“it often feels performative, like you have to prove yourself to these strangers whose idea of equity could likely be a 2-hour seminar on a Saturday”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Please note: this is an anonymous response to an online survey; I do not have any way of contacting the respondent or verifying responses. Their answers may reflect good, bad, or middling job searching practices. I invite you to take what’s useful and leave the rest.

Your Demographics and Search Parameters

How long have you been job hunting?

√ A year to 18 months 

Why are you job hunting?  

√ This is the next step after finishing library/archives/other LIS graduate degree

√ I’m underemployed (not enough hours or overqualified for current position)

√ I’m employed outside of the field and I’d like to be in it

√ Looking for more money 

√ My current job provides insufficient or no benefits (Healthcare or beyond)

√ My current job is awful/toxic 

Where do you look for open positions?  

LinkedIn, Indeed, pnla.org/jobs/, Facebook groups

What position level are you looking for?  

√ Entry level

√ Requiring at least two years of experience 

√ Clerk/Library Assistant 

What type(s) of organization are you looking in? 

√ Academic library

√ Archives 

√ Public library

√ School library

√ Special library 

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US (including Pacific Northwest) 

What’s your region like? 

√ Urban area

√ Suburban area

√ Rural area

Are you willing/able to move for employment? 

√ Other: yes but I need a local job to be able to afford a move to another location 

What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?

pays above minimum, utilizes my huge range of experiences/skills, is a non-profit institution 

How many jobs have you applied to during your current search? (Please indicate if it’s an estimate or exact)

30 estimated

What steps, actions, or attributes are most important for employers to take to sell you on the job?  

√ Funding professional development

√ Other: describing their decentralized, horizontal management structure 

Do you expect to see the salary range listed in a job ad?

√ Yes, and it’s a red flag when it’s not

Other than not listing a salary range, are there other “red flags” that would prevent you from applying to a job?

 many years of experience with specific, proprietary software on entry-level positions or requirements incongruous with the perceived skill-level of the position 

The Process

How much time do you spend preparing an application packet?

Depends on if I have to write an entirely new cover letter, usually about 1-2 hours

What are the steps you follow to prepare an application packet?

I use governmentjobs.com as a sort of repository for all of my information to keep it consistent. The only thing I tend to alter is my cover letter unless I need to update a new volunteer position or something like this.

How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?

√ Other: I just appreciate when they can actually communicate 

When would you like potential employers to contact you? 

√ To acknowledge my application

√ To tell me if the search is at the interview stage, even if I have not been selected

√ Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me 

How long do you expect an organization’s application process to take, from the point you submit your documents to the point of either an offer or rejection?

I would like it to be within three weeks of closing but at this point my expectation is that I’ll either get an interview or just never hear anything. If it’s a state job I tend to hear back in days, county a few weeks, city just doesn’t respond.

How do you prepare for interviews?

I read about the institution and try to find past projects that I can relate to and talk about. I read through lists of potential questions asked in similar interviews to get loosened up. I wake up early to have as much time as I need to get comfortable and then I typically have a panic attack the hour before. I try not to study or prepare too much in the final few hours so I come off natural and not rehearsed.

What are your most hated interview questions, and why?

broadly, usually things about DEI and CRT. They’re certainly important issues but it often feels performative, like you have to prove yourself to these strangers whose idea of equity could likely be a 2-hour seminar on a Saturday. I think there are better ways of obtaining demonstrations of character than flatly asking how you’ve personally worked to decolonize archives when you’re applying for an entry-level position.

During your current search, have you had any of the following experiences:

  • Submitted an application and got no response  √ Happened the majority of the time or always 
  • Had an interview and never heard back  √ Happened more than once 
  • Interviewed for a job where an internal candidate was eventually chosen √ I don’t know 
  • Asked for an accommodation for a disability  √ Not Applicable
  • Withdrawn an application before the offer stage  √ Not Applicable
  • Turned down an offer √ Not Applicable 

What should employers do to make the hiring process better for job hunters?

Communicate. I would so much more appreciate a canned bot email rejection than to be told I’ll be contacted in the next few days only to never hear back or get a response to a follow-up. The worst is when the job grts reposted and I take it as a sign that they really didn’t want me.

You and Your Well-Being

How are you doing, generally?

√ I’m somewhat depressed

√ I’m despondent

√ I’m frustrated 

√ I’m running out of money 

√ I feel alone in my search

√ Other: It feels pointless, like the only thing I’m good for us free volunteer labor.

What are your job search self-care strategies?

Try not to get too precious or excited for positions. I only need to get one to actually get into the field so it’s really just a matter of time, but if I get too excited for a position I’m more often setting myself up for loss.

Do you have any advice or words of support you’d like to share with other job hunters, is there anything you’d like to say to employers, or is there anything else you’d like to say about job hunting?

Maybe when I can successfully nab a job I’ll have some sort of cathartic bookend. To employers I would demand you communicate with me so I can strategize. It’s no problem if I don’t fit the position, but please let me know so I can make more informed decisions. You’re not special and if I’m going to take the day off work and not make the money I need to scrape by then least you could do is say “no thanks” and move on.

Do you have any comments for Emily (the survey author) or are there any other questions you think we should add to this survey?

Perhaps some question about personal financial situations. If I didn’t have to work a miserable full-time minimum wage job I’d have the time and wherewithal to apply more or dedicate myself more fully to practice interviewing or developing skills in required software or something like this.

Job Hunting Post Graduate School 

If you have an MLIS or other graduate level degree in a LIS field, what year did you graduate? (Or what year do you anticipate graduating?)


When did you start your first job search for a “professional” position (or other position that utilized your degree)?

√ More than six months before graduating with my MLIS/other LIS degree 

In relation to your graduation, when did you find your first “professional” position?

√ Hasn’t happened yet – I’m still looking 

What kind of work was your first post-graduation professional position? 

√ N/A – hasn’t happened yet 

Did you get support from your library school for your first job hunt (and/or any subsequent ones)?


Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about searching for or finding your first post-graduation position?

It’s demoralizing and shakes your understanding of how the system works (or doesn’t).

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Filed under 2023 Job Hunter's Survey

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