A Search Committee Member's Lament

This month’s column shifts into first-person voice to share with you, gentle reader, the pet peeves of a hiring committee member.

I’ve been on both sides of the equation more than once. I’ve been judged, and sat in judgement. After having recently endured membership on another committee, some common pet peeves are fresh in mind. In the spirit of education, here are some behaviors that stick in my craw:

  • An overly long resume. We’re all busy. It doesn’t take too much online searching to find examples of resumes that are tidy and brief. Not half-page brief, but, having just reviewed several three-page monsters that were packed with repetition and unnecessary information, I wonder if these candidates would actually follow directions on the job. I want to see results on your resume - publications, projects completed, quantifiable improvements made in a significant process.
  • Put things where they belong. This is part of the above bullet. I once reviewed a resume where the candidate had pasted into the description of a prior role a positive comment from a client. It was long, and out of place. And, please don’t repeat a skill in every single job. Put a “skills” or “technologies” section in the resume - don’t repeat that you know how, for example, to mark up documents in Microsoft Word in every job you’ve ever had. We get it when it’s mentioned once.
  • The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. There is nothing that will deflate your candidacy faster than a lie revealed. I’ve been shocked to find that candidates who seem like a perfect fit have lied about their degrees. Really - lies will catch up with you.
  • Please do your research. When an interviewer asks you the question that’s designed to show that you’ve at least looked at the organization’s website, do not put yourself in the situation where you have to answer that you don’t know anything about the company or the strengths of the university. This happens in real life - please, just don’t be that candidate!
  • Dress for success. This falls under the category of doing your research. Interviewing at a small, liberal organization will look and feel different than a centuries-old, ivy-covered employer. When I shake hands with a candidate who is underdressed, it not only strikes me as unprofessional, but as lazy. Lazy in your research, and lazy in preparing for the appointment.

Express gratitude. Interviewing candidates is a thankless job. From my experience, I remember the candidate who not only appreciated my investment in their future, but paid attention to detail. A thank-you note also serves to refresh the memory of a person who comes to work every day to do a completely different job than interview, and when a search includes many candidates, that’s a priceless advantage

Kimberley Sirk is a North Carolina-based writer and editor with government, higher education and big-brand healthcare public relations and marketing experience.

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