Proof Your Cover Letter and Resume, and Get Your Friends to Do the Same

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 10-50 staff members.

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

Creative intelligence

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

Cover letters that get the name of my library wrong, or obvious batch/generic cover letters/applications – general sloppiness.
Arrogance. (I’m interested, but only want to slum here for a year or two then move on to someplace better).
Racist, sexist, homophobic comments or totally inappropriate information (usually in a webpage or blog included in the resume rather than overt comments made during the interview).

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

Generic objective statements that don’t match my job.
Pushy, “and this is why I’m your guy!” kind of language.
Copy-editing errors

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

Prior work experience from other fields – surely there is some way you can relate what you did during that time to the position you’re applying for.
Gaps are problematic – if you spent that year fetching cocktails as a cabana server, use that to talk about your service model or whatever. Just don’t have an unexplained gap.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ As many as it takes, but shorter is better

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?

√ I don’t care

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

Be there to apply for the job I advertised. Know about the position, do some homework about the institution, and come prepared with smart questions about the position, workplace environment and culture, and area (if relocation is involved). Show me that you are interested in the position, that you want to listen and learn as well as contribute ideas.

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

Unprepared, didn’t do research about the institution, don’t have any questions for us. IF there’s a presentation involved, this is not the time to “wing it.” Inappropriate use of humor when feeling stressed.

It’s an interview, so everything is part of the interview, not just the formal presentation part. Even the drive from the airport, even dinner, casual conversations traveling from here to there, all of it. Be on the whole time.

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

Too new to say.

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

Proof your cover letter and resume, and get your friends to do the same. Pay attention to job ads, and especially minimum requirements – to apply for things wholly beyond your reach is an annoying waste of our time. But if it’s a reasonable stretch, use the cover letter to make your case.

Most important, apply for the job we advertised. Be specific, tailor your letter to our application, show us that you’re interested in THIS position (as opposed to ANY position).

Be yourself, and remember that you’re interviewing them too.


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

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