We Were All in Your Position Once, Too — None of Us Got Our Jobs by Being Born into Them



This interview is with Rich Murray, who is the Metadata Librarian in the Digital Collections Program at Duke University. Duke has more than 200 staff members (not all in digital collections of course), and Mr. Murray has been a member of hiring committees.  He is also an editor of LIScareer and the book A Day in the Life: Career Options in Library and Information Science,  as well as an author of What Do Employers Want? A Guide for Library Science Students.

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



-Personality (preferably a pleasant one)

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

Application packet: Generic cover letters that haven’t been tailored to our vacant position at all. Excessive typos. Missing the application deadline.

Interview process: Saying bad things about your current employer (“I want out because they are toxic”; “I want to leave because they don’t know what they’re doing here”). Insincere schmoozing (“I really want to join an outstanding team like yours!” thirty seconds after meeting us).

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

Meaningless objective statements (obviously your objective is to get hired, so don’t waste valuable real estate at the top of the resume by saying that in flowery language).

Recent grads who haven’t done anything other than graduate. An MLS is the absolute bare minimum: what jobs have you had, what conferences/webinars have you attended, what have you written, what committees have you been on? It is possible to do these things while you’re a student!

Resume/cover letter padding. If you only need one page, only use one page. If your job was shelving books, that’s fine (we have probably done that too), but don’t use 12 bullet points to tell us that.

In your cover letter, tell us why you are the best person for our job, not just that you are a great person in general. You should write every cover letter from scratch with the job ad in front of you. Yes, this takes time, but it’s crucial. We don’t want a generic cover letter that you have sent to 20 other libraries.

Don’t make us guess what you are talking about or how what you are telling us relates to our job, to our library, or to anything else. Have others read your application packet before you send it to us and see if they understand what you’re saying!

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

Give us dates you were at your job(s). Don’t make us try to reassemble your work history from fragments, or try to hide gaps by not giving us any dates.

If you wrote a master’s paper/thesis, tell us the title. We want to know what you’re interested in!

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?

√ No

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?

Show me you’ve done a little research about our institution, the job, the community we serve … we want to feel like you’ve done something more than just show up.

Ask intelligent questions. If we ask you “Do you have any questions for us?”, don’t answer “No” unless you’ve decided you don’t want the job and want us to know it.

Smile. Make eye contact. Introduce yourself.

Be positive.

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

Not making eye contact. Not asking questions when given the opportunity. If doing a presentation, going over the allotted time, or talking right up to the last second and not leaving time for Q&A.

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

We try to move faster than we used to, but searches still drag on for a long time. Trust us, we don’t like it, either!

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

Sometimes job-seekers view the process as an “us vs them” thing. It’s not — we’re on your side! We want you to do well and be successful. We’re rooting for you. We were all in your position once, too — none of us got our jobs by being born into them.

If we invite you for an in-person interview, it’s because we believe there’s a good chance you could do the job. We don’t bring you in just so we can reject you. Have confidence in yourself (but don’t come across as smug or cocky).

Please get experience while you are a student. We don’t expect you to come out of library school having been the Librarian of Congress, but we do want somebody who has some experience, even if it’s a volunteer position, a part-time assistantship, whatever.

Remember, you are interviewing us, too. Think about whether we seem like people you want to work with, and whether the job is something you think you would enjoy.

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Filed under 200+ staff members, Academic, Original Survey

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