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Marketing your library – Instalment 10

The art of self promotion: the marketing behind recruiting and applying for positions

The more you begin to think of library marketing the more marketing becomes a way of life. You'll begin to see marketing opportunities in all sorts of different and creative ways. It seems, to me at least, that one of the most overlooked opportunities to apply library marketing techniques is recruiting to fill a vacancy. A vacancy is the perfect opportunity for libraries and librarians to market themselves to each other as well as to develop relationships that have the potential to influence all parties for a long time to come. I'm often confused by the literature because so many things say there is a shortage of jobs and good applicants can't find work, but I can find a whole host of jobs on websites and listservs and, yet, at the same time libraries complain about not having a good applicant pool. Could the answer be in the marketing?

In print

I like to read job advertisements. I like to see what kinds of qualifications and responsibilities libraries are asking for these days. More often than not, however, I'm disappointed by the ad. I realize that ads cost money, but even when I look up a position on a library's website, the ads are, well, not very interesting in most cases. Employers expect applicant cover letters to be unique and flawless, but they don't hold themselves to the same standards and issue dry and uninteresting ads. If you want to attract bright interesting applicants, spend the time to craft a bright and interesting ad. Use what you know about attracting users into the library to attract the best candidates. Today's graduates want to be out of the box and they want a dynamic and challenging career so write an ad that makes them go "Wow! I want to work there!". Even if you can only afford a few lines of text, be sure to include a URL to a more detailed ad with links about the school, community, state, benefits, etc. Don't make the candidate prove to themselves that your library is a good place to work. Sell the whole package. Even if your library is in a rural part of a state, sell the clean air, space, and outdoor activities. When you schedule an interview, send the applicant information about the library, schools, communities, real estate guides, and if the city has a magazine or a visitors' guide, send them one of those as well. You aren't just selling a job – you are selling a lifestyle, a home, a career so sell the whole package. Use what you have learned about marketing to users to market to applicants.

For the applicant the same principles can be applied to the cover letter and vita or résumé. We've talked about targeting user groups, well your target group here is the library to which you are applying. Researching and knowing what that library does and wants are paramount to crafting successful marketing materials, i.e. your application. I’ve been on seven search committees in my career and the applicants that stand out on paper on the ones that tie their experiences to what the library lists in the job ad and speak to that library on a personal level.

Further, the Web makes researching a particular library pretty easy. For one vacancy I was interested in, I mined the library’s site looking for annual reports, faculty activities, new acquisitions, newsletters, whatever I could find. As a result, I was able to speak to a number of issues I knew were important to that library’s faculty. In another interview I found a particular programme that was overlooked in the library’s web guides and spoke of my interest in that programme. In both cases I was offered a position. The more you know about the place where you are applying, the better you can craft your materials. In fact, in some cases, you might find things that aren’t in line with your goals and views so you can save yourself a lot of time and effort by ruling those places out of your search. Just remember both employer and applicant are competing so making job ads and cover letters stand out is worth the time and effort.

In person

The written portion of this is just the first step. Lots of things seem good on paper but in reality, well, reality can be less than satisfying. A library can write a fantastic ad and attract all kinds of candidates, but if the in-person experience isn’t equally as inspiring you can be left with an unsuccessful search. You have to follow through, though. If you are offering candidates a dynamic work environment, the interview experience better echoes those offerings. Think of it this way, if you are a salesman and you want to sign a client you make sure everything is in place for the day you meet with that potential client. That means from the minute the client walks in the door they are taken care of, they know where to go, what to expect, and what is going to happen next. The candidate is a guest and you need to make sure they are treated as such. That means they feel welcome from the minute they walk in the door.

However, this doesn’t mean the candidate is driving the show. As a candidate you are a guest in someone else’s house. Much of the burden of the day is on the candidate to put their best foot forward. In a real sense, both the candidate and potential employer are both salesman and client. They are both selling and buying. As a candidate you must not only show your skills and expertise, but you must show how your skills and expertise pertain to that particular’s library’s environment.

More ideas

  • Spend time crafting a job ad and don’t be afraid to show the library’s personality.
  • The same applies to cover letters. Spend the time to speak to specific things listed in the job ad and on the library’s website.
  • Make sure on the interview day that show and act your very best.
  • Be honest.

Be sure and check out "The Library & Information Science Professional's Career Development Center" at the website