Rejection is Hard, But Often We Get Two or Three Really Good Candidates, and We Can Only Hire One

photo State Librarian James Stapleton and guests at the Book Week launch, Brisbane, ca. 1948This anonymous interview is with an Academic librarian who has been a a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee at a library with 10-50 staff members.

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

1. A well-written cover letter that speaks to the specifics of the position.
2.  Intelligent questions that show an interest in the institution and the position, as well as evidence that the candidate has made an effort to learn something about the institution before the interview.
3.  Relevant experience and good references.

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

1. Obvious errors in spelling and grammar on the written materials of the kind that show lack of attention to detail.
2.  Generic cover letter.
3.  Lack of relevant experience, though there’s some wiggle room for entry-level positions.

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

1. Statements of why the job is great for the applicant.  That’s great, but I’m more interested in the other way around.
2.  People who cannot follow simple directions.  We ask for a vita, a letter, unofficial copies of all transcripts, and contact information for three references.  We always get several applicants who leave things out.  If transcripts are large because they are being sent by an institution, that’s not a problem, but I won’t consider a candidate who does not take the trouble to send a complete application.

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

I don’t like to have to piece together someone’s employment history.  If you left a job to go to school and didn’t work again for two years, say so.  Rule of thumb:  don’t make it an effort on my part to read and understand your resume and letter.  I may have 80 others to get through, and on the first pass I’m looking for reasons to weed some out.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Only one!

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?

√ .pdf

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ I don’t care

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

√ Other: I prefer attachments, but it’s not going to hurt anyone’s chances if they do it another way, unless we specifically asked for an attachment

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

Be honest.  If you don’t know something, don’t BS.  Show good communication skills.  Again, ask intelligent, well-informed questions.  Prepare some in advance.  Also, send a thank you note the day after the interview to the chair of the committee.  As well as thanking us for the interview, you want to restate your interest in the position.  More than once I’ve been left wondering if the candidate was really interested in the position.

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

See above.

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

It hasn’t changed much, except we have more rules and procedures that HR says we have to follow.

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

Keep at it.  Rejection is hard, but often we get two or three really good candidates, and we can only hire one.  If you are a finalist and the job goes to someone else, that does not necessarily mean that you are somehow lacking.  Also, be flexible.  Consider the job that requires some weekend or evening work, or the one located in an area you don’t prefer.



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

6 responses to “Rejection is Hard, But Often We Get Two or Three Really Good Candidates, and We Can Only Hire One

  1. Aimee

    I don’t have any problem providing official copies of my transcripts following hire. It is when an employer insists on original, sealed copies (versus photocopies) up front from every college and university I have attended that poses a barrier because I also earned eighteen hours of college credit from two different institutions while still in high school. At present, those transcripts cost 33 dollars per application.


  2. I’ve seen several hiring managers mention explaining any gap in job history. How do you do that in a resume? I’ll go gladly explain any gaps during an interview (I have almost a year gap between my last job and starting grad school which involved finishing undergrad, applying to grad schools, moving, getting married, learning about my new area, and finally just recharging my batteries before plunging into library school). How in the world do I approach that in a resume or cover letter especially when I’m trying to keep both to a page each?


  3. hklibrarian

    Academic institutions are often the worst offenders for not having “simple directions” to follow. If you ask for certain pieces of information, you may have a clear idea of what you want, but others might not. If you are weeding out candidates by how complete their information is, then make sure you are clear on what information you need, and what you don’t need.

    If you have an application form and require a C.V. and a cover letter, then make sure there is no redundancy in the application form.


  4. OneWhoNos

    And if you can ferret out that there’s in internal candidate, don’t waste too much time.


  5. Martin

    I have applied to a number of jobs and received no reply, That does not bother me, what bothers me is when I have an interview, and then never get another communication. After talking for half hour to an hour on the phone with a hiring committee and then the job is given to someone else is it so hard for one of the people on the committee to drop an Email. Not to do so is just rude.


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