My Experience Leaving the MLS off My Resume

by Sarah Roark Schott, Head Editor, INALJ Arizona
previously published 10/1/2013

My Experience Leaving the MLS off My Resume

SarahRoarkSchottINALJLast month I wrote about leaving the MLS off your resume when applying for entry level library jobs and non-library positions. Many of you shared your stories and commented on that article, so I thought I would write a little update on my experience during the past month.

After submitting that article I decided to start a new resume from scratch, leaving off my MLS and many of the extra accomplishments I have made during the past few years. (These include courses I have developed and professional activities I have participated in.) I shortened the project and job descriptions for each of my library and archive positions, and added retail and serving jobs dating back to 2003. The new resume is a page long, the right length for many hiring managers to get an idea of your experience at a quick glance.

I applied for around 12 or 15 jobs with the new resume in a wide variety of fields – department store retail, coffee shops, office work, and entry level school library media specialist positions. I made sure my archive and library experience translated well to fit the job post descriptions, and used the appropriate language.

A week after my article was posted I got a call from a department store manager who received my online application (sans resume). The manager was interested in my online responses and called to discuss my education and work history. Nervous, I accidentally blurted out that I had received my BA and MA from the University of Arizona. Unfortunately that slip up changed the conversation immediately, and the manager asked why I had applied for a lower paying job in retail. I quickly assured him that I was hoping to find work with a company that would treat me fairly and allow me to work up within the ranks. So, we set up a face to face interview for the next day. Although the store I interviewed at was 45 minutes from my home, I was excited to meet with an employer and learn about the business. The interview went well, my background in retail was a big plus, but my MA was a problem. Despite my best efforts to assure him that I would not quickly move on, he decided not to offer me the job. Perhaps I should have asked for more specifics for why he would not hire me, but I was not brave enough to do that.

A couple of days later I received a call to interview with a chain coffee shop near my home. This time I made sure they had the new resume before I went in. The interview went really well, I have worked coffee before and I felt a good connection with the manager and a few of the employees. My education came up very briefly, and there was never an opportunity to nervously admit my MA. The next day the interviewing manager called me and informed me that she really liked me and thought I would be a good fit for the company, but had decided to go with another applicant who seemed to fit better with her current staff. She then told me that she was going to call the other stores in the city and recommend me to other hiring managers. I was appreciative of the extra effort she made to call me, and even the promise to call other stores. Like many of you, I have waited for weeks after interviews to hear anything from hiring committees, sometimes never hearing a word from anyone. That ten minute call lifted my spirits and renewed my confidence in the job hunt.

After those two interviews I have had a couple of pre-interview interviews, but no other luck using my new resume. I know this is a numbers game, the more places I apply the closer I get to landing another interview and maybe even a job offer! I am going to continue applying for different positions with both resumes, and maybe next month I will have more news for you all. I hope you will share any experiences or results you have had by excluding your MLS. I would also like to read any stories you might have about how your MLS somehow landed you a non-library job. Good luck and happy hunting!

  29 comments for “My Experience Leaving the MLS off My Resume

  1. June 2, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    I am an MLS student. At times, I have considered omitting my education. I assumed that working on my MLS would help on a my resume for library jobs. But I have yet to be interviewed.

    I recently went to a Job Day for Emporia State University student’s hosted by the University of Kansas Libraries. They spoke about their job screening process from the Human Resources perspective and an applicants (new employee of theirs’) perspective. As a job applicant, I was reassured that always rewriting your resume, cover letter, and application to fit each job description is correct. The applications are sorted by relevance to the position and the screening process takes months. Being new to the professional world, I was surprised to hear the process takes so long and that the interviewing could take more than a day. So leaving the MLS off or on the resume in applying there for a library job would be good, whereas applying for a food service job may not work. However, I am still tempted to leave my education off my resume, except for the high school diploma, when applying to jobs that require only a high school diploma. Oh and where the higher education is not a preferred qualification.

    I think the required qualifications and preferred qualifications are great cues for when to leave or keep the education on the resume. As Sarah says, there is an interview so if the interview really needs to know the extent of your education they will ask.

    An interview should not be misinterpreted as a confession.

