Your Employment Application: How To Step It Up Without Stubbing Your Toe

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Thank you for letting me be here.

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My name is Matthew Dyer,

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And I have bookmark envy. I’m not entirely sure why. I think it has something to do with the fact that

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I am not a librarian, and yet

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I do work for the State Library where I’m

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Surrounded every day by an amazing staff of librarians and library workers

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Which might cause me to sometimes wonder whether I fit in. You see,

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I’m an HR Guy. I came to the State Library as an HR Guy, and I’ve been an HR Guy for about 12 years now.

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I did some work in HR generalist roles in the private sector, and joined the State of Ohio just as I was finishing my undergrad in HR Management at Franklin University. I began my public sector career with the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services as a temporary payroll officer and moved on to a Sr. HR Specialist role at the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA). In public sector terms, OHFA is a relatively small agency of about 120 employees, and I liked the small agency feel. I was there for just under two years when they honored me with their 2007 Employee of the Year Award, so naturally I moved on before they had a chance to take it away from me.   From OHFA, I went to the Ohio Department of Administrative Services as a Training Program Manager. DAS is the administrative branch of State government, and it’s very large. Each new employee is sternly issued a small roll of crimson adhesive, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that I missed the rewards of contributing to a smaller agency.

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So, in 2009 when the Head of Employee Services position came up at the State Library, I immediately jumped at it…

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along with 250 other applicants—no exaggeration

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The fact that I’m standing here talking to you means that I got the job. But before I got the job, I had to land an interview, right? So how did I do that? What did I do to stand out and get noticed on paper? Or better yet,

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What can you do to stand out and get noticed on paper? What can you do to help your application rise to the top of the stack?

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Well, that’s exactly what I’d like to share with you this evening: some of the steps I took that I think got me noticed.

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These are six tips & tricks about applying to work for the State of Ohio that have helped me, and that I think can help you, too. But a word of caution before we begin:

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This is not a one-size-fits all approach. My recruiting experience comes from the public sector/state agency side of things, and I believe a lot of these principles will translate for you as you apply for library jobs. But depending on the size of the agency or library you’re applying with, you may need to adjust your approach. Smaller agencies/libraries may tend to be a little more flexible. Conversely, larger agencies/libraries usually follow an established set of guidelines pretty closely. If you have specific questions about a specific position at a specific library, contact the specific recruiter for that position directly.

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So let’s get started with the first step, Step One.

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There is a screening process that most recruiters follow. It’s up to you to take the guesswork out of it.

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Recruiters receive about a zillion resumes and applications for any open position. The most I’ve received was 975 for a Library Assistant position. Everyone from MLS holding librarians to lawyers to delivery workers applied for it. In between doses of aspirin, I and other recruiters are looking to see how candidates meet the posted minimum qualifications (MQs). We’re "screening" applications to see which candidates are viable and go on to the next step. My advice? Make this easy for by taking any and all guesswork out of the process. So how do you do that? I’m so glad you asked.

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Because it leads me to step two:

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Be explicitly and thoroughly clear on your application and any accompanying application materials.

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Copying and pasting an MQ with a statement that you meet it typically won't cut it. "See resume/application" is kind of lazy, too. Craft your application to show how you meet MQs. Don't be lazy - extrapolate. Statements like, "I meet this MQ because I performed XYZ duties for 123 years at ABC company" and "I meet this MQ because I took 123 credit hours in XYZ subject which covered ZYX concepts at ABC school" are gold.

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The third step is really more of a concept to keep in mind rather than an actual step. It is:

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You might run out of room. Many employers now ask applicants to complete an application online.

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The State’s job board ( www.careers.ohio.gov ) does a decent job walking candidates through the application process by asking them to describe how they meet MQs . Depending on your writing style you can usually explain enough in the room allotted - but it's also okay to submit an application addendum that explicitly and clearly demonstrates exactly how you meet (or better, exceed) posted MQs. In fact, one of my favorite agencies (the one that awarded me employee of the year) includes the following on all of their postings:

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"ALL APPLICANTS are strongly encouraged to submit a separate sheet addressing the requirements of the position along with their application &/or resume & cover letter. Those who do will have supplied position specific information, which will enhance the presentation of their credentials."  

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If you do submit something in addition to your resume & application that you label it "addendum to application for position number ###" and submit it prior to the posting deadline.

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The fourth step has to do with grammar.

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Posting punctuation matters. When you're looking at those MQs, pay attention to ANDs, ORs, and punctuation to make sure you're addressing everything you need to. You'll often see something like:

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…this.   See that semi-colon between "administration" and "12 mos" in the first statement? That means this position requires the completion of 1 course or 3 mos experience in library organization AND 12 mos experience as a reference librarian - so your application should clearly address how you meet both of these. Don't meet that? We’ll accept an alternative equivalent of accept 36 mos training or experience in accounting (hence the "OR" statement).   Don't meet that? We’ll accept an alternative equivalent, as long as you can demonstrate how and why it's equivalent.

