Tag Archives: library interview

Baristas, retail, restaurant experience is relevant to dealing with difficult behaviors

Traveling Libraries, Prince George’s County Memorial Library. National Archives

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: archivist

Titles hired include: Information Services Librarian, Reference Librarian (full time and substitutes), Assistant Director, Library Assistant, Paralibrarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration 

√ A Committee or panel 

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc) 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

MLS level are by committee with the director having final say.  Paralibrarian and substitute level are done by the department head and peers.  We have asked for a live teaching demo or story time or they can submit a recorded one or link to something in a previous position.  

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

enthusiastic, innovative ideas, creative

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

people who answer why did you became a librarian  or your favorite thing about public libraries with I like to read.  People who answer questions about working with diverse populations are just about race ignoring age, gender, religion, culture, sexual identity, economics, education, family/household definitions

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

customer service, think quick on feet/in the moment, public service commitment,

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant  

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

they have not even visited the about us page on our website and know nothing about our collections

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

as a screening/first round for upper level positions and for all stages/levels during the pandemic

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

include any and all experience related to people and customer service.  Baristas, retail, restaurant experience is relevant to dealing with difficult behaviors 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

our community is 75% white and we are working hard on this 

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

management style, supervision style, board and staff relationship

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50 

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Northeastern US, Public, Suburban area

Folks looking to break in, you must know how the libraries really work.

Retirement of supervising librarian Leah Lewison of 115th Street Branch. Left to right: Regina Andrews, Carolyn Trumpass, Rosa Zubilaga Montera, Leah Lewison, an unidentified woman and Tiffany (?) NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Head of Childrens and Teens

Titles hired include: Library assistants, Children’s and teen librarians 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ A Committee or panel 

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

Personable, chatty, had good experience. Almost finished degree. Made you feel like they would be fun to work with.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Very short answers are not enough. Please take your time and elaborate. 

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

Their work ethic; how much energy and enthusiasm they have. Whether or not they initiate projects or just wait around until they are assigned something.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ Only One!  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

When people are too brief. We want to hear you talk a bit with each response.

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

We do not conduct virtual interviews.

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Folks looking to break in, you must know how the libraries really work. Study up on wherever you are applying. Have good follow up questions. Run a program, volunteer with any group of people. Find a way to relate normal activities to the library world. Talk about customer service from both viewpoints.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

Nothing that I am aware of.

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

Ask about the most important qualities for the candidate. Ask about library climate.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50 

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Northeastern US, Public, Suburban area

About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Greg Bem

Back in 2012/2013 I ran a survey of job hunters (co-authored by Naomi House of INALJ). It had over 500 responses, including 117 people who were at least initially willing to be non-anonymous. In this series, we check in with these respondents to see where they are about a decade later. 

Greg Bem filled out the original survey in 2014 and his answers appeared as Full time schedule, room for innovation, digital responsibilities. At the time, he was working as a coordinator for a student media center at a college in Washington and looking for work as a librarian or digital preservationist. We followed up with him in early 2016 and learned he had moved to a part-time librarian faculty position.  

I was interested to learn he’s still at the same institution, but now with full-time work. He was kind enough to answer my questions below:

Where are you now? What’s your work situation like, and what path did you take to get where you are?

I am currently the library coordinator at Lake Washington Institute of Technology, in addition to being tenured faculty. Since I last responded, I moved from part-time to full-time (annual renewable), and then entered the tenure-track process. The former library coordinator left the college and I inherited the role. 

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

Everything has been unexpected. I didn’t think I would be in academic librarianship after a year or two. The journey has been rewarding. Every year I look back and think about how much my commitment to the role and the library I serve has also supported my growth and development.

Looking over your past answers, what pops out at you? Has anything changed? 

I think I was very optimistic given my circumstances, but had little perspective on the flow of the job market. Now that I have been in the profession for almost a decade, I know how little changes across the most coveted (and best paid) positions in librarianship. It is a very challenging time for folks who want to enter the job market and get positions, both entry-level or otherwise. 

Have you had a chance to hire anyone? If so, what was that like?

We have hired five people since I’ve been at the college and two were during my time as coordinator. It’s an engaging and important experience, one that asks a lot of everyone on the committee.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

Volunteer, and try to get as much experience in customer service, technology, or education before it’s time to enter libraries. These skills translate directly and, in many cases, will put you above the rest. 

Do you have any advice for people who hire LIS folks?

Be open to folks who are coming from non-library backgrounds. Be open to folks who bring new and fresh perspectives. Radical change is usually necessary in libraries. If you aren’t adopting that lens to improve services for your community, then you are missing out. 

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I hope that job-seekers continue to think about where libraries and library work is headed and find the challenges worthwhile. We are far from a golden age when it comes to fiscal support for libraries and library workers, but I think we will get there. Stay positive and keep growing!

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Further Questions: Does a candidate’s social media presence ever influence your hiring decisions?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

A lot of the interaction I get with blog readers nowadays has been on Twitter, and with all the upheaval (in other words, the terrible new owner) I’m exploring other options such as Mastodon. This leads me to this week’s question:

Does a candidate’s social media presence ever influence your hiring decisions? Do you Google applicants, or look through Twitter or LinkedIn, etc? Any hair-raising stories or do you think it’s not something for people to worry about?


Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System: Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, TikTok, and other social media sites have allowed us to, in a sense, share ourselves freely with the world. By making such information readily available to the public, you should expect it to be examined as part of the hiring process.

Social media technology has allowed all of us to share ourselves with others in ways not possible a few decades ago. There is no ethical dilemma I can see as the information was made available by the candidate for anyone to see. The burden is on the candidate to control their social media presence and content.

