This anonymous interview is with a public librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee at a library with 50-100 staff members.
What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?
People Skills: I want staff that enjoys working with the public as well as with other staff.
Desire for growth: I want to hire staff that are interested in moving up in the organization; or interested in developing their own unique skill sets as a professional. A library is a place of learning, so demonstrate your curiosity!
Trainability: I want to know if you will be able to learn the skills necessary for the job, and willing to learn from your peers.
Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?
Sloppy resumes/cover letters: I get a lot of resumes that it is obvious that they just tweaked a template or copied it off the internet, or filled in some online form. Please take the time to make a comprehensive, personal resume/cover letter.
In the interview: if you are too quiet for me to hear you clearly. We work with the public all day; they need to hear you speak.
What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?
For some reason people seem to include that they are physically in good health a lot in their cover letters.
Having no demonstrated interested in libraries. I’ve had applicants with pharmacy tech. degrees and no experience apply; if that is your background please include some information as to why you want to work in library.
Education without any experience, please at least volunteer at a library or do an internship/practicum at one.
Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?
Include customer service experience! I hire for the circulation desk and sometimes don’t hear about a person’s customer service experience until I pry it out of them in an interview. I’ve had people with and an MLIS only talk about their education; if you were a waitress, bartender, worked retail I want to know because it shows me how you work with people.
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?
Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?
√ Other: If you have one make sure it shows that you could grow in my organization.
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 interested in working with the public, excited is even better. Show me that you are not only interested in the job but also the organization. Bonus points if you show that you are interested in the community. Be enthusiastic about librarianship and aware of recent developments in libraries in general, keep up with your current events.
What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?
They treat it more like a question answer session than a conversation. Feel free to think about what I am asking you, and elaborate on your responses. If there is a natural segue into something you are interested or know something about than feel free to talk about that.
I like long interesting interviews where the person is comfortable talking to me.
They don’t dress appropriately. Iron your clothes, wear something business like. Don’t come to an interview with me in khakis and polo. Libraries are business casual, but management here tends to be less casual than regular staff so you don’t want to underdress for the interview. If you can walk through the library at least once to get an idea how staff dress, step it up a notch from that or if you see someone in management match their level of dress.
How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?
I hire for the circulation department, library subs, and other management. Since I came on board we look more at customer service skills and trainability over just education. Also for entry level jobs we look more closely at a potential growth path for that employee.
Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?
Be willing to move, jobs are hard enough to come by without limiting yourself to a specific location.