iFiles: The first step to getting a job - the Resume

by Samantha Starmer, MLIS Day

Ah, summer. The sun is shining, baby ducklings are following their mommies, students are panicking about getting a job or solidifying that summer internship. While many of us have the goal of eventually not needing to update our resumes ever again, newly minted MLISers will often need to go down the traditional resume path for starting our job hunt. While the process may be fairly straightforward (albeit lengthy) for getting started in the public library job pools, job hunting for a special librarian position or for corporate jobs can feel like a shot in the dark, where you send your resume off to some mythical HR website or contact. How can you have a chance at having your resume noticed among all of the others that may be coming in? Even if you are lucky enough to have a direct contact to send a resume to, how can you have a better chance of that resume leading to an interview?

I won't pretend to be an expert on writing a fantastic resume - there are many potentially sticky areas, such as when resumes can be over one page in length or whether that old "objectives" statement has really fallen out of favor or not. But in many job hunting experiences, as well as participating on recruiting teams and being a hiring manager, I've gathered a few tips that seem to help get a resume into the 'follow-up' pile.

Resumes are all about spin. I don't mean that you should inflate your experience or mislead your audience; you definitely should tell the truth on your resume. But there are ways of presenting yourself via your resume that give you a better chance of getting it to the top of the hiring manager's pile. And that is the goal of a resume - to get to the next step on the 'getting a job' ladder. In most cases, a resume alone won't get you a job. But until we are all well known enough to be turning down unsolicited job offers, a resume is generally necessary to get the job hunt moving.

Think of your resume as your opportunity to sell yourself, highlighting yourself and your experience. Many of us feel like our resume is a little empty as we look to get that first post-MLIS job, but think about any volunteering experience you have had as well as any relevant skills used on other jobs. When I got my first project management job, I highlighted the multi-tasking, organization and people skills I had learned from years of bartending and waiting tables. Sounds crazy, but with the right spin it can work. Some additional thoughts:

  • Tailor your resume to the position you are applying for

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. But depending on the type of job you are looking for, the skill set may vary a bit. Even within library positions, a systems job in a large public library may require different expertise than the same position in a small academic library. Last year when I was looking for internships, I built one resume targeted to IA and UCD and another one targeted more towards KM and metadata/taxonomies. Then when specific job opportunities came along I was able to just make minor adjustments to make it fit the job opportunity as much as possible.

If you are applying for a specific job, study the job posting carefully and use words from the posting in your resume when appropriate. For my most recent job, the posting included this line: "Being customer-focused is a must as well as being able to manage multiple projects at once." So I altered my resume a bit to include "Extensive experience managing all aspects of cross-functional internal and external projects…" and " Intense customer focus and desire to provide the best solution for end user needs."

  • Use action words in your resume

Remember, your resume is one of those legitimate chances to brag - take advantage of it. Rather than merely explaining that you "managed circulation", think about pumping that experience up a bit by saying something like "effectively managed circulation, driving improvements that increased efficiency and customer satisfaction". Some good action words (and other general resume advice) can be found on

  • Note measurable, quantifiable accomplishments when possible, but be sure to back them up with data as appropriate

Resume writing advice often says to include specific measurable action items that you accomplished in each position, such as "reduced time to do catalog new items by 25%" or "increased circulation by 15%". This is an excellent idea where possible, but I have also seen it backfire. I recently was part of a hiring team where the applicant had littered his resume with grand claims of money saved and efficiencies gained. They definitely got attention, but were so grandiose that during the interview process one of the interviewers made a point to delve deeply into those claims. The applicant was unable to make a strong case for how his gains were true, so he came off as rather untruthful. He was not offered the job.

  • Think carefully about the order of sub areas within your resume

If you happen to be thinking about non-library jobs, be careful about how you stress your education. I've been in some resume workshops via the UW that have recommended putting your education at the top of your resume. I expect it is different for getting a job at a library, but for many jobs in the corporate world putting your education in top placement will make it appear as though you don't have relevant experience. Talk to someone within the specific field you are interested in to find out what is most appropriate.

And most importantly -

  • Get outside opinions

Have a least two individuals who have been hiring managers or recruiters review your resume as if they were looking to hire someone into the type of job you are looking for. This is critical for seeing whether your resume has that spark that lifts it out of a potential deluge of resumes that might come in for an open position. Also make sure that at least two people with strong copy editing skills review your resume - it is amazing how many resumes I've personally seen that are filled with bad grammar and poorly constructed sentences.

Take your resume as an incredible opportunity for illuminating all of the ways that you are right for the job. Here you have a chance to really plant the seed in the hiring team's mind that you are the perfect candidate.



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Page last updated: May 12, 2004