The Search, the Application, and the Interview
Susanne Markgren, MLIS
If you want a successful career
in librarianship - or just about
anything else - you have to
manage it. You can't sit back
passively and let things happen
to you. You have to be proactive
and figure out what you want;
where you want to be in 2, 5, 10
years; and what it will take to
get there. Then start working on
it. -- (quote from the Career Q&A
Personal (or Career) Mission Statement
"...a declaration of who you are, what you stand for and what you want to put out
into the world. Personal mission statements are simply a conscious call to action.
They can be helpful in providing awareness of your "future self" and will assist you in
understanding your own motivation, or lack there-of!" -- Why You Need to Create a
Personal Mission Statement by Susan Steinbrecher (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-
"One of the best ways to incorporate Habit 2 [Begin With the End in Mind] into your
life is to develop a Personal Mission Statement. It focuses on what you want to be
and do. It is your plan for success. It reaffirms who you are, puts your goals in focus,
and moves your ideas into the real world. Your mission statement makes you the
leader of your own life. You create your own destiny and secure the future you
envision." -- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Analyzing Job Listings
• Clear sense of the position’s essential duties – requirement vs. preferred
• Reasonable expectations of experience (beware “BA in Library Science”)
• Is compensation – if listed – in line with required degree & experience level?
• Sense of the institution you would be working in
• Some sense of how the role fits within the organization
• Mismatch between qualifications & duties (i.e., MLIS degree required for shelving books)
• Too many or unrelated responsibilities (i.e. Cataloger/Instruction/Outreach/ILL)
• Too few or unpredictable hours, or both (“applicant pools”)
• Expectation of professional experience & education for low wages
• Requesting salary expectations – bidding on the job
Considerations: institutional restrictions, legal/HR language & how it affects listings
Researching a Prospective Employer
Can you find? --
• Who you would report to?
• Is this a new position?
• Is there someone else in the same role/position/title?
• An organizational chart?
• Who would be your departmental colleagues?
• What are these colleagues doing?
• Are they professionally active?
• Is there a mission statement for the library/institution?
• What makes the library /institution unique?
• An introduction
• A statement of interest
• A writing sample
• A marketing tool
• Most important, a first impression
Cover Letters: Dos and Don’ts
• Explain why you are right for the job.
• Mention where you saw the job ad.
• Relate your experience and skills to the job
• Explain gaps (if any) in your work history/resume.
• Explain why you intend to (or want to) move for the
• Expand on one or two specific jobs or projects or
accomplishments (that relate to the job).
• Highlight one or two specific systems or tools that
you have used in a current or previous job.
• Demonstrate that you can write well.
• Show a potential employer that you know
something about their library.
• Convince the reader that you really want the job.
• Be gracious.
• Address it to the wrong person.
• State that you are the best person for the job.
• Discuss experience and skills that are not relevant
to the job requirements.
• Ignore any gaps in your resume/work history.
• Not express interest in relocating, if the library is in
another city or state or country.
• Use generic language with no specific discussions
of jobs or tools or accomplishments.
• Forget to convey interest/enthusiasm in the job.
• Forget to include any mention of the job or library
you are applying for.
• Not convince the reader that you want the job.
• Write poorly, with spelling errors or problems with
grammar or sentence structure.
• Be overly confident.
Anatomy of a Cover Letter
Paragraph One: Say where you saw the job ad. State your interest in the position, and explain
why you are interested.
Paragraph Two: Summarize your current situation: your role and your library and your
organization/institution/etc. Pretend you are introducing yourself.
Paragraph Three: Address the first (most important) job requirement and talk about specific
examples to connect your background (experience and skills) with the job.
Paragraph Four: Address the next job requirement (or next few job reqs.) and talk about specific
examples to connect your background with the job.
Paragraph Five: Discuss other skills that you have that are relevant to the job (these might be
the “preferred” qualifications), and be specific. If the job requires technical skills or inter-
personal skills, or foreign language skills, or a second masters degree, provide examples.
Paragraph Six (or final paragraph): Re-state your interest in the job and thank the committee for
its time and consideration of your application. Do not say that you will call them. Do not say that
you are best candidate for the job. Just say “thank you.”
Resumes: What Are They For?
• The purpose of a resume is to document your educational credentials, on-
the-job experience, and professional service and activity.
