Do’s and Don’ts of Applying for a Staff Writing Job

staff writerOver 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.

  1. We are seeking writers to contribute a weekly article at least 800 words long.
  2. Is able to focus on entrepreneurship topics, including money, technology, insight, leadership, and lifestyle (including dress, food, etc.)
  3. 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!

For example:

bad spelling

 

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:

generic resume

 

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:

duplicate submissions

 

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!

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Comments

  1. hi Robert

    I too look for non canned responses and check grammar for applicants that sound ideal for my projects. I highly recommend anyone applying for content marketing jobs to not only create a strong portfolio but write with passion and apply their personal touch.

    Hope it helps…

  2. I couldn’t agree more with lots of these points, and they actually go for applying for ANY work whatsoever. I can’t imagine not knowing (or caring to know) the name of the person I’m contacting (I hate the “dear sir”s). I think writers from other niches are fine, but they need to be able to back up exactly how they are qualified to write about something else. For example, yes, I’m a personal finance blogger, but I have my BBA so I can write about business topics. It’s insane that some don’t know how to apply for work.

  3. Thanks for the tips. These are all very useful. I treat staff writing positions as if I were applying for a job. Granted I don’t use my career resume on my staff writing applications.

  4. It is amazing how people can treat applications like that! These are great tips and will be very helpful to many!

  5. Wow you would think that for a staff writing job applicants would know better! Why even bother you and waste your time? Makes no sense.

  6. First impression is really important especially when applying for a writing job. Grammar and spelling are most important so just by looking at an application letter, you could already tell if that person is good with it or just sucks.

  7. Not sure whether to laugh or to be irritated. This is a job application. And it’s a staff writing job. Proper English and grammar should be observed.

  8. christie says:

    Robert: Why is it important for your staff writers to have their own blogs? Is this regarding Google or Alexa ?
    ~ Christie

    • It’s not required, but it’s the best resume out there. By having their own site, you can really see their writing style and engagement with the audience. Also, it let’s me know that they will write with a quality that will satisfy their audience, as well as mine.

      I’ve had people who are not bloggers write, but it can be a hard learning curve to teach them the WordPress system.

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