This interview is with Terry Lawler, who is a Children’s Librarian and and the Assistant Manager at a branch of the Phoenix Public Library, a system with more than 200 staff members. Ms. Lawler was a 2011 ALA Emerging Leader. She has been a hiring manager and a member of hiring committees.
What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?
In the resume scanning:
customer service experience,
other, translatable experience like teacher if I’m looking for someone who can do storytimes
In the interview:
personable (can laugh, answers questions, seems at ease),
professional appearance (yes, people show up in flip-flops)
Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?
Application: mis-spelt words, incomplete sentences, cover letters obviously written for another job, telling me in the cover letter that you only need this job to pay off your debt, or that you are a busy mother of four.
Interview: flip-flops, no eye contact
What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?
Cutesy stuff that is not relevant! Also, I do not want to see the following words: awesome, bad ass, totally, thru, skillz, etc.. those words are for Facebook.
I especially hate that people don’t get someone else to proofread the thing before it is sent in. Seriously? This could be worth $50,000 to you and you don’t even bother to have someone else look at it??? Sorry, rant over.
Get rid of the stupid objective statement. You agonize over it and it ALWAYS sounds dumb. Just skip it.
Lastly, people who make their cover letter out for another job then re-submit. I just saw 155 applicants’ resumes and over 1/4 of them had cover letters addressed to another city, another department and, in several cases, another industry altogether. Seriously, I do not want to hire you if you are looking for a job as a bookkeeper/researcher/medical examiner, etc. clearly, you are just trying to get ANY job and don’t care about this one.
Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?
YES! Specific skills, including computers, presentations, teaching, etc. also, dates they worked somewhere. If I am sorting a long list by years of experience and you didn’t put dates or years on your resume, you get a big, fat zero.
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?
√ No preference, as long as I can open it
Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?
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?
Laugh. Not maniacally, of course, but, make a joke about yourself somewhere. Some time that you learned an important lesson or something.
What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?
No eye contact. Too stiff. If you can’t handle the stress of a 15 minute interview, how will you handle the stress of the crazy computer lady yelling at you?
Also, not professionally dressed. Really. This job could be your livelihood for years to come. Show me that you care and put on a darn suit. Or something similar.
How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?
It went from being just at the branch manager’s discretion with paper interviews to being centrally located in HR with an electronic scanning process. 2nd scan is done by one person for 5 or 6 branches to hire in a ‘pool’. Candidates who don’t pass the initial or 2nd scan don’t get an interview. Resumes that are not clear and concise don’t pass.
Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?
Be funny in your interview, but NOT in your resume. Find out something about the place before your interview and interject it in the interview. Do things to make yourself stand out as a candidate: volunteer, present, write articles, participate in your community.