Chat Summary – Job Hunting
1) How did you find your current job?
A number of sources were mentioned for how people had located their current and past jobs. Personal networks were mentioned along with CILIP’s LIS Jobs Service, Jobsite.co.uk, the SLA Europe jobs board and the Library Career Centre. Several people also mentioned internal promotions or continuing in the same organisation.
Recruitment agencies were also discussed, with mixed results and opinions. Some stories were given where people had gained fixed term project work agencies, but no personal successes of long term work being secured were shared. Participants did share comments explaining that the people they had dealt with at the agencies were friendly, and had put them forward for positions though. Some felt that perhaps those more senior in the profession tended to have more luck in sourcing work via specialist LIS agencies than New Professionals.
LISNPN was also cited as a valuable network for finding out about new opportunities.
2) Has your experience and background influenced the jobs you got? (e.g. the sector you work in)
Responses to this question varied depending on the sector that people worked in. Those working in public and HE libraries said that sector specific experience had definitely helped them to secure their job. Special libraries (law etc) seemed more willing to take those without sector specific experience as it was felt that terminology can be picked up in a role.
Past contacts and acquaintances were deemed to be important – this doesn’t mean obtaining a job through nepotistic means, but using them to locate and find out about new roles and positions, asking for help preparing for interviews, and running application forms past them for proof reading.
Some participants stated that having a library qualification was more important than sector knowledge. On-the-job experience was deemed to be often desired but not essential.
One statement explained that experience and career background can act as a foot in the door, and something to add to your application form/CV. It can help you to provide insight and stimulate comparisons and discussion during the interview stage.
2) Did you do any volunteer work in libraries first?
Firstly, it a differentiation between volunteering in libraries as short term work experience, and full time volunteering was made. The below comments refer to volunteering as short/fixed term work experience.
Some participants had volunteered, and found that it was an excellent was way to fill in skills gaps that were needed for promotions or new roles. It also provided a good way to gain sector specific experience when paid work couldn’t be found. Volunteer positions were found to be especially useful when in the lead up to, or process of applying for library courses as well as jobs.
Some had problems finding volunteer posts, as many organisations do not have the capacity to take them on. Where work was found, most voluntary positions were 2-3 weeks in duration.
Several participants had volunteered as part of their library school course – this was a useful exercise to see some different environments and to fill in those all essential job criteria gaps. One person’s volunteering placement led to a full time position – it therefore is a possible route to paid work!
Volunteer placements were mostly obtained via advertised posts and personal connections. CILIP was mentioned as a way to obtain contacts and the following site was recommended for work shadowing
3) What problems have you found with writing CVs or application forms? Do you have any tips?
Use short powerful language
Try to include key skills on your CV – but ensure that these address the job criteria!
If you are missing any criteria, explain why you are still applying, why you are missing them (are you currently working towards it, or are you able to offer another skill instead?)
Check the person specification! Now check it again! Adhere to it in your application.
Applicants preferred jobs that needed a CV and cover letters to those with pre-defined forms with set questions. It is important to remember that it is still necessary to write your cover letter and CV for each job though!
Equal opportunities awareness was deemed to be very important in HE and public library interviews
Passing your CV on to a friend was deemed as a great way to get some feedback!
Why not lay out your CV to match the job criteria? By keeping the same order so it is easy to show the interviewer that you match the criteria.
4) Should you adapt your CV to fit each job role or is it better to include all your qualifications and experience in it?
All agreed that without doubt, a CV should be tailored to each job role. An exception could be made for an online CV (i.e. LinkedIn) which shows all of your career history and specialisms – this is more general.
5) What are your top interview tips to maximise your chances of getting the job?
The STAR technique was recommended – Situation, Task, Application, Result – to frame any results to questions.
One respondent said that they tried to prepare possible answers in advance, but conceded that if unsure, honesty is the best policy. If you answer questions truthfully, and you don’t get the job, then you may not have fitted in to the firm’s culture so don’t feel too bad!
It is always worth rereading your application and the job specification before the interview – try to think of a few examples you can use to illustrate how you may meet each of the criteria. If you can find a friend, then use the job specification to run a mock interview and try out a few questions.
If possible, visit the venue a few days before so you know where you need to go.
6) Are there any interview questions you’ve found hard to answer?
If you are serving one customer, the phone rings, and someone else joins the queue, what do you do?
Where do you see yourself both next year and in 5 years time?
How would you learn about an unfamiliar subject area as an academic librarian?
Explain to me what a wireless router is!
What is your management style?
7) Do you think that knowing a foreign language will improve your employment prospects? What other skills are highly prized?
Like any other skill, it can only really improve your chances of obtaining a job if it has some relevance. It can be a useful talking point though, and act as a way for you to stand out should two candidates be evenly matched. It is also essential if you would like to work abroad.
There is the chance that it can give you more jobs to apply for – often in art libraries an additional language is required to apply for the job.
People skills, project management experience, computer skills, coping with change, managing a budget, being able to learn and apply new skills and good management skills were also stated as highly prized.
8) Is unemployment a major threat for librarians?
A lack of entry level jobs, and little opportunity for progression was deemed to be a bigger problem.
Others stated concerns for being able to find jobs within their local community (or within commuting distance), and a reluctance by employers to hire replacements for staff that leave. This often leads to services being cut and roles being merged or diluted.
One participant explained that library roles were occasionally being taken over by IT workers, leaving few qualified librarians.
Concerns were raised about how library skills are seen by potential employers outside of the traditional library environment.
It was explained that continuing professional development needs to be taken on as a personal commitment, otherwise you will stagnate.
9) Shout out: useful resources have you come across when job hunting (advice, recruiting agencies etc)
10) How do Regulations and other employment laws affect the working conditions in our field?
No one was sure quite what was meant by this question, as sadly, none of the information professionals taking part in the chat moonlighted as employment lawyers. Comments are encouraged on this below if you have any thoughts though!