The Cover Letter is the Most Important Document. It May be the Only Thing I Read.

Donald McDonald, stationer, and his Circulating Library, Gulgong, 1870-1875, American & Australasian Photographic CompanyThis anonymous interview is with an Academic Librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee at a library with 10-50 staff members.

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

Critical thinking skills
Communication skills
Ability to learn

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

Applicants who do not meet minimum qualifications
Applicants who do not know anything about the library to which they are applying (haven’t even visited web site)
Don’t send more information that what is requested, we don’t need to be overwhelmed with paperwork.

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


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

Non library experience, if someone works at McDonalds it says that they can do customer service and multitask

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ Two is ok, but no more

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?

Ask questions that indicate you want to know how things work here and how you can contribute.

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

They don’t know anything about the Library or institution.  If at all possible, get the lay of the land the night before.  Dig into the parent institution web site.

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


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

The cover letter is the most important document.  It may be the only thing I read.  It should bridge the gap between the resume and the job you’re applying to.  For example, I see that you have a Facebook page, my undergraduate major was in communications and I was the editor of my club newsletter.

1 Comment

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

One response to “The Cover Letter is the Most Important Document. It May be the Only Thing I Read.

  1. Anonymous

    No more than 2 pages for an academic resume/CV seems a bit too lean. I realize hiring committees have lots of documents to read (I know because I’ve been on several). But, if the available position is in a tenure system and/or involves a research or supervisory role, I would think 2 pages is too brief to get an accurate sense of the applicant.

    Also, while I do appreciate non-library experience, I think this information should be included with caution. If applying for a tenure-track librarian position at an R1 university, the committee might care less that you worked at McDonald’s and, moreover, could view it as irrelevant and unnecessary to include on a CV. Sure, it might be indicative of multitasking ability, but does it show that you can manage large budgets of money, interact comfortably with senior faculty, and conduct research for promotion and tenure? Ultimately, I think it depends on the institution and available position.


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