Make your job application materials stand out!

Today I thought I’d share a few tips for making your application materials a bit more eye-catching. Have other ideas or advice you’d like to share? Post them in the comment section!

Formatting your resume can be time consuming work but it’s well worth it. Adding subtle (and professional) colors or more creative formatting can make your resume stand out visually – and this is a visual field!

There are many resume templates available for free (I really like the options on this website:, but be aware that templates may be difficult to work with in software such as Microsoft Word because of inherent formatting.

If you do decide to go with a more distinctive resume format, you can create a cohesive look for the rest of your application materials by mirroring the heading from your resume on your cover letter (including altering the text colors, etc. if applicable) and any other documents you’re submitting.

Something you probably already know – remember to tweak your resume for each job to emphasize the skills listed in the position announcement. This might mean changing the order of the bullet points under positions in your “work experience” section, or possibly changing words to match those included in the description. Also, make sure your tense is consistent in your descriptions of your work activities – I was advised that if you are still at a job, make everything present tense, even projects you’ve already completed.

Another element of your application could be a portfolio of your work. I created a website and populated it with examples of my image editing, providing both a “before” and an “after” image. If you have image editing experience, this is ideal for showcasing your skills. Websites are easy to make – again, it can take some time to make an attractive site, but this is a visually focused field. Google Websites has some good options for a customizable website, or WordPress is always popular. Keep basic design elements in mind such as legible font and the right amount of contrast between the text and background.

Finally, something that came up at the 2016 conference in Seattle – have all of your materials ready before you log in to an HR site to submit your materials. Also, while most sites will have you upload a resume and cover letter (hopefully as a PDF), it’s good to have a plain text version ready to paste into a free text field, as some sites will also require that.

Anything else you’ve found helpful, or any other topics you’d like to see written about on the VREPS site? Share your thoughts in the comments!


Common Interview Questions

As a recently graduated (and subsequently hired!) information science student, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the tips and resources that I found most useful in my job search (part II). If you have any questions you’d like to add or any inquiries for someone who’s been there, please post in the comments!

-Interview Questions

Below is a list of questions that equipped me to answer most of the queries that came up in my interviews, but not all questions listed here will necessarily be relevant to the position for which you are interviewing (the questions in bold are ones that came up in virtually every interview I had):

  • What interests you in this position and what skills and strengths can you bring to it?
  • Describe the top 3 skills you have that are most relevant to this position.
  • Identify words that describe you and your characteristics.
  • What are your weaknesses? (don’t say something that blows them off, but don’t get too negative; you want to give your answer a positive spin while still being honest. Alternatively, you could say something like, “I don’t have much experience with [x] database/software, but I was able to learn [y] during my internship.”)
  • Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
  • Give an example of how you set goals and achieve them.
  • When you worked on multiple projects, how did you prioritize?
  • How did you handle meeting a tight deadline?
  • Give an example of how you work with a team.
  • Give an example of how you handled a difficult team member/situation.
  • What are your preferred ways of keeping up with what is going on in the field?
  • Describe 2 or 3 trends that you believe will have the greatest impact on the field in the near future.
  • What makes a job appealing to you?
  • What are your long range career goals and how would working in this position further them?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • Why do you want to work at this institution? (this is where you showcase your research into the institution itself – very important)
  • Why should we hire you? (this is your opportunity to provide a sound bite on you – something concise that will stick with them)
  • Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to tell us?
  • Do you have any questions for us? (have 3-5 prepared for each group of people interviewing you – EXTREMELY IMPORTANT)
  • What qualities and skills do you have that enable you to interact well with colleagues, coworkers, and the public in general?
  • One of the challenges for liaisons is to make meaningful contact with the faculty in their departments. What have you found to be the most productive ways of reaching your communities? (this is more library focused but you may need to answer something similar)
  • Describe your most significant success and your biggest failure in the past 2 years. What did you learn from these experiences?
  • Describe your community-based outreach experience.
  • What project or activity have you worked on in the past year(s) that inspired your passion for the field?
  • Describe your most distressing customer service situation. What would you do differently?
  • What makes you stand out from others?
  • Have you handled a difficult situation with a client or vendor? How?

If the position is heavily focused on technology, be prepared for questions related to that specifically and how you have used said technology in the past, etc. You can use similar technology as an example of how you are able to acquire necessary technical skills – “I don’t have much experience with [x] database/software, but I was able to learn [y] during my internship.” A skills-based “deficiency” is easily remedied.

REMEMBER: never badmouth a former team member, job, supervisor, school, etc.

Interviews: Before and After

As a recently graduated (and subsequently hired!) information science student, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the tips and resources that I found most useful in my job search. If you have any advice you’d like to share based on your job search, please post it in the comments!

-Preparing for an Interview:

  • Research not only the position and the department the position is in, but also the institution as a whole. This will likely come up (“Why do you want to work for this institution?”) and helps you develop questions for the interviewers (because they will ask).
  • Download or copy and paste the job description into a document you can save. There can be a time lag between sending a cover letter and getting an interview, and you want to refresh your memory about the specific position before you interview.
  • Prepare a soundbite or elevator speech on who you are, your skill set, and why they should hire you. A one minute soundbite on you should focus on your top five skills, experiences, etc. and can act as a very effective set of bookends for your interview. I prepared an elevator speech that I used both to introduce myself and recap why I was a good fit at the end of the interview – and if you start to flounder or lose focus at any time during the interview, remembering the points in this soundbite can help you get back on track.
  • In general you want to dress conservatively and one step above how people in the department where you are interviewing dress. Be aware of any messages your jewelry, makeup, nails, etc. might send (a religious necklace, for instance, might communicate more about your beliefs than you realize). As long as you are aware of any possible messages, however, don’t let it inhibit you. I have a lip piercing, and I made the conscious decision to not remove it for interviews – it’s an aspect of my appearance that I really enjoy and I didn’t want to work someplace that would not allow me to wear it.

