Lessons from My Day Job: Queries and Resumes

I review a lot of resumes for my day job as a public relations counselor, and in some ways, I think the experience is similar to what agents must go through when reviewing queries. Here are some observances that we, as writers, can keep in mind for the query process, too.

The Speed Test
I really can tell within about 30 seconds if an applicant has the experience and skill I’m looking for. It shouldn’t be surprising that agents can do the same with our queries.

Value of Proofreading
For the love of the written word, PLEASE proofread. It’s bad enough to see mistakes on people’s resumes, but when that “resume” is a query letter and is supposed to showcase your writing ability, it’s pretty inexcusable. Take the time to review your work correctly.

Follow-ups and Form Responses
I’m diligent about following up with everyone who sends me a resume, but I typically use a form email without specific comments. I think this gives me a unique perspective on agent rejections. I know the huge spectrum of reasons why I say “no” to candidates, so I imagine agents have a similar list and I don’t get offended by form rejections. If you don’t hear back from a company about an interview, it doesn’t stop you from applying for other jobs. Rejection shouldn’t stop you from querying either.

Things that Make You Go SPLAT
Some applicants try to think outside the box on their resumes to grab my attention. I’ve received resumes on elaborate video CDs, resumes with ribbon lacing and resumes with custom-designed testimonials from previous employers.

I once managed a “request for proposal” for a music client. The agencies that sent proposals in guitar cases thought they were being oh-so-clever…they weren’t. At least three agencies packaged them in exactly the same way, and the only thing those proposals did was take up space in our offices while we wondered what to do with the cases.

It might be tempting to show your creative side, but I’d recommend sticking with the basics and letting your writing speak for itself in your query. It’s all too easy for “creative” to turn into “annoying” or “I’ve already seen a dozen of those today.”

Hope this is helpful or at least a little encouraging for those of us wading into the murky, swirling waters of querydom. Good luck to all!


  1. Thanks for the tips! I can't imagine making a video query... I don't think I have much of a screen presence!

    Sometimes that kind of unique thinking works, but there's a reason things become the traditional way of doing things.

  2. Yeah, a video query would intimidate me, too!

    A lot of the more "creative" resumes I see are very cool - but they too easily become distracting and, if the person doesn't have the skills I'm looking for, all that creativity is just fancy icing with no cake. :)

  3. That's a unique perspective you have on this. I haven't entered the query stages yet, but I still tend to take rejections personally (for maybe a day or two, and then I forget about it). I'm working on it, though.

  4. Rejections are tough - I think it's human for them to sting...then we get back up again.