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How to Get Hired on the Problogger Job Board

Guest Post by Ross Hudgens of Billy.com.

Making money as a freelance content writer isn’t easy. If you aren’t running your own blog or website, turning content into cash can be a difficult thing. But there’s opportunity out there – you just have to try a little harder than normal to find it.

One of the best places to look is the Problogger job board. Here, potential employers are looking for people like you – writers serious about their craft, with a strong content-creation skillset that often develops from reading a website like this.

Because of these potential employer’s high standards for Problogger readers, this won’t be the kind of cheap, outsourced content creation you’ll have to scrap up pennies and quarters from – it’ll be real, well-paid writing gigs with some of the best and biggest websites and content hubs on the internet.

Of course, with better gigs come higher standards – so you, as a potential applicant, need to spice up your resume and take note of the intimate details that’ll make your application pop.

How I Found a Content Writer on Problogger

My friend at another company recently created a posting for a content writer on Problogger and told me about his success. As a Marketing Manager at a new company with many quality content development needs, I decided to create a posting as well.

Overall, I was rather impressed with the quality of applicant, but what also shocked me were the glaring problems with many of the resumes and cover letters in my inbox. Similarly, I was equally impressed with some of the ways the better applications “stood out” in ways I wouldn’t have previously thought of.

Both of these revelations made me realize the necessity for this post – since I know the plight of a job seeker who often wonders – “Why wasn’t I picked?”—I thought I could help improve your application process in some way, and also, the chances you get picked up as a content writer on your next application go-round.

Common Application Mistakes Writers Make

1. They had zero attention to detail. One of the classic ways to weed out auto-applicants is by using a “use this” subject line. For example, specifically requesting that the applicant include the job description as the subject. Amazingly, by including this simple detail in my job description, I automatically weeded out 15% of the applicants. Similarly, other applications would announce they were using a templated cover letter due to the appearance of two different fonts, or that they had found my application on Craigslist.

C’mon, really?

How can I possibly rely on you to complete a content piece with exact specifications if you can’t do it for a simple, straightforward application?

2. Their application was too bland. Yes, employers are hiring you on your content writing skills, but when I get 200 applications in my inbox for a position that isn’t full-time, it would be an immense waste of effort to scroll through 600 content pieces to find the best writer. I, like most employers, have a sifting process that involves automatically disregarding many of these applications.

If your cover letter was too brief or non-personal, this implies a disinterest in the job. Although you might have been aware of enough to post the “use this” subject line, you were also not with it enough to customize your application to look anything different than 5 million other similar ones that have made their way into employer’s inboxes.

3. Their content samples were not specific to the application. Although you may be a great writer, I would need to be extremely impressed with your prior history to choose you if you had not written about the subject I was asking for. Again, by disregarding many of these applications that don’t have a specificity, potential employers save a lot of the hassle, and to be blunt, being a “great writer” does not mean that you are cut out to write about green technology, fashion, or marine biology. Sorry.

When businesses come to Problogger looking to hire, it’s not because they want to find a generic person who can pump out articles about anything – they want expertise in an area. The cheap, bland kind of content creation can be found elsewhere.

If you’re really interested in a position that creates content green technology, write a sample article about it for submission. That’s the only way you’re going to get hired unless you’ve got a stacked history of creating viral, amazing content.

4. They only linked to their own blog. You might be able to write well about stuff you care about, but are you skilled enough to think outside the box and also meet the specifications of a certain job description? By linking to just your blog, you’re telling me you don’t have experience writing according to other’s specifications. It’s great that you’re a good writer, but there’s more to the job description than that. Ability to follow directions, attention to detail, and domain expertise are all things that can put an average writer far above a good one.

5. They lacked effort. Some people just flat out didn’t try, asking for payment information, more job details and etc. before supplying additional details. Don’t waste your time making these kinds of pitches! Employers have to pay $50 to get on the job board, and they do it for a reason – there is a wealth of quality potential writers that read the site. By making this kind of inquiry, you are not only wasting the employer’s time, you are wasting your own.

In this way, applications work like the below graph. At a certain effort level, the chances of being hired are rather low, not because you’re a bad writer – but because everyone makes that level of effort. Once you’ve hit an imaginary line – somewhere between 10-20 minutes of effort when applying, your chances jump dramatically. Before that, every second added does little to improve your chances.

How to Make Your Application Stand Out

Beyond the failures in the application process, there are also plenty of application “pluses” I stumbled into that made me stop and say “let’s talk”. Getting an interview among 200 applicants is more than just not being bad – it’s about being really, really good too.

1. Create a Customized, PDFed Resume. As a freelance writer, there’s a good chance you’re going to be applying for lots of these positions. As such, if applying is something you’re constantly doing, you should take steps towards investing in this process – and that means creating an amazing, aesthetically pleasing resume. One applicant sent me a PDF with their work history, a professional photo, and content examples, all in one aesthetically pleasing package. I was immensely impressed with the time and effort they put into this package, even if it wasn’t customized directly for me. Showing an immaculate standard for quality and great presentation is something I want to see reflected in writing, too.

2. Be Creative with the Cover Letter. You’re a content writer, right? This shouldn’t be too difficult. If your opening line says “I saw your BLAND JOB position at BUSINESS posted at X and I was extremely impressed”, you’re telling me that yes, you do care enough to change those custom fields in your template, but you’re also telling me that no, you don’t care enough to try any harder.

If you know the company, find some interesting detail about it and open with it. If you’re lucky enough to know the name of the person you’re applying to, you can go even further to pique their interest. Not only will you likely stroke the ego, you’ll also show you possess the creativity and wherewithal to create quality content.

3. Have content specific to the application. This is straightforward, but the more focused the content is on what the job description asks for, the more likely you are to be seriously considered. The better this content is, the more likely you are to get picked up.

