Customer Service Experience Outside the Library World Can Make Your Resume Stand Out

Herbert Putnam and Family, ca. 1900This anonymous interview is with a public librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee at a library with more than 200 staff members.
What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

1. Positive attitude – is the candidate upbeat and generally optimistic in tone and self-presentation?
2. Customer/Patron focus – does the candidate examine situations through the customer’s eyes?
3. Flexible/Adaptable – does the candidate have a demonstrated ability to incorporate new information and adjust to new situations?

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

Teen/Adult librarians who say they “don’t work with children” or anyone who says they “don’t work with teens.” I hire for a public library, and while a staff member may have a focus area, there will come a day when she will be asked to work outside of that focus area.  I need to know that’s not going to be a problem.

Also, the question “why do you want this job” is not a time for the candidate to tell me why the job works well for her.  Rather, it’s a time for her to show me that she’s done her homework and can drum up some enthusiasm for the particulars of this position or this system.  While not a dealbreaker necessarily, answering incorrectly is lost opportunity to stand out in my eyes.

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

Career objectives.  They’re redundant at best, and at worst list an objective that’s not a match for the available position.

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

Particularly for newer graduates, customer service experience outside the library world can make your resume stand out.  Waitstaff, bartenders, and baristas have all proven to be strong candidates, as have folks with experience in daycare and camp situations.

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?

√ 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?

Do your homework.  Show me that you’ve found something special about our system, our community or our program that excites you.  We love working here – would you love to work here too?

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

First, not doing their homework.  At minimum, you should look at the library’s website read the most recent annual report.  You don’t need to memorize anything, but you should be aware of major projects and initiatives in place.
Second, talking about what you “won’t” do.  Particularly in this economy, I can’t afford to hire someone who isn’t willing to jump in wherever she’s needed.  Toddlers may scare you (and you can say that), but I need to know you’re willing to feel the fear and sing “Peter Cottontail” anyway.

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

We very rarely hire adult reference librarians any more.  Certainly in our branches, staff focused on reference is something we can no longer afford.  Rather, our professional staff in the branch consists of a supervising librarian (who is responsible for adult programming) and one or two youth librarians.

This librarian has also completed the survey “What Should Candidates Wear?”:

1 Comment

Filed under 200+ staff members, Original Survey, Public

One response to “Customer Service Experience Outside the Library World Can Make Your Resume Stand Out

  1. Pingback: Religious Signifiers are a Different Story, and Completely Acceptable | Hiring Librarians

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.