Way back in 2010 (when this blog was still Adventures of an Unemployed/Newly Employed Librarian!) I wrote a series aimed recent graduates and unemployed librarians to help with job hunting. I thought it would be a good time to update that series for all my new readers and for any unemployed librarians out there. While this series is mainly aimed at library-related jobs, I think that everyone can find something useful here. If you missed Part I, Part II, or Part III, be sure to check it out.
It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway!) that you should tailor your cover letter for each job you apply for. Not only should you make sure you have the correct name, address, and job title in the letter, but you should also be using the job description to write your letter. If the job description asks for energetic, enthusiastic librarians with Web 2.0 skills and outreach experience, your cover letter should demonstrate how you are an energetic, enthusiastic librarian with Web 2.0 skills and outreach experience.
The point of a cover letter is to highlight your resume and make you stand out in a crowd. A cover letter is not the time to be modest! Outside of an interview, this is your only opportunity to let the search committee know how amazingly suited you are for the job. And all of it should be done in one page. That’s a lot to ask I know, but a good cover letter can mean (and mostly likely will) getting the interview over another candidate. Look for a post on writing good cover letters soon.
A lot of job searchers craft their resume, have a friend or colleague proofread it, and call it day. That is not enough! You should tweak, fix, edit, and proof your resume every day. Working on your resume is a great thing to do during the time you’ve set aside each day for job hunting, especially if it’s a day with no applications to complete. There are a number of resume writing resources out there, so I’m not going to spend time telling you what should and shouldn’t be on your resume. Hopefully, you know that. And if you don’t, email me and we’ll work on it.
A resume is a lot like a cover letter. It should highlight your abilities, skills, and education. It should make you look like a star applicant. While it should never lie or stretch the truth, your resume should make you look like a rock star. Your resume should show the search committee that you have the education, experience, and skills to do the job they want you to do. Which is why you should tailor your resume to suit the job. I’m not saying you should rewrite your resume for every job you apply for, but you should have several different versions.
I had a version for academic libraries with an instruction focus, academic libraries with an outreach focus, for public libraries, and now I have one geared toward medical libraries. They all had basically the same information on it, but I would move different things towards the top of my list, or add more or less details on certain jobs or skills depending on the type of job and the description. I’m sure that’s super confusing so here are some examples from when I was still an unemployed librarian:
- Say I’m fresh out of library school and applying for a reference and instruction position at a small academic library. The first job I would list is my reference internship and I would give details (I like to use bullet points, obviously J) that emphasized the time I spent sitting at the desk, assisting with instruction classes, and building LibGuides. I would then progress down my work experience list spotlighting any true reference work and any teaching experience
- This job application is for a public library reference position. The first thing I would list would be my internship, but I would change the description to focus more on the reference side and dealing with all types of patrons, instead of instruction and the like. I would also mention something about working with collection development if that was part of the job description. The next job I would list would be my job as a manager in a bookstore because there I worked with the public, managed employees, did training, etc.
See what I’m doing here? Your resume should read like a work history yes, but it should also state why your previous experience makes you such a good candidate for this particular job.
When was the last time you updated your resume? Do you write a new cover letter for every job?