How to Score a Job With a Web Magazine
Photo by taiyofj.
I was recently involved with a web magazine that used the Freelance Switch job board to advertise for a few positions. The quality of applicants was fantastic, compared with those some other sources referred.
The positions were ideal for freelancers who wanted some of their work to be regular, without having a ‘job’ and losing the benefits of a freelance career. They involved doing some writing and self-editing two or three times a week, taking up maybe an hour at a time.
We got far more submissions than we had jobs to fill, of course, and I spent most of the week going through applications and sorting the best from the rest.
It wasn’t a particularly fun experience—writing and editing is what I do best—but I did learn a lot about why some freelancers aren’t getting the jobs they apply for. Here are some tips on landing them—a list based on the things that applicants at our magazine impressed us with and annoyed us with. Consider this practical feedback!
Follow Instructions Meticulously
Provide exactly what is asked for. If I asked for writing samples as attachments, I don’t want links, nor do I want them in-text. This is partly because we’ve outlined the process that’s going to make life easier for us, and thus put us in a better mood and more inclined to hire you, and also because we’re testing something very important: your ability to follow instructions.
This goes for both regular gigs and freelance jobs. If your client asks for business cards and you design a collection of greeting cards, what impression is that going to make? It’s the same during the bidding and applying process.
Don’t Provide What’s Not Asked For
Perhaps you think you’re going above and beyond by slipping in a resume or something else that wasn’t asked for, but when I said I wanted three writing samples as attachments, the provided 300-word article edited to test your editing skills and a cover letter, I meant it!
If I ask for a cover letter, I should add, I want a cover letter, a communication that is real and written from one human to another. Not a mechanized list of your accomplishments that has been lifted from your resume and converted to paragraph format.
These are the criteria we’re judging applicants on, not whether you were a member of the high school chess club and worked at McDonalds throughout your college years. Give me what I asked for because the extras won’t be judged as part of your application; you’ll just lose points for not following instructions, and use up some more of my Gmail space.
Ask the Questions You’re Burning to Ask
Of the applicants who succeeded, all of them asked the questions they wanted to ask in their very first email.
You won’t cast a better light on yourself by refraining from asking burning questions until you pass the second round. As a teenager applying for my very first job, a teacher told me not to ask what the pay was like because it would make me look like I was only there for the money. Of course, I was only applying at freakin’ KFC for the money and the managers knew this (it’s not a satisfying career track), and I asked the question, got the answer, and got the job.
Whoever propagated the idea that you shouldn’t ask any questions of the potential employer until you’ve got the job should be shot. After all, they’re grilling you, so you may as well get some back! If there really are employers out there who look at you in a negative light because you had the resolve to ask questions, they’re idiots and you should look for work elsewhere, plain and simple.
People who ask questions without hesitation are typically easier to work with, get things done, and can work around obstacles. Those who don’t ask upfront are typically the type to let problems brew until they’re boiling over the edge of the pot and making a big damn mess on the kitchen floor.
Don’t Prove that You’re Incompetent
It’s funny – you advertise for a writing job, and all of these supposed writers with supposed track records send in their applications. Many people sent in applications and writing samples that had fine grammar and spelling, but the number of people who had grammar that was lifted from a foreign language and the spelling skills of my toddler, who cannot yet say the alphabet, really shocked me.
I mean, c’mon.
If you’re applying for a writing job, proofread your application, or don’t bother applying at all. And if a quick proofread doesn’t pick up 95% of the mistakes, why are you even trying to get a job or client when you don’t have the skills necessary to service them?
Proofreading your work shows me that you know how to self-edit, reducing the workload and stress level of your editors, and that you’re professional and responsible. Forgetting to proofread throws up a red flag and you will not get past my first skim.
Do Act Like a Human
While certain professional standards such as proofreading your own work when applying for a writing job are mandatory in my books, some of the ‘professional’ behavior that is often expected in this society really annoys me. It’s not really your fault if you do this; you’ve been taught that somehow, it’s the right thing to do. What is it that irks me so?
I do not want to hire someone who sterilizes the application process by acting like some kind of mechanical robot with no human touch. I know, it’s considered professional to detach from your human nature and emotions, but especially in an online medium, I want to feel some warmth and humanity in your words.
Just because I’ll be paying you money in exchange for services doesn’t mean that we aren’t just two human beings. Let’s act like it, instead of inhabiting some charade in the name of a false sense of professionalism. Call me Joel, not Mr. Falconer, and tell me what you can do, not where you studied and what your five-year-plan is. Then we’ll get on fine.