12 October 2009

Hard Times: Job Searching Done Right

By Rachel Cannady & Daniel Newton

I did it, we did it, and many more of us are going to do it soon: graduating. The big difference is that today we are faced with one of the toughest economic climates since the Great Depression: layoffs are taking place, budgets are being cut, and some open positions are no longer being filled. This means that there will be more competition in an already tough job market and job seekers will be facing a unique set of challenges. It is now more important than ever to make you and your application stand out, but the question of how to do this remains.

Applying for librarian positions is a multi-step process. You are probably familiar with the basics: searching for jobs, applying for positions, and interviewing. The academic librarian application process is more strenuous than completing an average job application. Below are a series of tips which we learned on the road to our current positions. Some of these lessons were learned as we took our own lumps along the way. Some of the insights were passed on to us. And, some of the insights came as we each reflected on the paths we took to get where we are. We have recently experienced a combined total of 8 face-to-face interviews and 22 phone interviews. Our hope is that our combined experience will help others start the process a little wiser than we were.

Application Phase

· SIRLS has a good page of places to look for jobs: http://sirls.arizona.edu/resources/job.
· Do not apply to too many jobs. By too many, we mean the positions you are not qualified for, or the positions that do not have your full interest.
· After an extended period of time searching for a professional position, desperation often rears its ugly head, but do not become distressed. If you succumb to this anxiety, you will be tempted to send applications across the continental United States for jobs in which you are neither qualified nor interested. This is a mistake and will take time and energy away from the applications for positions you truly desire and match your qualifications.
· Avoid negativity. Discouragement and negativity will often impact the quality of your letters of interest and any modification you may be making to your résumé (or CV). The best way to do this is through the understanding that negativity wastes both time and energy. Confidence and positivity are two characteristics to embrace because they will lead to better individual applications.
· Make sure that you have your CV/ résumé critiqued by several people. The NMRT has an excellent résumé review service (http://ala.org/ala/mgrps/rts/nmrt/oversightgroups/comm/resreview/resumereview.cfm). LSO and SLA often sponsor workshops that allow you to have people review your résumé as well. The more input you have, the better your finished product will be.

· Have a professional-looking email address. You can use your email.arizona.edu email address or an email address that uses your name or initials or some combination. An email address that says something like purplekitties@aol.com will make you look ridiculous.
· The job search and hiring process takes time. The hiring process moves at a tortoise-like pace; this is especially true for the first time job seeker. In the academic library world, it is not uncommon for six or more months to elapse from the date of application to the day a job offer is made.
· You may receive an email or letter stating that "You do not meet the minimum requirements…" when applying for jobs before you have finished your degree. When this occurs, you might find that since you checked the "I-do-not-have-a-MLS" box, you were thrown out of consideration. It is possible to still not be considered even after telling them that you are about to graduate. This process is annoying, and somewhat illogical, but you should still start applying during your last semester.
· Patience is key while searching for a job, and if you are not a patient person, the best time to learn is during a job search.

Phone Interviews

Phone interviews, initially, might seem like a handicap because you are unable to read anyone's nonverbal cues. Sometimes this lack of physical interaction can work to your advantage, as they will not see you fish through your brain for the answer that they would most want to hear (this is a good thing, really).

· Lock the dog and cat up in another room so that you will not be distracted.
· Put a note on your apartment door (or bedroom door), so that maintenance and post office workers will not be tempted to knock and disturb you.
· Try not to be intimidated. A phone interview is just the first step in the hiring process and is a good way for you, the interviewee, to learn more about the position you have applied to and to meet some of those you will work with if you take the position.
· A phone interview allows you to have lists of accomplishments, experiences, and other notes that you want to mention sitting right in front of you.
· Regardless of your preparation, it is hard judge the search committee's reaction to your answers. This lack of physical insight can be countered by being confident and relaxed. Take advantage of your personality and sense of humor, when appropriate, to set you apart from the other candidates.
· Do your research on the library and know their mission and vision statements. This is a nice nugget to toss in when appropriate.
· The most commonly asked question is something akin to "why are you the best candidate for this job." Be ready with a few reasons for why you are the best applicant.
· This link (http://www.scribd.com/doc/4933905/101-Commonly-Asked-Interview-Questions) is a good source for common interview questions. Be sure to practice using these questions prior to the interview. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become talking about yourself and your accomplishments.

· Always make sure you know who is interviewing you so that you can write an email thanking them for their time after the phone interview. You may find it easier to print out the directory of faculty and staff for the library and highlight the search committee members' names as they introduce themselves.
· Find some place of mental calm before the phone rings so that you are ready.
· They will call within a minute or two and be prompt. Make sure you are prepared and waiting for that phone call.

From our experience, phone interviews ranged from 13 minutes to an hour and a half, and in both instances, face-to-face interviews were offered. The length of time for the interview is not a determining factor for how successful it is. On average, most phone interviews lasted around 30 minutes. In most cases, if the university or college was interested they usually followed up within two weeks of the phone interview.

Face to Face Interviews

· Do not check your luggage. No sense in fretting over lost luggage when it is handcuffed to your person.
· If you are flying, review your notes and/or relax.
· Read ALL of the materials that they give you before you arrive.
· You are being interviewed the whole time. Yes, lunches and dinners are more relaxed, but they are still noting what questions you are asking and how you are answering questions.
· Do not order alcohol unless they do. Most people taking you out will not order alcohol because they are not reimbursed for it. Cry in your beer at the hotel.
· Interview days are long usually lasting eight or more hours. By the time 5:00 comes around, you will be exhausted from being constantly "on". Try eating an energy bar or something similar to keep fueled.
· Comfortable shoes are a must. You might want consider forgoing style in favor of comfort.
· Smile and use open body language when you are giving your presentation.
· Consider adding research to your presentation. It could be as easy as reworking some research for an older SIRLS paper.
· Write a thank you note to the head of the search committee and the Dean or Department Head when you return. Make sure that you do this within a week of your return.

Job searching is difficult, especially in this economy, but it is not impossible. In addition to the tips listed here, you might also want to review Tom Wilding's podcast and PowerPoint presentation on Career Path Planning at http://www.sir.arizona.edu/resources/podcasts/podcastarchive.html. Your future position might not be what you initially expected, so strike a balance between open-minded and narrow in focus when searching. By looking at yourself and your talents from many angles, you will be able to find something that fits you. We both received numerous rejection letters before we found the jobs that fit us well. These times are hard times indeed, but stay positive and confident; a great position awaits.

Rachel Cannady graduated from SIRLS in December 2008 and is currently an Assistant Professor and Education Reference Librarian for Mississippi State University at Mitchell Memorial Library.

Daniel Newton graduated from SIRLS in August 2008 and is currently a Senior Assistant Librarian for SUNY Potsdam at the Crumb Memorial Library in northern New York.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. I have an interview in a few weeks and this will be very helpful.