What you discover in a search could solidify your decision to interview or not interview a candidate. You never know what you will discover about a candidate.

A candidate for a high level position in a library I worked for submitted an application in which the candidate indicated current employment in a particular management position. When a routine look at that library’s website revealed the individual was not employed by that library, a red flag was raised. Further investigation, via a Google search, revealed a single reference noting this individual was employed in the top leadership role in a library in the recent past. That job was not included on the applicant’s application or resume. A second, and more serious, red flag was raised.

Because that candidate had all the proper credentials on paper, an interview was offered. Knowing about the previous, unnoted job going into the interview, the candidate was asked some questions in such a way the candidate realized we knew of the job. The candidate then admitted that as we knew about the short stint, six months, at that job, “this is what happened.” When the candidate’s references were called, it was revealed the candidate wasn’t totally candid.

The lesson learned here was, “yes, sometimes jobs just don’t work out.” Many have gone into a job only to leave after a short time, going on to success in another job. My advice to a candidate is don’t try to hide a previous job, hobby, activity, or belief in this age of Google and social media because it will likely be discovered and come out in an interview resulting in an awkward moment when you have to explain it on the fly. Interview situations like this do no end well for the candidate.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: The HR department at my college is very clear in instructing search committees not to look for job candidates’ social media presence. Obviously that doesn’t mean people don’t ignore the instructions and check anyway. I’ll admit that I don’t think I have ever checked on the Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other social media presence of a candidate. I’m just not that interested. Of those, a peek at Twitter might be the most tempting. It (for now) is the most open. People opt in to follow without any gatekeeping so anyone with an account knows they can be read or followed by anyone they don’t block. But really I’m not sure it’s the best use of my time when considering candidates.

I’d like to be able to say it’s not something people should be concerned about but I am not sure that’s true. Which is why it is probably a good idea to have a policy or practice in place of not checking social media for candidates. I don’t want to read their diary and I’m really not interested in what they had for dinner last night or where they went to party last weekend.


Anonymous: As a library director, I almost never checked somebody’s casual social media presence unless there was something really in my face. We all make mistakes when talking to friends and I never felt it was relevant. I would, from time to time, look at a Linked-In profile in case there was a detail that might be illustrative. It never, to my memory, disqualified anybody.

There was one time, however, that was outside of librarianship. I am on the Alumni Board of my Alma Mater. We had voted to give a “Young Alumni Citation” to  who we thought was a deserving recent grad. I hadn’t heard of this gentleman and I wasn’t on the committee for that award. So I did a quick Google Search to satisfy my curiosity. I was certain that I would read of great things that would be a credit to our college. That day there were headlines in the local paper that he had been arrested for defrauding the city he worked for. We quickly withdrew the award. At least he hadn’t been notified of the award yet.

Protip: Don’t steal from your employer.


Anonymous: I don’t think a person’s social media presence (unless it has some murder-y, rape-y, or blatantly hateful stuff to it) should matter or influence anyone’s hiring decision. This all looks good in writing, but who is to say that I wouldn’t look someone up on Linkedin or FB/Insta/Tweeter/TikTok/ETC.

I mean if one is posting to social media and their accounts are not private, I say it is totally acceptable.

At my first library job someone discovered that I was in a bunch of rock bands. I was not hiding it, nor had I left it behind; it just wasn’t something I wanted to bring up to my new colleagues. Some folks gave me grief about it.  There is nothing on social media that I am aware of that I care if people see. I think that to use social media (even LinkedIn) one must have their thesis statement, thought process, intention, whatever you want to call so that the way you are represented works for them. My kid is very sophisticated with the way they use social media. Nothing is put up without consideration and they are very aware of what they support or criticize. I was in college when FB became a thing and I watched people expose themselves to this faceless platform and share painful and embarrassing secrets to whomever they had “friended.” 

If there is something upsetting about the candidate then maybe it does matter. But maybe it doesn’t matter if there is a drunk photo of them at a college party from 9 years ago. 

Personally a candidates social media presence has never been an issue, even the (over) 40 student workers that I have hired in my tenure as a librarian. 


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: 

Does a candidate’s social media presence ever influence your hiring decisions? 

Speaking as a Dean and as a college manager who abides by the college’s hiring guidelines, we do not include a social media search be conducted in the vetting process or during the committee process as part of the vetting or hiring decisions. AND – a social media presence absolutely does NOT and has not – for me as Dean or for me as an individual committee member – contributed to any final decisions.

Do you Google applicants, or look through Twitter or LinkedIn, etc? 

I do review the application and resume content closely (obviously)… AND if I have questions I can’t answer, I will do a more thorough web search to find answers if at all possible. Examples:

  • I visit any links on the applicant’s resume or application (ex. blog, websites, an organization’s website they may reference.)
  • I compare titles if they are unclear – by going to – if there is one – their current place of employment.
  • I try to – if there is a question in my mind and I require supervision for the position – see if anything is in the resume, etc. specifically says the person/their position supervises people and – if possible – how many. (If I can’t tell, and it is required, we will email to ask a possible candidate if and if so how many people they supervised (ex. signed timesheets.)
  • If a candidate’s email address does not indicate their name in any way, I will try to match the email addresses to make sure the content I am looking at is for the specific candidate. 
  • Although professional association activity is not required, it might be important for aspects of our position such as leadership experience, project management, training, etc. so I might look to see if a membership also includes activity.
  • Although publication is not required, I will read any publications based on citations or links on an applicant’s resume. 

