The Library Musings of Jaime Huaman

Archive for the category “Jobs”

5 Things You Must Do Before Applying for a Librarian Position

So you have just entered the job market and are looking for the perfect job.  This can be a scary and confusing time for those just entering the profession as well as those who have been laid-off or are returning to work for the first time after a long absence.   Due to the worldwide economic depression as well as the competitiveness of the profession, landing the perfect position can be very difficult.  Applicants must find a way to stand out from the crowd and show that they are the best person for the position. Competing with people with more experience is a difficult thing to do, however, if you follow the 5 golden rules than you will be able to stand out in the crowd.

1.  Determine your ideal organization and position

Determining your ideal organization and position is probably one of the most important steps you must complete before thinking of applying for a position.  Many new graduates, recently laid off librarians, and librarians reentering the job market may be feeling desperate to find a new job, especially considering the long application periods for some positions and the fierce competition for positions.  These applicants often make the mistake of applying for anything and everything in order to just get their foot in the door; this however, may be counter productive.  Casting the widest net may not be the best strategy because it may make a candidate seem desperate to search committees, especially if they apply for several positions within an institution.  Employers remember people who apply for every open position and not for good reasons. It is because these applicants seem desperate for a paycheck.  In this situation, the candidate is not focused on the particular position rather on getting any position and it is noticeable to the potential employer.

The best course of action is to determine first the position you want and then the type of organization.  Do you want to be a reference librarian?  If so what kind of reference?  Are you interested in government documents or history? Do you want to be a systems librarian or work with digital repositories? It can be difficult to narrow down which type of position you want and if you are not sure than you can do some research or contact someone who is in your ideal position and see if they would be willing to give you a tour of their library and provide you with the pros and cons of the position.  I have done this on more than one occasion and the librarians that I have met with have always been a great source of information and always seemed excited to share their ideas about the position and librarianship.

Once you have identified your ideal organization and position than you can evaluate your skills and weaknesses and determine how you can make yourself a more competitive candidate for a position.

2.  Evaluate your skills and weaknesses

Before you apply for any job you need to know what your skills and weaknesses are.  At this point in the game you probably have a pretty good idea of your skill sets, however, you really need to evaluate them to determine what you excel at and where you need more experience or what skills you need.  Most people over look this step in the job search because they feel it’s not important or they think that they can come up with a list at the drop of the dime.  It is important to realize that you will be competing with dozens if not hundreds of other applicants who bring their own unique skills and experiences. Some of them have far more experience or education than you do and you need to provide a convincing argument for why you are the most qualified for the position in question.

Create a list of your skills and how you obtained these skills. For example, if you know how to create databases with access than add that to the list and write down all the databases that you have created.  Other items on your list could include reference, information literacy courses, social media, or website design.  Some people have difficulties in identifying their skills or they do not feel they have many skills.  If you find yourself having a hard time creating this list than ask your coworkers and colleagues what skills they think you have.  Sometimes it is difficult to identify these skills and another person’s opinion can be very helpful. This list will be helpful in preparing for your interviews and writing cover letters.

Next create a list of your weaknesses or the skills that you need.  To create this list you must have done step one.  Once you know what type of position you want than you can identify the skills that you need to be a competitive candidate.  If you are not sure what skills you need than you could ask someone who is in your ideal position or you can examine job announcements.  For example, if you want to be a reference librarian and you notice that many positions require teaching experience and you don’t have any than that would be a weakness that you can work on.  Once you have identified your weakness than you can examine ways to acquire the skills that you need to be a more competitive candidate.

3. Update your resume

This seems pretty self-evident.  If you’re going to be starting a job search than you need to have your resume updated.  However, there is more to it than just adding your current title or adding a graduation date.  In the past year, I have attended several panels that provided tips to job seekers.  During these sessions, the panelists who were in charge of hiring at different types of library institutions described their ideal resumes and cover letters.  There was a general consensus that your resume should be formatted specifically for the type of institution your applying for.  For example, academic libraries wanted graduation dates on resumes to verify years of professional experience, whereas public and special libraries did not want graduation dates on resumes because it could lead to assumptions of the candidates age and therefore opened up the possibility of age discrimination or other assumptions. In other words, you will have to format your resume according to the type of organization that you want to work in.

4. Select your references

Before you start on your job search you want to find 3 or 4 references.  References should be people who are working in libraries and can attest to your work skill.  Your references can be professors if you’re a student or work colleagues/supervisors if you’re already in the profession. The person you choose should have a good understanding of your current position and your skills.  Don’t pick someone you worked with on a committee for one week and never saw again. They will not be able to provide enough information when potential employers contact them.  If you have been in the profession for a while try to choose people who have similar positions or work in the type of organization you’re interested in.  This ensures that your references can talk about the challenges of working in a particular position or organization and how you will succeed.

