Further Questions: Can You Tell Us About Successful Cover Letter “Hooks”?

Here’s another question from the reader who asked when candidates shouldn’t apply, if current employment status matters and how the initial selection of candidate works. This week I asked people who hire librarians:

What is something that an applicant stated in a cover letter that prompted you to give him/her an interview?

A needed language.  Experience with a needed genre. Experience with a needed classification or subject heading scheme, e.g., NLMC/MeSH.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
Marge Loch-WoutersI always introduce an element of play into the job ad itself. If an applicant responds playfully back in the cover letter, they move immediately up in the winnowing process. Of course, the playfulness still needs to be backed up with a resume that shows skills that match our job but it is a powerful hint that they can navigate the job we are offering in the way we are offering it!
– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
Petra MauerhoffThe one thing that always perks my interest in a cover letter is if I can tell someone has done their homework. They refer to something specific to our library region, be it something related to the geographic challenges, the make up of our system, something they read on our website or read about us elsewhere. This tends to show a genuine interest by the applicant to learn more about what our organization is about. If their qualifications are at all related to what we are looking for, someone who grabbed my interest like that usually gets invited to an interview.
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you made a comment here, you could make a comment anywhere.

EDITED 1/17/2013 7:31 AM to add in answer by Petra Mauerhoff


Filed under Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public

8 responses to “Further Questions: Can You Tell Us About Successful Cover Letter “Hooks”?

  1. I would like to read more professional responses to this question, this is a HUGE help!


  2. Sharon Britton

    For me, it’s kind of importatnt to know why the person is applying for the job, especially if it seems like a step “down”, or the position seems to be in the opposite direction of the applicants career path. There are many reasons for someone wanting to change direction, or move to a certain area of the country, etc. It is better when the search committtee understands the reason for these things, rather than have to assume or possibly even reject the applicant becasue something doesn’t seem right. If there is a logical explanation for a variation in what you want to do with your life–go ahead and state it.


    • dmzz

      Can you think of something an applicant has said for “step down” position that convinced you to interview them?


      • Anonymous

        If a person writes something like: “While I understand my application for your position may seem like a step in the wrong direction for my career path, I would like to explain why I don’t feel that it is.” And then just add a brief explanation about the new (“step down” position, say from Director to Assistant Director…) allowing the person to do x y and z, while the new position with a significant increased number of staff, different , varied responsibilites etc., may be even more challenging and rewarding.

        If the reasoning is sound, and a search committee sees that, and can also see all that the applicant has done in their current position, they may decide to offer an interview.


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