Anyone who has ever applied for a job online knows that not all application processes are the same. Enter your cover letter, attach a resume, send an email… these are fairly standard methods. As a writer, you really only need a few basic tools for applying for writing positions:

  • Website with writing samples (portfolio)
  • Cover Letter (digital version)
  • Resume (on your website and PDF version for uploading)

How you use these items is another story all together.
Here are a few common scenarios and tips to consider when applying:

Email Replies

Though employers advertising online usually asks applicants to send the basics (rate/fee, experience, samples, and resume) via email, you should be careful about how you approach the ‘email application.’ Just because you are being asked to send an email, doesn’t mean you should be casual and throw the information together and hit send in under twenty seconds. Your email is your cover letter and perhaps your one – and only – chance to make yourself shine.

The kicker is how you include your additional information. Do you attach five different documents? An email brimming with attachments appears cluttered and unorganized. This certainly is not the impression you want to give the employer! The solution is rather simple. Include a link to your website where you have housed your writing samples and resume. Of course, if the employer requires you to attach your resume and/or samples, then do so. Always follow the employer’s directions, even if you think it’s easier or ‘cleaner’ to send a link to a resume. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t still send a link to your website or other work on the web, however. Go beyond what is required to grab an employer’s attention. Getting creative in your approach may be what ultimately lands you the job. Just do so in a way that is subtle (e.g. adding a link to your signature line or as part of a single sentence of text inviting the employer to peruse additional information).

Attaching a Resume or CV

If an employer asks you to upload your resume online or to send it via email, keep in mind two crucial items (beyond the basics of having a resume that is neat/organized and shows off your skills):

  1. Send PDFs, not word docs. The formatting in a word doc often get ‘screwed up’ when the document is opened by another operating system. You want your resume to open and look the way you sent it… readable, organized, and professional. You don’t want lines and fonts taking on a life of their own because two computers (sending and receiving) aren’t of like-mind.
  2. Add links to a few key words in your resume. Just because the employer asked for a resume doesn’t mean he or she will print it out. In all likelihood, the employer will open your resume online – along with the other 250+ resumes he/she received. Those 250+ resumes is the main reason your resume will probably only receive a 10-20 seconds perusal, which is exactly why you should embed links in your resume. Those few embedded links will stands out and scream ‘click me,’ enticing your potential client or employer to open your online portfolio and view work that couldn’t fit in that one-page resume.

Don’t go overboard adding a link to every other word in your resume. There is always the chance that your resume will be printed out. The underline for embedded links will show up as mere underlines when the resume is printed. You could end up with a bunch of underlined words that appear random or out of place. Where to embed links in a pdf resume is a balancing act and takes consideration, just like each and every word you place in your resume and cover letter.

Updating one’s resume, or publishing credits, can often yield surprising information.

I am as guilty as any when it comes to being too busy to add new credits to my resume on an ongoing basis. I recently needed to send my resume to a potential client, which meant I had to spend a few minutes updating my credits first. What I didn’t expect were the few hours it would take me to clarify some information with an editor.

I have developed and sold many puzzles over the years. Once you sell a puzzle (with full rights) to a publisher, anything can happen to the puzzle. The puzzle may appear in a book once, or in several books, or not at all, just sitting in inventory until an editor pulls it for the ‘right’ book or publication. In my case, several of my puzzles were used in books I didn’t know about until I made my request.

After several emails back and forth with my editor determining which books and publications had included my puzzles, I suddenly had a longer list of credits to my name than I had previously believed. A nice bonus there. Of course, it was nice to touch base with my editor, and put my name in the forefront on her mind. While I love keeping in touch with editors, I won’t email or call them without good cause. Their time is precious too. And this editor at Brain Games was quite gracious to work with me to unearth the information I sought.

The key to finding out about the additional books, aside from having a great editor, was the detailed list of what I had worked on, with dates, puzzle names, and the names of her predecessors to whom I had sold the puzzles. I didn’t simply go to the editor with the request, “find all the information associated with my name, please.” I had a detailed starting point for her, which undoubtedly made her search easier – never burden your editor if you can avoid it!

In the end, I have my list of credits… and I even sent my updated resume out on time.