Once you select potential references make sure that you ask them if they feel they can provide a positive review of your skills to potential employers.  This is not an attempt to coach your references, rather it is just ensuring that they will enhance your job application and not be a negative in your application.

It is important to keep your references informed of your search.  Explain to them what type of institution you want to work in and your ideal position.  Your references will keep an out for your ideal position as well as to provide you feedback on your search and interview techniques. Just remember they are doing you a favor, so try to respect their time and do as much as you can to make their experience easier.  You can do this by informing them of interviews you have been on, providing your cover letter, resume, and job announcement for the position, and explain to them any concerns the search committee had with your application.  Your references should never be surprised by a call for a reference. Overall, they will be a great source for information and opinions.

5. Create and manage your personal brand

Your uniqueness, your skills, your experiences, are arguably the most important part of your professional reputation, in other words your brand. A simple Google search of your name will bring up your online presence.   Your online presence is made up of all the websites, social media sites, blogs, forums etc. that you use.  It is important that you determine what your online presence is and that you monitor it. By creating a professional website, blog, Facebook/twitter/LinkedIn pages you can ensure that if a potential employer googles your name that they will find information on you.  You could even put your website in your resume or cover letters to ensure that hiring committees see your online presence. Using the same photo across all your sites makes your profiles easy to identify and your professional presence can be used to enhance your resume.  For example, you can talk about your pathfinders in a resume, but you can show it to them through your website.  In other words, your personal brand becomes another way to sell your talents and skills.

At this point you also want to create a professional email address that you can use on applications. might not send the right message to possible employers.  Consider getting an email address that contains your first and last names which will make identifying your emails easier for employers.


Tips to Job Seekers: Notes from Panel Discussions

In 2011, I had the opportunity to listen to two panels that provided tips to job seekers and I am taking this opportunity to share what I learned.  I attended CareerWise 2011, a workshop for library professionals, sponsored by the North Carolina chapter of the Special Libraries Association, the North Carolina Library Association Round Table for Ethnic Minority Concerns (REMCo), and the North Carolina Library Association Reference & Adult Services Section (RASS).  In addition to providing information on how to use your social media profiles in your job search and how to dress for success, there was a panel knowledgeable in library hiring.  Panelists included Tiffany Allen, UNC Libraries, Mariel Christian, RTI International and Kim Hailey, City of Greensboro Public Libraries.  At the North Carolina Library Association 59th Biennial Conference, I attended Tips and Tricks for Job Seekers a panel discussion featuring library professionals from special, academic, and public libraries.

In this blog post, I will share with readers what I learned about the hiring process.  While I have done my best to take notes at the time of the event, not everything may be completely accurate, as I may have misunderstood or my notes may be wrong.  In any case, the following blog reflects what I took away from these events.

Even though the two events had different panelists, there seemed to be consensus on some ideas. Panelists described the hiring differences in academic, public and special libraries and provided advice for resumes, cover letters, and interviews.   Panelists explained what they expected in applications and what things annoyed them.  For instance, panelists described being turned off by grammatical errors; small font, unprofessional email address, and ring back tones on cell phones.   They highly recommended that an applicant customize cover letters and resumes to jobs they are applying for. Resumes and cover letters should be customized to reflect the skills and knowledge that are described in the job announcement and they also recommended using the same vocabulary in your cover letter as what was used in the job announcement.

Issues of underemployment and unemployment were hot topics during these panel sessions.  The experts were sympathetic to people who lost their jobs or were unable to find professional positions; however, they recommended that people look for other ways to gain skills.  Volunteer work was discussed as a great way to gain experience in the type of library you are interested in.   They also recommended having some relevant experience to the position you are applying for or your application will go to the bottom of the pack.  For example, if you apply for a public library position it would be good to have some experience in libraries.

During one of the panel sessions, an audience member questioned the panel about underemployment.  The audience member was in the position where her full time position became paraprofessional, but she was offered a part time professional position.  She asked if staying in the paraprofessional position would look bad to search committees if she had a MLS and worked as a paraprofessional.  The panel explained that given the current economic condition that they understood short stints as a paraprofessional; however, if someone with an MLS stayed for a long time in a paraprofessional position then the committee would see this as a negative.  The panel recommended that the audience member take the part time paraprofessional position as opposed to staying in the full time paraprofessional position.

