Laugh. Not Maniacally, Of Course.

Terry Ann LawlerThis 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,

computer 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?

√ No

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.



Filed under 200+ staff members, Original Survey, Public

6 responses to “Laugh. Not Maniacally, Of Course.

  1. anonymous and unemployed

    Every time I apply for a position through a municipal website, I upload my resume, and then their software uses it to fill in their own forms, which I have to go through one by one, line by line, and edit to make sure it lines up with my resume. Every single time, there is a mandatory field for an objective. Every. Single. Time. So I have to make up an objective on the fly.

    I applied for two jobs yesterday; they both required an objective. One was for a shelving job. I would love to see a question on these surveys regarding the longest stretch of unemployment these hiring managers have personally endured.


    • that really sucks! i also hate those ‘fill in’ sites. i found out on one, that even though i filled it in first, and then uploaded my resume, it went and re-did all the lines according to my resume and what it thought should be there. had to re-fill them all out again….grrrrrrrr.
      in your case, i would try to come up with a generic objective that fits library work in general and maybe addresses customer service. specific objectives are hard and usually not worth the effort.
      i know i’ve had to wait long periods of time with a vacant position due to our municipal hiring procedures (and freezes in the past few years). it really does suck, for potential employees and our library.


      • anonymous and unemployed

        Ack! I’m so impressed that you responded to a comment, Terry!
        I’ve been unemployed for WAY.TOO.LONG, and any sort of contact or acknowledgement that I exist makes me happy.

        The wondering about how long hiring managers have been unemployed was not solely directly at you, by the way — I’m merely curious to see the answers, if Emily included it on her survey.


  2. I repressed the urge to laugh maniacally when I read this title.

    I see a scene: Person enters interview room. Person laughs like a hyena. Person “flips a switch” and becomes somber. Person sits down at the interview table and proceeds as if nothing untoward occurred.


  3. Gina Marie

    i understand what she’s saying, but the “find something to laugh about” is a little ridiculous, you are applying for a job, dressed professionally, serious, what’s there to laugh about? and most of us are just looking for “any” job at this point, if we’ve been unemployed for a lengthy period and can’t get a job doing ANYTHING. I am a lawyer who can’t find a legal job im qualified for, not experienced in what theyre looking for to be a legal assistant/paralegal and can’t get employed at restaurants, Starbucks, or Sephora because of a lack of retail and restaurant experience. The library circulation assistant job i have just applied to is all i may qualify for and they’ll probably think i’m “overqualified” because of my law degree or “underqualified” because of a lack of previous library circulation desk experience. this whole situation is disheartening and leaves one feeling desperate for anything and totally discouraged. 😦


  4. Pingback: Get Involved in Student Organizations and National Organizations | Hiring Librarians

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