Over the last two weeks, I’ve been looking to hire some staff writers for my sites, as I talked about in my April Income Report. Since I’m transitioning to having a fuller publishing schedule on two of my sites, I really wanted to have some talented writers help me and provide awesome content to compliment the site and continue to improve the brand.
As such, I put out a call for staff writers. When my close contacts were exhausted and I still needed some writers, I went to the ProBlogger Job Board. Needless to say, that was a great source of talent, but also a great source of resume spam. Posting on a major job board really has made me appreciate the talented individuals that are out there, and I’m so happy for the couple that I’ve found so far.
With that, I thought it would be great to highlight some of the Do’s and Don’ts that I’ve seen in staff writers, coming from someone who has now screened over 100 applicants for the jobs I have listed.
What I’m Looking for in a Staff Writer
First, you should know what I was looking for in a staff writer. Here is what I put in the listing:
Entrepreneurship Life is actively looking for bloggers and writers from around the world who share a passion for business and entrepreneurship, as well all the bells and whistles that go with it.
- We are seeking writers to contribute a weekly article at least 800 words long.
- Is able to focus on entrepreneurship topics, including money, technology, insight, leadership, and lifestyle (including dress, food, etc.)
- Is active on social media and willing to promote their articles to their own following
We want the writers to think about this as their own column, and all topics will be the writer’s choice, as well as the writer’s own research.
Beyond the listing, I had a few personal criteria that I was looking for. First, spelling and grammar are huge! Second, I wanted to hear how the writer/blogger could contribute their own unique perspective.
Unlike being a journalist, bloggers have it a different – we are encouraged to share our perspective and not just report the news. This was key.
Finally, I had to meet certain budget criteria.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Applying for a Staff Writing Job
Now that you know what I was looking for, let me highlight some things that you shouldn’t do when applying for a staff writing job (or any job really).
Do: Have Spelling and Grammar
This is a huge pet peeve of mine. You’re applying for a writing job! You should have perfect spelling and grammer. However, I deleted 70+ applications simply on the grounds of poorly written emails!
First, let’s talk about proper capitalization. You don’t even capitalize the “I” are the start of your sentence? Then, do you even know what a blog is? What about this “…………” and your name. Come on! Whether you write online or offline, basic grammar rules apply!
Don’t: Used Generic/Not Relevant Resumes
I can’t believe how many generic emails I received, or resumes from staff writers who weren’t even in the business space. I received countless emails from “foodies”, “mom bloggers”, and more, all who wanted to write about entrepreneurship. Not to put them down – they may be excellent writers – but in a short email sales pitch, that doesn’t convey how you’re going to help me and my site.
Second, too many people simply copied and pasted their responses. Here’s a classic example:
Notice the change in font? Yea, I did. I could go on and highlight how all of the examples they provided in the email were to non-relevant InfoBarrel articles. If you’re applying for a staff writing job, and least be relevant.
Don’t: Apply Multiple Times
Given I work full time, I wouldn’t normally respond to emails until late at night. As such, people would apply all day, and I’d have a big queue when I got home. Since I use Google Apps for my business, Gmail automatically groups together the same emails.
And every night, I’d come home to this:
Beyond the grammar, you could tell this person was basically spamming all the job applications on the job board. Everyone who applied more than once got automatically deleted without even looking at it.
Do: Include Nice Touches
Finally, one of the biggest things that set apart the resumes that at least avoided the big don’ts above was to include some nice touches.
Some great examples of nice touches included:
- Using My Name (not just “sir” or “to whom it may concern”)
- Doing Research (look at my site and show you care)
- Genuine (really highlight how your story fits my site)
Lessons for Applying for a Staff Writing Job
Realize that, on big job boards, there will be hundreds of applications for each job. As such, you have to stand out.
But, what most people don’t realize is that the easiest way to stand out is to be proper and correct. Out of over 100+ applications, I only really looked at about 10 – the 10 people who used correct grammar and spelling, and put in the personal touches mentioned above.
So, if you want to be a staff writer, follow these do’s and don’ts and start landing jobs today!