From My Side of the Search Committee: CVs and Interview Tips

If you’ve not read the Cover Letters post, there’s some context for all this there.  Cover letters are really make or break for me, probably there is just much more room for error. CVs and resumes can be much more easily formatted, pushed into a template, and reused.  So I’ll just briefly touch on those before we talk about some interview stuff.

Double Check Your CV for these errors:

  • Typos, Strange Colors, Weird Formatting: See the Cover Letters Post for detail. I usually start with a candidate’s cover letter but some of my peers start with the CV.  You have to make sure that you get past both of us.
  • Tailor it to the field.  I’ll be the first to admit, I borrowed heavily from Jason Griffey when, for my current job, I was trying to figure out what an academic CV should look like. I know and respect him and figured he had a layout that most people in academic libraries found reasonable. More recently I’ve tweaked a little following what Sarah Shreeves has.
  • Tailor it to the job. At this point, it seems unlikely I’ll ever break into music cataloging, so while the Lincoln Center internship is on the full CV (see link on my About Me page), I probably could leave it off if I was looking again and wanted to tighten things up.
  • Odd clustering. Don’t mix jobs, education, conference attendance, pet’s names, etc.  If I can’t immediately figure out if you have required experience, that’s extremely frustrating. Obfuscation doesn’t do anyone any favors.
  • Personal information I can’t consider. As I mentioned in the cover letter post, this can be a challenge for the search committee. Especially if it is information that doesn’t relate to your job.
  • References available on request : Well, I’d hope so. But we asked for them in the application, which means we want them now.  Take the line off your resume.

Interview things are harder to include. While I saw several hundred cover letters and CVs, once you pare them down to the phone and in person interview phase, we’re usually talking about single digits per job.  As general as I can make them, these are things I noticed repeatedly during the various parts of interviews I’ve been privy to in the past two years.

  • Have a glass of water on hand for phone interviews. Inevitably you’ll end up with a dry throat.
  • Explain long pauses in phone interviews. If you need a moment to write something down or to think, please tell us.
  • I know you’ve heard the question 50, 100 times. It’s the first time I have asked it though.
  • Figure out the common questions and have answers (Strengths, weakness, problem you resolved, project you tried, success, failure, interpersonal conflict, management style)
  • Stay on topic: don’t endlessly qualify and please don’t wander off to an entirely different subject.
  • Give library focused answers whenever possible. Repeatedly going far afield makes me wonder if you really want to be a librarian.
  • Have questions for everyone. All day. There are things you can ask multiple times and get different feelings from each group. Each group will probably give you time to ask questions.  Use it.
  • Don’t be negative about everything at your current place of work and constantly assign blame. I immediately assume you will do that here.
  • Relate your current experience to what we’re asking you to do. Don’t lie but you certainly can extrapolate “I’ve done x, which is close to what you’re asking.”.
  • HR probably has the best information about money. I know it’s important, but other than what we’d put on the job ad, I’ve never had further information or control over that.
  • Please prepare. Look at where we are on a map. Look at our website.  See if you can find out who is on the search committee and look them up. Have questions for us that aren’t easily answered by looking at our library homepage.
  • Multi-part questions: try to answer all of the parts.
  • Do I get the impression you’re trying to run the ladder of promotion and stepping on me is your preferred method?
  • In regards to your presentation: expect technology to fail.  Bring a printout of your slides for yourself and a few extra copies to hand around if the computer gods are not smiling on anyone today. Technology has issues regularly when I teach; it doesn’t excuse me from class.
  • Put citations on your slides. We’re teaching people about proper citation, demonstrate it.
  • If we gave you a topic for the presentation, please use it. I’m sure you could speak well about other things but we gave it to you for a reason.

Did you do really well at the phone interview? Great, you now might be in my top 5. Keep in mind that we can usually bring in <4 candidates for in person interviews, at least that’s how it’s gone for the search committees I’ve been on.  And you can’t just be in *my* top picks, you need to be in the picks of my colleagues serving with me on the search committee. We debate things fairly rigorously and if you don’t have someone actively taking your part,you’re not going to move onwards.

Next post I’ll summarize up these thoughts a little more neatly and point out some things I wish we were better at.