by Rose L. Chou
I recently served on a search committee for a tenure-track academic librarian position and reviewed applications for a paid (!) summer archival internship. Nothing I’m going to share in this post is groundbreaking, but I just want to reiterate some key points to keep in mind when sending in applications for jobs and internships.
1. I really appreciate when your file names include your full name and what type of document (resume, cover letter) it is. While a file that’s named after the place you’re applying to is helpful for your own reference, it’s not helpful for mine.
2. This is definitely a personal preference, but I really love when application materials are sent as .pdf files. Never trust Microsoft Word to keep your formatting true. You also take the risk of leaving track changes on (oh, it’s happened — and yes, it looks bad).
3. One way I can tell if you’re detail-oriented is if you actually send in everything that’s asked for. If the job/internship posting asks for your availability, be sure to include it.
1. Tailor your cover letter. Show that you looked at the organization’s website and know something about it, and specify why you want to work there. You will especially stand out if you discuss why you are interested in performing the type of work explicitly listed in the job description. If you talk about how you’d love to learn about digitization when it’s not described in the position description at all, it’s a clear giveaway that you didn’t read it thoroughly — or that you’re just recycling an old cover letter without much editing. Oftentimes, I’ll see a resume that looks good but change my mind after reading the cover letter.
2. Think of your cover letter as exclusive from the resume. Please don’t just repeat what’s on your resume, but really explain why your past experience is relevant to the position.
3. Write clearly in your cover letter. If I need to read a sentence multiple times to understand it, you’ll stand out for the wrong reasons. One sentence does not need to take up five lines.
Of course, most of these are just my personal preferences. Be sure to check out the blog Hiring Librarians, which provides many different perspectives from hiring managers on what they look for in a candidate, and Open Cover Letters, which publishes cover letters from librarians and archivists who got hired.