If You Happen to Fool Me and I Hire You It Will Not End Well for You when I Expect That Same Work Later

Charles Ammi Cutter


This anonymous interview is with an Academic librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee at a library with 0-10 staff members.

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

Enthusiasm & a desire to work with our team and at our organization (not just looking for any job)
Demonstrated problem solving skills with noticeable results

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

Acting like you’re smarter than everyone else and putting down past co-workers (why would I want to work with a jerk?), making comments about how librarianship is your Plan B because your academic career stalled out (yes, really).
I once interviewed a candidate who only made eye contact with my supervisor and no one else in the room the entire interview. That concerned me because it implied that person wasn’t a team player and was a kiss-ass but our search committee chalked it up to nervousness (the candidate was otherwise impressive) and decided to hire the person. That person was fired after four months because (among other issues) they were incapable of working in a team environment. I will definitely heed such a warning sign in the future.
As a younger staff member myself, I really don’t appreciate it when older candidates come in with a “I’m older and deserve your job more than you do” chip on their shoulder. Congratulations on having those three PhDs but you’re interviewing for an entry-level position and need to accept an appropriately humble tone. Don’t give second-career librarians a bad reputation.
Overly long, wordy, convoluted cover letters are painful to read; I often don’t finish them.

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

Don’t just list your job duties — show me WHAT you did. So maybe your first job wasn’t too flashy (few are). That’s okay. Please show me how you made an effort to provide excellent service to your organization and/or exceed expectations.

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

Work experience outside the field that relates to the job duties.
Listing relevant volunteer experiences, etc. gives me a sense of your interests and personality and I like that. Plus I am more likely to hire someone who shows evidence of having a life outside of work and is active in their community. I find those people more interesting to see day in and day out.

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?

√ pdf

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?

Enthusiasm, being polite, demonstrating that you’ve done research about us.
Many candidates that interview with us just repeat “I really like public history!” (our collection specialty). Okay, that’s cool. But why?

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

If the interview is over the phone and you’ve never had a phone interview, find a way to practice in that environment with a friend or your mom. (I’d especially recommend this for Skype interviews, which, let’s face it, are tough on everyone and awk-ward.)

I once had an interviewee use her new Bluetooth for the first time during our phone interview. Needless to say, that didn’t go well and didn’t represent her much-touted affinity with technology well.

Listen to what I’m actually asking, don’t just spout what you’ve practiced beforehand. And if I ask for specific examples, use specific examples, otherwise I have no reason to believe you know what you’re talking about. Don’t just say the same thing over and over. We only have an hour together, why waste time repeating yourself?

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

I know it’s tempting to fib about your experience, i.e. take credit for work actually accomplished by your over-achieving former group members on a class project. But if you happen to fool me and I hire you it will not end well for you when I expect that same work later.

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, Academic, Original Survey

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