We held our annual Summer Seminar at the University of Glasgow on Monday, June 12, 2017. As is our usual format, we had our Recruitment Panel answer questions from the audience about working in the archives and records sector. This year’s panel consisted of Sara Brimble, Assistant Records Manager for The Royal Household; Alex Healey, Project Archivist at Archives and Special Collections at Newcastle University, and Elzbieta Gorska-Wiklo, Preservation Manager, Archives and Special Collections at the University of Glasgow. Chairing the panel was Sophie Leverington, Archivist for the Duchy Estate, and SfNP Committee member.
Q1: What do you do when you don’t have enough experience that’s required in a job application, i.e., in paleography or managing people? How would you address this?
It is possible to apply for jobs where you don’t have enough experience but still get them. It helps to have had a few different jobs in different areas beforehand, such as in office and retail experience. This is helpful in helping you pick from different sectors. A lot of recruiters like to see that you have a wide range of experience. It might not seem directly related, but if you can sell it so that it is related to the archives and records management sphere, then this will help your application. But if it is something specific, such as paleography, then addressing that you have a gap can be important and how you plan to resolve it and learn more about it. That is very valuable.
It’s also wise to brush up on standards relevant to your job (i.e., ISO 15489) and be prepared to talk about them.When filling out the job application, ensure that you have the right set of skills required for the job. Prepare for the job interview by fully reading the job description.
A recruitment panel first check that you fulfill the essential criteria, such as education, and then they check to see if that person would ‘fit’ with their team. Be honest in the interview if you don’t have enough skills. Think about what the position is that you’re applying for and what the role entails and what you want to do in the future. Don’t waste your or an employer’s time if you’re not prepared for the job.
Q2: Do you change your CV for each job you apply for? This might not be as relevant as, for some, their job offers have been based on an online application form and not a CV. However, use your CV as a base that covers everything and then you can pick when it comes to online application forms. One suggestion is to have a central document that has all of your experience on it so you can choose which bits to take from.
If an employer is asking for something specific and you’ve talked a lot about one job, then take a skill from somewhere else, i.e., working in a call centre or a restaurant. You could argue that this gives you a better idea of what customer service entails. People want to know more about who you are, rather than just you as an archivist, so move it around and match it to what they want. An employer might want to hear about your experience in project management (for example), but it may not necessarily be experience in the archives sector but from elsewhere, such as volunteering or a work placement.
Try to structure an application to match exactly the order of the things that appear on the job description as it makes that process much easier for a recruiter. Don’t hide things in the middle of a paragraph, make sure its clear. Don’t be afraid to repeat information, you can use the same examples again and again so as to make them stand out.
Q3: Is there value in talking about why you want that specific job, or should you just focus on what you can bring to the job?
You may get some adverts asking why you want that particular job, but this may not be too common, it is usually later in the process that you have this conversation. They usually want to know what you’re going to bring to the job.
Q4: What is the job market like right now for archivists and records managers?
There are a lot of short-term contracts currently being advertised and which dotted around quite a bit, but predominantly in London. You must be willing to move; one panel member, since graduating in 2014 from the Glasgow course, has lived in 4 different counties for 3 different jobs. There are jobs if you’re willing to and can afford to uproot and move; however, it does involve a level of sacrifice. Getting a job in itself is a success. There’s a temptation to be very specific about what you want to do and that’s where the danger lies. It’s good to be open and “go where the wind takes you”. Try not to plan as much as possible, and just see what happens.
There are also a lot of other degree-relevant jobs out there, such as in libraries, museums and other heritage institutions, and also non-qualified roles. Figure out what you want in the future and work towards that.
Q5: Given that the economic climate is not great right now for the sector, how long did it take you to get a job?
All 3 panel members got jobs soon after finishing the course. They applied for jobs as they were finishing up their course, and one even started working part-time whilst working on their dissertation; and another was offered a job to go to once she was done university.
General concerns were that people were applying for jobs towards the end of the course and were not hearing back. A lot of other students were also applying for the same jobs, and people were convinced they wouldn’t get a job. However, one panel member stated that all of the students in her intake had secured jobs by Christmas.
Part 2 of the Summer Seminar Recruitment Q&A will be posted on August 25, 2017.