In a Market with Lots of Qualified Professionals, You Are Shooting Yourself in the Foot if You Don’t Tailor Your Cover Letter

Photograph of Director of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library John E. Wickman, 1972This anonymous interview is with an Academic Librarian who has been a member of a hiring committee at a library with 50-100 staff members.
What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Passion and energy
Interest in the specific position and institution
Strong history of going beyond the minimum requirements of their job/schooling

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

Not speaking to the job requirements in the cover letter
Obviously recycled cover letters

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

Trite phrases like “self-starter” or “team player”
Objectives, especially those that have nothing to do with the job

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

Things they’ve done outside of libraries that reflect their customer service, technology, or other skills that are related to the position they’re applying for.

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?

√ As an attachment only

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Ask questions that show that you are 1) interested in the position and 2) did your homework on my library and University

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

Don’t ask any questions — it shows a lack of interest in the specific position — or if they do ask questions it’s only about pay/benefits
Similarly, they don’t do their homework on the institution before the interview

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

People want to know not just that you’re qualified for the position, but that you’re passionate about THAT particular position and want to work at THAT specific library. In a market with lots of qualified professionals, you are shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t tailor your cover letter to the specific position (and its requirements) and let them know why you want to work there.

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Filed under 50-100 staff members, Academic, Original Survey

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