Online Discussion Forum December 2006

Discussion Summary: Preparing effective resumes and cover letters, interview skills, and how to get interview feedback.

The ODF was broken down into different topics over three weeks during the month of December.

Week 1

  • How do you determine what positions you apply for? New librarian applying for entry librarian? More experienced librarian matching current skills with job postings? Location? Salary? Benefits?
    • Discussions focused on geographical considerations to the type of position (entry level, reference, public, academic, etc.). In the end, it turns out there is no standard answer. Institutions do things differently and each person must decide how mobile they are and weigh each against their current situation and needs.
    • Discussion on the merits/risks of sending in unsolicited resumes. This depends on the employer and isn’t standard in either academic or public.
      • When done through HR, recommendations tended to favor sending a hard copy resume to the Director or Search Committee Chair in addition to completing the online forms.
      • It was stressed that if online forms/HR were involved, that these steps needed to be followed. Follow up directly with the director and committee can be done, but the library has to also follow their HR guidelines.
    • Discussion on the merits/risks in applying for paraprofessional positions with the Library Science Masters degree.
  • What (if any) resume books have you used that you would recommend? I personally found the Idiot's Guide to Resumes by Susan Ireland particularly useful. Has anyone used the book "Resume Writing and Interviewing Techniques That Work: A-How-to-Do-It Manual for Librarians?" There is a new 2006 edition available.
  • How do you approach your cover letter? I learned quickly that for academic library jobs it's not what they teach you in any resume workshop (and I've attended several). I'm guessing public, academic, and school are all a little bit different. I've seen discussion threads on length? What is your cut-off for length?
    • Discussion centered mostly around the cover letter. It was emphasized that cover letters for libraries are not the typical cover letter you are taught. Never use a “form” cover letter. Tailor it for the position you are applying for. Be cautious in any cover letter that runs more than two pages. Discussion varied on the resume length and resume vs CV. Many said a combination was okay if you had publications, committee work, organization work, etc. Listing course work is probably a good thing if you have little experience in the area if it is relevant to the position applied for.

Week 2

  • Have you ever used a book for interview preparation, i.e. "201 Interview Questions." What questions do you ask the interviewers? What is the most unique question you've been asked?
    • Some of the responses:
      • "We are interviewing a number of candidates. What is the one thing you would like this committee to remember about you?"
      • Questions for an interviewee to ask are:
        "What type of person (i.e. personality, work habits, etc.) do you think would be good at this job?" or "What type of person do you think would be successful at this library?"
      • To a potential supervisor: "What is your managerial style?" and/or "Do you offer opportunities for professional development?"
      • "How is the library viewed on campus in general."
      • Questions about the quality of life of the area.
    • Recommended articles:
      • "Academic Interview Process" by Nanako Kodaira that is posted on the NMRT web site - (Note: this is under the Committee link on the NMRT site -> New Members Roundtable Resume Review Service -> Job Hunting Guide. There are several nice pieces of information here in addition to the mentioned article).
      • "101+ Commonly Asked Interview Questions" on the "LibJob" web site

Week 3

  • How do you approach feedback? Have you ever asked why you weren't selected for a position (in the goal of useful feedback for future interviews/positions).

Discussion for this topic varied from I tried and got good feedback to I tried and was told more qualified people were hired. Basically it boils down to the willingness of the committees to provide feedback and in some cases it simply was “we selected someone else.” A few people though did get constructive feedback, so it is not necessarily a question that shouldn’t be asked.

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