…”I’ve Only Done That in a Class” — Instead Say “I Had the Opportunity to Do That in a Class”

Anne BarnhartThis interview is with Anne Barnhart, a librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee. She is the Head of Instructional Services at the Ingram Library at the University of West Georgia (UWG) an academic library with 10-50 staff members. Librarians at UWG are faculty members and Instructional Services librarians teach a credit-bearing course as well as requested one-shots and workshops.

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

Intellectual curiosity

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

Typos are an instant dealbreaker as are chaotic application materials. Getting the name wrong of the institution will also get an application packet tossed aside.

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

I’m tired of seeing generic cover letters in which the applicant does not mention anything about our ad or our institution. So many candidates write something like “I was excited to see this position” or “I am perfect for this job” or “I bring the skills you need” but they never refer to anything specific about us to substantiate that claim. Don’t include random paragraphs telling us about all the other skills you have — leave the skills that aren’t sought for this job in your CV (or resume) and we’ll find them if we need them. The cover letter needs to be tailored for our position, our ad, and our institution.

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

It’s hard to have a blanket response for this one. Some people have job-hopped a bit or taken time off and I’d like to see why. If someone took time off to be at home with kids, that should be indicated on the CV or resume with something like “household management”. When I have questions about where someone was for a 2-year period or why they moved so much, I’m inclined to set that person’s packet aside because I usually have enough applicants whom I do not question.

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?

√ 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?

We don’t bring people to campus who do not have the required qualifications for the position. When you come to campus, we want to see how you work with others and how you will represent us on campus committees and at national conferences.
Be professional and personable. No one wants to work with someone who is robotically professional with no personality.
Be enthusiastic about the position and what you would be doing.
Show us that you care about students and student learning (I hire instruction librarians).
Ask questions and LISTEN to the answers.
Do your homework and show that you’ve spent some time thinking about and researching the place, your potential colleagues, etc.

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

Asking no questions. Seriously. I’ve interviewed people who ask no questions in an all-day interview.
PowerPoint Karaoke during the presentation (please do NOT read your slides to me!).
Not sending a post-interview thank-you.
Wearing shoes that you cannot walk in (high heels).
Belittling their experience (“I’ve only done that in a class” — instead say “I had the opportunity to do that in a class”).

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

Our interview process includes collaborative exercises during the day so we can see how well the candidate works with other people. This is a huge change over previous hiring practices. We also do not include a fake library instruction session as part of the interview process.

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

You should be looking for a place where you want to work, doing a job you want to do. Don’t just look for anyone who will pay you. I know the market is tight and the thought of unemployment (especially for recent grads) is terrifying. However, make sure you think about whether you want the job before you apply. If you decide you do want it, why? Communicate with the search committee why you want that job. Start that communication in your tailored cover letter. Then, if you get a phone interview, continue to impress them with your personality and experience. Ask questions. Make sure you still want the job. Then, when you are invited to campus, remember that you are also interviewing them. The “fit” needs to go both ways.


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

2 responses to “…”I’ve Only Done That in a Class” — Instead Say “I Had the Opportunity to Do That in a Class”

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you very much. It’s very helpful.

  2. Nancy Bolt

    I was so glad to see the response about resumes. I see so much advice that resumes should be short, one or two pages. As an employer, I hated those and discarded them. I want to know what the person can do, where they worked, what they accomplished. I have seen a lot more resumes where I wanted MORE information that where I wanted less. If they set 5 pages, I read (or at least skimmed well) five pages. My only caveat to that would be that I don’t need 10 pages of conference presentations and articles written but them I wasn’t interviewing for an academic library where they might want to see that.

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