-Virtual Interviews:
For Skype interviews (and to a lesser extent, phone) make sure that you:

  • have a professional screenname (mine is first.lastname)
  • test the technology ahead of time (do you remember your password, does your laptop’s microphone work, etc.)
  • ensure that you have a neutral/professional background behind you (a blank wall or something similar – set this up ahead of time, and take a picture of yourself with your laptop’s camera to make sure no piles of stuff, etc. show up in the background)
  • set up a quiet environment (for me, this meant closing my cats in another room so that no meowing or cats trying to climb onto my lap interrupted the interview)
  • plug your laptop into a wall outlet (you don’t want to rely on battery power)
  • figure out how to take notes during the interview (if you type, they’ll hear the keys clicking so you probably want to have a pen and paper handy)
  • finally – write down people’s names!! (you will need this information to send thank you notes, and it’s easy to forget if you don’t record it)

After the Interview:
Send a thank you note within 24 hours (if you send a note via snail mail, send them an email within 24 hours as well thanking them and letting them know a handwritten note is on the way). Mention the interviewer(s) by name and thank them for their time. This is your opportunity to clear up any questions that you feel you could have answered better, as well as emphasize why you believe you are a good fit for the position.

Hopefully these suggestions are helpful for you; if you have other tips or any questions, post in the comments!

Up next: Common Interview Questions

Expanding Your Job Search Resources

We will continue to spread the news about job opportunities listed on the VRA website but if you’re serious about your job search it’s essential to expand your search beyond one website or organization. We all know the job market is slow but you can ensure you’re not missing an opportunity by checking a variety of sites each day. Below are some links to get started with. Remember, this is not an exhaustive list! Visual resource work is wonderfully interdisciplinary and you cannot assume one website has every relevant posting. Another tip: if your search is centered on a specific geographical region or a type of institution visit the career page of individual institutions in addition to professional association websites.

ALA JobList

Get Library Jobs

I Need A Library Job

Internet Library for Librarians

Library Crossing


LibInfoSciJobs (Twitter)

Library Journal Job Zone


LIS JobNet

Library Postings on the Internet

ProLibra Associates, Inc. (a library service company providing experienced personnel who are specialists in all facets of library service and maintenance to corporations, public entities and individuals)

The Networked Librarian Job Search Guide

Wontawk LIS Staffing


The Chronicle of Higher Education

Higher Ed Jobs

Educause Career Center


American Alliance of Museums

American Medical Informatics Association

American Society for Information Science and Technology

American Theological Association

Art Libraries Society of North America

Association of Independent Information Professionals

Association for Library and Information Science Education

Association of Research Libraries

Medical Library Association

Music Library Association

Society of American Archivists

Special Library Association JOB Bank

*State and Regional Chapters (by State or region)


Archives Gig

Council of Non-Profits Job Bank

International Employment Opportunities and Funding Sources for Librarians

*Special Libraries Association Listservs by chapter/state/region
Many employers post job listings via Listservs because of the wide audiences they reach. These are a great way to network for job seekers and job posters.


Smithsonian Institute

**This list was copied from the ALA job website

Using RSS to organize your job search

RSS Feed ImageSometimes a job being on a job search can be an overwhelming endeavor, especially when positions of interest fall into a wide number of categories as visual resources positions do. How can you keep up with all of the blogs and job listing websites? Many people will just check each site every day, but luckily there’s a better way to keep track of all those openings. RSS feeds can allow you to easily keep track of position announcements from a wide range of sources. Many RSS readers, like Google Reader, allow you to sort your feeds into different categories or add tags or stars to denote a position to which you want to apply. Project Muse has a great round up of ways to use your RSS reader to simply your job search, here.

Open Cover Letters: Examples from Hired Librarians and Archivists

Writing a cover letter can be a daunting task. What information should be included? How long should it be? How do I avoid repetition of my resume? How do I stand out when compared to so many other applicants? Looking at examples of cover letters when drafting your own can be useful and Open Cover Letters is a great resource for VREPS on the job market. The author, Stephen X. Flynn, is the Emerging Technologies Librarian at the College of Wooster and explains why he founded Open Cover Letters:

Having gone through the job search process and the emotional roller coaster accompanying it, I saw the need for an online resource that provides guidance to job seekers by providing exemplar cover letters. Examples of cover letters online didn’t seem relevant when I tried looking for some.

I shared Flynn’s frustration during my own job search over generalized cover letters I found online not doing the trick. Submitted cover letters are anonymous and redacted before being added to the site so if any VREPS want to share their successful cover letters, Open Cover Letters is now taking submissions.

Hiring Librarians: A New Blog for Job Hunters

While not all VREPS may be seeking employment right now, or looking for jobs within libraries in particular, many of you may be interested in a new blog: Hiring Librarians. The author, Emily Weak, is a job hunting librarian. The About page explains:

One of my favorite job-hunting resources is Alison Green’s Ask A Manager blog.  She gives great advice, not just because she’s a smart lady with a lot of common sense, but because she has worked as a hiring manager and is able to provide insight into the great mystery of how they think.

Inspired by her work, I wanted to create a venue which allowed people who make hiring decisions to explain their enigmatic thinking. I think we need more opportunities where people on both sides of the hiring process can communicate without fear or pressure.

To this end, I created a survey instrument which could be completed anonymously (or not), and solicited help from anyone who might hire a librarian, in all library types, as well as in non-library organizations that hire information professionals.

Among her respondents so far include hiring managers from academic, public, and special libraries; archives; a cataloging agency; and a library network. It would be great to see visual resources facilities or libraries represented here!