We’re Hiring a Person, Not a Robot

Brian Hunter, 1984, Asst Librarian, Slavonic Collections, London School of EconomicsThis anonymous interview is with an Academic librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee at a library with 0-10 staff members.

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

1. Do their skills match what we’re looking for?
2. Will they fit into our culture?  Do they play well with others?
3. Do they appear smart enough to learn what they don’t know?

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

Application packet: poor grammar or spelling, not matching the cover letter/resume to the position.  To be honest, most cover letters are boring – they all sound the same.  Add some personality, use some humor.  We’re hiring a person, not a robot.

Interview process: nervous gestures/laughter/habits.  We just disregarded a candidate because she began the answers to every question during the phone interview with a squeaky “sure.” Dressing inappropriately.  We’re located in a northern climate with lots of snow – don’t wear high heels.  I know you want to impress but practicality is the best image to put forth.  Investigate where you’re going – is it hot?  Cold?  Windy?  Plan ahead; it proves you’re paying attention.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

The same old boilerplate language: “I look forward to hearing from you;” “I believe I would be a good candidate because . . .” etc.  Be a real person.  Stand out.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

Not resumes but I wish cover letters addressed why someone chose this profession in general and this position in specific.  Everyone “just wants a job,” but why should we give you this job?

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ As many as it takes, but shorter is better

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ As many as it takes, but keep it short and sweet

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it.

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ I don’t care.

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ I don’t care.

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

Be articulate, intelligent, funny.  Demonstrate you can fit into a small library, be a team player.  Be honest.

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

Being surprised at basic questions.  If the position is Public Services in an academic library expect to be asked about information literacy assessment, teaching approaches, etc.
Being unprepared.  If you’re doing a presentation using your own technology make sure it works beforehand.

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

It hasn’t.

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

We’ve hired many times since I’ve been at my institution and the one thing every person who landed the job had in common is that they had personality.  Don’t be afraid to laugh, make a joke, ask a stupid question.  As I said above, we’re hiring a person, not a robot.  Let us know who you are.  That’s just as important as what you can do.

One thing I forgot to add – another piece of advice: be assertive.  Don’t say “I think I’d be a good fit” or “I believe I can do the job” etc.  Say “I can” and “I know.”  Show confidence even if you don’t completely believe it.  It’s a tired old saying but still true – if you think you can you will.



Filed under 0-10 staff members, Academic, Instruction, Original Survey, Public Services/Reference

4 responses to “We’re Hiring a Person, Not a Robot

  1. Anonymous

    “Dressing inappropriately. We’re located in a northern climate with lots of snow – don’t wear high heels. I know you want to impress but practicality is the best image to put forth.”

    It’s unfortunate that the stereotype is perpetuated by such perceptions that fashionable librarians have to dowd themselves up still for jobs. Wearing a pair of cords with a nubby sweater and sensible shoes is more appropriate than heels?

  2. Anonymous

    This employer sounds overly judgmental and is more interested in finding employees that “conform” to the mores of the rest of the office in terms of dress, type of humor, and so on. How about looking past that and at the employee’s actual skills? I have never worn high heels to an interview, but I’d like to think that if I did it wouldn’t affect my chances.

  3. How funny, I read this survey and thought to myself “I think I would like working with this person.” I’d rather be practical than have to wear high heels, for sure.
    I will also say, having worked in a small office, that “fit” is very very important. It is a fantastic experience to work with a close-knit, supportive team, and it can be detrimental to everyone when personalities clash.
    Especially in this environment, when there are a lot of employees with actual skills, more nebulous qualities like “fit” really come into play.

  4. I’ll second Emily’s point that fit is important. I’ve worked at places where I felt like the polar opposite from just about everyone else there. At the good place, the work environment was chilly, but professional. At the bad ones, I felt like I was trying to survive every day. By survive, I mean living one breath at a time until I could leave for the day and then being so stressed I couldn’t relax on my time off and became physically ill to the point that very casual acquaintances were so worried, they offered to take me to the doctor. Skill and professionalism is important, but so is having common ground with your boss and coworkers.

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