If selection committee members wish to share information about an applicant with me or the committee, I typically ask them to wait until we are through with our first round of interviews. I also ask them to – if at possible – limit their information to content that will help us match a candidate to the job. 

Any hair-raising stories or do you think it’s not something for people to worry about?

Not for our hiring processes, no!  


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, over at Mastodon @hiringlibrarians@glammr.us, on Twitter @HiringLib, or via old fashioned postal mail. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Can’t remember a wow yet.

Rivington Street, line waiting for easy books, 1923: Librarian holds up book and those who want it raise their hands. NYPL Digital Collections.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Technical Services Manager

Titles hired include: Technical Processor, Paraprofessional Cataloger, Library Receiving Processor, Bindery Associate

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ The position’s supervisor 

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

 √ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

 √ More than one round of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

As manager I:

1. Decide on posting position and update job description if necessary.

1a. Create screening and interview questions.

2. Review applications.

3. Screen applicants by phone.

4. Conduct in-person interviews.

5. Make final decision.

6. Offer position.

7. Complete hiring paperwork for HR to do their background check.

7. Schedule start date.

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

Can’t remember a wow yet. Very good candidates were able to explain intellectual freedom and to have questions ready to ask about the role and the library.

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

Nothing. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant 

Resume:  √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant 

CV:  √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant 

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Only saying what they think the interviewer wants to hear. 

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

We don’t for these positions.

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Having that direct experience myself coming into the library, I am cognizant that non-library experience can translate well into libraryland, it is just a matter of nomenclature and environment.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

HR is working on updating gendered language to neutral language in Job descriptions and policies. HR is also retraining and working closely with managers on avoiding hiring bias. Stories abound of managers using home addresses to decide if a person lives too far from the job location or what kind of neighborhood the applicant lives in.

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

What does retention look like in the department/branch? What is positive about the library? What is the library working on for the community?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+ 

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 200+ staff members, Midwestern US, Public, Rural area, Suburban area, Urban area

Library School Career Center: University of Iowa

I’m super excited to reintroduce this series, which is a collaboration with Hack Library School (HLS). HLS is written by library school students. In this series, the students interview their schools to dig deeper into the resources provided for job hunting and career support. We are cross-posting here and on Hack Library School. This first post in the return to this series is written by Kellee Forkenbrock, who you may know from Further Questions.

By the way, if you are an employer looking to get your job ad out to library schools, Hilary Kraus (who you may also know from Further Questions) has created a very helpful spreadsheet with best process to reach each of the 63 ALA continually accredited library schools.


This interview is with Duncan Stewart, Rare Materials & Monograph Cataloging Librarian at the University of Iowa School of Library & Information Science (SLIS). Duncan is also the University Libraries liaison librarian for SLIS, and a special collections cataloger in the Department of Cataloging and Metadata.  As SLIS liaison Stewart is responsible for Library and Information and Museum Studies collection management and coordinates the UI Libraries-SLIS student mentoring program matching library science students with working academic librarians. He also assists LISSO with resume coaching, mock interviews, and occasional presentations. He earned his MLS at Indiana University – Bloomington.

Career Center Information

Who staffs the career center?  Please talk a little about how it is managed and run.

While the University’s career resources aren’t specific to the SLIS program, my colleague Katie McCullough serves as the main contact for library students seeking support services. In addition to Katie’s expertise, students can connect with their SLIS liaison and the Library and Information Science Student Organization (LISSO) for additional assistance.

Does the career center provide any of the following:

√ Job Listings   √ Resume/CV Review   √ Help Writing Cover Letters   

√ Interview Practice  √ Mentorship Program

√  Other (Please Specify): Sponsorship opportunities are available to students who wish to attend professional library conferences, including the Iowa Library Association’s (ILA) annual meeting.

Do the career center provide online services?

√ Website with resources   √ Webinars  √ Twitter: @UIowaSLIS   √ LinkedIn  √ Facebook: @SLISUIowa

What do you think is the best way for students to use the career center?

Our mentorship program is the best way to get hands-on experience and on-the-job perspective about career solutions.

May alumni use career center resources?

We offer a variety of services for the SLIS alumni, including online spotlights, informational webinars, and networking events.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers about your services in particular, or about library hiring/job hunting in general?

I’ve already mentioned that SLIS students should take full advantage of the mentorship program but connecting with LISSO is another recommendation. Professional library organizations like ALA also have student chapters that can help students find a career path in librarianship. Above all, always keep learning from others in your program. Seeking out advice is a better indicator that you are a self-starter than anything else.

Students’ Career Paths

Can you talk a little bit about the school’s approach to internships, practicums and/or volunteering?

Our practicum program is facilitated by Kara Logsdon, a lecturer with over three decades of library experience – including 21 years as a public librarian. In addition to the SLIS courses she teaches, Kara connects our students with partners and organizations seeking to bring any form of library practice into their workflow. It’s a worthwhile gift of experience that aligns with the SLIS model.

Are there any notable graduates?

I have a few students I’d like to highlight. Andrea Martin is my former student doing contract cataloging of rare materials at Loras, She starts a paraprofessional job as rare materials cataloger at Yale’s Beinicke Library in January 2023. Also, four of my former students work here at UI Libraries: Jennifer Bradshaw (Metadata Librarian), Bethany Kluender (Rare Materials Cataloger), Damien Ihrig (Curator of the John Martin Rare Books Room), and Lauren Claeys (Cataloging Assistant).

Demographics

How many students in the library school?

We have approximately 60 students in the SLIS program.

What degree(s) do you offer?

