What Search Committees Want You to Know

Career Blog

Published: October 17, 2017 by Kate M. Spaulding

Last week, the iSchool’s Society of American Archivists Student Chapter (SAASC) presented “Job Hunting: What Search Committees Want You to Know” via Collaborate. Gene Hyde, University of North Carolina at Asheville’s Archivist and Head of Special Collections, presented national research findings on what search committees look for in library and archives applicants. So, more generally, how to get a job.

Inspired by his experiences participating in and chairing search committees, Hyde and his research partners surveyed 550 academic librarians who had served on them. He and his colleagues were trying to understand why, with all the how-to-act-in-a-job-interview information out there, they were seeing the same mistakes over and over during candidate searches. They wondered if it was unique to their small, rural setting (and candidates not taking them seriously) or more widespread.

Hyde and his team looked at seven “points of interaction” search committees have with candidates and built a list of what not to do, based on survey responses. These contact points are:

  • Cover letter & CV
  • Telephone interview
  • Reference checks
  • In-person interviews
  • Candidate presentations
  • Meals with candidates
  • Determining “fit” of a candidate

In his presentation, Hyde went through each of these areas and pointed out how candidates trip up. Some of them are dumb mistakes (not tailoring your cover letter and leaving in a previous university’s name, for example), but other advice was surprising, or surprising it is needed (don’t sound apathetic).

One of my favorite bits of wisdom? “Don’t ask for a reference. Ask for a good reference.”

Hyde was an engaging speaker, and his presentation was chock-full of incredibly useful information. I absolutely, 100% recommend that you check out the recording. SAASC has done us a great service by putting this program together, and you’d be remiss if you don’t take advantage of it.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out some of the iSchool resources that address the survey results:

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