After being on the interviewing side of things last year, it was nice to be on the hiring side this year. I recently reviewed cover letters and resumes for a search and screen committee at my academic library. At times, I wanted to do a “cover letter intervention” (perhaps, a new reality TV show?)!
This spring, I blogged about cover letters, resumes, and interviews. Also, Jenica Rogers on her Attempting Elegance blog had a must-read post on The Torment of Terrible Cover Letters. I would also encourage anyone applying for librarian positions to look at Stephen X. Flynn’s Open Cover Letters website for ideas.
Throughout the process of reading cover letters and resumes, here is the most disconcerting thing I observed:
You write well. I can tell you are intelligent. You may even have an advanced degree beyond the MLS. But your cover letter does not address the points highlighted in the job ad. Therefore, you will not make the cut.
It’s a simple as that. For all the advice out there on tailoring your cover letter, there are plenty of applicants that do not. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Tailor your cover letter!
Cover letter & resume advice:
- If applying via email, do not write your cover letter in the body of the email. Use attachments. Or more to the point: you should follow the directions stated in the job ad.
- Am I the only one that doesn’t like cover letters in bullet point format? I need to asses your communication skills through your cover letter. To me, a bullet point cover letter is a cop-out. I want paragraphs!
- In regards to paragraphs: Your cover letter should not be just one short paragraph.
- Don’t rattle off your job duties in your cover letter. That’s what the resume is for. Instead, use the cover letter to provide examples and anecdotes that relate to the position that you are applying for:
Case in point: if you’re applying for a children’s librarian position, your resume might list doing “story times” as one of your responsibilities. However, you could use the cover letter to highlight some sort of innovative program you did with story time. Or if you are an academic instruction librarian, your resume might list “assessment” as one of your activities. You could then use the resume to spotlight a special assessment technique you implemented with students.
- Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by writing: “I don’t have experience in…” Instead, turn it around and explain how you have transferable or related experience.
- Appearance: pick a standard font. I would stay away from Courier–it looks like a typewriter–and it’s 2011, folks!
- It’s OK if the cover letter goes onto a second page (which is sometimes a no-no in the business world). I prefer this over an 9-point font cover letter with half-inch margins! But if you go over 2 pages, I tend to wonder if you have problems “getting to the point.” 🙂
- Make sure your cover letter and resume looks “clean” in overall appearance – I’ve seen some that look like they have been scanned in and saved electronically. They can be difficult to read.
- I know you are wonderful, amazing, etc… But I always appreciate a cover letter that addresses my library and its needs/mission. Do your homework. Look over the library website and any parent website (university, school, local government, etc…).
- Use common sense: Do not write, “I have experience with personal computers.” You are a librarian; having experience with personal computers is UNDERSTOOD!
- Use “action” words on your resume (e.g., designed, implemented, initiated, managed). Google it! You’re a librarian.
- Remember: There’s a fine line between promoting your abilities and overstating your qualifications. Be careful! Overstating your qualifications will become apparent in a subsequent interview.
So what do we do with all of these cover letters and resumes? At my place of work–a state institution (and I’m sure it’s the same with most private institutions, too), we have a strict set of protocols to follow. We use an Application Review Form that lists all of the criteria that were included in the job posting. The search and screen committee then rates each cover letter/resume based on EACH of the criterion using a scale: below average – average – above average – can’t assess.
The applicants who rank the highest are the ones that make it to the next stage of the interview process. This is why it’s so vital to use your cover letter and resume to address the various points highlighted in a job ad. So what other cover letter and resume advice would you suggest? Let me know!
Academic Librarian Cover Letter
Academic Librarians serve the members of an academic community by managing and disseminating information. Aside from resource loans, these professionals also manage aspects such as resource ordering, library projects, and specialist collections. Essential job duties of an Academic Librarian are managing book and journal collections, cataloguing information, using information software, assisting researchers, collaborating with library and school staff, liaising with suppliers, and participating in professional groups.
A successful cover letter sample for Academic Librarian usually mentions the following qualifications:
- Library operations knowledge
- Strong communication and interpersonal skills
- Knowledge of relevant software
- Organization and planning
- Logical thinking
- Time management
- Being able to work to strict deadlines and to prioritize work
- Familiarity with the academic environment
- Problem-solving orientation and resourcefulness
Those interested in an Academic Librarian position can check relevant skills and abilities in the cover letter sample provided just below.
For help with your resume, check out our extensive Academic Librarian Resume Samples.
Dear Ms. Marrero:
When I learned of Skylar University’s search for a new Academic Librarian, I hastened to submit the enclosed resume for your consideration. As a skilled, educated, and highly experienced professional with more than 16 years of experience in higher education library services, I am confident in my ability to surpass your expectations for this position.
My expertise lies in managing a full range of responsibilities to ensure optimal usability and functionality for university/college libraries. From cataloging books and conducting deep research to overseeing collection additions and managing staff, I excel at leveraging my commitment to library excellence and public service to make a substantial and positive impact. With my successful history of assisting and educating library users in research efforts, information acquisition, and materials location—along with my superior interpersonal and organization skills—I am ready to extend my record of excellence with Skylar University.
Highlights of my experience include the following:
- Oversaw all managing and instructional responsibilities for Pierce College and Reynolds University, respectfully, directing collection development of all library resources with an annual budget of up to $3.5M; supervised the Campus Library, Technology Lab, and Writing Centers at Reynolds University.
- Provided comprehensive support in delivering library service areas such as reference desk support, circulation, collection expansion, interlibrary loans, bibliographic support, and library instruction.
- Collaborated effectively with faculty on locating research materials, database querying, and assignment structuring tailored for each course.
- Taught students on the process of writing a college research paper utilizing the library’s resources.
- Utilized advanced information technology resources including internal / external databases, digital libraries, remote-access information sources, and the Internet to facilitate library user research, data acquisition, and materials location.
- Earned a Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of California, San Diego.
With my solid knowledge of academic library services and support, combined with my passion for the wealth of information and learning potential that libraries have to offer, I am positioned to significantly benefit your university. I look forward to discussing my qualifications in more detail.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Ruth T. Riley