Applying for Library Jobs Part 2: Get Ready for Internet Stalking

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All librarians are really top-notch at one special, particular task: researching the hell out of anything. Duh. That includes library job candidates! Why wouldn't it?

The first thing I do when I receive an application for a job I'm hiring or on the search committee for is immediately and thoroughly Internet-stalk the candidate. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Google images, personal websites, blogs, nameplate sites...all of it. If it exists in cyberspace, I will find it. I don't engage in cyber detective work as a way to dig up dirt on potential hires, to find out if there's anything important about a person that's not likely to be shared in an interview, or even to prevent making a potentially disastrous hire. I actually do all of this digital legwork to learn more about the candidate as a person because I want to be excited about the people we're hiring to work with side-by-side, day in and day out. I'm looking for evidence that the candidate is smart and qualified, of course, but I'm also looking for clues about their hobbies and their sideline rescuing three-legged cats and their Etsy store where they sell handmade replicas of Harry Potter wands.

The point here is this: be a real person on the Internet.

This is absolutely important in librarianship - a field with a focus on public service, that supports scholarly communication and dissemination of information in its core functions, and that is heavily communicative in a range of professional avenues. As a community, librarians exhibit a strong tendency to share and this blurs the lines between scholarly/professional/personal communication. You can make your own decisions about how open to be in communicating about your work and your career in librarianship (nobody's going to make you start a librarian lifestyle blog!), but realize that hiring managers will be skeptical about a candidate that can't be found online.

You don't need to have a presence on every social and professional sharing site (who's got the time?!) but here are the most important steps you have to take to make sure your Internet presence is in shape to make you look good.

1. Google yourself every way possible

You don't have to sanitize your Facebook to get ready for Internet stalking, but you should Google yourself thoroughly to see what's findable.

  • Use Incognito (Chrome) or Private (Firefox) browsing, or better yet, go to the public library and log on to a public computer to remove algorithmic and browsing history bias from your search results.
  • Search your name, and search every possible variant.
  • Search: your name + your hometown, your name + your school,  your name + your current employer, your name + library.

2. Get your resume information out there

You can choose how you do this, but make sure your resume information shows up somewhere online. The easiest way to do this is by creating a fully-filled out LinkedIn profile (and making sure it's findable), but there are lots of options.

  • Buy a domain and set up your own website. Use it to blog professionally, to house your full C.V., and definitely include an About Me page.
  • Create a nameplate site using a tool like about.me (here are mine and Jess's).
  • Use your university-provided webspace to create your own site.

3. And your portfolio

A lot of librarian jobs require skills or experience that are best communicated through examples of your work. Even if the job posting doesn't require a portfolio, get yours together in an online location and you've got it ready to go the next time an interviewer says "give me an example of..."

  • Web editing skills. Don't just list "HTML, CSS, and Javascript" on the Skills section of your resume. Go one better and create webpages that demonstrate those skills in action. Showing is better than telling.
  • Digital exhibits.
  • Instructional design. Showcase learning objects or courses you've created for real projects, for class, or on your own to show your capabilities.
  • Catalog records.
  • Finding aids.
  • Proposals, grants, or other professional writing samples.
  • Projects. Even if the area of librarianship you work in doesn't required you to produce tangibles like webpages or guides or tutorials, you can write up projects you've completed and focus on the project outcomes.

4. SEO

Okay, librarian, do some detective-work and figure out how to get your best stuff (like your personal website) to rise to the top of a Google search for your name.

5. LinkedIn. You have to.

Okay, here's the deal. Not everybody likes LinkedIn but you don't really have a choice anymore if you want to be competitive. It has turned into the place employers go to stalk future employees, and recruiters use it heavily as well.

  • Adjust your privacy settings to hide information based on your comfort level, but make sure that at least a limited profile can be found and viewed by anyone.
  • Update your jobs, experience, descriptions and dates.
  • Add projects, publications, and presentations. Link to the full text or slide deck for stuff you're proud of!
  • Follow LinkedIn's profile-building prompts - they make things super easy - and be thorough. We're librarians, we like to see all the fields filled in. We can't help it.
  • Make a few friends. The whole point of LinkedIn is professional networking, so get happy with the Connect button. (I espouse very different criteria for friending on social media than on LinkedIn.)
  • If you're going to use a different platform to really showcase your work make sure your LinkedIn profile exists nonetheless, and that it points clearly to your other professional-profile-thingy.

6. Show a little bit of your personality

We all want to hire and work with people we like. You're likable! So find a way to let a little or a lot of that shine through in your online presence.

  • Goodreads. Totally optional, but especially if you're applying for a public library job or anything that includes readers' advisory, a Goodreads account is a nice way to show off your book knowledge or your obsession with Revolutionary War paranormal romance interests.
  • Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram... No instructions necessary. Okay, I will say this. You don't have to create a separate, professional account where you only post library-related things. You can if you want to, but you can also just, you know, be your regular smart amazing self.
  • Have a resume site, a bio site, a blog, or a personal website? Include tidbits about yourself there, as well.

I recognize that a lot of people have privacy concerns regarding their online information. That's smart and you should definitely only share what you feel comfortable with. If you normally keep your online presence locked down tight, you might have to loosen your privacy settings just a mite while you're job-hunting. Also...librarianship is a very community-centric and collaboration-focused profession, so consider how you want to go about participating in that community while keeping your privacy philosophy intact.

So, there are a lot of options. You don't have to do ALL THE THINGS to be ready for Internet-stalking. Pick the avenues that work best to show off your work and your talents, make sure you're Google-able, and then cross your fingers that your mom won't post any naked bathtub pictures of you for #TBT before you get yourself hired.