People In Publishing:

Rowan Wilson 


1. What are the kind of skills and attributes you generally look for in a prospective employee?

It depends on the position, but the more that a person has demonstrated that they have attempted to get a rounded understanding of the industry and understand the publishing process, the more we see they will be able to think through problems and issues. But for those looking to get into the industry from without: so much of publishing is about problem solving—from editorial to production to sales to marketing to PR to rights. It's about developing workflows, cost controls and efficiencies. So: what in your experience demonstrates that you can fix stuff?!

2. What tends to impress you in applications—at both submission and interview stages?

In an interview: enthusiasm, a can-do attitude and evidence that they can problem-solve and are organised. Applicants who read the job spec and really think about what we are looking for stand out. Don't be afraid to go into detail about particular work achievements. The thought processes behind nailing a problem provide valuable evidence of how you would perform.

3. How important are qualifications when you consider applications?

Again, it really depends on the position, but experience—and not necessarily publishing experience—will always trump publishing qualifications.

4. Where do applicants commonly fall short, and what frustrates you in submissions?

The awful truth of job applications is that someone at an independent publisher who is reviewing CVs and letters no doubt has a hundred other tasks to do that day. If they have received 50, 100 or even more applications, they are looking for simple ways to reduce the number to a manageable quantity. So they make rapid decisions on applications where there are typos or poor labelling of documents, or where no attempt has been made to match a CV to the job spec and the cover letter has had little thought. These may seem obvious, but…

5. Could you share a few top tips for successful job applications?

Check your application again and again for typos and grammar. If you can't write an application letter without making mistakes, then why would I trust you to email our contacts? Don't write conversational cover letters; make them serious and professional. Don't talk about your passion for reading but use the space to make it clear that you have the skills to do the job. 

Look at that job spec and relate it to your experience. Can you express your suitability without simply repeating the spec? That crucial moment when you're asked if you have any questions: this is an opportunity to demonstrate some smart thinking about the job and how you would tackle it.

Rowan Wilson is UK director at Verso Books