Please Be Clear About How Your Current Institution is Similar to Mine

A librarian and a teacher, New Ulm Minnesota, 1974This anonymous interview is with an Academic librarian from a library with 50-100 staff members, who has been a member of a hiring committee.



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

Relevant experience,

good communication skills,

evidence of commitment to the field through service, organization work, and/or publishing.

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

In the packet:  if you don’t address how your qualifications are relevant to the position, you’ll immediately be ranked behind the people who clearly state how their qualifications/knowledge base would make them good candidates.
In the interview process:  For god’s sake, have some questions!!!!  I was deeply shocked in a recent interview when the candidate, who had received the schedule ahead of time, had zilch questions for the hour scheduled to meet with the librarians.  Nooo questions….sooooo awkward.  Sure, maybe be at that point in the day she had decided she didn’t want the job, but it definitely showed an overall lack of curiosity about the field.  She could have at least pretended there were things she wanted to know about our library/campus.

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

When it is clear people are just dumping their resume anywhere there is a job opening.  Please, please, please don’t waste a search committees time.  If you have absolutely no reference desk experience and the position requires reference experience but because you just got an MLS and are willing to move anywhere you send your resume…no.  Don’t do that.  Most publicly funded institutions have to do a shit-ton of paperwork for EACH and EVERY application we receive, and if you didn’t bother to write up how you think your previous experience applies to us, we’ll be cranky.

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

Please be clear about how your current institution is similar to mine.  How do I know how big/small urban/rural two-year/four-year your current institution is?  And if I’ve got a stack of 60 applications in front of me, you are not amazing to me if I have to speculate about how That State College is similar or different to This State College.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Other: a cover letter should be well written

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?

√ No

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

√ As an attachment only

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

Make the day easy for us by smiling, trying to engage with us.  Yes, you will be exhausted by the end of the day, and many of us in the field are introverts, but you need to mingle and show us your most engaging self.  Awkward silences are ten times more awkward on interview days.

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

As noted above, not having questions. This applies to the phone interview too.  It indicates to me that a.  you are not curious and b.  you didn’t do your homework.
Advice:  if you get a phone interview, get the heck online and read everything posted by the institution.  Read its alumni newsletters.  Read its self studies.  Read the student newspaper.  Know what is happening locally and ask open ended questions, “i.e. I read in xyz that your institution is getting a new stadium, how do you all feel about that?” Or “I read in xyz that your graduation rate is %.  How do you all feel about that?”  or “what is your perspective on that”.  Seriously, I was recently on a search committee and some really good phone interviews went south at the end when we said, “What questions do you have for us” and the candidate had not a one.  Cringe.

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

More and more paperwork.  Many state funded institutions are under the gun to prove, via piles of paperwork, we have done our due diligence to conduct the search process in an entirely above board way.  I’m cool with that of course, but seriously, the forms….a form to evaluate each candidate whose packet we read.  A form to fill out about every phone interview we conduct.  A really really loong form about the candidates we want to hire and don’t want to hire.

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

Have questions prepared for the phone and in-person interviews.

1 Comment

Filed under 50-100 staff members, Academic, Original Survey, Public Services/Reference

One response to “Please Be Clear About How Your Current Institution is Similar to Mine

  1. I usually wonder about the new play/concert/construction, but unless I can find a way to relate it to the library, I’ll wait to ask until I need to fill an awkward silence in the hour-long session with the library staff. Asking “how do you feel about that” is the perfect phrase for relating any question to the library. Asking these questions may help me get better information on the overall library culture. Thanks!

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