We offer a Master’s certificate in LIS, which can be used in a joint program with either a Master of Fine Arts in the Center for the Book or with a Juris Doctor (J.D.) with the College of Law. We also offer a Teacher Librarian MA program as well as several certification options, including Special Collections, Public Digital Humanities, Informatics, School Media, and Book Studies.

Is it ALA accredited?

Our LIS program is ALA accredited.

What are the entrance requirements?

Please see this site for our most current admission requirements for our Graduate College and this site for our most current requirements for our MLIS degree.

When was the library school founded?

The first SLIS class of students started in September 1967. Please see this site for the complete history of our SLIS program.

Where are you? Where is the school located?

√ Midwestern US

√ suburban area


This interview was conducted by Kellee Forkenbrock, who is a second year Master of Library Science/Public Digital Humanities Certification student at University of Iowa’s School of Library and Information Science. She is a Contributing Writer and Community Manager for Hack Library School as well as an author and wellness blogger under the pseudonym Eliza David. Learn more about Kellee through her blog, by connecting with her on LinkedIn, or by following her on Twitter @elizadwrites.

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About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter George Bergstrom

Back in 2012/2013 I ran a survey of job hunters (co-authored by Naomi House of INALJ). It had over 500 responses, including 117 people who were at least initially willing to be non-anonymous. In this series, we check in with these respondents to see where they are about a decade later. 

George Bergstrom filled out the original survey in 2013 and his answers appeared as Doing the Research. At the time, he was a part time Instruction Librarian and Adjunct Instructor and had been looking for full time work for more than 18 months. We followed up with him in 2014 and found that he was still looking for full time work, but had slowed his search due to having multiple part time jobs. 

When I checked in with him recently I learned that he is currently working in professional development at his State library. He was kind enough to answer my questions below:

Where are you now? What’s your work situation like, and what path did you take to get where you are?

My current role is Southwest Regional Coordinator, Professional Development Office – Indiana State Library. I assist any library in my region of the state with professional development and other statewide services. All public libraries have to engage with myself and the other coordinators (since there are certification statutes in state law) and academic and school libraries can choose to engage with us. I also work with the correctional institutions in my region to provide services to the inmates. Since the last interview I have worked at a private for-profit university as well as the transition to working for the state library.

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?
My time at the for-profit was a bit unexpected. For the first few years it felt very similar to both my past experiences in public and academic libraries, and it was different from my perceptions of what for-profits are like before I began working there. It was smaller (only five locations in two cities) and family owned/run, but after the first few years I began to notice/experience some of the negatives of the for-profit side of the industry. On the positive side I did gain experience in working with using games in education, which prompted me to join ALA GameRT and I am now the president-elect for the roundtable.

Looking over your past answers, what pops out at you? Has anything changed?
I noticed one of the questions asked about salary listings in job ads, which seems to be an issue that is again in the job hunting zeitgeist. I still feel that these should be required, especially as I again begin to contemplate a new job search. In the past I had been unwilling/unable to move, but I am now very interested in moving and not knowing the salary range makes it a big gamble to apply for a job that might not pay enough to justify the move.
 

Have you had a chance to hire anyone? If so, what was that like?
While at my previous job (for-profit, academic) I was on a few search committees. This allowed me to work with a group of colleagues to do the initial review of applicants and make recommendations on which candidates to move to the next phase of the interview process. This is an interesting experience as it allows some input without having the responsibility of making the hiring decision. Knowing who this side of the hiring equation works has provided some valuable insights for my on job searches. It has helped reinforce the importance of customizing both resume/CV and cover letter to best match the position applying for.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?
As always, do as much research as you can about each position. Learn what you can about the library, the unit/department (if the library/system is large enough to have units), the larger institution the library is within (university or the like) if applicable, and any of the coworkers/possible supervisors. Knowing what they already do can help you position your skills and abilities within their situation and explain how you would benefit their institution. Now even more than 10 years ago, you will also want to research the area you might be working (city, region, state, etc.) to make sure you will feel comfortable in this new location. It may be a great job, but if you won’t feel comfortable in that location then ultimately you may not be successful. Work-life balance is very important and should be considered when job hunting.

Do you have any advice for people who hire LIS folks?
Same advice as last time, please communicate as much as you can with your candidate pool. Let them know when you are reviewing, let them know if they have made that first cut, and let them know after all interviews are complete as well as if they were selected or not.
 

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Filed under Job Hunter Follow Up

Hiring Librarians News and Miscellany

Here are a few things I want to spotlight:

Are you interested in joining a Hiring Librarians run community of practice for people who are job hunting?

I am exploring creating a private online group of maybe 20 folks for mutual support on things like resume review, interview prep, mental health, etc. I would provide organization, moderation and advice. If you are interested, how would you feel if it was pay-what-you-can? Or come back and make a donation later when you get hired? If this is something that appeals to you, please email me.

Actual picture of a community of practice

There’s a new mini-survey on Cover Letters!

If you hire LIS workers, please consider filling it out. It’s useful to hear from both folks who have opinions about cover letters and also those whose organizations never consider them. I’m also trying something new with this – rather than posting individual replies on the blog, I am making the responses publicly viewable.

man with a beard and hat sits at a table smoking and marking survey documents
Taos County, New Mexico. Jim Barns, surveyor with New Mexico Re-Assessment Survey. National Archives.

We’re (re)starting a series in collaboration with Hack Library School (HLS).

Next week you’ll see the first new post in the Library School Career Center. This is a series that interviews staff at library schools to find out what career support they provide to students and alumni. Next week’s interview looks at the University of Iowa and is by HLS writer Kellee Forkenbrock, who you may also know from Further Questions. I’m excited!

