Alumni Spotlight: Carolyn Zimatore C’04, Director of Talent Acquisition, HarperCollins Publishers

Carolyn Zimatore  loves what she does for a living. She’s worked in publishing in talent acquisition for almost 15 years. She started at Penguin Group (USA) and has been at HarperCollins Publishers for almost 9 years now. As a recruiter, she gets to meet interesting people and find great talent to work at her company. She is responsible for full-life cycle recruitment at all levels in the areas of editorial, managing editorial, production, marketing, publicity, digital, online, sales, special markets, legal, finance, human resources, subsidiary rights, contracts, and print and web design for the New York, San Francisco and South Brunswick, NJ offices. She loves networking, getting creative, and finding that needle in a haystack without the use of recruiting agencies. She also manages a wonderful internship program. She truly enjoys promoting the publishing industry at college events and industry panels, and sharing her expertise whenever she can but she cannot get writers published. She graduated from Drew University as an English major and Psychology minor.

THE VALUE OF DREW

Carolyn was born and raised on Long Island and was attracted to Drew because of its beautiful campus, proximity to NYC, and good vibe.  She also liked that it was close to home but not too close.  She was initially interested in pursuing theatre arts but as she recounts, “I noticed that many show rehearsals started at 10 or 11 p.m. and saw theater students sleeping on the couches in the Commons during the day because they were up all night.  I am not a night person so I knew that theater was not for me!”  She was involved in some of the shows (acted in one show and did props in two) but she chose English as a major because she always loved books, reading and loved Drew’s English professors.

She never did internships while at Drew and she feels part of the reason stems from being a first-generation college student who did not understand their value at the time. She now runs the internship program at HarperCollins.

Carolyn was very active on campus. She did theater productions her first two years, worked at the Child Development Center, was on the Orientation Committee for 3 years, was involved in Student Government, and Coordinator for the Ambassador program where prospective students spend the night with current students. She would interview the current students for the Ambassador program and ran events.  She was also a Manager of the TOE (The Other End) coffee house in the basement of Sitterly House, a coffee house run by students.  She said, “We had shopping, staff, baking, and entertainment managers.  It was a lot of fun.  I was a baking manager for a year where I made the baked goods every week.”

Some of her favorite memories include working on the Orientation Committee and Tent weekend. She said, “This was a big party weekend that was super fun.  We would pitch tents and party all weekend.”  To Carolyn, Drew was a very special place. She said, “Just the experience of walking from my dorm to my classes at Brothers College and passing by all these friendly students was the Drew experience for me.  I felt safe there and very comfortable, able to be myself and explore. I think this is the most important thing about college – being able to be out there on your own, and feel safe and comfortable, make mistakes, and have support.  My friends from Drew are still friends today.”

TALENT ACQUISITION

What did you do right after college?

After I graduated, I had no idea what I wanted to do.  I had no office experience but I just started applying for administrative jobs that looked interesting and I ended up getting an office assistant job at an architecture and interior design company called Gensler. They are a global firm but they have a small office in Morristown.  I stayed in Madison and commuted to Morristown for around 1 ½ years.  I learned how to function in an office in a corporate environment but with creative people. I cleaned up after meetings, made coffee, sorted mail, etc.  The Office Manager was also the HR person and she was very encouraging and had me shadow the marketing and accounting employees to see if I was interested in those roles but I was not.  I thought back to what I did for fun in college and it seemed like a lot of the things I enjoyed were related to Human Resources.  I then got the HR Assistant job at Penguin Group (USA) and I liked working with books. It was administrative and I shadowed a lot of people but I wanted to learn more about HR since there were so many areas in this field, so I started on-line courses, eventually earning a certificate in this field.  I began with employer relations but felt uncomfortable in that area. I then started thinking of applying to talent acquisition jobs. While at Penguin I met someone from HarperCollins at a job fair and we stayed in touch. When a position opened up at HarperCollins she called me and recommended me for the position.

What are the highlights of your work in talent acquisition?

It is a really great field to be in for any industry.  It’s a job that offers great job security.  I love my job because I get to work with everyone in the company at some point. Either I hired you or I worked with you to hire someone.  I love running the internship program and love working with the future leaders in publishing.  I’m also very passionate about the industry.  It feels good to say, “Hey, you got the job and welcome!” Obviously rejecting the rest of the people is not fun but it’s great to learn about the company through the lens of that job and then make a match for that hiring manager. You want them to be happy.  It’s a very customer service type of job if you do it well. You hear the manager’s needs but also think about the candidate’s needs and care and making sure that even if they don’t get the job that they walk away saying positive things about the company. They may even apply for a job here in the future.

