sexist remarks (yep, we’ve had those!)

Interior of Townsville library, ca. 1948

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

This person works at an academic library with 10-50 staff members.

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

Ability to communicate. This means that the candidate is thoughtful in responses, answers the question(s) asked of them, can provide both philosophical and practical answers, and can make connections between concepts.

Familiarity with our institution. This means that the candidate has done some homework on our library and understands – even at a very basic level – how the library is organized.

Curiosity. Do they have questions of us about the job, the library, the institution?

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

Misspelling our institution/library name, using the wrong name (primarily because the candidate is using the same cover letter over and over), referring to the wrong position within the cover letter, not personalizing a cover letter or resume for a specific institution/position (yes, we can definitely tell…words like “your institution” rather than the more specific “Zembel Library” are dead giveaways).
During the interview process: sexist remarks (yep, we’ve had those!) and lack of questions or curiosity or unwillingness to make conversation are dealbreakers.

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

OBJECTIVES! That’s my number one pet peeve. The objective is always, always, always to get the job.

Also, in cover letters, talking about how the candidate is the “perfect fit” for this position. That’s for us to judge, not a candidate. I much prefer when candidates talk about their experience/education and how it aligns with what we are asking for in the ad.

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

Can’t think of anything at the moment.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√This is totally position dependent. The higher level of the responsibility, the longer the letter. But, for most positions, two is standard.

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?


Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?


If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√Both as an attachment and in the body of the email

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

Do your homework about the library and institution, ask questions, don’t assume too much, and keep the focus on the job not our location (our location is in a very desirable outdoor area and when a candidate starts off with the standard “why I am interested in this position” by talking about our location, it’s a turnoff).

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

Lack of eye contact, not coming with prepared questions, talking for TOO long, not providing specific examples to support an answer. For this last, we often get people who answer a question with an answer that’s pretty vague, say something like, “I am good at time management” but then they can’t provide examples of exactly HOW they are good at time management or prioritizing or whatever.

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

I think our expectations of our candidates to be more educated about our institution and what we are doing here has increased. It’s so easy now to find out about us, our strategic plan, and our accomplishments; we really expect candidates to have done that homework beforehand.

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

For the love of heaven, please have someone proofread your resume and cover letter. We get scores of resumes and due to the large number, we are looking for mistakes that will take people out of the pool so we can have a manageable number of candidates. If you have poor grammar or spelling on your resume or cover letter, you’re going in the “no” pile first thing.

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.

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

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