Quit spewing out mass applications.

Man selling artichokes at vegetable market in Stockholm 1951This anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

public service

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in an urban area, with no regional location given.

Approximately how many people applied for the last librarian (or other professional level) job at your workplace?

√ 25-75

Approximately what percentage of those would you say were hirable?

√ 25% or less

And how would you define “hirable”?

They must have an MLIS, applicable work experience (this was for Director), and a well-formatted and composed cover letter and resume.

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

Search committee evaluates all applications.

What is the most common reason for disqualifying an applicant without an interview?

Ridiculous cover letter. Too short, no customization to the position, inclusion of erroneous personal information.

Do you (or does your library) give candidates feedback about applications or interview performance?

√ No

What is the most important thing for a job hunter to do in order to improve his/her/their hirability?

Focus on the specifics of each institution and the position, customize their letter and resume to THAT job. Quit spewing out mass applications. Also, show that you did your homework and are actually interested in this institution, library, and position.

Show your specific accomplishments that apply to our job requirements in your cover letter and resume.

Also offer your specific vision and philosophy for library service.

I want to hire someone who is

competent, socially astute. Experience can be learned.

How many staff members are at your library/organization?

√ 10-50

How many permanent, full time librarian (or other professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ 2

How many permanent, full time para-professional (or other non-professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ 1

Can you tell us how the number of permanent, full-time librarian positions at your workplace has changed over the past decade?

√ There are the same number of positions

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with part-time or hourly workers over the past decade?

√ Yes

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with para-professional workers over the past decade?

√ Yes

Does your workplace require experience for entry-level professional positions? If so, is it an official requirement or just what happens in practice?

not an official requirement, but for recent grads, we expect them to have at least volunteered or worked in a paraprofessional capacity in a library environment.

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ No

Why or why not?

People need libraries. Most librarians who work on the front lines are working hard to keep up with people’s needs. People need help to navigate an increasingly complex information environment and learn how to drill down from a lot of irrelevant results to the ones they need. They also need help using complex technologies for fun and entertainment. We have those skills and they’re used to coming to us for help. We’re positioned to be the go-to people if we can re-engineer our image and publicize it.

Do you have any other comments, for job hunters or about the survey?

Yes. Don’t write a paragraph for a cover letter. Your cover letter is how I choose whether to interview you. Research the places you’re hiring and give them a feel, specifically, about why you want to work there and what you have done that could serve our needs as stated in the job description. If you do that you’ll be heads and shoulders above the rest. Also, ask someone to proof-read for typos and grammar.

Do you hire librarians?  Take this survey: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibjobmarketsurvey or take other Hiring Librarians surveys.

For some context, look at the most recent summary of responses.



Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, State of the Job Market 2015, Urban area

2 responses to “Quit spewing out mass applications.

  1. Emily

    I understand why personalized cover letters are critical- I have been on hiring committees, and am currently writing customized cover letters myself as I look for a new position. One thing that I am encountering though is the mental and emotional fatigue that sets in after researching so many institutions and imaging yourself in so many positions- it’s emotionally exhausting to go through several times a week, just to never hear back from the majority of places that you’re applying to. Constantly opening yourself up and then being either outright rejected (in the best case scenario) or completely ignored really, truly wears on an individual.

    I hope that the person who filled out this survey can consider that when reading cover letters that aren’t as customized as he/she would like to see. I understand that people who write these types of cover letters won’t get interviews, and that they are making this more difficult for themselves. But a little sympathy about one possible reason applicants might do this would be wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I concur, Emily. I usually use an older application as a partial template, then I change most of it to match the job description. Re-writing everything from scratch is exhausting and it isn’t always necessary when there is no major difference in descriptions from one librarian job and another.


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