By the way, if you are an employer looking to get your job ad out to library schools, Hilary Kraus (who you may also know from Further Questions) has created a very helpful spreadsheet with best process to reach each of the 63 ALA continually accredited library schools.

Hack Library School Logo, the letters hls

We seem to have lost 36,000 librarian jobs over the last 7 years

Remember when everyone thought the boomers would retire and create a huge shortage of librarians? I revisited some statistics and found that we actually have fewer available positions than we did a decade ago, and more than a third of all librarians are still over the age of 55.

blackboard, education, chalk, classroom, school, mathematics, writing, formula. Pixino.

I’m adding Mastodon to my socials

Hiring Librarians can now be found at: @hiringlibrarians@glammr.us Right now it’s mainly cross posts from Twitter, which is mainly auto feed from the blog. So, it’s maybe not too exciting right now but we’re trying it out cause that guy who runs the bird app is a big old jerk. My Mastodon handle is in my Twitter profile. If your Mastodon handle is in your Twitter profile and I’m following you, I’ll follow you on Mastodon too okay? (using Debirdify: https://pruvisto.org/debirdify )

Drawing of a mastodon skeleton
Image from page 140 of “Cuvier’s animal kingdom : arranged according to its organization” (1840). Internet Archive on Flickr.

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If I put my pen down and stop taking notes, don’t talk for five more minutes.

Photograph of Card Catalog in Central Search Room. National Archives.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Branch Manager

Titles hired include: Librarian, Associate, Materials Handler, Manager

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor 

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ References 

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: We did in the past but it wasn’t equitable with hiring so we have turned it off and am reviewing every application. 

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

Post position, review applications, send out SparkHire interviews, review SparkHires, email for in-person, offer position. Depending on my role in hiring, I would be organizing the entire process or stepping in at reviewing and/or in-person. 

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

Cover letter stated experience in their natural voice and fully answered questions in the in-person interviews – and I mean tying the answer back to an experience they had and how it relates. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

For a professional position, no cover letter. In interviews, rambling while not answering questions. If I put my pen down and stop taking notes, don’t talk for five more minutes. 

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

Honesty. Let’s say the schedule is set and they are “Yep, can work that” and then after hired want changes. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Not answering the question completely!!!

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

We do if location is an issue. Job hunters should know that technical difficulties happen and to not let it fluster them. We expect it and can work through it but can’t work through you getting thrown off. 

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Customer service experience is a huge plus. I have hired staff with zero library experience but customer service experience because the skills are transferrable. I am looking for someone kind. Library skills can be taught but kindness and patience cannot. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

We require “education OR similar experience.” Getting a degree can be a barrier which is why we look at every application. 

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

They should ask about the team and environment. What they can expect with training. How they will be evaluated. I’ve offered people that I have offered the position to to talk with my staff for an honest view as me as a supervisor. Job seekers know they will be happy in a position so interview the hiring manager. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100 

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? 

How important it is to attach a cover letter and explain how your skills would be a good fit with my position. And insert personality. 

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 50-100 staff members, Midwestern US, Public, Urban area

Further Questions: All About Cover Letters

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is a multipart one again, with bullets.

Does your organization ask for cover letters?

  • Do you ask for cover letters explicitly in the job ad or do you just expect to receive them?
  • In one brief sentence, what is the purpose of a cover letter?
  • How many pages should a cover letter be?
  • Do you have a preference for format (docx, pdf, etc)?
  • If you receive job applications by email, should the cover letter be included in the body of the email, as an attachment, or both?
  • Do you expect that a cover letter will be tailored to your job opening?
  • Does the Cover letter receive more, equal, or less weight than other parts of the application?
  • If your organization has automated application screening, is the automated screening also applied to cover letters?
  • What information do you want to see included in the cover letter (and is this specified in the job ad)?
  • What kinds of things make cover letters stand out (in good or bad ways)?
  • Anything else you want to tell us about cover letters?

Answers are below, but I also created a new mini-survey! If you have hired at least one LIS worker and would like to share your views on cover letters, please take it at this link. I am trying something new with this survey and will be letting folks view responses directly, rather than posting here on the blog. So, please don’t share information that you consider private.


Christian Zabriskie, Executive Director, Onondaga County Public Library: I see people put a lot of stress and worry into cover letters and I have a formula that I think everyone should follow, it’s useful and makes the process less stressful.

Paragraph 1 where did you hear about the job from

Paragraph 2 what specific skills that are listed in the ad can you speak to

Paragraph 3 what instances in your career have allowed you to display these traits

Closing “I look forward to discussing how I could benefit your organization” because you always want to imply that of COURSE you are the answer to the problem. 

and that is it. 

I promise you that employers spend less time reading the cover letter than you spent writing it. Stick to the facts and speak to the job ad. 


Anonymous:

Do you ask for cover letters explicitly in the job ad or do you just expect to receive them? I ask for them in job ads.

In one brief sentence, what is the purpose of a cover letter? To give the applicant the ability to expand upon their skillset and how that skillset matches up with the posted position.

How many pages should a cover letter be? One. (I would prefer it to be one page, but it’s not a deal breaker if it extends into a second page. However, if its one giant wall of text that extends into multiple pages, I will think less of the candidate.)

Do you have a preference for format (docx, pdf, etc)? PDF, but docx is okay. I’ve had issues with docx files showing markup/track changes in personal files. To eliminate that, I personally use PDFs. 

