I run that blog Hiring Librarians, so I read a lot of job hunting advice. Not just on the site, but other places too – I tend to scan for it on my library social media haunts (Reddit, ALATT, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.).
One reason I started the blog is because I kept seeing a lot of people dispense really bad job advice in a very authoritative manner.
It is easy to say “I have hired people and here is the one thing you should never do.” It is easy to believe a person who talks like this. Getting hired is a social process, and it is a common thing to suspect that there are hidden rules we know nothing about. Especially if we have never done hiring, or never hired in the LIS field. Especially if we are desperate for a job.
The person dispensing the advice often believes that they are doing a favor by explaining the rules. For example, there’s this ALATT post where the poster provides a list of seven no-no’s for job applicants. It’s not necessarily bad advice, but it’s just one person’s list. Her rules are HER rules, not THE rules, no matter how authoritatively she states that they are true. For example, the 4th point, no monograms or images on a resume, comes up for some interesting debate in the comments.
Here is the thing. The whole process of hiring, all the conventions, the idea that a resume should be a certain number of pages, the idea that a resume shouldn’t have photos, the necessity of a cover letter -we just made all of that process up. Hiring is not something that occurs in nature, it’s a man-made process.
And, frankly, it’s often a badly designed process. For both the hirer and the hiree. Being able to conform to unwritten social conventions, ones that vary widely from region to region and institution to institution, is not really a good measure of whether someone is going to be a fantastic librarian. It sometimes indicates whether someone will fit into a workplace’s culture, but the hiring process is often very divorced from the day to day – it is it’s own particular set of rules and expectations.
And if we made it, we can change it. Right?