My Current Job Search Process

As with everyone in library school looking toward graduation, I am deep in the process of applying to jobs. There have been many posts about this on HLS in the past, but here’s one more just so that you can see someone else’s process. Getting started, it was really helpful for me to hear about how multiple different people were navigating the job search, so hopefully this will be helpful for someone else.

The Spreadsheet

Taking after several other bloggers here, I decided to make myself a spreadsheet to track everything. On it, I list the job title, institution, application requirements, deadline, and a link to the job posting. At first, I was simply saving job postings, but this quickly got out of hand and I’ve found that it’s much easier to keep everything in a single document. I can then easily reference it to find links and deadlines.

On the subject of deadlines: there aren’t many! This, for some reason, caught me by surprise and has made applying to jobs more stressful. Deadlines help me get things done and having no deadline means I tend to put things off. To combat this, I am considering creating another column stating when the job was posted, which I think would provide me more motivation to get applications in. If you’re just starting out creating your own spreadsheet, definitely consider this.

After I applied to a few jobs, I realized that I was starting to forget which ones I had applied to. This is where tab two of my spreadsheet comes in, where I keep track of all the jobs I’ve applied to. Unfortunately, my information here is somewhat incomplete because I did not track everything from the first few jobs. Nevertheless, here I stick to the same basic set up from tab one, but I replace the deadline with the date I applied. If I had to work on this more, I would probably also add a column for the date when I heard back about the job (assuming I heard back at all).

So far, the spreadsheet system has been great at keeping me organized. One final column I’m considering adding is something tracking the different sorts of jobs I’m applying to. Unlike some people, who target specifically digital librarian positions or specifically young adult librarian positions, I am targeting mainly residency positions, which tend to be all over the place in terms of responsibilities. Some are more heavily focused toward instruction while others have a broader focus. This, of course, affects my cover letters immensely, so it would be nice to have this information easily available. The job titles don’t always make it clear what the job is actually all about.

The Application Materials

For those of you who are looking ahead to your own job application process, I’ll start by saying that I started very early. Before job postings to which I could conceivably apply started going up, I had already been working on my resume and CV to get them into good shape. This includes updating them as new things come along, such as job title changes or new conference papers. While I did get a little ahead of myself timeline-wise, I don’t regret it, because by the time I started applying to jobs, I knew I had my resume and CV thoroughly revised. If you’re just starting out, definitely take your CV or resume to your career center or other mentors to have it looked over. This has made me much more confident overall.

As for cover letters, writing the first one was terrifying. Definitely check out Open Cover Letters and your career center for help with this. I am here to tell you that after the first one it gets better. Some other bloggers on HLS have suggested keeping a Google Docs file with all your cover letters so that you can easily share them with potential letter of recommendation writers. I haven’t done this, simply because many of the jobs I’ve applied for have not asked for letters of recommendation. I do have a dedicated folder for my cover letters, though, which I can refer to as templates for creating new cover letters.

Having a template to work from has helped a lot, in terms of my cover letter writing. I have also developed a system in which I pull out the key elements of the job posting and make a list detailing how I meet each of those qualifications. I first had to do this for a job based out of an Australian university, which asked me to send my qualifications for each of their specific criteria, and I found that process so illuminating that I now use it for every job application I come across before turning those bullet points into a letter. This not only helps me to make sure I cover all of the job posting’s points, but also gets me thinking about how my experiences mesh with the job.


I’ll have to get back to you on this, since I haven’t had many interviews yet, but my one tip so far is to save the job posts for every job to which you apply. If you’re applying to more than two or three, they will start to run together and when it comes time for an interview you will not be able to tell which is which. Before an interview I make sure to re-read the job post and make notes (again) about all of the major points and how I fit into them. This is also a good opportunity to note if I have any questions about the position before the interview starts.

To those of you in the midst of applying right now: good luck! To those of you looking for advice and getting ready to start your own process: take what I’ve done and then change it to what works best for you. Everyone’s process is different and you’ll figure it out by exploring and applying. Good luck to you too!

For more on organizing your job search, you can start with Melissa’s post, Jennifer’s post, and Brenna’s post.

Zoë McLaughlin is a Master’s student at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. Find her on Twitter, LinkedIn, or at her personal blog.

Featured image from Flazingo.

6 replies

  1. I’m waiting until my fiance finds out where he has or hasn’t been accepted to grad school before applying anywhere, but I’m still totally stressed out. I think the biggest challenge to a job search when you are/will be stuck to a certain area is when you don’t see any job posting for those locations. I’ll start digging more when I know more (next month), so for now I’m just hoping in a month job opening will pop up in the area I will need to look in :/

    Good luck with your job search!


  2. Great tips, Zoë. One more suggestion: employers usually remove job postings when the application period has expired or after a certain amount of time has passed. I’ve found it helpful to save the text of the job description for jobs I’ve applied for, in case they take it down before an interview; I save it in the same folder I’ve saved my cover letter, resume, and references for a particular job. (And when you get the job, it’s often good for a rueful laugh to see how they described the job as opposed to what it actually ended up entailing.) Good luck to all!


  3. One more tip – there is a big difference between a resume and a CV. Most library job postings request a resume, but for academic libraries, the request is often for a CV. A CV is not 1-2 pages. I’ve been in academic libraries for 20+ years now, and I have seen CVs run anywhere from 5-6 pages to upwards of 30 depending on whether people include every publication and how senior they are. For new grads, you’ll likely only have a few pages, but if you have them, do include any committees on which you may have served, either at jobs or for professional associations, and any publications you may have had, even if it’s just a book review or two. These sorts of things show academic libraries that you have some understanding of academe and the requirements and responsibilities. Good luck.


  4. I have another small tip: Color-code your resumes and coverletters to different types of jobs so you can keep track. I have color bars at the tops of my resumes and coverletters ( thank you canva templates) and to keep track of what kind of job these cover letters/resumes are for each one has a corresponding color. For example, teal is for archival/special collections positions, yellow is for instructional/reference type positions, and cobalt is for general academic library. I am highly visual and that helps me see at a glance to make sure I’m using the right copies of resumes or cover letters as templates for new applications, and helps me save time when applying to jobs when tired!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s