This interview is with Emilie Smart, who is the Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library. EBRPL has more than 200 staff members. You can learn a little more about the library’s events and services by checking out their blog. Ms. Smart is active in RUSA; she is the 2011-2012 Discussion Forums Coordinating Committee Chair. She has been a hiring manager.
What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?
Depends on the position:
Entry level — personality, past work experience, common sense.
Promotional — evidence of ambition, relevant experience, skills.
Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?
When interviewees tell me only what they think I want to hear rather than what they’ve done or what they think I start to tune out. Answers that attempt to hide problems with their past work history start the red flag waving — I expect a certain level of honesty. We’ve all made mistakes in past jobs — I want to know if you learned from them. Comments that show a lack of flexibility make me think three times — our profession requires a lot of flexibility in many areas. Answers or resumes that demonstrate a lack of understanding of the position generally get put in the “not interested” pile. If they haven’t taken the time to read the job description, tailor a resume, or think about how their experience fits the job specs, how well will they assist patrons when the time comes?
What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?
Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?
Experience(s) outside the library field that could be relevant to library work.
How many pages should a cover letter be?
√ Only one!
How many pages should a resume/CV be?
√ Two is ok, but no more
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?
√ I Don’t care
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?
Talk like a real person — don’t spout jargon. Be current on trends. Have ideas and opinions. Admit your failings or ignorance. Know something about the job you’re applying for — know what the job is; know basic resources; know what skills might be required. Take the conversational ball and run with it (without rambling).
What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?
Excessive use of jargon (I HATE JARGON!). Fear of expressing an opinion. Not understanding the job applied for. No familiarity with job-related resources. No familiarity with pertinent trends in the field.
How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?
It’s not that much different now than when I was hired. We now have three interviewers instead of one or two.
Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?
Cover letters are a great way to highlight writing skills, but not much more. Resume objectives make me laugh. Isn’t the objective to get a job? And stated personal objectives could be at odds with institutional objectives. Also — an objectives statement can sound really pompous. If you want to include one, make sure that the tone is as neutral as possible. You don’t want to make a poor impression with the very first item on your resume.
Make sure your resume highlights your skills and experience as they pertain to the job you are seeking. Make sure your resume is organized and well-written.
Bring show & tell to an interview if appropriate. Seeing something you did/made tells me more than if you just describe it. It also gives me an idea of how you will approach your work.
Dress professionally. Be relaxed. Do your research so you are prepared to fully answer questions.