Applying to copyeditor/editorial jobs?
June 24, 2014 6:42 PM   Subscribe

I will be applying to "editorial assistant" jobs soon, which is a career switch. How do I submit the best possible application?

There are two editorial assistant positions open at an academic institution where I work. I work in a totally different department, but my designation in my department is "editor," though I do little actual editing. In fact, most of my work is with technology and nuts and bolts of publishing (printers, version control, all that good stuff). I do occasionally do some copyediting and proofreading for publications that go through our office. My institution is known for hiring people from within, so I think I have a better chance at this job than if I were an outside candidate with the same qualifications. I am also familiar with the house style guide, but not deeply familiar with it.

I've always been a quick study with grammar and language, and though I don't use punctuation &c. perfectly in my daily life, I have traditionally been good at cleaning up my act when necessary. What are some things I should be absolutely sure to double-check in my application? Should I ask a copyeditor friend to look it over, or does that mean I'm not well qualified? How do I make myself sound like the best possible fit? I am pretty good at (honest) spin when necessary but would like to know what the usual culture is at an academic press and what type of candidate they might look for.

Thank you all very much!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Could offer more assistance if we knew what the general job description was. "editorial assistant" is sooooooooooooo broad and could basically mean "secretary" or it could mean that you're working directly with authors doing various stuff. Need to know more.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:47 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

A few things come to mind: 1> proclaim your familiarity with the company with specific details (cite a recent publication of theirs you admire?) 2> tell them how you would help to achieve their goals (not how they would help you advance your career to editor or whatever). 3> list specific skill advantages you have (like setting a file for the printer, or advanced knowledge of InDesign. These need to be concrete skills. It's like they are shopping for a product and want the most bang for their buck. 4> Don't say you are "passionate" for your career field. Everyone says that. Instead, show how you're passionate about copyediting by detailing how you copyedit for fun on weekends [or whatever].
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 7:03 PM on June 24, 2014

What are some things I should be absolutely sure to double-check in my application? Should I ask a copyeditor friend to look it over, or does that mean I'm not well qualified?

Editors always need editors, for we are human like anyone else. It's very easy to miss mistakes in something you have written and (worse) have read and reread. Ask more than one friend, even if the other friend is not an editor.

In my experience, "editorial assistant" is a much more administrative job than an editorial one, but it depends a ton on the office/publisher/publication; you may spend a lot more time scheduling meetings or publication schedules and emailing authors than you do actually editing anything. But it's a very good way to learn and show your stuff.
posted by rtha at 7:05 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

From the OP:
The job duties are editing for grammar, spelling, &c., as well as content and clarity, preparing electronic manuscripts for typesetting, maintaining records and databases, and other similar tasks. I am actually quite familiar with preparing documents for publication (and liaising with authors and publishers) in my current work, so I am planning on highlighting these skills in particular.
posted by mathowie at 7:12 PM on June 24, 2014

Say three Hail Marys, fifteen Lord's Prayers, supplicate yourself before a statue or two and then buy a lottery ticket because your chances of winning are better.

Which sounds incredibly pessimistic, but these are some of the most competitive jobs out there, especially if you're in a major city. I've applied to a ton of editorial assistant positions - entry-level, in my wheelhouse - and have gotten one interview. It was because the hiring manager's son worked on the school paper with me. At the interview he told me about 400 people applied for the job. (I didn't get it. Someone else who'd done essentially the same job elsewhere did. The rejection letter was uncommonly nice, though.)

That said, your being in the same institution will probably help. If it were me I'd focus more on the clerical/administrative experience than the copy editing experience. The latter is what editing tests are for.
posted by dekathelon at 9:03 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Should I ask a copyeditor friend to look it over, or does that mean I'm not well qualified?

The first rule of editing is that you never edit or proof your own work. That goes double for things that you struggle over writing.
posted by headnsouth at 1:38 AM on June 25, 2014

That job description sounds like copyediting with some admin thrown in.

And yes, definitely get a friend to check your letter and resume -- you want them to be immaculate!

For my first copyediting job, I had a recommendation from a former editor at the publication but not actual on-the-job experience. I played this up in the cover letter by talking up my volunteer proofing for Project Gutenberg via Distributed Proofreaders -- you might want to hop in there and help out with some of the OCR scanning cleanup, because it's a nice thing to have on a resume and shows you've got initiative and a picky editorial mind.
posted by vickyverky at 12:07 PM on June 25, 2014

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