Not in the Job Description? Sell Solutions to the Hiring Manager!

Career Blog

Published: June 4, 2021 by Jillian Collins

If you’re considering information work for organizations other than a school, public, or academic library, you’re likely to encounter interviewers (for example hiring managers or HR people) unfamiliar with the range of strategic skills information professionals can provide. Even the job description may use terminology that describes things you know you can do, but with non-library language. Not to worry – you’ve got this. Seal the deal by selling the solutions your skills provide.

Audience and Presentation

The first question to ask when applying for any job is “Who is my audience?” The way you communicate with the hiring manager must demonstrate that you know your worth, and in a way that will make it clear to them that you’re a great investment. Your top three tactics for accomplishing this:

  1. Sell solutions. When you feel like you’re outside of your comfort zone, you may overlook the way you’ve succeeded, and instead focus only on the LIS skills you have. However, if you refer to your Skill Inventory, you know that’s not true! You are going to benefit the company with all of your skills and expertise, and this is what the hiring manager is looking for.  
  2. Industry jargon. If you walk the walk, talk the talk. Since you are selling solutions, prove the benefits. Don’t just grab a dictionary and learn the words used in a particular industry. Rather, think about translating your applicable LIS skills into the “industry jargon” that will resonate with your listener. Stick to what you can prove to the hiring manager and be authentic, but read the room. When you get the interview, a hiring manager will be looking at how you can fit into their industry – this is a great opportunity to prove yourself. Being willing and able to adapt LIS language to that of the hiring manager will help you avoid alienating the person considering you.
  3. Turn to titles. Sometimes the title “librarian” is immediately dismissed as a role rather than an incredibly valuable and strategic set of skills. This shouldn’t discourage you; the skills a librarian and MLIS/LIS professional have are needed in many situations in all sorts of organizations, both nonprofit and for-profit. Although they may not completely realize it at the beginning of your interview, hiring managers who want a really great information specialist want you. (A great way to persuade them on this point is to research some of the strategic roles that information professionals play in organizations, explore some of the positions that align with your skills and strengths, and be ready to mention them as “additional services” you could provide.)

We All Fit in with Information

One of the great things about being an iSchool student is that you can be passionate about working in libraries, archives, curation, or myriad other MLIS/LIS careers. Information is everywhere, and that’s our sweet spot. The more information there is, the more opportunities there are for us. Breaking out of the norm is how we set the tone for our field and help open up new opportunities for our colleagues. Ready to get started? You can use your Action Plan to chart a path to get from where you are now to where you truly see yourself; take a second to find where you might – or might want to –  fit with your unique potential and possible career opportunities.

Remember: if information is everywhere (and it is!), being the information specialist is exactly who you want to be.

Quick Jot from Jillian

I once had a very short temp gig working with compliance, which is like fraud detection. But what I was able to gather was that my skills in locating information, applying it to a real-world problem, and then comparing facts with what was in front of me was the main point. Now compliance work – fiscal evaluation especially – is absolutely not on my career dream list. But the experience of seeing how information skills could be applied to the task really helped me understand that, while I was helping perform a task in a field in which I had zero experience, I could rely on what I knew how to do via my information skills. That experience helped me “break out of the MLIS bubble” and realize that organization buzzwords and non-library position titles were likely going to be an expanding part of the information profession’s future and future career opportunities.

Additional Resources

Career Opportunities

  • Digital Archivist. The Walt Disney Studios; Walt Disney Animation Research Library (ARL). Burbank, California, United States. Full-time. Apply through Disney Careers
  • Digital Archivist – The Interviews The Television Academy. Part-time, remote until site reopening. North Hollywood, CA. Learn more and apply per directions on Television Academy careers

Mark Your Calendar!

Reinventing Libraries for a Post-COVID World hosted by Library 2.0 & SJSU

Vital but not transformative: Methods for differentiating domain essentials from thresholds

  • Presenter: Dr. Virginia Tucker
  • Date: Wednesday, July 7, 2021
  • Time: 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. (Pacific Time)
  • Location: Online, further information for attendance to be announced


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