Author’s Corner: Six things you should not do when applying for a library job

Welcome back to Author’s Corner! This series features excerpts or guest posts from authors of books about LIS careers. In this installment, we hear from Deloris Jackson Foxworth, who wrote Landing a Library Job.  

In this post, written just for Hiring Librarians, Deloris discusses application materials. She identifies six key things to avoid and offers alternative practices to pursue when applying for a library or information science job.   

I think you will find her perspective interesting. For more of Deloris’ insights, the citation for her book is:

Foxworth, D. (2019). Landing a Library Job. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 

Application materials can reveal a lot about an applicant. While there are many important things to include, there are also some things you should not include (or do) with your application materials. 

Tip 1: Do not include references unless they are requested. You can provide those at a later time. Instead use the space you would devote to references on your resume to highlight your skills or experiences and use your cover letter to mention any significant connections to the company or the industry. You could include a name of a current or former employee of the organization. See two variations of this below. “I learned of the children’s librarian position at ABC Library from assistant director John Doe. We agree that my knowledge of children’s literature and experience in a daycare make me a great candidate for the children’s librarian position.” “When John Doe told me of the position, I knew I would be a good fit because my experience managing the circulation system at XYZ University Library has prepared me to succeed as the next circulation manager at ABC Library.” 

Tip 2: Do not include personal social media links. Instead create a professional profile on LinkedIn and provide a link on your resume, cover letter, or both. Be sure to complete your LinkedIn profile and add your recent employment history. Consider adding key tasks or accomplishments with each position. You can even indicate you are currently “open to finding a new job” under your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn can also be used to demonstrate those connections mentioned in tip 1. You can request recommendations from other LinkedIn users and those will be highlighted on your LinkedIn profile. 

Tip 3: Do not make your cover letter more than one page. Instead use your resume or CV to give a more complete picture of your experience. The primary purpose of a cover letter is to show your interest in the position and peak the interest of the hiring professional by briefly introducing your qualifications. Simply highlight some of your key skills or experience that relate directly to requirements in the job description. 

Tip 4: Do not include hobbies on your resume. Instead focus on key skills from previous (and current) employment, awards and honors, education, professional memberships, volunteer opportunities, and other recognitions. The one exception to this rule may be if your hobby shows experience you don’t have in your professional work. For example, if you are applying for a programming position but have never worked in that type of role as an employee your hobby may be a great way to demonstrate your potential. If your hobby is cake decorating and you organize a community cake show each year then you may want to include your work in organizing the show. Those skills can be very valuable in demonstrating your program planning experience. 

Tip 5: Do not submit word or google docs unless the application specifically asks for that format. Instead submit your cover letter and resume as a PDF. PDFs are device-agnostic meaning they will display correctly regardless of the device being used to open the document. This is important since many computers and apps use different fonts that may not be available on all devices. This will ensure the screener sees your application materials as you intended. 

Tip 6: Do not be generic in your cover letter. Instead be sure to tailor your cover letter to the specific job and hiring library. At a bare minimum this means identifying the position you are applying for and the hiring organization in the introductory paragraph and the closing paragraph. This shows your intention of applying for that specific position. To further customize your cover letter, identify some of the key skills or requirements from the actual job description you can highlight. Then provide specific examples from your own experience and/or education that demonstrates how you meet or exceed those skills or requirements. If the job description asks for experience working a reference desk but you have not worked in a library yet, consider other customer service or information seeking skills you have gained and highlight how those skills are transferable and have prepared you to succeed as a reference librarian. Consider doing the same thing for your resume. For example, if the job description indicates a library science degree and an additional degree make sure your resume lists all your degrees under education. If the job description asks for experience working a reference desk but you have no direct experience be sure to identify and phrase your duties as a customer service representative as they relate to the reference job. 

Avoiding these six things and focusing on the alternate recommendations may move your application from the submitted pile to the interview pile. Add to these tips the wealth of information found in the book Landing a Library Job and gain control of your job search process. Landing a Library job has chapters devoted to search engines and criteria, alternate careers, interviewing, professional development, and much more.

headshot of Deloris Foxworth. She has a broad smile and wears glasses.

Deloris Jackson Foxworth is currently an instructional designer in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the University of Kentucky (UK). She began her career at UK in 2014 teaching information literacy and critical thinking to undergraduate students in the Information Communication Technology program. Before UK, she spent two years as the technology manager for a public library. Deloris holds masters degrees in library science and communication, a graduate certificate in career services, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

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