• Generally limited to 5 pages, max (more commonly 1-2 in special or public
• The difference between a resume and a CV? Both ask for basic employment
information, education credentials and contact information.
• CV or Resume?
– The CV is more commonly used internationally and in academia. In the US, the
– CVs may include information not commonly included on the resume, such as date
of birth, nationality, and summaries of experience and research specialization.
– The CV is generally longer and follows a carefully prescribed format.
Elements of a Good Resume
• Clear – chronological or functional
• Scannable – selectively use keywords
• Tailored to fit the specific role
• No typos
• Must contain: education, work experience, contact info,
professional affiliations or publications
• May contain: summary statement, keywords (bold cautiously),
extra training, specific skill sets
Your 30-second commercial
Make a brief list for each of the following:
• Things you LOVE about work
• Things you do best
• The type of environment you work best in
• What you find most important about work
Questions to think about:
• What is your career goal?
• What skill, strength, or experience do you have that would help you realize
• What accomplishment proves you have that skill, strength, or experience?
• What are you searching for in a job?
Know Before You Go
Try to gain an understanding of the institution and people you will
meet with before the interview.
Check their website. Is there a:
• Mission statement
• Org chart: tells you who reports to whom, indicates major
• History of the organization
• Bios of leaders
• Statistics - number of students, size of the city/service area,
circulation statistics, market share, etc.
Essentials to bring with you:
• Copy of the job announcement
• Your resume and cover letter, printed on high-quality paper (100%
• Directions, itinerary, tickets, contact information for your arrival,
receipts (if you are getting reimbursed)
• Portfolio of extra materials (i.e., publications, samples of web designs,
• Pen and notebook
• Emergency kit (brush/comb, breath mints, safety pin, etc.)
• Professional-looking bag or briefcase
What to Wear?
• A suit (of course!)
• Or suit alternative:
jacket/pants or skirt
• Err on the side of
• Add personality/flair in
accessories (ties, scarves,
socks, shoes, jewelry,
Sample Questions to Ask Your
• What is a typical day like for a librarian in this role?
• How do the librarians work together/collaborate?
• How (by whom and how often) are the librarians evaluated on their
• Is professional development supported and/or encouraged?
• What are some new initiatives you are working on?
• What is the library’s reference/instruction/collection development
philosophy? (tailor to fit the position)
• What do you (the interviewers) like about your job?
After the Interview
• Email to say thank you
• Follow up with written thank you notes
• Wait at least 2 weeks before following up on the status of the
search; some will take months
• Keep applying to other jobs - even if your interview went well,
don’t assume you will receive an offer
• Accept LinkedIn invites if they are offered; do not send them
• Be gracious
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
• Clean up / tighten up your existing
• Google yourself to see what comes up
• Professionalize your online identity
• Join LinkedIn and other professional sites
(Academia.edu, ResearchGate, etc.)
• Look for job openings on social media
• Be smart and savvy about what you post
• Make contacts / connections
Activities to Help you Prepare
• Pinnacle / Foothill Activity
• Self-Assessment / Career Goals / Obstacles
• Career Goals Template
• Star Model Exercise
• Elevator Pitch
Career Q&A: A Librarian’s Real-Life, Practical Guide to Managing a Successful Career, by Susanne
Markgren and Tiffany Allen. 2013.
Crafting a Winning Resume. Tiffany Allen. LIScareer.com. January 2005.
Making Your Cover Letter Work for You. Tiffany Allen and Richard A. Murray. LIScareer.com. March 2002.
How Do I Get There From Here? Changing Jobs, Changing Roles, Changing Institutions. Susanne
Markgren and Tiffany Allen. College & Research Libraries News, 65 (11), 653-656. 2004.
On Being an Experienced, Flexible Specialist: Finding Your First Professional Librarian Position. Jessica
Moran. May 2005.
Making the Shift: Using Transferable Skills to Change Career Paths. Deborah Taylor. LIScareer.com.
Hey Library Graduates! The Lowdown on Finding Your Dream Job. Kasia Piasecka. LIScareer.com. May
Ten Simple Steps to Create and Manage Your Professional Online Identity. Susanne Markgren. College &
Research Libraries News. 72 (1), 31-35. January 2011.
The Library Career People, Career Q&As
Open Cover Letters: Anonymous cover letters from hired librarians & archivists
... and THANKS!
Digital Services Librarian
Purchase College, SUNY
Library Career People : http://www.librarycareerpeople.com