Academic Library Job Applications – What to Expect in the UK

by Suzanne Schultz Pick, Head Editor, INALJ UK

Academic Library Job Applications – What to Expect in the UK

Suzanne Schultz PickMany library jobs are posted through universities or colleges in the UK. Many of these jobs require applications rather than a CV/resume submission. So how can we make sure that our applications stand out?

Let’s look at what the applications ask for. I tend to search for jobs through further education jobs in the North East, and Newcastle University has lots of library jobs listed frequently. In their application, the main subjects of information are listed as:

  • main details,
  • education,
  • qualifications,
  • courses,
  • work history,
  • application questions,
  • additional information,
  • references,
  • equal opportunities.

The information you provide must be specific. Any gaps in employment must be addressed. Even breaks from work while caring for children, long holidays, and changes in career that lead to unemployment phases must be accounted for. Generally, the requirement is to list the last 10 years of employment history.

Applications will ask for specific details such as:

• Please give full details of any relevant courses you have attended. If the course was assessed please indicate the result, or if the course was not assessed please indicate “completed” or “attended”.

• Please list current and all previous employment. Indicate whether it was full-time, part-time, vacation work or an industrial placement and provide details of specific responsibilities, experience and knowledge gained. Please give reason for leaving.

Many times, in lieu of a cover letter, the application will ask some questions. These are created for you to show the library hiring staff how you stand out over other candidates.

• Please confirm how you meet the essential criteria as set out in the person specification for the position, and address any gaps. Please describe how, and to what extent, you meet the desirable criteria. Please provide any further information that is relevant to the position for which you are applying e.g. details of work experience, achievements and interests. If you have little work experience you may wish to include details of holiday or weekend jobs, or any unpaid/voluntary work you have undertaken.

• Briefly describe your experience of working in an academic or commercial print environment, including include dates. (No more than 50 words)

• Please state what skills you have in digital print production and how you have used them, including dates. (No more than 50 words)

I contacted Wayne Connolly, Dir of Academic Services and University Librarian at Newcastle University Library, and asked him what exactly the library is looking for on a candidate’s application for any library position, and what kind of advice he could provide for job seekers.

This was his response:

First important thing is to pay close attention to the person specification – meet the stated criteria, and then see where you can add value.

Second is to do your research on the organisation you are applying to (that will also help to see where you can add value).

Thirdly (maybe most important) is that experience of customer service, and a demonstrable understanding of customer service and its role in library and information services, are crucial.

There are plenty of job posts out there, and many of them are through college or university libraries. It’s definitely worth taking the time to look through any you come across and make sure you can meet the necessary requirements. When you see a job you know you’d be perfectly suited for, take the time to really answer the questions to the best of your ability. Show your strengths that are specific to the job role, and be thorough in your training and employment/unemployment history.

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