Below I have summarized some of the points talked about during the two sessions:

Cover Letters and Resume Tips

  • Limit cover letters to 1 page for special libraries, 1- 1.5 pages for public libraries, and 1-4 pages for academic libraries.
  • Customize each cover letter and resume to the job (i.e. if the job calls for CONTENTdm experience make sure your cover letter and resume state that). Make sure you parallel your skills to the skills called for.
  • Do not address cover letters “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam”.   If the advertisement doesn’t specify a contact then address it to the department manager.  This shows your researching the library.
  • Make the reader want to read your cover letter.  Keep it upbeat and interesting.
  • State where you saw the job advertisement.
  • Recruiters often like to be asked for an interview and to be thanked for their time and consideration in cover letters.
  • Remember your cover letter will be evaluated for writing skills.  Make sure there are no grammatical or spelling mistakes.
  • If you don’t include your references in your application then put “references available on request” at the bottom of your resume. (This typically only applies to special libraries)
  • Do not fold your resume or print it on colored paper.
  • Save cover letters and resumes as PDFs or formatting can be lost or changed accidently.
  • For public and special libraries it is not necessary to put graduation years.  Academic libraries want graduation dates to ensure candidates meet requirements.
  • Put volunteer experience on your resume.
  • Due to the nature of the economy if you don’t have direct experience your application may go to the bottom of the applicant pool.
  • If your state has public library certificates than get it.  You never know when you may need it.
  • If you have an online professional presence than put it on your resume/cover letter. This shows you stay current.  Social media sites will most likely be checked by the search committee.

Interviewing Tips-

  • You may be asked about weaknesses or interpersonal conflicts make sure you can provide an answer.  It looks bad to the search committee if you cannot answer these questions.
  • Prepare for STAR type questions.
  • During an interview suites are not required, but formal wear and comfortable shoes are a must.
  • You may want to conduct site visits of the library before the interview just to become familiar with the library.
  • In telephone interviews, make sure that the interview does not go longer than the slotted time.  (Keep your answers short and ask fewer questions if you run out of time)
  • Remember if you’re on an academic interview then you are being interviewed all day including lunch and breaks.  If smoke than you might want to use a patch as someone on the committee may be sensitive to the smells of tobacco. Limit your use of perfumes for the same reason.
  • Make sure that you have questions about the position and demonstrate your knowledge of the library and organization.  Remember you are interviewing your potential employer to see if the position is a good fit for you.
  • Make sure to read the job announcement before going on the interview and do research on the library and community
  • Have a response to why you’re interested in the job.  You might be surprised at how many people are unable to answer this very basic question.
  • Talk about your accomplishments and have the numbers.  For example, if you eliminated a cataloging backlog than make sure you know how big the backlog was.   Numbers provide a better understanding of your accomplishments.
  • Be polite no matter the income.  The library community is fairly small and you don’t want to get a reputation for being rude.
  • Make sure to send hand written thank you notes to all interviewers. Email thank you notes are acceptable for phone interviews.   If there were many interviewers than it is acceptable to send one thank you note where you ask the recipient to thank the rest of the panel.  Thank you notes let the committee know you are still interested in the position.  Notes/emails should be sent in less than 24 hours after the interview.  If there were any concerns the committee brought up about you filling the position or if you feel you answered a question poorly, than you can address that in your thank you note.

Library Website: Open Cover Letters

Open Cover Letters

Have you ever wondered what successful library candidates are putting in their cover letters?  Thanks to Stephen X. Flynn, Emerging Technologies Librarian at the College of Wooster, and creator of Open Cover Letters we no longer have to wonder. Open Cover Letters provides a place where you can search for cover letters from librarians in a variety of positions such as library instruction, reference, recent graduate, and department head to name a few.  The cover letters on the website are sent in by successful job candidates and verified by Flynn.  Personal information pertaining to the institution and person are blacked out.

Creating a well written cover letter is vital in the job search.  If you can’t effectively communicate your skills and how it relates to the position then you have less of a chance of getting selected for an interview. Open Cover Letters provides a site for job searchers to see the strategies of successful job seekers.

Click here to go to Open Cover Letters:

Placements & Salaries Survey 2010: Stagnant Salaries, Rising Unemployment

Library Journal has released it’s annual Placements & Salaries survey. This year “1,996 respondents representing 38.7% of the approximately 5160 2009 LIS graduates, found an uptick in starting salaries, but bigger bumps in part-time and temporary jobs, an expanding gender gap, setbacks for minority graduates, and a drop in the number of total graduates.”  Topics in the report include:

Read the full report by clicking here:

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