Top tips: Applying for a job – From searching to settling in
Starting your job search:
- Consider what you want: Is there a specific sector you want to work in? Are you able to work part-time or cover maternity leave? Are you willing to move location or commute? Or is there a certain area you want to live? These are the questions you need to ask yourself before you start looking at jobs as it can influence the number of jobs that are right for you.
- Job sites:
Of course there are the main websites & Twitter accounts that focus on jobs for Library & Information professionals, but don’t forget to regularly check general job sites, sites for specific councils or areas that you are interested in or even narrowing the search and checking specific institutes. Many libraries/organisations are posting on their own sites to save money. We have added a list of useful job sites to our resources page, it’s a great place to start!
- Get creative with your search: Have you searched ‘library’ or ‘librarian’ and realised that not a lot of jobs appear & now you feel disheartened? The library and information sector is constantly evolving & so are the job titles. Our tip is to branch out & try keywords such as: ‘information’, ‘knowledge’, ‘researcher’ or ‘analyst’. Also, think about the sector you are looking at, you might find that more academic libraries/school library positions become available before the start of a term/year.
- Set up alerts: Searching for jobs can feel like a full time job, so once you have done all of the initial hard work (the tips above), then save those searches and create auto-alerts so that any new jobs matching your requirements are sent to you on a routine basis. It sounds simple but it will save you time & energy! Just remember to check your inbox/junk folder. (Warning: checking those emails can become addictive!!).
- Keep an open mind: This is the best tip we can give you. You might have originally thought you would work in academic libraries but there might not be any positions available. Most information skills are transferrable across sectors, so maybe broaden your original search. Remember that your first post after your MA is unlikely to be your last! Experience is valued in any sector, so consider playing the long game; maybe take that full-time non-professional/para-professional role & gain as much experience as possible before a professional post appears that is right for you.
Gil Young – CPD & Partnerships Manager, NHS NW Health Care Libraries Unit
Top tips on writing a successful application form
- If the form requests that you do something then do it. If a brief description of your current role is asked for then keep it brief. If one of your references is required to be from your most recent or current post then make sure they are. If you ignore what the form asks for and do your own thing you will be unlikely to be invited for interview. If there is a reason why you can’t supply the information requested then say why.
- The person specification is crucial. Make sure you relate your supporting information clearly back to the person specification. Do not assume that anything is obvious. If the person reading the form doesn’t know you they can only learn about you from your form. If they do know you they should only be taking account of the information you have supplied not their own experiences of working with you.
- Sell yourself. At this stage you are the only person who can tell your prospective employers why they should interview you. If you don’t do it then no one else will do it for you. Worse, someone else will be doing this on their form and they will get the interview. Really think about what you have done in the past and the level you did it at. If you managed a project or wrote a guide then say that you managed or wrote it, don’t just state that you worked on it.
- Read your supporting information out loud. Is it easy to read? If you stumble over it when you are reading then so will the person who is assessing your form. Use similar language to that used in the person specification and use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
- Get someone else to proof read your application before you hit the send button. Ask them to ensure that you have addressed the main points of the person specification and that your application is easy to read in addition to checking your grammar and spelling.
Neil Donohue – Learning & Teaching Services Manager, The University of Leicester
The Interview Good practice on the part of the interviewer is not to give feedback when giving the outcome of the interview. Unsuccessful candidates are likely to be disappointed and not necessarily in the right frame of mind to take feedback. So:
- Don’t ask for feedback there and then BUT do ask when would be a good time to call back/email to gain feedback at a later date (try to get a time within a week of the interview so its fresh in both your minds). Remember, the panel member might have quite a few people to call so it isn’t fair on the other candidates if they are delayed in giving the outcome of the interview. At this stage though, it is always worth noting down any questions you remember being asked. Its good for future reference but also for your feedback – see Number 5
- Accept that the feedback might be minimal – try not to take this as a reflection on you or the interviewer. It might be the case you did very well but that there was someone who had more experience or more relevant examples. You didn’t perform badly but someone just performed better.
