Thursday, 20 October 2011

CPD 23 - Thing 21 - Promoting yourself in job applications and interviews

Oh dear. Job hunting. Shudder. Have I mentioned that finding my first professional library post was hard work?

I do have some hard won advice. I don't know how profound it is and I know that it's mostly available elsewhere. Also you might be better off taking advice from someone who got the first job they applied for.

I'm going to focus on advice for people who are looking for their first professional role because that's the stage I came through last year.

All that said here's my advice...

Advice for library school students.

- Experience. You need to get as much experience as you can while you are studying. Apply for part time jobs. Do voluntary work. (More about volunteering in the next thing.) Do whatever it takes to get as much experience as you can while you are studying. This will make you look better as a candidate and it will give you more to talk about in your interview(s).

- Research. Use your research skills. Find out about the roles and sectors that you are interested in. Doing your homework on the job market while you are studying will give you a head start. (Don't get depressed though. It is tough out there.)

Advice for people looking for their first professional post

- Looking for jobs to apply for

Follow @uklibrary jobs on twitter.

Look at CILIP's own Lisjobnet.

Sign up with Sue Hill recruitment. They are library and information work specialists. There are others. Have a look round.

Most councils give you the opportunity to sign up for vacancy notifications. Some universities and colleges offer the same service. Sign up for these.

Use your contacts. Let people know you are looking for library work. Word of mouth is a very useful way to find out about vacancies.

- Applying for jobs.

Keep a record of the vacancies that you have found and the ones that you have applied for.

Take your time over each application and make sure that you are completely happy with your work before you send it off. Sending out a shoddy application is a waste of time.

Keep sending the applications out. Perseverance is key.

The person specification is vitally important. The people looking over your application and considering your interview answers will be judging you against those criteria. On your application form (or in your application letter) address each point one by one. Don't leave a point out. If you don't think you quite fit one do the best you can.

- Interviews

Don't panic. How do you manage that? Erm. Following the rest of this advice might help. If not find out what works for you.

Preparation. Prepare answers for probable questions. There are standard questions that almost always come up. Things like...'Tell us about yourself.''Why do you want this job?' 'What's your greatest weakness?' Apart from that remember they are judging you against the criteria in the person specification and judging your ability to do the job as outlined in the job description. Thanks to those two documents you know exactly what the interviewers are looking for. Use that knowledge to guess what questions they will ask. Prepare answers to all likely questions.

The CAR answer pattern in the CPD 23 post for this is very effective. Use that when planning your answers.

Practice answering questions. Interview practice is horrible. It brings up some of the same fears as real interviews. For example you worry that you are going to sound like an idiot. Put that fear to one side. Practicing will make you more confident and less likely to sound like an idiot when it really matters. Practice with friends and family or use any careers support that is available to you.

Practice on your own if your friends and family get fed up with listening to you. There are private consultants you can use. I have the details of a good one somewhere. I'll dig that out and update this. The CPD 23 post for thing 21 says CILIP members are entitled to two sessions of careers advice per year. I didn't know that. It's a useful tip.

- Coping with rejection

Don't get down if it doesn't go well. Think of failed interviews as practice for the next one. Make sure you get feedback and work on any areas for improvement that they mention.

- Perseverance

Keep at it. Stay positive. When you get the right job you probably will be glad that you didn't get that other job you went for.

Good luck.

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