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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

Upskilling Tips For Applications

By Amelia Bashford, Misha Manani and Rowan Groat

To round up our publishing job hunting mini-series, we wanted to offer some advice for completing applications. Writing applications forms the early stages of job hunting, so it’s important that you try to stand out from the thousands received. Their styles and demands can vary depending on the role and company, but there are several key steps you should take to ensure you are as prepared as possible to create a competitive application.

Top Tips

  • Create a separate document: Whenever you need to fill out an application, copy and paste the questions into a Word or Google document. This will allow you to think and write without the restrictive word count. You can always cut it down after!

  • About Us page: Hiring managers are always looking to find a good match for their company culture. The “About Us” website page establishes their mission statement and values clearly and concisely, so use this to your advantage. This demonstrates your genuine interest in the company.

  • Commercial awareness: You aren’t expected to understand everything about how the publishing industry operates; however, you must understand how you can help the publisher achieve their aims. Demonstrate your commercial awareness by doing your research, asking relevant questions and highlighting how you would deal with different publishing or customer-service specific scenarios.

  • Transferable skills: All work experience, in and out of the publishing industry, is important. Working in retail or hospitality highlights your strong work ethic and communication skills in a client-facing role. Make a list of the skills used in each role and specify how this relates to the job description.

  • Plan ahead: Make sure you’re aware of the submission deadline and try to give yourself sufficient time to draft a thorough application that showcases your suitability for the job. Also, as with cover letters and CVs, make sure to proofread and if you’re comfortable, get someone else to read it.

  • Active verbs: Don’t say things like, “I had to do this” or “I tried to do that”. They are passive phrases and don’t effectively demonstrate your wide range of skills. Try using words such as analysed, negotiated, prioritised or achieved to show how you took responsibility and reached a successful outcome.

Types Of Questions

  • Competency-based: Typically, these begin with phrases like “Tell us about a time…”. For example, “Tell us about a time you led a team or a project” or “Tell us about a time you built a relationship with someone who was initially resistant”. The STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) or BARER (Background, Action Taken, Reasoning, End Result and Reflection) acronyms will ensure you write a structured and coherent response. There are also many competency question examples available online.

  • Motivation-based: Research the role, the company and the publishing sector. Write about which publications stood out to you or any of their upcoming titles that excite you. However, don’t just explain what the book is about – mention what you enjoyed about the marketing campaign or the publicity strategy and why you thought it was successful.

  • Strength-based: These shorter questions are a great opportunity to highlight your working style and how you maintain enthusiasm. Firstly, think about your strengths and weaknesses and what tasks you enjoy doing. Ask a family member or friend if you need help. Continue writing using the STAR method mentioned earlier.

Bonus tip: Grammarly is a great resource that you can copy and paste your writing into to ensure its quality. The free version checks spelling, grammar and feeling, whilst the paid version will also highlight alternative ways to write overly wordy sentences.


Creative Access: While not specific to online applications, this motivational blog includes lots of insightful advice to help you secure a role in publishing.

Book Machine: The CAMPUS courses are great for developing your skills and showcasing them when filling out applications. Topics such as marketing, design and professional development are covered, so why not browse what they have to offer?

Book Machine is also running the free Productive Publisher course with Bec Evans, writer, coach and consultant, which includes structured guidance for how to prioritise and be constructive.

Thanks for reading our Upskilling Tips for Applications and the last in our job hunting mini-series! Join us again for Issue 30, where we will be covering Metadata Upskilling Tips.



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