Don’t be diffident — we want to hire a colleague, not a supplicant


At VCU, the largest research university in Virginia, Dennis T. Clark is is deeply involved in the design and programing of a $50 million library addition, reimagining the library service model, expanding the reach of digital media tools as well as invigorating partnership efforts to academic disciplines. Prior to his current appointment, he held evolving leadership roles in public services at Texas A&M University Libraries, where he earned tenure in 2010. He has extensive experience as a music librarian and served as Director of the Wilson Music Library and Lecturer of Music Bibliography at Vanderbilt University. VCU has 100-200 staff members, and Mr. Clark has experience both as hiring manager and as a member of a hiring or search committee. He is on Twitter @dennistclark

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

The first is the potential to do the job for which are advertising. On the surface, that seems obvious, but it’s not. A lot of really good librarians don’t get hired because employers are afraid to hire if he or she is not already in a similar position. A good track record is important, but more important is the potential to be successful. Potential can be demonstrated in more creative ways the already having done the same work. The second is a service perspective. We don’t want to hire anyone who doesn’t have their own intrinsic desire to exceed the expectations of his or her clients, customers or stakeholders, however defined. We can teach almost everything else, but we can’t teach that. The third is engagement with our context. Prove to us that you’ve researched and understand our state, university, library, students and faculty. The onus is one the candidate.

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

We try to look holistically at a application, but candidates that don’t include everything we asked for in the advertisement aren’t going to progress very far. If we ask for references, provide them. This is easy stuff. Typos and grammar mistakes are deadly. We’re librarians, and most of us have an eye (and respect) for detail. Again, it’s easy — have someone proof your letter and CV.

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

Typos. Grammatical Mistakes. Don’t use contractions. Don’t assume a casual relationship, even if we have met. Odd fonts. More than one font. Mostly, bad or bland writing.

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

This is one of the most formal pieces of communication that you will ever submit. Keep your lingo professional. Keep your sentences short and to the point.

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?

Be prepared. Present yourself well, and with a lot of confidence. Don’t be diffident — we want to hire a colleague, not a supplicant. Dress well. This may be the most important day of your career thus far, look like it. If you use a slides for a presentation, own it. If you get stumped on a question, move it along. Don’t apologize for not knowing a particular fact. Have good questions for us, but don’t assume it’s a 1/1 ratio.

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

Not being prepared. Not having questions. Mostly, common mistakes such as not looking directly at people when speaking, things like that. I had one interviewee who checked their email on their phone at the beginning of our one-on-one interview slot. Tsk, tsk.

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 100-200 staff members, Academic, Original Survey

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