CV and cover letter talk and workshop recap

For our third event, we decided to get back to basics. This seemed particularly relevant with students finishing their exams, as well as the sense that there were at least some jobs being offered, albeit mainly contract work. How to inspire those new to the profession as well as those currently eyeing these jobs? It can be soul destroying to see jobs being advertised but not getting called to an interview. The first thing people have to do is to work on their CV and their cover letter. So the LAICDG decided to organise an event to help these people to get past the first hurdle: getting yourself noticed amongst the slush pile.

What we wanted in this event was for the attendees to be able to hear from people who had been on both sides of the fence, i.e, people who had spent time looking for jobs as well as people who had been on interviewing panels. We were very impressed by the quality of the speakers who gave up their valuable time and were so informative and very entertaining as well. We managed to get a space in the beautiful Rathmines Public Library, which is a wonderful example of a library at the centre of a community as well having some fabulously helpful staff.

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Jane Burns, the wonderfully inspiring information professional from the Royal College of Surgeons was the first of our speakers. Jane wanted to give a behind the scenes look at the selection and interviewing process as well as providing some helpful hints that those applying can utilise. They may seem obvious, but there were many nodding heads when Jane went through this list. Examples include trying to find out exactly who you’re sending your application to, the right title of the role that you’re applying for, and the importance of reading through the entire job spec. Jane emphasised that there are clues in seemingly irrelevant parts of the description. Understanding the role is essential as it helps you to know what the employer wants and whether you can actually do the job. This can be helpful as it can determine what jobs you should actually apply for. Jane noted that rejection can, of course, be somewhat soul-destroying, so applying for realistic jobs is very important.

Jane also gave practical advice on how librarians should tailor their CVs for each particular role. Again, this is something that we can forget about, especially if we’re sending our CV in to a large number of organisations. This, of course, also applies to our cover letters. A useful tip was to copy and paste the job spec in to tagxedo.com and then look at those words that are jumping out at you. Can you do what they are asking you to do?

Another useful tip was the importance of keeping your options open to alternative library careers. This helps to keep us motivated and even if the job is quite far removed from the library world, Jane suggested that there were options to keep you in the library world (like writing for the blog of the LAICDG). Jane suggested creating a table with words from the job spec on the left-hand side and writing two examples of how your own experience matches what the employer is looking for. Download Jane’s presentation here.

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Hugh Murphy, from NUIM is always a welcome presence at library events, whether as a speaker or attendee. Hugh’s talk (Interviews, Retina Scans and the Failings of Telepathy) was light-hearted and funny, but offered some valuable tips for those of us in attendance.

Hugh acknowledged the truth about interviews: they are random and the job can be given to someone who happens to impress on the day. Knowing this can give the applicant an advantage. Firstly, the basics (again, you can never overstate the basics). So, dress appropriately, be polite, be punctual (this was one he emphasised as particularly important), don’t supply any handwritten documentation, be positive, ask a (relevant) question, and be prepared to challenge the interviewer(s) if you disagree with a statement or have an alternative view. Given that interviews can be random, if you are not successful always ask for feedback. Hugh also reminded us that while the interview is random for the applicant, it will also be random for the interviewer. Download Hugh’s presentation here.

Our last speaker was Mark Cumisky, from UCD Career Development Centre. Mark started off with a story of what not to do in an interview. The moral of that story was not to lie about anything, whether your experience or your appearance, because if you are to do this, what else are you lying about?

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Mark suggested that we take his 3 Rs advice regarding both CV and cover letter: recent, relevant, and readable. Mark also stressed the importance of knowing everything possible about the role that you are applying for: what is it? Where does it fit into the organisation? Who did it previously? This knowledge should be applied to the organisation as well. What is its size, culture, history, reputation, and its pre-eminence (or lack thereof)? Mark also suggested that you should really ‘know’ about yourself too, even going so far as to ask an outside opinion regarding yourself. What are your skills, your experience, motivations, aspirations, ambitions, and your values? Going over this before the interview will help you to be aware of your answers during the interview process so that you seem prepared and relaxed. It is also important to tie in this knowledge of yourself with your knowledge of the organisation and the job.

Mark also gave some constructive suggestions for cover letters. Sometimes cover letters can terrify the applicant but also sometimes an applicant can be of the opinion that they have such a perfect cover letter that they can’t bear to alter it, regardless of the job. So, how should we write a cover letter? Tailoring, again, is the key. For the introduction, however, it is necessary to include the basics: who are you and where did you see the job advertisement? Next you should discuss what you can do for the organisation that you are applying for. So, state the relevance of your skills and include some examples. Show your enthusiasm, ambition, drive, and energy for the job that you are applying for. Next you should discuss why you are interested in working for the organisation. Here is where you show your knowledge of the profession, specifically your knowledge of the strengths and positives of the organisation within the profession in general. Download Mark’s presentation here.

After the speakers had finished, we organised the groups into loose ‘workshops’ to discuss actual sample job advertisements as well as given attendees the opportunity to discuss particular problems or issues that they had. The speakers would then rotate around the groups so everybody could get a chance to talk to each speaker. Time, as always, was a limiting factor, so the rotation didn’t work out quite as well as we had hoped, but there was always time for people to continue at the networking event that we had organised just down the road in Rody Bolands. Although some couldn’t make this part of the event, there were some interesting discussions held late into the night. Surprisingly, a lot of these discussions still revolved around libraries and job applications!Image

Overall, we were very happy with the event. A special thanks must be (re-)issued to the speakers, all of whom gave great talks mixed with humour and practical advice and were always ready with the personal touch for all of those attending. We are compiling your feedback (if you haven’t given yours yet, please do!) but overall the event seems to have been met with an enthusiastic response, which mirrors what a lot of you said on the day. We also have fond memories of the odd little toys that Jane brought as a conversation starter.Image

Don’t forget to check out the Tweet Archive of the event and, as always, keep an eye on this blog for news of future events and exciting developments in the world of the LAICDG.

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One thought on “CV and cover letter talk and workshop recap

  1. Pingback: Join the CDG Committee | LAI CDG

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