This interview is with Colleen Harris, the Head of Access Services at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s Lupton Library, which has 10-50 staff members. You can read all about what a day there is like on her blog, Guardienne of the Tomes. In addition to her library work, she writes poetry. She has been a hiring manager and a member of hiring committees.
What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?
1. Whether they fit the required and desired qualifications listed in the job ad.
2. Whether they fit with our library in terms of mission and vision, which we often learn in the cover letter, phone interview, or in person interview.
3. Someone who is willing not just to adjust to change but implement it, who is willing to speak up in their area of expertise and really engage with both library colleagues and campus.
Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?
1. Instant dealbreaker is if you do not have one of the required qualifications. We call them “required” for a reason, and it’s the first thing I use to cull the pool of applicants.
2. Sloppy cover letters are a big dealbreaker – misspellings, forgetting to swap out the last institution’s name for ours, citing the wrong job title, not using the cover letter to demonstrate how you would be a great match for my library team.
3. Another instant dealbreaker – if you list something as a skill in your cv or resume and then in the interview process demonstrate that you do not, indeed, possess that skill, that is a dealbreaker for me.
What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?
Objective – your objective is to get the job I have open, I know that. You should be using that space to tell me something more useful, like your skillset, grants worked on, etc. You should also leave off marital status, church attendance, and hobbies unrelated to librarianship.
Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?
Don’t just list the jobs you’ve had, note some of the accomplishments you’ve had in each position to give me some context for the work you did.
Also, list the dates of each position – just a list of positions without dates is not helpful.
How many pages should a cover letter be?
√ Other: I don’t mind long cover letters, but they need to have a reason for being long. For instance – a long cover letter that is long because it bullet points the many required and desired qualifications from the job ad and succinctly addresses each but takes 2 1/2 pages is in a far better position than a cover letter of a single paragraph simply telling me of your interest in the job and asking me to see your cv. The cover letter serves two purposes – to help me get to know you in terms of fit, and to give me a quickie rendition of why you are qualified. Use it to your advantage.
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?
Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?
If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?
√ As an attachment only
What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?
Come prepared to discuss your skills and experience in the context of our job ad, and with ideas of how you can apply yourself to what my library wants to do. Be professional. Come prepared with questions for the library and search committee – candidates without questions probably have not done very much research on us. Demonstrate a high energy level.
What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?
Demonstrating they have not done any research about our library or institution is the number one mistake; another common one is that people stray from the topic we ask them to address in their open presentation.
How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?
The hiring process has not changed much – the makeup of the committee changes depending on the area of hire and who has available time to devote to a search.
Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?
Job seekers should know that library managers are actually rooting for you to do a great job and wow us – we *want* to be impressed by you, and we *want* to hire you. Making yourself a stand-out candidate makes our jobs easier, particularly when wading through fifty or one hundred applications. We also want you to put as much time and effort into trying to impress us as we put into the search for a new colleague.