Four aspiring editors have earned their place on Penguin Random House's entry-level recruitment programme, The Scheme.
The programme, announced in March, is designed to find "the most creative, thoughtful and exciting talent", regardless and without reference to education, qualifications or work experience.
The successful candidates, selected from over 1,300 applicants for a 13-month fully-paid traineeship in September, include a forensic psychologist and family therapist from Manchester, Aimée Longos; an English teacher, translator and writer from Wales, Rosanna Forte; a graduate student and writer working for a Hammersmith tech company, Alex Harrison; and an A-level student and feminist campaigner June Eric-Udorie. They will spend six months each in two of its publishing divisions.
Criteria for a place was based on "core strengths needed to succeed as an editor", with a theme of story-telling running through every task and challenge. At no stage were candidates asked for their CVs or qualifications.
Assessments included a video interview where 50 candidates were asked to pitch their idea for "the Next Big Thing", explaining what made it distinctive and exciting, and how they would bring it to life. Later, during two assessment days at PRH’s offices, 18 candidates were tasked with creating a concept for the cover of The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr, and participating in a mock acquisitions meeting to convince a team to acquire Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson.
June Eric-Udorie, Alex Harrison, Rosanna Forte and Aimée Longos.
While Longos said the process was “gruelling” on one particular day, she praised it as "just the right level of assessment to test our various skills, creativity and resilience”. Forte, meanwhile, who spotted the opportunity in a Facebook advert, said the transparency of the process was "so refreshing in an industry which can seem like something of a closed door”.
Eric-Udorie said: “If I’m honest, I was always worried because of my age, but I was so supported by the dream team that is Penguin Random House’s HR department. They were also incredibly accommodating of my disability and I never once felt isolated. It felt more than a recruitment process - it felt more like a journey where I really found my interests and challenged myself.”
Harrison, who was first made aware of The Scheme through Twitter, added it seemed fairer than other assessments: “The Scheme was easily the most rigorous and demanding job assessment I've ever experienced, but it was tremendous fun at the same time. I think everyone felt like they'd been assessed more fairly and thoroughly than ever before.”
Neil Morrison, group HR director, PRH UK, said: “The idea of The Scheme is to break down barriers to publishing to give talented people with real potential the opportunity to work somewhere they perhaps wouldn’t have considered before. We used social media sites like Snapchat to reach new audiences and it has been very encouraging to see a shift towards genuine diversity of candidates this year.
“We were blown away by the quality of all the applicants, but Rosanna, Aimée, Alex and June excelled and showed they have the talent and passion needed to bring stories to life. I’m delighted they’ll have the opportunity to work alongside our editorial teams to publish books that will appeal to all kinds of readers.”
On 27th July PRH is running #JobHack, a day of creative workshops for job-seekers in Birmingham, as part of its efforts to reach audiences beyond London and break down barriers to entering publishing. Attendees will have the chance to gain experience of marketing, editing and many other publishing roles, as well as the opportunity to network and learn new employability skills.