If you receive job applications by email, should the cover letter be included in the body of the email, as an attachment, or both? Attachment.

Do you expect that a cover letter will be tailored to your job opening? Yes! Use it as an opportunity to shine and show off (but in a succinct way).

Does the Cover letter receive more, equal, or less weight than other parts of the application? Equal.

If your organization has automated application screening, is the automated screening also applied to cover letters? We do not have automatic screening.

What information do you want to see included in the cover letter (and is this specified in the job ad)? Cover letter is the first look I have at someone’s communication skills. Having the ability to communicate well is specified in our job ads.

What kinds of things make cover letters stand out (in good or bad ways)? Poor grammar and punctuation- not good!

Anything else you want to tell us about cover letters? This is the place to show/expand upon things in your resume and how they connect to and enhance the requested job skills. It’s a great tool, use it!


Donna Pierce, Library Director, Krum Public Library: 

For City Department Heads I would think all applications would have a cover letter. 

For my staff positions – I am just grateful if their resume is readable and doesn’t have spelling errors!  (My favorite: list your degrees – BS in Education!)


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: 

Does your organization ask for Cover Letters? Yes, although we call it a letter of application. 

Do you ask for cover letters explicitly in the job ad or do you just expect to receive them? We ask for a letter of application in the ad. 

In one brief sentence, what is the purpose of a cover letter? You should use the letter of application/cover letter to explain how your credentials fit the job as posted and the qualifications. A little more explanation than what’s in the resume is very helpful. Too often, people who are applying think these things should be obvious in their resume, but they often aren’t and it’s very helpful to us when you pull out aspects of those positions and experiences that directly apply to the position. I guess that wasn’t one brief sentence, right? 

How many pages should a cover letter be? As long as it takes. Don’t detail everything on your resume. Just cover what’s being asked for in the ad. 

Do you have a preference for format (docx, pdf, etc)? We’re okay with .docx but you’re running the risk that formatting and fonts may not translate. We will probably create a pdf from your Word document if you don’t send it as a pdf. Creating a pdf locks in the look of your letter and other information. 

If you receive job applications by email, should the cover letter be included in the body of the email, as an attachment, or both? No. it’s unnecessary. The committee doesn’t even see the email. The documents (which should be named so it’s clear from whom and what they are, or we have to do that for you) are saved to a shared folder/drive for the committee. 

Do you expect that a cover letter will be tailored to your job opening? Absolutely. To my mind, that’s the point of the letter of application. You’re addressing the ad. 

Does the Cover letter receive more, equal, or less weight than other parts of the application? Probably equal or more. If we have to pick through your resume to determine if you’re qualified, then you haven’t done your job. The letter is your opportunity to show your communication skills and to show how the job is a great fit for your skills and experience. 

If your organization has automated application screening, is the automated screening also applied to cover letters? We don’t have automated screening.

What information do you want to see included in the cover letter (and is this specified in the job ad)? Again, addressing the qualifications. Let’s say you don’t have academic library experience, but you have other higher ed experience. Talk about how that’s relevant. Or it’s a public-facing position and you have retail experience (especially retail management). If you’re trying to shift from one type of librarianship to another, address that in your letter. 

What kinds of things make cover letters stand out (in good or bad ways)? I actually like it when someone shows me that they fit the qualifications even if they don’t have direct experience. Being enthusiastic about the type of position, showing that you know something about it and would fit with the institution and the work is really important. If someone doesn’t write well, or doesn’t use the letter in ways that they could/should, it weighs against them. 

Anything else you want to tell us about cover letters? Address the ad!


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: My institution does require a cover letter and I am personally a huge fan. That said, I have learned to develop different expectations among cover letter expectations for part-time positions, full-time hourly paid staff, professional staff, and library faculty. Here are some thoughts:

  • All applications are managed through an online system. Job ads indicate that a cover letter, resume/CV, and the names of references are required and each piece is uploaded into the application system.
  • A cover letter’s goal is to provide information about who a candidate is and why the job they are seeking is the right one for them and the employer.
  • Cover length depends. For many part-time or hourly positions cover letters are usually around ½ to ¾ page. For other positions, including library faculty, I prefer not more than two.
  • I don’t have a format preference but I do prefer narrative/text over bulleted lists.
  • I only see the application in our online system and it also requires completing a long form with lots of questions and information about previous employers, eligibility to work, etc., I see the cover letter and other items as attachments at the bottom of the online form. In the old days I preferred the cover letter and resume as attachments.
  • I do prefer that people give an indication that they know which job they are applying for. Forgetting to remove the name of the last place the person applied is not a good look. And I’ll admit to being a bit picky and expecting applicants to refer to my institution as a “college” and not a university.
  • Again this really depends. Cover letters for some positions look very generic and don’t include much that contributes to making a decision unless the applicant is very careless and has proof read well, or submits an unusually detailed letter. For library faculty positions the letter carries (for me) at least as much weight as a CV because I expect each of those items to do different things (they don’t always, but I always hope they will).
  • Automatic screening – this is a very interesting question. My sense is that the only screening is to verify that it is part of the submitted package. I don’t think anyone in HR is reading the letters before they are posted for review. The form that applicants complete is intended to verify minimum qualifications which is really as far as HR will go in assessing candidates.
  • I am going to combine my responses to these last three bullets. Nothing is specified about the cover letter. Certainly, for library faculty, I expect applicants to address the three main components of the position (teaching, scholarship, service) and also to say why they are interested in the specific job available at our specific library/college. A letter that stands out does just this. One of the things I find most frustrating is a cover letter that reads like a CV with complete sentences and transitions. I want a cover letter to provide an example or two, tell me something about the candidate that I won’t learn in the CV, or tell me about the candidate’s ideas about how they will contribute to a new work place. A really good cover letter makes me want to have a conversation with the person applying.

