A veteran magazine editor says this is the most glaring mistake writers make when applying for jobs

Bill PhillipsDave Kotinsky/Getty ImagesVeteran magazine editor Bill Phillips.

For the dozens of writing and editing positions he’s filled during his tenure, veteran magazine editor Bill Phillips says in a LinkedIn post that the “vast majority” of applicants who have reached out to him have “flubbed” the communication.

“In every interview process, there’s usually one candidate who goes the extra five miles and laps the rest of the field,” he writes.

They do this by avoiding some crucial mistakes, one of which is giving the hiring manager exactly what he or she asks for — and nothing more.

Phillips, who’s been a magazine editor for about 20 years, says that when he was vice president and editor-in-chief of Men’s Health, he’d email candidates he liked with a request: “I want to see how you think, so send me your five best ideas for the magazine or web site.”

Aside from learning how hard a candidate thinks and if they’re paying attention to what the publication has already done, Philips says he also wants to see candidates to go above and beyond.

“Did you do exactly what I asked — give me five ideas? Because if you did, you lose,” Phillips writes. He says that if he asks for five ideas, he really wants 10 or even 15.

“I once asked a young Men’s Health applicant for his 10 best ideas, and he sent me 26 single-spaced pages of them. Yes, he got the job,” Phillips writes.

From writing a pithy email to sending just the right amount of clips, read the full LinkedIn post for more of Phillips’ tips.

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