Attention to Detail is as Important in Public Services as it is in Technical Services

The Picture Gallery, Mitchell Library, Sydney, Dec 1923,by the Daily MailThis anonymous interview is with an Academic Librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee at a library with 100-200 staff members.

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

1. Expertise to do the job.  I don’t want to have to teach someone to catalog, carry on a reference interview, or select materials.  It’s a problem with masters programs that teach theory but no practice.  If you didn’t get it in library school, get it in internships.
2. Forward looking.  Don’t tell me you’re going to do it the way you’ve always done it.  This is why I like hiring young librarians; they often are forward thinking and creative.
3. Professional demeanor.  Look everyone in the eye at the interview.  Dress appropriately.  Speak with confidence, especially if you want a public service job.

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

Misspellings in the application packet.  Attention to detail is as important in public services as it is in technical services.
Someone who only looks at the department head in the interview.
A letter that does not speak to the particular job.  The worst is when the letter is clearly a form letter, and another institution is named rather than mine.

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

I don’t care what your goals are; I’ll ask that in the interview.  What is put on the resumes is so general, it’s not even useful anyway.
Every Website you’ve created, including standard ones like research guides and instruction sessions.
I don’t need to see where you went to high school, and I don’t care about the jobs you had before you worked in libraries, unless it’s somehow relevant.
I don’t care about your hobbies or your non-library volunteer work.

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

Not the resume but the cover letter–read the job ad carefully, and speak to every point you can.  If you don’t, I will assume you don’t have any experience in that area.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Two is ok, but no more

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?

Dress appropriately.  For me, this means a skirt/dress for a woman and a suit for a man.  I know you won’t wear this to work, and I’ve certainly hired women who wore slacks to the interview, but dress up rather than down.
Be articulate.  Do not say “like,” “um,” or “you know.”

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

Aren’t sincere.  If you can’t answer the question, don’t think I can be fooled.
Complain about a past boss.
Don’t do their homework about the library. Read the Website, at least–know the mission statement, as much of the policies as possible, etc.

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

More bureaucracy.  Everything takes a long time.  We have fewer people to do more work.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

If you’re a librarian, don’t apply for a library assistant position.  It doesn’t look good on your resume, and the prospective employer should know you won’t stay once a professional position comes up.
If you have friends at the library, call them and ask questions.  The more informed the better.  Call people you don’t know, if you have some kind of connection.
Often you have to give a presentation, even for a tech services job.  Don’t complain about it.  Be prepared.  Don’t talk over the time allowed.  Be flexible when the technology doesn’t work.

1 Comment

Filed under 100-200 staff members, Academic, Cataloging/Technical Services, Original Survey, Public Services/Reference

One response to “Attention to Detail is as Important in Public Services as it is in Technical Services

  1. That person with an eclectic job history and a number of transferrable skills -- that person you haven't hired yet

    This sentence is just Pure Awesomeness:

    ” I don’t care about the jobs you had before you worked in libraries, unless it’s somehow relevant.”

    Transferrable skills, my friend. It would be so cool if hiring managers were intelligent enough to be able to see transferrable skills without an applicant having to spell it out for them.

    “As a dental hygienist, I had to take meticulous patient notes.”
    “As a sales clerk in an adult-themed video store, I had to interact with a number of challenging personalities, ensure records were up-to-date, repair damaged items, and quickly learned the in-store computer system.”
    “As a server, I had to get every customer’s order correct, get it out to the table expeditiously, and had to multi-task like a motherfu……”

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