This anonymous interview is with a non-librarian who has been a hiring manager, a member of a hiring committee , human resources, and a Labor and employment attorney. This person works at a public library with 100-200 staff members.
What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?
1. Academic qualifications
3. Genuine interest in the specific job and in our Library system.
Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?
1. Incomplete information in application materials, especially as to previous jobs.
2. Failure to read instructions.
3. Failure to provide required proof of academic credentials.
What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?
1. I’ve always loved to read.
2. Anything that is clearly a form letter that the applicant has used over and over. I want to see a genuine interest in our community and in our libraries.
3. References available on request.
4. Will discuss at interview. That’s a real interview-opportunity killer.
5. Not including pay information for previous jobs.
6. Not including the sizes of libraries [county/city population and # of employees] where the candidate has previously worked.
Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?
1. Why the job search has lead to our library system, especially for applicants who live several states away.
2. Types of libraries [academic, public, school, etc.] where applicants have worked.
3. Demographics of the areas where the applicant has worked [i.e., urban library, rural, suburban, etc.]. Makes a big difference.
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?
√ No preference, as long as I can open it
Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?
√ I don’t care
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?
1. Prepare. Learn as much as you can about the library system and the communities it serves.
2. Be honest. Don’t tell us what you think we want to hear.
3. Think before answering any question.
4. Make eye contact.
5. Shake our hands.
6. Dress appropriately.
7. NEVER, EVER name-drop.
8. Be on time.
What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?
1. Thinking that the work is the same from library system to library system, or even from Branch to Branch.
2. Saying too much. When you prepare to answer a question, think about the answer and use the precise words. Don’t over-explain.
3. Don’t try to gloss over mistakes you’ve made at other jobs. Own them and tell us how you’ve learned from them.
How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?
1. It’s more transparent that it had been.
2. Candidates dress more casually than I think is appropriate.
3. There does appear to be a bias against older applicants. Younger managers typically choose younger applicants to interview. It’s a struggle that I find distasteful and unlawful.
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.