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This short link might be a helpful tool for you might. It is the standard we use at the State of Ohio when looking for course equivalency. Remember my caution from before – larger agencies may follow guidelines like these more stringently than smaller agencies or libraries.

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The fifth step sums up a lot of what I’ve been trying to say.

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This is kind of what I've been trying to say. Yes, the summary of duties for your job experience is important, and your chronological job history is relevant, but just as important is your explanation of how you meet and exceed the MQs posted. It's this piece that applicants too often overlook.

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It’s the piece where applicants most often “stub their toe” because without your explanation of how you meet a position’s qualification, you’re leaving the recruiter to guess and interpret whether your meet them or not. As a recruiter, that’s hard for me to do when I only have a few bullet points of information to go on.

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Step six offers you a little bit of encouragement.

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We're the state. We have rules. And paperwork. And more rules. Many of our positions are subject to bargaining unit (union) bidding or layoff reinstatement rights. Some positions are subject to civil service certification, so candidates must have completed a civil service exam and appear on a Certification List to be eligible for the position.

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Don't give up. There are opportunities for librarians in the state beyond just those at the State Library. All of these agencies use careers.ohio.gov to source their applicants, and most of them follow the steps and guidelines I’ve provided tonight pretty closely. All of us are looking for qualified librarians – but it’s up to you to demonstrate, on paper, what makes you more qualified than anyone else who applied for the job.

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Now, back to my unresolved bookmark envy.

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In my new role here at the State Library, I immediately noticed two things.

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The State Library has a passionate staff. In my entire career as a human resources professional, I have never encountered a group of employees more passionate about what they do than the employees here at the State Library. The vast majority of our staff members are here because they want to be here, and because they love what they do.

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The State Library has a committed staff. The average length of service for State Library employees is 18 years. For many employees, this is the only State agency they’ve worked at (or one of very few agencies). This demonstrates the commitment of staff to this agency.

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As the new kid on the block, I wanted to find out why our staff is so passionate and so committed. When I interviewed our employees about what brought them here and why they remain, I learned some pretty amazing things about librarians and library workers.

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I learned that you are curators of knowledge, and you are artisans of information science.

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I learned that you are protagonists of preservation, and you are purveyors of power and possibility.

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I learned that you are gatekeepers of the valid and reliable, and you are intellectual freedom fighters.

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In learning about why our employees are so passionate and committed, I learned that librarianship is a high calling. And so I learned that my bookmark envy isn’t really envy at all…

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…it’s admiration.

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No matter where you are on the librarianship path – whether you’re thinking about going to library school, you’re in library school, or you’ve graduated from library school…whether you’re seeking work in a library or not, know that there’s an HR Guy out there who would love to interview you – but there’s only one of me, and there’s a roomful of you. If you stand out on paper, you’ll stand out in person, and that’s when you’ll really be able to shine.

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Your Employment Application How To Step It Up Without Stubbing Your Toe Matthew R. Dyer Head, Employee Services

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My name is Matthew Dyer

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Not a Librarian

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Not a Librarian

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Librarian

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Not a Librarian

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HR Guy

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HR Guy

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250 Other Applicants

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250 Other Applicants

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Your Application

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Six Steps

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One size does Not fit all

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Step One

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Take the guesswork out of the screening process

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Step Two

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Be explicitly and thoroughly clear

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Don’t be Lazy I meet this MQ because I performed XYZ duties for 123 years at ABC Organization. I meet this MQ because I took 123 credit hours at ABC school in XYZ subject which covered ZYX topics.

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Step Three

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You might run out of room

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careers.ohio.gov

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ALL APPLICANTS are strongly encouraged to submit a separate sheet addressing the requirements of the position along with the application. Those who do…will enhance the presentation of their credentials.

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Addendum to application for position number ###

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Step Four

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Posting punctuation matters

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Minimum Qualifications for Employment Master’s degree in library science from accredited college or university; 1 course or 3 mos. exp. in library organization &/or administration; 12 mos. exp. as a reference librarian. OR Equivalent of Minimum Class Qualifications for Employment may be substituted for the experience requirement.

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http://1.usa.gov/OhioMQ

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Step Five

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The heart of your application may not be chronological

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Ouch!

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Step Six

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Don’t give up

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Librarians also work at… The Ohio Department of Transportation The Supreme Court of Ohio The Legislative Services Commission The Ohio BWC The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections

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The State Library has a passionate staff

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The State Library has a Committed staff

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You are (or will be) Artisans of information science

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You are (or will be) Purveyors of power and possibility

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You are (or will be) fighters for intellectual freedom

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The State Library of Ohio is an Equal Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, genetic information, religion, age, disability or military status in employment or the provision of services.

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Know limitations, and then push them

Summary: Presentation for Kent State University's Library and Information Professions Careers Night. The vintage paper and book textures used are from the amazing http://lostandtaken.com.

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