear topic sentence that explains what you will be talking about and relates to the question. Mention your points, provide evidence, explain them and always link them to the question. End the paragraph in a concise and impactful way that connects.


Leave applications incomplete: Don’t forget to click the “Save” button. This allows you to come back to the questions. Not saving could hinder the completion of your form which can be time-consuming and means you have to re-do them.


Rush answering questions: Ensure you have read each one carefully and don’t just skim them. This could lead to misreading the questions and not answering them properly. Focus on what they are asking, whether it’s experience or skill set requirements.


Apply the same answers: Each application will differ depending on the questions asked. Especially in publishing, don’t use answers from previous forms to complete the ones you are currently applying for.

Bonus Tips

Pay attention to the word count: Do not go over the maximum word count. This guides applicants on how much to write and ensures you communicate concisely. It’s important not to go under the maximum as well.


Research the company: Know its mission statement and values to show you are a good cultural fit, for instance, when discussing a book you enjoyed or why you want to work there. You should also know what type of books they publish and the titles or authors to highlight your demonstrated interest throughout.


See the question from different perspectives: If you are asked to write about a campaign you liked or a cover that you thought was done well, put yourself in the shoes of someone in marketing and design. What were their motivations and considerations behind commercial decisions? You don’t need to have experience because it’s also important to look at it as a consumer. What do you genuinely like about it?


Understand the prompts: Some application questions will ask, “Tell me about a time when . . .” These are competency-based and invite you to draw on your experience and transferable skills. Use the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action and Result). Other questions will start with “how” which is about your process and actions and “why” questions aim to understand how you think and what is important to you.




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