My Guide to Job Hunting: Update Your Cover Letter and Resume Daily

by Elizabeth on December 21, 2010 · 5 comments

in Job Hunting, jobs, librarianship, libraries

As I mentioned before, I’m so sorry to ignore any readers who have come here looking for advice and sympathies on being an unemployed librarian.  So I’ve prepared a series of posts to help guide you down your path of library job hunting. Be sure to check out my other posts in this series, Treat Job Hunting Like Your Job, Get Organized, and Diversify Your Sources.

Update your cover letter and resume daily 

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 meet these qualifications.  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, proof, etc 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 should 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.  For example, I had a version for academic libraries with an instruction focus, academic libraries with an outreach focus, for public libraries, etc.  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. 
Example: Say I’m fresh out of library school and applying for a reference and instruction position at a small academic library.  The first thing I would list is my reference internship and I would give details that emphasized the time I spent sitting at the desk, assisting with instruction classes, and building LibGuides.  I would then progress down my list spotlighting any true reference work and any teaching experience.  Second example: 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.  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 job. 

Coming Wednesday: Find mentors and maintain relationships with them

When was the last time you updated your resume?  Do you write a new cover letter for every job?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Christine December 21, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Even during my short 2-ish month job search I did this. You are so right in that your cover letter must convince them that you are absolutely the best person for this job.


2 therese December 21, 2010 at 9:44 pm

I had to change every single coverletter I wrote. Not all the jobs wanted the same thing and I have a multitude of abilities (as I'm sure everyone does!). After applying to more than a dozen jobs, I found that I could have used coverletters I'd already written since the jobs were so similar.


You'll inevitably forget to switch a job title, employment place name, contact, etc. Then you'll look like an idiot AND not get the job.

I update my resume after something happens to warrant it (got a new job, have new skills, need a fresher more modern design, etc).



3 Jenny E. December 21, 2010 at 10:43 pm

My resume pretty much stays the same. Part of my cover letter stays the same but parts are job specific.


4 syeds December 24, 2010 at 6:29 am

What important points we can include from resume into cover letter. and in how many lines please explain.

Cover Letter & Cv samples


5 Amanda February 3, 2011 at 9:55 pm

I was searching your site to find the cover letter post and it seems you have not written it yet! I've applied for several jobs and have been writing cover letters off the cuff but I have no idea if I'm doing it right or not.

Therefore, I hope you add that post soon!


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