Don’t say “the students are pretty” when we ask why you want to work here


Ainsworth Rand Spofford 6th Librarian of Congress

This anonymous interview is with a librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee.

This person works at an academic library with staff 50-100 members.

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

1. Clearly articulated statement of interest in the position advertised
2. Clear documentation of how they meet our required qualifications
3. A sense of what they would bring to our organization

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

Yes: using the wrong institution name in the cover letter and not having the required qualifications listed in the job ad. Another deal breaker is having an internet history or making comments in the interview indicating you are in any way not suited to working with traditionally-aged college women. (In other words: don’t be a creep. Don’t make jokes about “co-eds”. And don’t say “the students are pretty” when we ask why you want to work here. Past or current misogyny is an instant disqualification.)

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

I’m tired of you telling me what you did in a current/past job in a cover letter, instead of telling me how your experiences situate you to succeed in our position. Also, please don’t use tables in a cover letter to highlight how you meet our qualifications. That tells me you can’t write descriptively.

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


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, 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?

√ Our HR office uses Peoplesoft, so this is a moot question.

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

Be yourself! Let us see how your skills and experiences complement who you are. Also, be prepared with tons of questions. I’m a firm believer in interviews being a two-way street. There is nothing that deflates me more than a candidate not having questions for each group or person s/he meets during the day, plus a bank of them in reserve. They don’t need to be specific to the job or our institution (although that helps), but if you don’t have questions about anything, I question whether you have the curiosity necessary to be successful at our organization.

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

The biggest mistake I see is people jumping in to answer a question without giving it a moment of thought first. But even candidates who have bombed a question or two in interviews have been hired.

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

I think we’ve gotten better at helping our candidates prepare for the phone interview and interview day by letting them know ahead of time who will be participating. Our interview days are a little shorter than they used to be. We now include a faculty member on search committees for certain positions, and we invite other faculty members to participate in the interview day.

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

You have this hiring manager’s empathy. I’ve seen our candidate pools and know you’re in for tough competition no matter the position. I wish for you all engaging, well-written cover letters, clear resumes, and jobs in institutions where you can grow and use your expertise.

For some context, take a look at the most recently published summary of responses to this survey.

If you’re someone who has participated in hiring library workers, take this survey and share your viewpoint.

Leave a comment

Filed under 50-100 staff members, Academic, Original Survey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.