I think I’ve mentioned on here before that hiring is probably my least favorite part of my job. I think I’m pretty good at it, as I’ve hired some kick ass editors and final line editors in the past year I’ve been doing hiring (of content editors, final line editors more recently), but I still don’t love it.

The reason is pretty simple: I get a huge amount of applicants (hundreds between content and final line editors) with a minority treating it as actually applying for a job. Too many applicants seem to think of it as a hobby and that’s a huge warning flag for me right there. If you can’t send a professional query letter when you’re applying for a job, how can I expect you to represent my company professionally? You wouldn’t believe some of the query letters I get. Some don’t even include a NAME.

Here are some examples, so you know I’m not making it up:

PLEASE EMAIL ME MORE INFORMATION CONCERNING THIS TYPE OF POSITION

That’s it. That’s the full letter. Pretty spiffy, eh?

I’m interested in learning more about the position of final line editor you have open as well as how to apply.
Thanks.

Again, no name. The letter could be worse but it’s no query letter.

would be interested in position as final line editor

thank you [name redacted]

Oh dear. No, I didn’t cut anything off when I copy and pasted. First I get one that only knows how to use capital letters, now I get one that doesn’t seem to know how to use them at all. Not really a great first impression when you’re applying for a job that requires an eye to detail. But hey! She included her name.

There are a lot more similar letters where those came from. They always make my eyes circle wildly in my head. Yeah, you’re picturing that, aren’t you?

The second part of the hiring process is telling people that I’m not hiring them. I don’t give personal feedback because 1) how many jobs do you know that give personal feedback when they don’t hire you? and 2) hundreds of applicants, remember? I’d spend ALL my time giving personal feedback and be able to do no training of actual employees or my own editing. I have a standard letter I use to let applicants know they didn’t get the position and to let them know I don’t give personal feedback. I’ve changed the wording several times, hoping to solve my problem but still…I get people emailing me frequently, asking for personal feedback for “just them”. Recently I got an incredibly rude email that suggested there was no way I didn’t hire the applicant because of their lack of skills and must have filled the position on a first look basis (meaning I hired the person whose test I saw first). This leaves me rolling on the ground laughing as I look at probably 20 tests a week. Since I’ve taken over hiring FLEs (starting in June) I’ve looked at over 200 tests. I’ve hired…wait for it…3 people. Yeah. That first come, first serve thing works out so well for me, doesn’t it?

Needless to say, I’m happy I didn’t hire that applicant, because I don’t need that attitude in an employee. But regardless, I wouldn’t have regretted not hiring them. Because they didn’t test well. Testing for a final line editor is only 10% subjective. The rest all depends on whether they have mad skillz or not. It’s easy to do a comparison. I have a master test with a mark up that I can do a comparison to. So, um, if I don’t hire you, it’s because you missed too many things. I give a kind of three strikes and you’re out type of thing, so I don’t expect a perfect test, but I do expect one that gets nearly everything. If you don’t test well, when you know I’m watching, how are you going to do when you’re working on manuscripts and I’m not coming along behind you and double-checking? And you get bonus points for catching certain things that most applicants miss or that I missed in the testing, but you have to be a well-rounded and thorough copy editor or I’m not going to hire you, no matter who came before you or who comes after. End of story.

Anyhow, I suppose the moral of the story is to send a professional query letter whether you’re applying for a job or submitting a book. Don’t expect that you’ll be the exception–there are many who’ve come before you who thought they should be the exception. And don’t send me rude emails because you’re sure I’m not seeing the forest for the trees and therefore obviously missed your brilliance. It just validates my decision. And makes me cranky.

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