  2. Heidi Henderson
    May 19, 2014 at 10:04 am

    I do not have a MLS, but will complete the requirements for my Associates in Library Science in a few months. I have a Masters degree in another field and do not hesitate to include that information about my education; I feel like it shows that I have the ability to complete coursework at a Masters level and also complete a Masters degree program. I understand that a hiring committee might not want to hire a MLS candidate for fear that they will soon leave the position, however, the library is getting “more bang for their buck” if they are able to hire a MLS candidate at a paraprofessional salary.

    • June 1, 2014 at 10:33 pm

      Sadly that is not the case for many hiring managers. I know that with my MA in Military Science I do not even get a second look because what I hear all the time is “you are over qualified”, well what they don’t know is that I applied because I wanted to work there, it had nothing to do with being Qualified per say. I think a Bachelor’s is a good thing to have on a resume, but a master’s tends to scare some away.

  3. Lauren
    May 17, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Has anyone tried leaving off the MLIS/MLS in the library world? I ask because I know there are a lot of part time jobs within the LIS world. I’m actually working a part time job in a public library and had my MLIS listed on my resume. Since the job only required a high school diploma, I would like to think that the MLIS helped but I can’t be 100% sure of it. Also, I had an unpaid internship at a historical society while working on MLIS and I happened to be the only person in the office with the library degree (or anywhere near obtaining one). Someone did have an MA in Museum Studies… I was told by the Executive Director that it was nice to have a Librarian/Archivist in addition to a Museum person.

    Also, has listing retail experience on a resume helped anyone get a library/archival/museum job?

  4. Sylvia Bly
    May 16, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    I know for a fact that putting all my education lost me a job opportunity. I waited for a bit, applied again, said I was a high school graduate, got the job. Leaving off education is not grounds for termination. Lying is. You’re just not putting it all in there. I agree, it’s frustrating not able to show off, but a jobs a job.

  5. Celine
    October 3, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    I have been considering applying without my MLS, but I am concerned about my LinkedIn profile. I want employers to see this, as it features recommendations from my employers. Should I leave this off my applications as well? Might my profile appear to be a contradiction, and thus a problem for employers?

  6. Nyia
    October 2, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    I did not leave off my MLS for applying for a library assistant position which deemed a plus because I got the job!!! I am enjoying my position with room to advance in my library career. Good luck everyone!

  7. Sarah Roark Schott
    October 1, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    Hi guys! Thanks for all of your comments. If you missed my first article about this, you can find it here: I wrote this post as a follow up for that post. About a week after I wrote this post I had an interview and job offer from a law firm in the town I live in. I did leave my MLS on that resume, and the person who interviewed me had no reservations about my degree and thought my education would be a benefit! The position is a receptionist job for now, but after a few months they sometimes offer employees a chance to move up. Hopefully I will make a good impression and work my way up! Records management is my goal for this firm, hopefully I will be able to put my degree to good use.

    To respond to some of these comments, I didn’t ever feel like I was “hiding” my degree. I was very comfortable talking about my time working in different libraries and archive repositories, I just didn’t bring up my degree, and no one thought to ask! I actually had an interview last week for a school library position, and the interviewers stuck to asking questions about my related experience not my education (I didn’t get the job, but school libraries are not for me). I did plan on telling the truth to any interviewer who asked me if I had any higher degree (I am a terrible liar, I just can’t do it and of course it would cause problems later on).

    Anyway, this was just an experiment I thought I would try for about a month. I really only tried it with jobs I wasn’t super excited about applying for or jobs that were not library/archive related. In the end it didn’t really work out for me, but I encourage all of you to do what works best for you! Sometimes you do just need that in-between-job to pay bills! Good luck everyone! Keep us posted on your job searches!

    • October 2, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      Awesome! I have served on search committees for paraprofessional positions and an MLS was held against people because they were most likely not going to stay in it for the long term. Only government jobs require full disclosure and your education is your own- what you choose to share is on you. As long as what is on the resume is honest then good. You should feel comfortable getting whatever education you want, for YOURSELF. Education first and foremost is for you, not your employer though it can benefit you getting a job. if it hurts you due to their prejudices you don’t owe them that information (except, once again, government). When people say that it is dishonest not to share they are shaming you for going out and getting educated and keeping it to yourself. I cannot approve of that mentality.

      • Larem Ipsum
        May 17, 2014 at 2:25 pm

        I truly agree with this. People will be penalized for advanced education in the job hunting process, it is up to the applicant to decide whether their complete formal education is worthy of being known to the employer or not.

