Be Open and Honest, Listen and Ask Questions

Paula HammetThis interview is with Paula Hammett, a librarian at Sonoma State University.  She has chaired and been a member of a many hiring committees. SSU’s library is very student-centered, and provides a flexible environment which nurtures collaboration and creativity as well as academic understanding. They are currently hiring a Web Services Librarian (review begins March 23, 2012).

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Ability to manage change with grace, flexibility and creativity;

excellent communication skills, including ability to work well in a team environment;

curiosity about how to maximize the library’s student-centered focus.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

It’s frustrating when people apply for jobs they clearly aren’t qualified for.

Sloppy applications don’t speak well for the applicant.

Pay attention to the application requirements and follow them!

Day-long interviews can be grueling, but I get worried when candidates complain about how tired they are and it’s only 4pm. It’s important to keep the energy up for the entire interview, including social events. Don’t kick off your shoes at dinner.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Other: Two is ok, but no more, unless you are applying for a senior position and have lots of experience to cover.

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ Other: A resume should be short and sweet. A CV should be more comprehensive of relevant experience.

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Be open and honest. Listen and ask questions. Demonstrate a genuine interest and curiosity about the place and the position, while also making the case for how your experience fits our needs. A sense of humor is nice, too.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Not having a list of their own questions. When asked  if you have any questions for the committee, make sure you have some! The interview is not the place to try to negotiate salary and such, but candidates’ questions help interviewers understand how much research they’ve done about the library, how thoughtful their considerations are about broader questions, and what they are thinking about how they fit into the profession.

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

We are a state university, so our hiring practices are pretty proscribed. We have tried to get better at making clear some of our expectations, including what it takes to get tenure, that this isn’t a 40/hr week job.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

An article in Forbes last year (forwarded to me by my colleague, Joe Marquez) narrowed it down to 3 things:

1. Can you do the job? Making sure the candidate knows enough about the job to the point where they can honestly say “yes, I can do the job.”

2. Will you love the job?  Are there any indications that this environment is one in which the candidate will thrive? Is there evidence that the candidate can think beyond the confines of the position to be creative and innovative and successful?

3. Will we enjoy working with you? Is this candidate someone who is responsive, has initiative, willing to ‘disagree’, but do so in a tactful manner? Someone who will respect their co-workers, or be a prima donna or dismissive of other staff and librarians? Will they demonstrate they are more than just the words on the CV.

Some specific advice about the hiring packet:

When submissions are electronic, make sure the files are carefully and consistently labeled. “”Resume”” and “”Cover letter”” may make perfect sense when they are on your desktop, but when I’m looking at 40 files I don’t want to have to open the file to see who it’s from. Better would be “”Smith cover letter 2-27-12.pdf””

Send files in PDF formats so that I don’t have to fuss over having the right software version to open the file. It also will help ensure that the formatted document I see looks the same as the document you created.”

About cover letters: don’t just summarize your CV. Take the opportunity to highlight the relevance of your experience to the position being hired.

1 Comment

Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Original Survey

One response to “Be Open and Honest, Listen and Ask Questions

  1. Pingback: Hiring Librarians: Now We Are One | Hiring Librarians

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