Strong Critical Thinkers Always Go to the Top of the List

Great Hall. View from the second floor west corridor. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C. 2007This anonymous interview is with a librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee at a Special Library with 10-50 staff members.



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

1)  Plain old smarts.  I want the absolute brightest and the best.  Those who are demonstrably strong critical thinkers always go to the top of the list.
2)  Idea people.  In my library, we always look for new and better ways to apply our skill set.  I want people who don’t just do the job assigned to them, but who understand the organization and constantly look to improve the service we provide.
3)  Strong communicators.  We strongly believe in being not just customer-focused, but also customer-facing.  Our staff are consistently pushed out of their working spaces to interact with customers on projects, teams, and in “embedded” roles.

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

In interviews, my number one no-no is bad-mouthing previous workplaces or former colleagues.  I want people who overcome challenges, not victims.  Tell me you’re here because you want to work with my team, not because you’re tired of carrying your colleagues’ slack or have a bad boss.
Take the time to research the company/organization you’re applying to join, including its history, purpose, and culture.  You don’t have to know EVERYTHING about it, but show me that you’ve chosen us for more than a paycheck.
Don’t over-inflate your accomplishments on your CV.  Be prepared to talk through details about your role and contribution in each case.  What exactly did you do to help achieve that goal, what problems did you encounter, how did you overcome them, etc?

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

Buzzword-filled objective statements that don’t tell me anything.  Hobbies and interests.

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

More than a list of accomplishments.  Something that demonstrates an ability to problem-solve.  Something that shows me you have strong leadership qualities, regardless of the type and/or level of the position.

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?

√ I don’t care

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?

Be clever, creative, personable, confident, and driven.  Speak clearly and directly.  Don’t rush – it’s ok to think about an answer to a question.

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

Never cracking a smile.  Fidgeting and avoiding eye contact.  Speaking too softly to be understood.  Failing to have good, detailed examples of previous work.  Not taking notes.
Asking TOO many questions of me.  I want you to ask me questions, but don’t turn it into a reverse interview.  Some people will suggest that to you, but it is a real turn-off.

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

The number of candidates for open positions has risen dramatically.  You really need to have a strong CV just to get into the screening process, and from there you’re up against a lot of very bright people.

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

Make sure you know the job you’re applying for and want to do it.  Then show me how good you would be at it.
Don’t be afraid to apply for positions whose experience requirements are slightly beyond what you’ve done – the interview is where decisions are made.
Follow up after the interview by email – next day at the latest.  Keep it simple.  Don’t send a card in the mail.

1 Comment

Filed under 10-50 staff members, Original Survey, Special

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