Last thoughts: I know it is increasingly likely that people are applying for multiple jobs which is time consuming. So it is tempting to craft a cover letter than can be repurposed. I think you can do that and still be sure you leave yourself the time to make sure your potential future colleagues see that you are applying for this specific job at this specific library.


Elizabeth “Beth” Cox, Director, Cataloging, Metadata & Digitization Dept., University of Iowa Libraries:

Does your organization ask for Cover Letters? Yes.

Do you ask for cover letters explicitly in the job ad or do you just expect to receive them? We specifically ask for a cover letter “that clearly addresses how you meet the listed required and desired qualifications of this position.” [Quoted from our job ads]

In one brief sentence, what is the purpose of a cover letter? For me personally, to respond to items in the job ad not already covered in your resume or CV.

How many pages should a cover letter be? 1-2 pages

Do you have a preference for format (docx, pdf, etc)? No.

If you receive job applications by email, should the cover letter be included in the body of the email, as an attachment, or both? Applications cannot be submitted via e-mail. They can only be submitted by our online system.

Do you expect that a cover letter will be tailored to your job opening? Absolutely.

Does the Cover letter receive more, equal, or less weight than other parts of the application? Equal. The cover letter shows me that you can adequately communicate in writing and that you have read the job ad and are responding to it directly.

What information do you want to see included in the cover letter (and is this specified in the job ad)? I want to see items from the job ad addressed that you cannot include in a resume or CV, such as more detail about how you meet a specific qualification or an example from previous experience that aligns with an item within the listed job responsibilities.

What kinds of things make cover letters stand out (in good or bad ways)? Bad ways: Spelling errors, poor grammar, incorrect position title or institution name (yep, I’ve seen both). Good ways: Concrete examples of how you are a good fit for this position; addressing every point in the required quals.

Anything else you want to tell us about cover letters? While you don’t have to re-write your cover letter from scratch for each job you’re applying to, make sure that your letter is applicable. Triple check that you have addressed all of the qualifications, that you have entered the correct position title and institution name, then have someone else check it. If you’re not sure how to address something from the ad, ask someone!


Gregg Currie, College Librarian, Selkirk College: My organization asks for cover letters.  

The purpose of a cover letter is to tell us why you want to work for my organization, and why we should hire you. (Resume shows us your qualifications, cover letter shows us why those will fit with our job posting).

Cover letters should be one page, a separate attachment, and a pdf format.

Cover letter absolutely has to be tailored to the job posting.  And if you attach the wrong cover letter you automatically are on the reject pile. (I’ve seen this a few times, so pro tip – name it something more than ‘cover letter’)

 A cover letter that stands out is one that really shows why you want to work for my organization and why your skills & experience match with the position. It needs to be upbeat and enthusiastic!  Also if you are applying to a position in a different city from where you are located, mention why you would like to relocate.  I run a library in rural BC, and if someone is applying for the position from a big city far away, say Toronto, I want to see something about why you would want to make the move. (Often big city people struggle relocating to rural areas, and I want to hire someone who seems like they will stay.)

Cover letter is very important, so spend time tailoring it to the specific posting, and if it requires you to move, mention why you would like to relocate.

Sincerely hoping to never see another applicant attach the wrong cover letter,

Gregg


Hilary Kraus, Research Services Librarian, UConn Library: My organization asks for cover letters, and in my experience that’s typical across academic libraries. While I recognize that it’s a lot to ask for folks on the market who are applying to many jobs, you really do need to customize it to the specific position. A cover letter’s purpose is to tell us why you want the job and why you’d be a great candidate; this should build on, not replace or repeat, what’s on your resume/CV. Everyone has their own opinions on length, but I’d say one page is sufficient for early career folks, two for mid-career and above, and maybe a little longer than 2 if it’s for an administrative role. Workplaces attempting to evaluate candidates equitably will generally use a matrix. They’ll look at a combination of the information in your resume/CV and cover letter to complete the matrix. If you fail to demonstrate that you meet the minimums, they can’t interview you. That said, just meeting the minimums isn’t enough to stand out. You’re also trying to demonstrate your interest in, and ability to perform, the responsibilities of the job. At the very least, hit the highlights, showing how your qualifications prepare you to do the work of the position. If they mention something a couple of times, be sure you address it. I realize it’s hard to pack all that information into 1-2 pages, but do the best you can! Finally, some folks are sticklers for grammar and spelling, so be sure you’ve spell-checked it, read the letter aloud to yourself and, if possible, had a friend give it a quick copy-edit. And make sure you’ve got the right institution name at the top!


Anonymous Federal Librarian: There is no expectation of a cover letter for federal jobs that I have ever seen. I don’t recall seeing any in any of the hiring actions I have lead, nor have I read any cover letters. Another bonus of applying for federal jobs.


Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor and Brooklyn Public Library’s Job Information Resource Librarian: 

  • Cover letters are requested with resumes (former employer).
  • The purpose of a cover letter is for the applicant to convey, in their own words, why they are applying and why they feel they are a strong candidate for the position, and to persuade the reader to contact them for an interview.
  • Cover letters should always be tailored to the job description.
  • A cover letter should be one page maximum – those who read them appreciate it if applicants get to the point and stay on topic re: the job requirements. No unnecessary/unrelated info, please! When in doubt, read the job description again and ask yourself, “Is including this going to help me get the interview?” Think of what the reader is likely to be looking for.
  • Some Applicant Tracking Systems work better with a Word doc, some are fine with pdf or Word. When in doubt, a Word doc may not be the applicant’s preference, but is a safer choice. If the employer specifies a format, follow their instructions.
  • Whether the cover letter carries as much weight, or more, or less weight, than the resume, depends on the reader. One person on a hiring committee may read them carefully while another person on the same committee may focus only on the resumes. As an applicant, you cannot know how important it is to those who will be reading it, so your best bet is to put effort and care into it.
  • The applicant should address the duties and responsibilities of the job and how well they match the requirements, and also explain anything that might require explanation (such as a significant recent gap in employment, or a current address that is far from the location of the job they are applying for).
  • A general, one-size-fits-all cover letter will stand out in a bad way; it conveys that the applicant is giving the least effort possible. Any errors – spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc., and/or sloppy formatting, leave a bad impression. Customized cover letters that convey confidence and enthusiasm re: the job, and that show that the applicant has done their homework re: the employer, stand out in a good way.

Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: 

Does your organization ask for Cover Letters?
To my knowledge, the college has never required cover letters. In addition – now – a “cover letter” is not among the pieces or sections required for completing submission of our online application packet.

Do you ask for cover letters explicitly in the job ad or do you just expect to receive them?
I expect to receive some type of introductory information…and the more “fill in the blank” the process is – the more you need to add a touch of yourself or “selling yourself.” I should also add, if you had asked me that even a year ago, I would have said that I can’t imagine anyone submitting an application without one; however, since our new application packet does NOT require one, we do now and will continue to get people applying who do not include one (and there IS space for one in the packet format.)

In one brief sentence, what is the purpose of a cover letter?
The cover letter serves to introduce the applicant to the organization (the hiring team, the manager, a screening committee, etc.,) illustrate the “match” of the applicant to the open position and identify that the applicant has all of the requirements needed to be a successful candidate – or at least qualify for an interview.

How many pages should a cover letter be?
While I don’t think there is a magic number of words or pages suggested or required for – actually – any part of application sections, I think a cover letter should be fewer than two pages.

Do you have a preference for format (docx, pdf, etc)?
While this answer outlines something that is certainly our own problem with our software package used for the application process, the reality is that unless a pdf is uploaded, other formats often upload but then exhibit problems with odd spacing, extraneous characters, images lost, etc. Luckily, I think most application packages do allow pdfs and I suggest that – if they don’t allow pdfs – applicants should be careful about cutting and pasting and should avoid uploading word documents (any version) and – as a more successful fallback, upload pdfs. Also – a recommended but certainly time-consuming approach is to take the time and enter text directly into the package,

If you receive job applications by email, should the cover letter be included in the body of the email, as an attachment, or both?
There is no harm in doing both unless the organization has instructions and they say otherwise.

Do you expect that a cover letter will be tailored to your job opening?
Tailored introductory letters are the most effective cover letters, so I advise that applicants do tailor their content, but if you can’t (ex. you have someone else doing it for you, etc.) be sure your generic cover letter does not – for example – speak to your interest in or commitment to an area that is not part of the job …example “I am excited about the profession and the direction of archival management….” but the position I am offering has nothing to do with archives.

Does the Cover letter receive more, equal, or less weight than other parts of the application?
While introductory information is important to those assessing applicant packets for interviews, not every committee member sees every packet. That is – if I have 125 applicants – I might split the committee up and have each member – using a rubric – assess only portions of the pool (a-k, and so on.) But even then – rather than the cover letter being assessed, the information delivered in the letter would be assessed and most of those elements should be in the application packet anyway.

If your organization has automated application screening, is the automated screening also applied to cover letters?
We don’t have an “automated screening” that relates to content. That is, the software HR uses scans to make sure all the “boxes are checked” and the blanks are filled in but most automated checks – if not all – are not quality driven.

What information do you want to see included in the cover letter (and is this specified in the job ad)?
I do want a cover letter to illustrate the “match” of the candidate to the open position and identify that the applicant has all of the requirements needed to be a successful candidate – but our job ads only direct people to the online application process.

What kinds of things make cover letters stand out (in good or bad ways)?

  • Directions – It sounds simple but applicants should follow the directions.
  • Writing – One would think it would be obvious, but spelling, punctuation and grammar should be perfect.
  • Terminology – Be sure you have referred to the organization correctly…the level within the educational setting, the type of library, etc. In addition, any titles referred to should be current, accurate, etc.
  • A Match – The cover letter should provide a simple cross walk from credentials possessed to required (and if someone can) preferred areas. Don’t bury the headline…and – if you are in a position that IS comparable – but your title isn’t – spell it out…let the reviewer or committee know you HAVE what you need and you match what they need, it just may be identified differently in your current or past job descriptions.
  • Additional Information – if you want to apply for a position because you have always wanted to live somewhere or your partner is moving there or your parents or children are there, avoid mentioning that. That is, there is no need to make something up as to why you want to apply/come to work there, just don’t refer to the “real” reason at all.

Anything else you want to tell us about cover letters?
I always advise people to write cover letters after you do your homework on the community, the location, the organization and the position itself. I think creating an introductory letter – when you focus on your own needs – should give you insight as to whether or not you should apply at all. If you don’t focus and do your homework and get the interview, become a finalist or possibly offered the job and then decide it isn’t for you because of something you should already have known, you will seldom get a second chance, and it is possible that word of how you handled the application might not be the impression you want to leave with people. It is a very small profession!


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or written on the menu at the Grubstake Diner . If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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