- Don’t give a reaction to the feedback. Listen carefully, ask for clarification but don’t give an opinion on whether you think that they are right or not. Accept the feedback and thank them for their time. You never know, you might be applying for another job with them in the future and you want to leave a positive impression. Also, don’t ask the panel member for advice how you could go about addressing any areas of deficiency. It’s not their role. The onus is on you.
- Leave your feedback notes for a day or so, particularly if you feel very strongly/disagreed with it. You need to approach feedback with an open mind and place yourself in the shoes of the panel. What would YOU be looking for in the candidate?
Give yourself time to reflect on your interview performance.
Image: IamNotUnique http://is.gd/jTuLOk
- After a few days, reflect on your performance. Go back to your list of questions. Give yourself a self-assessment and see how this tallies with the feedback you’ve received. Identify any gaps and come up with a short action plan of how you intend to address those areas. Don’t have long timescales on the action plan as you may be applying for another job in the short-to-medium term and you will have wanted to addressed them. Seek advice from a colleague, your line manager or members of NLPN!! The Library profession is excellent at being supportive, encouraging and sharing practice, so make the most of it.
Emily Shields – Digital Library Services Manager, Manchester Metropolitan University.
Five top tips for answering interview and application form questions.
- Nail the application form: The application form is a tick box exercise, go through point by point and demonstrate when you have used this skill. If necessary be creative to bring in skills from elsewhere; writing a dissertation can show project management, talking at an NLPN event can highlight presenting information. Bullet point if necessary to make life easy for the shortlister.
- See beyond the task: If the interview sets a task it’s easy to spend all your prep time on this rather than the questioning as you can control the task. The task is useful for interviewers to highlight a key skill, but it’s not everything and if you neglect the interview prep it doesn’t really matter how amazing your presentation was.
- Don’t talk too fast: Your panel will try and write down as much as you say for them to reflect upon later so with that in mind DO NOT TALK TOO FAST! When it comes to the recap the panel want to have captured as much as possible.
- Listen to the question: It’s so tempting to answer the question you wish they’d asked rather than the one they actually did ask. If you’re unsure, just ask them to repeat it. Some of the strongest applicants I’ve interviewed have asked if they can have a minute to think about it; this does not reflect badly on you in any way!
- Focus and structure your answers: So easy to write and so hard to do when on the spot. If you waffle they may wonder what the point of your story was in the first place – make life easier for the panel by spelling it out for them. A useful structure I’ve used is:
- what’s the headline (I have experience of this from my time at…)
- fill in the detail (I did a, b, c & d. Very well indeed, obviously, which is why you’re interviewing me)
- recap (“so, in short…”, “just to recap…”, “my points were…”)
Emily Hopkins – Knowledge Service Manager, Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust
Settling into the role So…you’ve somehow got through the dreaded interview and actually got the job! Those first few days in a new role may seem daunting, and you’re wondering how on earth you’ll ever settle in…
- It may feel like you’re in at the deep end, but take your time getting to know things.
We were all new once. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or clarification on your job description, and take your time to let everything sink in before you really get to work
- Your teammates are an amazing source of support. Get to know them and what their roles entail, listen and ask questions! If there’s someone in a similar role, you may be able to ‘buddy’ with them.
- It’s tempting to focus on learning the detail of your role, but don’t forget the bigger picture. Learn about your organisation’s big strategic goals – not just the glossy webpage version, but what it actually means for the direction of your team and potential changes on the horizon.
- If you can, go and meet colleagues outside your team too – it will help with understanding the organisation, and it means you’ll feel more at home when you bump into people in the kitchen. Most will be happy to arrange a quick chat with a new colleague and make you feel welcome. So don’t be shy!
- Believe in yourself– you weren’t hired by mistake! No one is expecting you to be perfect on day one, but they can see you have the potential to be amazing.
Good luck! Image: Gil young