Career Strategies for Librarians
Crafting a Winning Resume
by Tiffany Eatman Allen
A cover letter is an introduction of yourself and is your opportunity to express your interest in a position. A
resume, on the other hand, is a summary of your job qualifications, including your education and
experience. The two go hand-in-hand when you are presenting yourself as a viable candidate for a
position. Your goal when crafting a resume is to communicate information about yourself and your work
history clearly and concisely. In both your cover letter and resume, you want to address how your
experience matches each qualification listed in the vacancy announcement, so be sure to have a
complete vacancy announcement with you when writing your cover letter and resume.
Your job in crafting a clean, clear and presentable resume is to give the readers (the supervisor, the
search committee) the information they need to accurately evaluate your suitability for their position. Give
them the information they need. Present it to them; don’t make them hunt around for it. The easier it is
to find relevant information on your resume, the easier it will be for them to consider you as a candidate.
TYPES OF RESUMES
Chronological vs. Functional resumes
There are two standard resume formats. Chronological resumes are the most common and list your
experience in date order. Functional resumes, although less common, are appropriate in certain
circumstances. Functional resumes group your work experience by function, rather than by time, so this
type of resume is best used by older job-seekers and would help to conceal a large gap in employment
or highlight transferable skills when someone is changing fields. Library search committees are often
more familiar with chronological resumes and may find functional resumes more challenging when
trying to review work history and experience, so it may be better to follow the chronological resume
format and to address the gap in employment in your cover letter. It is always best to be honest and up-
front, and to present information clearly and accurately.
Because chronological resumes are more common, let’s focus our attention on those. For more
information regarding the formatting of functional resumes, please refer to the list of online sources
SECTIONS OF A RESUME
At the top of your resume, include your header information:
Telephone number (be sure to include the area code)
When choosing an email address to include in the header information, make sure it is professional. If
you use a personal email account, make sure the address is appropriate for the workplace; recruiters
and search committee members may be a little wary of sending an email to an address that starts with
“PartyBoy” or “CrazyGirl.” If you decide to use your current business email, be sure to check that you are
within the appropriate use guidelines for your place of employment. It would also be wise to limit your
correspondence via email primarily to non-work hours, regardless of the type of account you are using.
You wouldn’t want your potential employer to think you spend a lot of time at your current job doing non-
You may also want to include a URL for a personal website as part of your header information to convey
relevant information about yourself, your professional involvement, and/or your technical abilities. If you
do, make sure it only contains professional information or information that you feel represents you well.
Remember, “well” is a relative term, so use your best judgment when making this decision; it’s usually
wise to err on the conservative side.
Although most information contained in an objective statement can be conveyed in the cover letter, if you
decide to include an objective, keep it simple and focused, and make it specific to the employer and the
When listing your education, include the type of degree, university, city and state, and the date earned or
expected. If you have multiple degrees, list in reverse chronological order with the most recent first.
If applicable and directly relevant to the position, you may want to include a Coursework section following
the Education section. Do not list every course you’ve ever taken. List only a few select courses that
relate directly to the position for which you are applying.
As in your Education section, experience is listed in reverse chronological order. List your current or
most recent employment first and work backwards. Be sure to include the position title, company name
and address, and dates of employment. For each position, describe your responsibilities and
accomplishments. Use action verbs and avoid, if possible, phrases that begin with “Responsible for…”
or “Assisted with…” Action verbs include: administer, control, conduct, develop, direct, initiate, organize,
plan, review, supervise, train, troubleshoot, etc. Bulleted lists are fine and actually convey important
information in an easy-to-read format. Make sure your bullets are descriptive, but avoid using lengthy
Additional sections that highlight your skills and qualifications for the position may also include the
following. You can list these sections after the Education and Experience.
Foreign language skills
Honors and awards
Only include volunteer activities on your resume if they relate directly to the position, i.e. if they show your
ability to lead a group, manage a budget, organize an activity, etc. This is not a personal ad—hobbies,
activities, group affiliations, etc. should not be included on your resume unless they are somehow
directly related to the position for which you are applying.
If specified in the vacancy announcement, follow the institution’s instructions regarding the submission
of references. Most institutions will ask for three professional references. If nothing is specified, but you
have your references lined up, go ahead and include their information on a separate page. Make sure
they are professional references; that is, make sure these individuals can speak to the quality of your
work, not just how wonderful you are as a person. If at all possible, include a current (or former)
supervisor, someone who can speak directly to how you work, take direction, show initiative, etc.
When listing references, include their name, title, relationship to you, mailing address, telephone
number and email address. Be sure to ASK these individuals beforehand if they will serve as a
reference for you, and if they are able to give you a favorable reference. Make sure they have a copy of
your application materials (cover letter and resume) and also a vacancy announcement for the position,
so they can speak honestly and directly about how your education and experience match the
qualifications of the position.
GENERAL COMMENTS ABOUT THE OVERALL RESUME
Make your resume clean, appealing and pleasing to the eye. Make your margins between ¾ and 1 inch
all around. Be sure to make good use of space on the paper—don’t cram everything into the middle of
the page, leaving vast amounts of unused space in really wide margins. At the same time, you don’t
want a page full of text that is overwhelming to the reader (which is another good reason to use bulleted
Use a standard 12-point (no less than 10-point) font. Use 8 ½ x 11 inch white or off-white, standard
weight, good quality paper. Avoid colored paper, oddly-sized paper and especially scented papers; they
are hard to read, difficult to photocopy or scan, and a challenge to file. These may get you noticed, but
not in a good way.
Your resume will grow with your longevity in the profession. Early in your career, expect a resume
between 1 and 3 pages in length.
Perhaps the most important piece of advice regarding your resume is to proofread, proofread,
proofread! And then have someone else proofread for you. In a profession filled with so many English
majors, former editors and prolific readers, spelling and grammatical errors are quickly discovered and
As many have said before, a resume won’t get you the job, but it will get you in the door for an interview.
So do your research, thoroughly review the vacancy announcement and your qualifications for the
position, and carefully craft a winning resume—the first step to being well on your way to the job of your
References and Resources
Build the Resume Employers Want. Retrieved November 29, 2004, from http://www.jobweb.
Denham, Thomas J. Create a Killer Resume. Retrieved November 7, 2001, from http://www.jobweb.
HR Management Partners, Inc. Action Verb Glossary. Retrieved November 29, 2004, from http://www.
Monster.com Resume Center. Dos and Don’ts. Retrieved November 29, 2004, from http://resume.
Monster.com Resume Center. Resume Quick Tips. Retrieved November 29, 2004, from http://resume.
About the Author:
Tiffany Eatman Allen is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a BA in
Psychology and Political Science, and a Masters of Library Science. She has worked in technical
services in an academic library and a small corporate library, and currently serves as Assistant
Personnel Librarian at UNC Chapel Hill.
Article published Jan 2005
Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective authors and do not
necessarily represent the views of the LIScareer editors.