“Optional Final steps: realize I forgot to change the institution name on the cover letter, realize everything was a huge waste of time; hate myself.”

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 

√ Looking for a promotion/more responsibility 

√ I want to work with a different type of collection 

Where do you look for open positions?  

ALA Joblist, RBMS blog listings, LinkedIn and ArchivesGig, occasionally insidehighered.com

What position level are you looking for?  

√ Entry level

√ Requiring at least two years of experience 

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

√ Academic library 

√ Other:  Rare Books/Special Collections in Cultural Heritage Institutions eg museums

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like? 

√ Suburban area 

Are you willing/able to move for employment? 

√ Yes, anywhere 

√ Other:  Yes with some minor contingencies on size of cities

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

Range/breadth of the collection; responsibilities that involve a range of instruction, outreach and collection development (esp. curatorial positions); general department culture

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

Probably around 20-30? It’s honestly difficult to remember. 

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

√ Pay well

√ Introducing me to staff

√ Having a good reputation 

√ Prioritizing work-life balance

√ Other: Welcoming and friendly behavior during the interview process

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

√ No (even if I might think it *should* be)

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

Asking too much of my references, eg asking for more than 2-3 references, or asking for letters of reference; job descriptions that clearly fit multiple specialized roles that have been smashed together, or asking for 6+ years of experience that don’t match the job responsibilities (or just excessively long responsibilities descriptions and qualifications demands); when pay does not align with the expected responsibilities and expected experience. Often,, but not always, writing additional materials or being asked to address specific questions in the cover letter and rework it substantially. 

The Process

How much time do you spend preparing an application packet?

Depends on the role — typically I’ve gotten it down to maybe 30-45 mins of editing cover letter and CV to cut out anything not mentioned in the job listing from my “Master Cover Letter/CV,” or add in a sentence or two, and then maybe 30-60 mins to translate it into the online form itself. For jobs that are very different from my normal scope (eg a handful of museum applications), it took longer, maybe 3-4 hours + application. 

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

Read the job listing; edit the cover letter; update CV to change order of information or remove unnecessary information; fill out forms; review cover letter for additional errors and attach; submit. Optional Final steps: realize I forgot to change the institution name on the cover letter, realize everything was a huge waste of time; hate myself. 

How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?

√ Email 

When would you like potential employers to contact you? 

√ To acknowledge my application 

√ 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?

Hah. Realistically, 3-4 weeks minimum for each step, for probably around 3-4 months. The one time the process took less, it was actually a red flag for the state of the department (eg no on-campus interview and never met people in the core department itself). But I’ve had call backs in November for applications I submitted in May. 

How do you prepare for interviews?

I really appreciate questions provided in advance, and will try to prep bullet point answers with a backup answer (I used to write out complete answers and realized what a terrible idea that was). 

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

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

If you have ever withdrawn an application, why?

Yes, when I had accepted an offer from another institution and knew I would not accept an offer from the other institution if it was made; however I was (well, am) not withdrawing my application from positions I would prefer over the accepted offer.  

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

Definitely more communication and more respect to the time and effort that applications cost applicants. When I received a personalized rejection, even when it was a rejection, I respected and appreciated it a lot. By contrast, trying to frame elements of interviews as beneficial to the applicant when they were clearly made for the benefit of the institution (eg one-sided video interviews which feel dehumanizing and prevent the interviewee from asking any reciprocal questions) was really insulting. 

You and Your Well-Being

How are you doing, generally?

√ I’m optimistic

What are your job search self-care strategies?

When I was despondent, I just took a break (but was also very fortunate to be in a position to do so). 

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?

When you want an honest answer about work culture, try to frame it as a question between two “positive” things where you want the answer to be one over the other (ie “would you consider your leadership style to be more X or Y”).

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?)

Graduating in May! [2023]

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?

√ I was actually hired before I graduated

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

√ Full Time 

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?

I had a doctorate so I applied to positions that accepted alt degrees throughout my entire program, but only really got interviews in the last 6 months. Still made it to 3 second round interviews before then, however. 

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Filed under 2023 Job Hunter's Survey

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