Perfecting Your Publishing CV & Cover Letter

20th September 2023
6 min read
4th October 2023
Credit: Creative Access and Belal Bessa

As a diversity and inclusion consultancy, Creative Access works to make the creative industries more inclusive. Of all the creative industries we serve, publishing is one of our most sought after and one that we've built some of our strongest relationships with since we launched 10 years ago. We work with publishers across the UK from larger organisations such as Bloomsbury, Penguin Random House UK, and Hachette to smaller, indie presses such as Head of Zeus, Profile Books, and Nosy Crow.

We frequently hear from leaders in the publishing industry and run inspirational masterclasses on how people can access and thrive in their publishing industry careers, but we’re most widely known for our specialist recruitment service. Our expert recruitment team look at hundreds of applications every week and we pride ourselves on our personalised approach. As an authority on kickstarting publishing careers, we want to offer you the 8 essential tips we know will help set you apart when applying for coveted publishing roles:

Demonstrate your passion

Don’t be afraid to be enthusiastic and let your personality shine through. Make sure you highlight your love for books and why publishing is the industry for you. 
It’s important keep your finger on the pulse of industry news and bring up any trending topics that relate to the role in your cover letter (this is especially vital for roles which really rely on being in the know on book trends such as marketing, social media management, sales and editorial). 
BookTok has had a massive impact on the publishing industry so if you’re interested in watching or creating these videos, showcase your awareness in your application. But, you can also keep in the loop by reading industry trades like The Bookseller and following influential publishing figures on social media. 

Navigating industry experience

It can be tough putting an application together if you don’t have any experience, or if you feel like you don’t have enough industry-related experience. However, your unique skills and experiences have value. 

Any adjacent experience – even if it seems to have no relation to publishing - is still worth shouting about! You will have picked up a whole host of transferable skills throughout different roles, volunteering experience or studying.

And on that note, it’s a myth that everyone who works in publishing either has an English undergraduate degree or a publishing Masters. If you haven’t gone to university - or if you did but you studied something ‘unrelated’ - there are numerous pathways into publishing so don’t feel put off. 

Why are you the right person for the role?

Our biggest tip is to use keywords from the job description to evidence and explain your experience and skills in your application. Now is not the time to be modest – show potential employers why exactly you’d be a perfect fit for both the role and the company. 
If you’re missing a certain skill that’s mentioned in the job description, don’t be afraid to draw attention to this and frame it as a learning opportunity. 
However, if there is a skill that keeps coming up in job descriptions – is there a course you can take or somewhere you can volunteer to develop the skill? For example, if you’re looking for a marketing role in publishing and a frequently required skill is Adobe Creative Cloud, can you download a free trial and teach yourself the basics? 

Do your research and show how you align with the company’s core values. You’re more likely to impress potential employers with a well-crafted, personalised application that is tailored to the organisation and role.

Use the STARR method

The STARR method stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result & Reflection and you can use it in both the application process and interview. So, for example, you might describe a particular challenge you faced in a previous role, along with your responsibilities, what you did to address that challenge, and finally the positive: how you overcame it and what it taught you. 

Keep it short and succinct 

Some advice on format: your CV should be no more than two sides of A4 (ideally one!), whilst your cover letter should only be one page long. You can use bullet points in your CV to keep things concise. Make sure you have a friend or family member proofread your application and correct any spelling or grammatical errors.
Read more of our advice on what exactly to include on your CV and cover letter here.

Network in the industry

Don’t be afraid to reach out to publishing industry experts at more senior levels than you, as well as peers in roles you yourself would like to be in via email, LinkedIn or Twitter DM. It’s always worth asking what kind of skills they would look for hiring for a new role in their company, or how they got the job themselves. Usually, people are more than happy to help. It’s also a great way of opening your eyes to the vast array of jobs in the industry that may suit you.
If you build up these relationships, you can also ask them to take a glance at your application or role-play an interview scenario. 

Adapt your cover letter and CV for each role  
Finally, this is the most common piece of advice our recruitment team give to jobseekers! We totally understand that when you’re applying for loads of jobs, the last thing you want to do is change your CV and cover letter when you could be spending that time applying for more jobs. However, we can tell you, it really is about quality over quantity.

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