PUBLISHING

You worked at Penguin and now HarperCollins for almost 9 years. What do you love about this industry?

I love that it’s an industry full of incredibly passionate, creative, intelligent people.  It’s great to be part of a company that even if you are not familiar with HarperCollins because people don’t usually pay attention to who published the book, you’re still part of a company that produces a quality product that entertains, educates, and enriches someone’s life.  That feels good.  When I read a book and I look at the acknowledgements in the back and I notice that I hired or worked with that person, that feels good too. Publishing can be incredibly rewarding.

You have been clear that a love of books is essential to working in publishing. Can you share some of your favorite authors and/or books?

One of the perks of working in publishing are the free books and I’ve had an opportunity to read genres that I might not have ever read otherwise. At first I devoured the classics, everything I had never read before. I am a huge Steinbeck fan.  I also like magical realism. A favorite is Lev Grossman who wrote a trilogy called, The Magicians.  I also really love food writing and I love reading biographies of chefs.  A favorite book in this genre was Dan Barber’s The Third Plate.

Have you ever hired someone who did not have publishing, writing, editing or general book experience? If so, how did they impress you enough to get hired?

That’s what I love about the cover letter. If I’m just flipping through resumes and I come across one that looks interesting but they don’t have publishing experience, I wonder why they applied to the job. If they have a great cover letter that shows they are a big reader and they are interested in making that transition into this industry, that to me is a big plus. I am also hoping as we progress that we consider people from other industries more.  Publishing is usually an apprenticeship kind of industry where you start at the bottom as an intern or assistant and work your way up and that takes time.  That makes it challenging in terms of diversity because it takes a lot of time for you to get to those decision making levels. I am hoping that we will expand what we are looking for. We have definitely hired people outside of publishing that have done really well.

What do you see as some of the big changes in store for publishing in the future?

We are always evolving but direct to consumer is getting larger.  We will also be expanding where we look for talent, like other industries, other locations.  We also strive to be a truly global publisher with offices in 17 countries worldwide.  Thinking on a global scale is what we are tasked to do.

ADVICE FOR STUDENTS

What advice would you give Drew students who are interested in a career in publishing? What should they be working on now to build a strong resume?

Drew students are perfectly situated to do internships in publishing. They can do a fall or spring internship because it’s a fast and easy commute into the city.  We are doing a remote internship in the fall and it’s open to people across the country who never had the means to do an internship in NYC. Because publishing is such an apprenticeship kind of industry, getting that experience on your resume is really important. If you can’t do an internship than do things related to book publishing, like work as a writing tutor which is good for editorial, work at a campus bookstore or library, work or write for the campus literary magazine and newspaper. If you’re interested in marketing and publicity, do things related to marketing and publicity that you can highlight on your resume.  Showing an interest in publishing and networking is very important.  Students should network now and set themselves up for success later on.

You’ve written about the importance of a cover letter, what are three of the most important things students should include when applying for an internship or job in publishing?

  1. Why are they interested in the company?
  2. Why are they qualified for the internship?
  3. Address any holes. If you don’t have a lot of experience that is related to publishing or they are not local to NYC or graduating and looking for a full time job, be upfront about it.

When hiring interns in a very competitive field, how does a student set themselves apart in an interview?

Research, research, research!  Research the company, research the person who you will be meeting with.  Also, come prepared to talk about books.

How did networking play in a role in your career?

Investing in a relationship now could pay off years down the road.  I had been at Penguin for a 1 ½ years when I met the person at HarperCollins and we would get together twice a year to talk about publishing and HR. That relationship did not get me the job at HarperCollins until 4 years later. The point is to maintain relationships because you don’t know when it will be fruitful for them or you.  Don’t reach out only when you need something. Send a note here or there.  If you are an intern working on a book and you see that book months later on The New York Times bestseller list, send a note to the people you worked with and say, “Wow, I just saw this book on the bestseller list! Congratulations, that’s so exciting!” Then give them an update on what you are doing.  You are saying I’m thinking of you, please think of me and you will be on their radar if there is an opening.

What do you think is the key to your success in this field?

For me no job is too big or too small.  I’m not afraid to share ideas to make things better and I’m not afraid to put in the hard work.

FUN QUESTIONS

If you could try any other career other than your own what would it be?

Having my own shop that sells fancy food and ingredients.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I would love to go back to Tokyo.

Do you have any fun facts or hobbies you’d like to share?

I love cooking, gardening and I’m a cocktail enthusiast.

 

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