LISSA 2013 Resume Workshop Notes

Hi all. Last December, LISSA held a resume workshop for students. The workshop focused on successful resume-building specifically for library jobs. Our secretary Chanda Green wrote up a summary of the event which was sent out on the LISSA list-serv. For easy access for new students and for archival purposes, the summary is reprinted here on the blog! This is really useful information, and we hope to host another resume workshop this year.


December 9, 2013

LISSA Resume Workshop

Steve Cramer, Business Librarian, UNCG

Jenny Dale, Reference Librarian and First Year Instruction Coordinator, UNCG

Amy Harris Houk, Reference Librarian and Information Literacy Coordinator, UNCG

Lynda Kellam, Data Services and Government Information Librarian, UNCG

Lea Leininger, Health Sciences Librarian, UNCG

Emily Mann, Reference Services Assistant, UNCG

Dr. Rebecca Morris, LIS Professor and LISSA Advisor

Kathy Shields, Head of Reference and Instructional Services, High Point University


Our presenters and advisors have a great deal of experience in successful resume and cover letter best practices between them, having not only been through the process themselves, but also having read many, many resumes and cover letters as members of hiring committees.

Here are some of their tips on resumes, cover letters, and the job search process.

  • Your resume is, first and foremost, where you show that you meet the requirements of the position. Read the listing carefully, and make sure that you’re addressing each of the required qualifications on your resume. Search committees often have a checklist of job requirements that they will use to narrow down a large batch of applicants; any application that doesn’t meet those requirements is likely to be discarded.
  • The resume is a checklist of requirements, the cover letter is a follow-up. This is where you will expand on how your qualifications are a great match for the position. Use your research skills: find out all that you can about the institution and department, their priorities, information about the people you’d be working with, collections — anything that will be useful to presenting yourself as a good match. Distinguish yourself.
  • Tailor both your resume and your cover letter to each position that you apply for. Consider creating a resume template that contains all of your skills and experience, and then remove irrelevant items and reorganize their order to highlight those that best meet the job requirements.
  • Remember that you are applying for a professional position. Focus on experiences directly relevant to the position, less on your educational experiences. You are presenting yourself as a professional, not as a student.
    • A practicum, internship, or assistantship where you gained hands-on experience, or a research project highly relevant to the position are exceptions. If you did thesis work in English Literature and you are applying for a position as a subject specialist or liaison, this can show your familiarity with the subject as well as your research skills. Use your judgement.
    • Several presenters mentioned that they are not fans of seeing a GPA on a resume: your undergraduate GPA was good enough to get into graduate school and your graduate GPA was good enough to get you through it.
    • Some academic and extracurricular events are worth mentioning, such as a nationally-recognized honor society like Phi Beta Kappa, an organization where you were an officer or played an active role, especially a student professional organization (like LISSA!).
    • You do not need to mention your specific coursework. Not only will it be assumed that if you are applying for an academic library position you did coursework in academic libraries, but if you make it further into the hiring process you’ll be providing a graduate school transcript that makes your coursework and your GPA clear anyway.
  • You can omit the “purpose statement” section on your resume: it can be taken as read that your purpose is to get the job you’re applying for.
  • Don’t feel like you need to follow the common piece of advice to keep your resume to one page. You may well need that space to show that you meet all of the qualifications. That said, it should be as concise as possible: anything not specifically relevant to the position can stay on your template. (For example, customer service job experience is relevant to a position that works with the public, like a reference librarian. For a cataloging position it would be less so. If you were a restaurant supervisor and the position involved supervision, if you were a teacher and the job involved instruction, etc.)
  • Also consider clearly breaking your work experience into sections, such as “Relevant Experience” and “Other Experience.”
  • Your references are really important. Consider now, while you’re in school, who you will want them to be. If you’ll be asking professors, make sure you’re participating in class and talking to them outside of it. They can’t be a good reference for you if they don’t know you.
  • If at all possible, include a job supervisor as a reference. You’ll want someone who can say that you show up on time, don’t call in sick, and have a good work ethic. These are important qualities in any job, and they’ll want to hear that you have them.
  • Ask ahead of time if you can use someone as a reference, and if they feel as though they’d be able to represent you well. If they decline, don’t be upset. They may well simply be very busy, especially at certain times of the year.
  • Have a list of a number of people who are willing to be references, and again, tailor them to the job. If you’re applying to a liaison or specialist position, a thesis advisor would not only be someone who knows you well, they can confirm your knowledge of the specialty. If you’re applying for a position in instruction, pick a reference who has seen you teach, and so on.
  • Let your references know when you’ve been contacted about an interview. Send them the job listing and the resume that you tailored to it; this gives them the tools necessary to represent you well, and also doesn’t catch them by surprise when they’re contacted.
  • In terms of the language of the resume, obviously proofread. Have others proofread. Make sure your verb tenses match (and are in the past tense for previous positions), and that experiences and skills share common formatting.
  • Use action verbs to begin your experience descriptions: List of resume action verbs from Yale Undergraduate Career Services.
  • Avoid acronyms. Others likely won’t know what you mean. For example, don’t list “the TRC,” say “The Teaching Resources Center.” Even better, describe it: “The Teaching Resources Center, a satellite library geared towards School of Education students.”
  • Consider what a Google search reveals about you. Librarians are certainly going to see what information is freely available about you on the Internet.
  • Remember that librarianship is a fairly small community, and especially if you are applying for jobs in North Carolina, inquiries about you might be informal. As in any other profession, network. Present yourself well.
  • During the hiring process, be patient. It can take months to fill a position, and you’ll probably need to apply to lots of positions. The ability to move helps your chances of success: North Carolina has a lot of library schools, so this is a highly-competitive job market.
  • You can also check out notes from the recent presentation on applying for library jobs given by Kathy Bradshaw, Human Resource Librarian at UNCG. These, and a recording of the session, are posted on LISSA’s blog.

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