  8. NL
    October 1, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    I left my MLIS off of several applications that I got interviews for in the past few weeks. I also downplayed my responsibilities and emphasized the more customer-servicey and clerical aspects of the library-related work I have done. It has worked well in that I just got a job working for a major chain store for a little over minimum wage because a job is better than no job at all. I have a company interested in interviewing me for a bookkeeper trainee position, but they got forwarded the resume that has the library degree on it (via one of my friends), so they are not so interested because they think I might leave.

    I think it is kind of hard to find a mid-level, non-library job with library experience as a non-librarian and an MLIS. It’s either library jobs or low-level retail. Retail is disposable employment. Office work is harder to get and harder to leave.

    And all of this isn’t to say I’m not proud of my degree. I am very proud that I have my MLIS. But you can’t eat pride, and my diploma won’t pay the rent.

  9. October 1, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    I don’t have an MLS but have even had my Bachelor’s degree questioned when applying for entry-level customer service work, especially in retail. Sometimes you can hold out and concentrate on looking within your field, and other times you simply need a job, any job. Having been in both situations, I will never fault someone for omitting their education when it is a barrier to getting that job.

  10. Austin
    October 1, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    If you just want any job to pay some bills, this is a fine approach but if you want even an entry level library job (shelving books, circulation, etc.) I would always include the MLS. Depending on how much education you shave off, you could also miss out on some opportunities for growth and advancement down the road (in or out of a library). If you’re just doing this to bide your time until a job you want comes up, then again this is fine. When I worked undercover for a labor union after my undergrad, I lied about my education because these employers were anti-union and I had a degree in labor studies – I always got hired with my fake telecommunications degree. Once I got the job and started working, I eventually let co-workers know I had decided to start work on a Masters (even though I already had started). It’s good to eventually open up about it in a roundabout way rather than continuing to lie.

  11. Raquel Mendelow
    October 1, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    I am afraid I would have to disagree with this article. I like to be honest about my education when applying for jobs.

    • October 1, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      Remember that none of our resumes are complete ever- there is no such thing as a truly complete resume – there is always something(s) we leave off. Yet we don’t think leaving off the 1 week job selling vacuum cleaners door to door is being dishonest, so why judge ourselves and others harsher on what they share about their degrees earned? I got the MLIS for myself. Who I choose to share that information with is up to me- getting a degree does not hold you accountable to anyone except those who explicitly require it for hiring purposes. The degree is earned and is yours- who you share that info with is up to you too – so feel free to share or not. 🙂 But it has nothing to do with honesty. I also worked as a babysitter, dogsitter, cashier, as a general merchandise manager, as a stockroom person, I have an Associates degree, etc… but it is not dishonest to leave those things off my resume.

      • October 1, 2013 at 7:00 pm

        And for one miserable week I did sell vacuum cleaners by phone and door to door when I was 19. 🙂

        • June 1, 2014 at 10:35 pm

          I completely agree, I leave ALOT off my resume, I have worked in 10 different fields since I started working at the age of 15 during the summer. I doubt someone that is going to hire me as a historian really wants to see that I built fence and fought wild land fires.

    • Jessica
      October 2, 2013 at 12:47 am

      There are other ways to mitigate being over qualified for a position. Nobody will fault you for needing to pay the bills, but why mislead potential employers? Omitting a graduate degree is disingenuous and potentially grounds for termination.Why not call a spade a spade and temp while you continue your job search? A situation like that is win-win. I would also encourage you to focus your efforts on the broader information landscape outside of libraries rather than ‘grunt work’ or menial jobs. The opportunities are plentiful for information professionals and ‘upskilling’ will open far more doors than jobs that could be perceived as demotions.

