"Muddiness is not merely a disturber of prose, it is also a destroyer of life, of hope: death on the highway caused by a badly worded road sign, heartbreak among lovers caused by a misplaced phrase in a well-intentioned letter, anguish of a traveller expecting to be met at a railroad station and not being met because of a slipshod telegram."
To this list I would add the missed networking connection or opportunity to prove that you're right for a job because you failed to explain in an email that that's what you're looking for. "Think of the tragedies that are rooted in ambiguity, and be clear!"
Every week I receive an email or two from hopeful applicants looking for a job or an internship at my company. What astounds me is when an applicant fails to simply state that that's what he/she wants. He/she will tell me a little bit about him/herself, and will attach a resumé, but I'll be left wondering whether he/she is interested in an internship, a job or just career advice.
As the author of this blog, I also receive many queries about the magazine industry, with editor wannabes sending bios and resumés my way. But likewise, sometimes I have no idea what they're asking for. Do they want me to make an introduction? Do they think I'm a hiring agency? Do they want me to do a resumé critique? (I don't do this, by the way, so don't ask.)
Unless you clearly tell me why you're contacting me, I can't help you. And usually I won't be bothered to reply and ask you to clarify. Just like any other hiring manager, HR professional or editor to whom you're sending your resumé, I'm just going to hit Delete.
Do yourself a favour so your email doesn't end up in the trash: be clear!
1. Know the magazine. The most common – and stupidest – mistake Griffith-Greene sees is people who come into the interview not having familiarized themselves with the publication. The interviewer isn't going to believe that you want to work there if you haven't bothered to read the magazine. Read at least three back issues, though reading more will give you a better understanding of the topics covered and tone of the title.
2. Have examples. I'm not talking clippings here. Pruegger recommends that you arm yourself with stories of times that you've demonstrated the necessary skills. It's not good enough to say that you perform well under pressure; explain how you still got things done without sacrificing quality when the deadline was moved up by two weeks, for example. Pay particular attention to examples that demonstrate the skills that are listed in the job posting. What you did and what the result was is a good indicator of how you would react in a similar situation in the future.
3. Anticipate questions. There are some standard interview questions that you'll likely be asked, such as Why do you want to work here? Tell me a little about yourself. Where do you see yourself in five years? Prepare answers for these questions so you're not stuck with a blank look on your face or saying something not so great.
4. Be a superstar. Griffith-Greene was impressed by a candidate who pulled out a sticky-note–riddled copy of Chatelaine filled with comments when asked what she did/didn't like about the magazine. Munday was impressed by a candidate who created a mock magazine all about herself, with cover lines and articles selling her talents and qualifications.
5. Ask questions. A candidate who doesn't ask questions won't appear to be that interested in the job, but make sure what you ask is appropriate. For example, asking what kind of team it is shows that you're a team player and, if the editor is the one interviewing you, gives you some insight to how he/she values his/her staff. Asking if you'll be able to write for competitors is inappropriate, says Munday, especially if you haven't been offered the job yet.
6. Interact with everyone who is interviewing you. If you're being interviewed by a panel, respect all people in the room. If one person asks you a question, make eye contact and respond to him/her directly; don't ignore him/her by replying only to the person, like the editor, whom you think is the one making the final decision.
Corinna vanGerwen is a freelance editor and writer. She has worked as senior editor at Style at Home, senior design editor at Cottage Life and is the former Canadian Director of Ed2010. She has also held the position of operations manager at a boutique PR agency, where she handled strategic planning and daily operations.