Don’t Lie When You Don’t Know Something, I Will See Right Through That

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

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

Mature problem-solver.

Good interpersonal and communication skills.

Knowledge if the position is heavy on technical skills.

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

Doesn’t meet the requirements of the position.

Degree is not ALA accredited.

A lot of typos in the application.

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

Cover letter seems generic–not tailored to the position.

Cover letter unprofessional such as mistakes in grammar, spelling, format.

Resumes basically the same thing.  Not tailored to the position.

Too vague.

Can’t figure it out.  For example, instead of listing dates and place of employment, have a summary of skills at the top of the resume.

List lame things like hobbies and interests.

Unprofessional format.  Unorganized.

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

If there is some big gap in employment, it should be explained briefly in the cover letter. [Not on the resume though].

Some don’t have exact dates and place of employment.  I want to get a quick overview of their experience and education.

Don’t make it so short that you don’t know what their committee work, honors, publications are.   I’m in an academic library so I consider them vitae same as faculty.

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, I want to look at every accomplishment

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ .pdf

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ I don’t care

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?

Dress professionally.

Don’t ramble on too much or get off-topic.

Don’t lie when you don’t know something. I will see right through that.  Just say you don’t know but you would love to learn it.

Don’t bring up personal things like your kids, your pets, your plants during the interview.  It’s OK to relax [a little!] and mention those at dinner if appropriate.

Ask me to repeat something if you don’t understand the question.

Show your interest–you’ve looked at the website, have questions about the library, students, community.

Don’t criticize something about the library.  Rather talk about what you can bring to the position and the library.

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

No enthusiasm.

Ramble on too much–especially when they are covering up lack of knowledge.

Inappropriate or too much use of humor.  I want to know they are taking the interview seriously.

Show me a lot of samples of their emails, writings, publications, brochures, when I didn’t ask for them.

Relax too much at dinner and give too much personal information.

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

Submission of application materials are all online.

Interviewers trained better on the questions they can’t ask, for example, age, race, country of  origin, etc.

Fewer applications.


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

2 responses to “Don’t Lie When You Don’t Know Something, I Will See Right Through That

  1. WorkingLibrarian

    “Fewer applications.”

    Interesting comment. I am surprised to hear that, given the current state of the economy.

    Second, this interviewer sounds extremely distant. She doesn’t want to know ANYTHING personal about the potential employee. I would caution other readers to bear in mind that this outlook is no more or no less valid than the polar opposite view where the interviewer wants to know you as a person, and if you were to keep from chit-chatting or making jokes entirely, would write you off as an iceberg.

    Instead, I think that it’s most important to realize that conforming to the situation at hand is the only way to go. If the person who is interviewing you acts cold and distant, and only wants to focus on your achievements and what you can bring to the library, mirror that focus and don’t give in to the temptation to make a joke to try to “break the ice.” It will most likely backfire on you.

    On the other hand, if the interviewer is warm and welcoming, and asks you about your hobbies, you need to respond in turn with warmth and personality, and give the interviewer the information s/he wants. Being able to conform to the situation at hand (and being able to READ the situation at hand accurately!) is a sign of maturity, and can only help you in your search for a job.

    My two cents.


    • I think you are correct that being able to read the situation and conform is the best. Of course, the challenge is how to conform enough to give a good impression while still giving an accurate impression of oneself.

      In one interview, someone mentioned that I seem to enjoy talking a lot and that’s something that would help me fit in with the culture. While it’s true I can talk a lot in certain situations, it is not my default setting. I guess I did a good job of giving them what they wanted, but then how will they react if I start working there and they realize I am more likely to listen than to speak? If they are the sort of people who think friendliness equals the amount of time a person spends talking, my quietness could come as quite a disappointment.

      So again, the difficulty is balancing conforming to a social situation while still presenting one’s true professional self.


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