Tips for your job or internship application

CC image by isabisa on flickr

To follow up on Ashley’s post earlier this week on advice from a hiring manager, I thought I’d share my own perspective.  I recently served on a search committee for a tenure-track academic librarian position and reviewed applications for a paid (!) summer archival internship.  Nothing I’m going to share in this post is groundbreaking, but I just want to reiterate some key points to keep in mind when sending in applications for jobs and internships.

1.  I really appreciate when your file names include your full name and what type of document (resume, cover letter) it is.  While a file that’s named after the place you’re applying to is helpful for your own reference, it’s not helpful for mine.

2.  This is definitely a personal preference, but I really love when application materials are sent as .pdf files.  Never trust Microsoft Word to keep your formatting true.  You also take the risk of leaving track changes on (oh, it’s happened — and yes, it looks bad).

3.  One way I can tell if you’re detail-oriented is if you actually send in everything that’s asked for.  If the job/internship posting asks for your availability, be sure to include it.

1.  Tailor your cover letter.  Show that you looked at the organization’s website and know something about it, and specify why you want to work there.  You will especially stand out if you discuss why you are interested in performing the type of work explicitly listed in the job description.  If you talk about how you’d love to learn about digitization when it’s not described in the position description at all, it’s a clear giveaway that you didn’t read it thoroughly — or that you’re just recycling an old cover letter without much editing.  Oftentimes, I’ll see a resume that looks good but change my mind after reading the cover letter.

2.  Think of your cover letter as exclusive from the resume.  Please don’t just repeat what’s on your resume, but really explain why your past experience is relevant to the position.

3.  Write clearly in your cover letter.  If I need to read a sentence multiple times to understand it, you’ll stand out for the wrong reasons.  One sentence does not need to take up five lines.

Of course, most of these are just my personal preferences.  Be sure to check out the blog Hiring Librarians, which provides many different perspectives from hiring managers on what they look for in a candidate, and Open Cover Letters, which publishes cover letters from librarians and archivists who got hired.

19 replies

  1. Thanks for those two links. I did not know about those sites. Also, I think a general good tip for job hunting is make the job of the hiring manager/committee easier. Your tips all apply to that general tip, i.e. sending it in PDF, addressing everything in the job ad, naming your files with your name, etc. They will appreciate it, not to mention it makes you look better. Thanks, Rose!


  2. Thanks for the share. I especially liked #3…if you’ve read a sentence multiple times and you do not understand it [strike it from the record]…lol. It’s also very helpful to remember to include your full name in the files that you provide.


  3. I am a fairly new librarian at a large university in Florida, and I was on a search committee last year. One mistake a LOT of people made that really stuck with me was this: DO NOT make the first sentence of your cover letter something like “I want this job because it is in Florida and I would like to live in Florida.” I know it sounds obvious, but we need to believe that you actually want this specific job, not just any ol’ job that happens to be in the right geographic region. Of the 50 or so applicants, I would estimate half actually wrote something very close to that in their cover letter. BAD!


  4. This is definitely a personal preference, but I really love when application materials are sent as .pdf files.

    Interesting that you say this! I personally LOVE sending my application materials as .pdf files for exactly the reason you mention, but I’ve been asked to re-send the files as Word .docs so often I’ve given up on .pdfs. 😦


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