4. Tagging your application e-mail as “High Importance”. This is a minor detail but I found myself opening these e-mails first, and any time you get seen first in a batch of 200 e-mails, that’s a good thing. This function doesn’t work in Gmail, but there’s a good chance you’re sending your application to a business address – so there’s a high probability they’re using Outlook.

5. Be a great writer – everywhere. Again, a rather straightforward thing, but I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night not mentioning it. Every piece of text in a content writer’s application is important, so make sure every bit of it is a direct reflection of your ability to create great content.

If you can’t properly format paragraphs in the cover letter, you’re not getting hired. If your punctuation is shoddy, you’re not getting hired. If your presentation is subpar, you’re not getting hired. You’re a great writer – why not be one all the time?

Get Applying!

Now that you know how to get hired, get to the job board, check out those job descriptions and start applying! If you have any other stories, tips, or suggestions on how to get hired as a content writer, please share them in the comments!

Ross Hudgens is a Marketing Manager at Billy.com. He also blogs over at his personal website, Authentic Marketing. You should follow him on Twitter here.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Josh Garcia says:

    Hey Ross,

    With what you just mentioned it seems the number one mistakes individuals are making…Not paying attention to instructions.

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  2. Personally, I would never hire someone who sent an e-mail marked as important. I’ve known a few people who do this and they all *did* think their e-mail was *that* important, and I don’t need that. Their self-importance was part of a prima donna package that led to other problems.

  3. James says:

    While I’ve thought about some of those jobs when I see Darren’s Tweets about them, I don’t think I’ll be looking to blog for someone else at this time.
    Turning this post into one about blogging and I see a lot of good things to help a blog. 1-Pay attention to details, 2-Be creative. 3.Stay on subject (mostly) 4.Link to others. 5. Put in the effort.
    All good advice for any blogger. :)

  4. Steve says:

    Great clues for applying for almost anything online, Being personal, following directions and doing all of the little things that help you “stand out” amongst a sea of candidates.

  5. Yes, I have looked at Pro blogger job board to hire some writer and I have to say I was able to find a good one for that work. some times, odesk have cheaper writers but quality may differ. Thanks for sharing.

  6. ~Kat~ says:

    Thanks for the great advice. I think most of your suggestions would work well for almost any job search. One thing writers should keep in mind, when I was hiring I would look for ANY reason to reject a resume. I just had too many to go through.

  7. Thanks Matt,
    I haven’t applied for jobs yet on the board, but have been giving it some serious thought. The first thing I did after I read your article was I bookmarked it on delicious.

    I worked as a manager for a retail location and would ask them to address the e-mail in a certain way. And I’m amazed that how people won’t even follow that simple instruction.

    This isn’t just good advice for freelancers applying it’s great for anybody that’s job hunting that doesn’t know what it’s like to be an employer. I think once people know what it’s like to be an employer they’ll never look at their resume and cover letter the same way again .

  8. I think it’s ironic because I ended up typing the wrong name. I looked at your website and you looked like my friend Matt.

    I meant to address it as Ross. Sorry about the mistake.

  9. Hokya says:

    is there any place of writers to gather and share experience each other ? (like forum or something)

  10. Eddie Gear says:

    We are a form of Elearning content developer, do you think that we will be able to get work here?

  11. ChristopherR2D2 says:

    Awesome post!! Thanks for the insight about subject lines, I’m in the middle of hiring for an online magazine right now, so it’ll definitely help me weed out some lazy applicants.

  12. Ross Hudgens says:

    @Josh – that is definitely part of it but you seemingly didn’t read the whole thing, just like many of the applicants.

    @Vincent – I agree, many of these suggestions apply to any job – if you can’t follow a simple instruction, how can I hire you?

    @Eddie – I’m not familiar with what you speak about, can you tell me more?

  13. Andy Merrett says:

    “Because of these potential employer’s high standards for Problogger readers, this won’t be the kind of cheap, outsourced content creation you’ll have to scrap up pennies and quarters from – it’ll be real, well-paid writing gigs with some of the best and biggest websites and content hubs on the internet.”

    Oh come on, you know this isn’t always true. Top of the board right now is a ‘job’ (we know what JOB stands for) paying $4 for 75-100 word ‘experiences’. Well paid? OK.

  14. Jools Stone says:

    PDFing your resume and marking emails as high importance are interestign tips, thanks.

    I guess it’s horses for courses and the good folks at Problogger are being straight with us about what floats their blogboat, so it makes sense to listen up, even if the same rules don’t apply to all writing gigs. But customising applications, being thorough, using your writing skills in your cover letter – these things will put you in good stead wherever you apply.

    I’ve recently landed my first pro-blogging job for Flightster, a smart new travel site who advertised their post on the very same board, and I’ve been blogging for just 3 months, so there you go.

    Great advice guys. Have RTd and liked of course.
    Jools

  15. These ideas could even be applicable for freelance writers who are applying for jobs with freelancer sites. Often I see poorly written and presented resume pages that don’t give me a good impression of a potential writer, and therefore, I move on.

  16. Jools Stone says:

    I have a question actually. Putting together my online CV just now, I’m a journalist, blogger and marketing prof. Should I combine all 3 on 1 CV with sep pages for each or have multiple CVs? I hope to attract freelance work in all 3 areas you see.

  17. Todayscyrano says:

    Well put! Your stark tone, sometimes inching towards delirium, sometimes to disbelief, is just like the mindset of most hiring managers. I know, because I was one of those guys… *Write to your audience*

    It’s good to hear those tips and that advice coming from someone else. I know most of those tips. I expect most of your readers do. But reading someone’s description is like seeing through their eyes.
    Thanks for the post -