Resume Missteps & Solutions

Resume Missteps & Solutions

by Amy Steinbauer, Senior Assistant, INALJ California


The job search is a messy, complicated game of employment. It can seem like all of the hiring factors are out of your control. You get excited at job ads and prospects, send your resume and cover letter in, and wait, and wait, and wait. The job is the perfect fit for you, why haven’t you heard anything!?!

As you sit and go crazy, it is easy to fester in the hopelessness. You may think about looking for other types of jobs, or even going back to school.

But, don’t despair— you do have some control in the job search! You just need to learn how to make yourself marketable. And, you are! You’re a catch! You can control how you come across in the professional world by taking a close look at your resume.

Enough with my sales pitch, but this article comes from a very real place. A few weeks ago one of my friends, (let’s call him Joshua), asked me to look at his resume. Just as I described above, he is desperate, frustrated, thinking about giving up his library dreams! Thankfully, he reached out to me. He sent me his resume, and there were some GLARING missteps on it! I know my friend through grad school, we graduated together. I am working a full time library job in my field. And, while he has worked library/tech jobs after graduation, he has yet to find a full time opportunity.

Let’s talk about some of his missteps, which Joshua is nice enough to let me share with you!

Listed References: Missteps & Solutions

  • His references were the first thing on his resume, taking up about 1/3 of the page. He has good references, but this is not the time or place for them!
  • He felt that he was lacking experience, but was proud of his professional contacts, so he displayed them.
  • A potential employer would most likely find this puzzling on a resume, especially listed so front and center.

A resume is the space for you to highlight your education, experiences, and skills! I won’t speak in absolutes- as I am not a hiring manager, but in the past I have attached references in their own document, along with my resume and cover letter. Also in my experience, hiring personal usually contacts references as one of the last steps in the employment process, so there is no reason to have them front and center on your resume.

Experience: Missteps & Solutions

  • His experience was listed very compacted. He used bullet points, but sometimes just one for each job, and then would use several sentences to clarify.
  • Aesthetically, it was hard on the eyes!
  • Missing– ACTION VERBS! Instead of Worked with, Assisted, Gained experience, try Collaborated, Fostered, Developed. Can you see/hear the difference?
  • Action Verbs make you more marketable- can you match your words to the job post?
  • Use your RESEARCH skills and find examples of librarian resumes online. I like  for their real world advice.
  • Quantify your skills! Numbers don’t lie. Did your volunteer work lead to an increase in users? Did you complete a project that enhanced service for a number of people? Did you have a successful program with x number of participants? Make it known! Numbers make your work highly transferable.

Joshua actually has a lot of really helpful experience, he has worked in libraries before and after grad school, and worked for a major computer company- which I think makes him really employable. If you can deal with people’s computer problems clearly and comfortably, you will do great in public libraries where we serve people who have never used a computer before!  Again, I am no expert, but from my knowledge and experience, it’s better to have more bullet points, with shorter statements about jobs done.

Education: Missteps & Solutions

  • Joshua’s education was buried at the very bottom of his resume.
  • MLIS/ MLS/ Equivalent should be the focus of a new library professional’s resume. Especially when the jobs you are applying to require a MLIS.
  • List most recent Education experience first— think chronologically!

When you complete your MLIS or MLS or the equivalent in a field that requires the advanced degree that information should be the first thing on your resume, at least while you are looking for your first professional library job. Be proud of your accomplishments! I suggested he move this information right up to the top!

Skills: Missteps & Solutions:

  • There was no Skills section listed on his resume!
  • He has a lot of tech skills, and I’m sure you do, too! Anytime you use a library program, software, or hardware that is a skill that probably will be useful to future employers.
  • Missing this section made his resume seem glaringly incomplete. Especially when he was concerned about filling a page!

This was an especially huge mistake for him because he has a lot of tech skills, and that is really employable in public libraries (where he wants to work). In grad school, Joshua worked on several big projects with different library systems, and served on an organization that taught HTML and CSS to grad school students. Those are great skills to have in this field, and he needed to create a space for them.


Hopefully, I will be able to say that my badgering* has gotten him a job. But, in the meantime, his resume has transformed from a very white-spaced and ill-formatted document to a professionally hire-able one! Looking at his latest draft, I could easily see what education, experience, and skills that he has to offer. At best you are getting a few moments of a hiring manager’s time, impress them!

Be concise and targeted in your approach. It’s a pain, but look at your resume before you send it in to every job. There are always ways to keep transforming your resume to show how you fit the part. If you have the skills, you can append your approach to the individual market you are applying to. That shows you have done your research, are seriously interested, and know what it takes to get the job! Good luck!

*Does my advice speak to your job search or do have any better ideas? Help us all by leaving a comment!