Between the Lines: January-February 2003

January 31, 2003

After more than twenty years reporting for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Zoë Ingalls joined the magazine in January as its new features editor. Ingalls is quickly showing herself to be wise and relentless at getting the best out of writers. Her predecessor, Kim Koster, has taken her creative energy to Tulane, where she is director of communications for arts and sciences.

Many job-seekers--including presumed communications professionals--haven't mastered the basics of making a positive impression. One features-editor candidate wrote: "I know the position entails writing complex stories (like Kim Kostner's article on the after-math of 9/11). I believe that my past job experiences...have prepared me to meet the challenges of this criteria." This candidate, in two sentences, managed to misspell the name of the incumbent in the job, unnecessarily hyphenate "aftermath," create a redundant expression out of "past experiences," and demonstrate an ignorance of "criteria" as a plural term.

Other applicants never explored the magazine--or the imperatives of the job. The lead item in one rÈsumÈ, for example, celebrated the "development of a production and sales system" that "led to increased productivity, customer satisfaction, and sales opportunities." Worthy work, to be sure, but hardly key to a university magazine with good writing at its core.

Some of the self-advertising veered into the territory of the clichèd and the banal: "I very much enjoy working in academic environments as they tend to...encourage thinking outside of the box." Another candidate, not wanting to be boxed in, showed less enthusiasm for the work than for taking classes, a pursuit that "will compliment the job." The job would say "thank you" for the compliment.

One job-seeker wrote that "except for the writing element, your job description follows closely my work." The attached rèsumè led with a marketing stint brought to a confusing conclusion: "Upon my arrival, business declined dramatically due to a conflict with a muckrake."