      • October 2, 2013 at 1:59 pm

        So actually when applying at universities for a paralibrarian/paraprofessional job I know many search committees due hold the MLS against applicants because they will leave for a better MLS position very quickly. I think companies and government are very different- but the best point is that there are tons of non-librarian careers all of us can do and it is good to let those employers know you gained your skills through your MLS program 🙂

      • Jessica
        October 7, 2013 at 5:23 pm

        I would also add in response to the graduate student or MLS “paraprofessional” (sorry, hate that term) issue that I don’t see the logic of hiring someone with more academic credentials than required for a position. I realize this is a blanket statement but libraries aren’t exactly well-funded, and so when you think of the investment that goes into training and making a new hire operational, it makes more sense to opt for someone who’s a better fit, more of a longer-term bet, is likely to be more be satisfied with the position. I also refute the underlying assumption that a graduate student or librarian is a more competitive candidate for these jobs- oh, if only we wouldn’t hold the MLS against them! “Paraprofessional” library positions have their own set of requirements and expertise, and let’s not take that away from them.

        I also don’t think it’s strategic from a career standpoint to necessarily go for these positions if you are indeed on the librarian path. I’m not sure how many MLS-degree holding library technician-turned-librarian Cinderella stories there are, but I haven’t heard too many. If what you’re looking for is professional experience and/or money, look for a graduate assistantship or paid internship in a library or information environment. This relates to my “calling a spade a spade” argument and is higher value from a professional standpoint. I myself had an graduate assistantship and substitute librarian position in a public library system while I was in library school. The experience I acquired was more relevant from a resume building perspective (programming, outreach, library instruction, etc.) than paraprofessional position, and higher compensated. There are also fellowships and residencies for students or recent grads (I know because we offer them), as well as other out-of-the-box alternatives for maintaining forward motion.

        • October 7, 2013 at 8:30 pm

          Yes, I completely agree! It is a poor hiring decision on the part of the library to hire someone who will spend much of their time looking to leave.

    • October 2, 2013 at 8:53 pm

      I agree with Raquel. I worked hard for my MLIS and am proud of my skills. Unfortunately, I am 62 years old and 2 years post-MLIS which means I will never get a real job. I work part time now in a museum library for $14 an hour. I like it, but resent the low pay.

      • domstudent11
        July 3, 2014 at 8:57 am

        New Wave Librarianalice graves: I agree that it is incredibly difficult to get a library position when you are no longer in your 20’s-30’s. In our situation (I am older as well), you might as well include the MLIS because age is more of a factor than the degree. In fact, there is definitely age discrimination since I have had many, many interviews that have not resulted in offers. I have decided instead to be proud of the fact that I went back to school as an older adult, because it shows a commitment to lifelong learning.

  12. October 1, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    On that note, I’ve been wondering if I should leave off the fact that I’m a MLIS student on my resume or cover letters when I apply to parapro jobs. I’ve applied for a few jobs that I’ve been qualified for (internships or volunteer projects or coursework in that specific area, references from insiders, etc.) but haven’t been called in for interviews. I’ve noticed that they keep hiring people who have no library experience and are not library school students. I’m at the point where I wonder if I’m hindering myself. So frustrating because you think you are doing the right thing and you spend hours each day working towards a career in this field, and then a current library employee tells you she was told she only got an interview because, and I quote, “I had some experiences with horses and the interviewer thought that was cool.”

    • October 2, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      Being a student can be a good thing- because they know i will take you time to get the degree- this is speaking in the context of college employers.

  13. Harold
    October 1, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    I think I’ve not been offered jobs because of my MLS, but I think I’ve also gotten interest from employers because of my MLS (and my GPA) too. I’ve been trying to apply to jobs that I’m either exactly what the agency wants or only slightly over-qualified for. Being over-qualified has gotten me interviews, but being under-qualified won’t even get me that far. At this point, I’m determined to work in my field. I’ve put a lot of work and money into my degrees and now it’s time for me to make use of them, so I don’t think I can let my MLS off the resume.

  14. Linda
    October 1, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Interesting experience. I have been full time searching for a position in the New York area, and for a time did leave my MLS off my resume, but it left such a gap. That I don’t think it would work in my own case. A subjective experience. Good luck hunting for a job!

  15. April P.
    October 1, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Thank you for this article. I had been wondering about omitting my M.L.S. on a resume and am still looking for work, library or otherwise. When I applied for a library assistant position, and did not get selected despite a goor interview, I came to believe that my degree had been a hinderance. And there I was just hoping to get a foot in the door with their library system. I do feel as though our advanced degrees can negatively impact our job chances, unfortunately.

  16. October 1, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Very interesting! I’m still not sure I could leave it off… My involvement in the library & archive world and my degree are such a big part of me. I don’t think I could ‘hide’ it.

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