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Tanya Mykhaylychenko

Editorial Cover Letters

A pen rests on a couple of sheets of paper with the word "Application" in capital letters on the top of the first page.
Yulia Kireeva ©

When you apply online as an editor or initiate contact with potential employers through cold emails, your ability to draft a crisp and engaging cover letter comes in handy. While your resumé informs your reader about your career history and specific projects you worked on, a cover letter aims to persuade.

In a cover letter, you are showing your reader that you have read their job description, understood the requirements and have previous experience with similar projects. Even if the job requirements look self-evident to you, think again about the order and sequence in which they appear and how they are phrased by this particular organization.

Draft original letters

When drafting a cover letter or a cold email to a potential employer, avoid relying on previous templates or making it about you. Instead, let the structure of the job description guide your letter. Your cover letter is the first step in opening a dialogue with the prospective employer. Show them that you have researched their problems and needs and are ready to discuss their specific expectations. In this way, you will also save time preparing your online application.  

Organize body of letter with clarity

The body of the cover letter is best read when it is short, well-structured and easy to skim. I recommend focusing on two to three top requirements from the job description and using them (in the exact words from the job description) as paragraph openers for your letter. You can highlight them in capital letters or bold type. Then, next to each requirement, add around three lines outlining your previous experience. Use specific examples, which can include links to successful projects, your areas of expertise, types of documents you worked on for a particular organization or your recent training.

Suggestions to keep in mind

  • Make sure all paragraphs in your letter are of equal length (three to four lines each).
  • Vary the cognitive load slightly by adding links or numbers where possible. For example: “In the past six years with my latest employer, I completed 1,200 orders and achieved zero per cent late status on deadlines ranging from four hours to three business days.”
  • If you are self-employed, you may reiterate your ability to manage multiple projects at the same time: “As a full-time editorial consultant and business owner, I managed multiple orders and file formats with confidentiality, adhering to deadlines and the requirements of each client.”
  • If you have recently completed additional training or certifications, add a link to the certificate program so your readers can see your scope of skills.

Follow up to stand out among competition

Once your application is submitted, remember to follow up within five business days or so. Briefly express your continued interest in the role and provide additional helpful information, such as your references. Offer to complete any tests or samples and indicate your availability for a phone interview. By submitting a job application online, you’ve entered a pool of 100 to 250 competitors; by following up, you position yourself as an interested, available and active candidate.


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6 Comments on “Editorial Cover Letters”

  • Tim Green


    This is a useful and fresh look at the covering letter problem. Thanks! And getting the résumé right is another issue. What are the thoughts on a “qualifications checklist” as a bridge between the covering letter and the résumé?

    Every job ad has a list of qualifications they’re looking for, e.g., education, experience, specific skills. The qualification checklist is a structured list, the top level of which is that list of qualifications from the job ad. Under each those qualifications is at least two bullets succinctly cross-referencing the specific relevant part of the résumé or perhaps giving a specific example in context.

    This makes the hiring screening process easy. The reviewer can easily see that the application is a good match without having to attempt a qualitative fit between desired qualifications and words in the résumé that may be phrased differently. Creation of this list is also a good exercise for the job applicant so they can check that they are actually a good fit and highlight (again) the salient features of that good fit.

    • Tim, these are good points. As a professional resume writer, I don’t routinely put such lists on resumes although in some cases they may make sense.

      For editing jobs, I would focus on specifying the types of projects an editor worked on in the resume. Instead of long lists of self-evident duties, go straight to the specifics: your specializations, genres, types of clients, types of documents you edit, style manuals, software, and specialist knowledge of topics or industries. Links to past projects are also welcome. The specific requirements can then be addressed on the cover letter.

  • Anita Jenkins


    Tanya, as I said in response to your previous post, my experience of freelancing involved neither applications nor resumes, just a network with one job leading to another. Does that world no longer exist?

    • Anita, networking and referrals are some of the best ways to ensure a stable work stream. The suggestions in this post are for online applications, which are more competitive.

      • Anita Jenkins


        Thanks. The world has clearly changed, as I was not aware of online applications.

        • Anita, yes, true. Some job openings advertised online may be a good opportunity, especially for those editors who are just starting out and don’t have a large network of clients/referrals. I’m in favor of knowing all job search channels that are available, choosing the ones that fit, and working them effectively, to stand out from the competition.

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