When I posted a call for writers on Craigslist recently, I was flooded with replies. Two of those replies stood out to me because of their exceptional writing samples.
Unfortunately, “exceptional” in this case does not equal “great writing”.
I recieved two e-mails from two different people who included sexual content in their samples. One writer’s first sample runs an opening sentence discussing his younger sister’s developing breasts, the second writer’s opening line included a reference to oral sex with a tongue piercing.
Neither of these two samples are “wrong” per se, unless of course you take the time to read what the actual job post is about. Nowhere in the Craigslist ad do you find anything about creative nonfiction, Hunter Thompson-style journalism, or whatever these two job seekers were aspiring to with these two samples. The ad uses phrases like “SEO optimized content”, “e-commerce” and “research”, so what these job seekers were thinking when they submitted such writing samples is a mystery.
Chances are, they weren’t thinking at all.
Writers, when responding to a job ad it is important to actually READ THE AD. What is the editor looking for in a writer? What are the requirements for the position? Job hunting in the writing game is exactly like sending out queries; you must research your target audience and send the most appropriate reply possible. You only have one shot to impress an editor, don’t waste your time including writing samples that don’t pertain to the gig or run irrelevant information in your resume.
New writers, here’s a hint–NOBODY CARES about your non-writing experience, so don’t list it on your resume unless it DIRECTLY PERTAINS to the job you apply for. And yes, you read that correctly—you’re going to need to write a NEW RESUME each and every time you apply for a new writing gig. Why? Because that’s how the writing game works. If you want to sell yourself properly, you may need to emphasize different skill sets in your resume depending on where you apply.
There are plenty of other secrets I can spill here, but I won’t. Not for now. Keep reading and I’ll give them to you one little chunklet at a time. That’s MY little secret–you have to keep the reader engaged so they keep coming back for more, even when you don’t necessarily have more to give at the moment.