MIT Libraries Host Event: Resumes & Interviews

On Wednesday March 30th, MIT Libraries held their NDSR Host Event, a Resume and  Interview Workshop. Each NDSR resident brought the description of a job for which they wanted to apply, their resume, and a cover letter. The residents paired up with an interviewer (NDSR hosts) to review their resume and cover letter to see if it addressed a job description. The interviewers posed some questions to each Resident as practice then provided some suggestions for real job searches. I enjoyed organizing the event and learned a lot from the discussions. I hope the feedback will be as helpful to you as it has been to me.

Before the interview, it is important that you do your research about the job and the institution:

  • Be prepared for questions about what interests you about the job.
  • Learn the institution’s terminology.
  • Look over the projects they are doing and think about how you could contribute to them
  • Arrive early to the interview but wait till actual interview time to approach them. This is a weird balancing act.

Here is some advice from the hosts about preparing for the interview:

  • In your interview, try to define the more technical lingo if it’s not already defined in the job description. This is a delicate balance between showing that you know the lingo and lecturing the interviewers. You want to be able to do the former, not the latter.
  • Show how your skills can transfer to the job, point out similarities between this job and your past jobs, and have different examples ready to showcase collaboration skills.
  • When they ask the question “How can you bring your knowledge into the institution?” you can wrap your answer around the institution’s future projects and/or mission.
  • When asked a question referencing the “required experience” skill set, make a case with examples that are short and to the point.

At the end of the interview, there is a question that is almost always asked: “Do you have any questions for me/us?”

  • One thing that rarely considered is that the job interview works both ways.  During a job interview you also have the opportunity to decide if you would really like the position, your co-workers, or the institution.
  • If the job description has everything but the kitchen sink in the list of duties/skills, you can ask: “This is a really wide range of skills you are looking for.  What are your priorities?”

Presentations can be a part of an interview process, since it is all about communication. Here are some tips for presentations:

  • Address the question.
  • Be aware of time.
  • While creating your presentation, ask yourself if you are addressing the topic within the time frame while saying it well.
  • Practice.

Having references is key. Before this event, I hadn’t given much thought on their importance to a job application. I assumed I would get good reviews if someone indicated that I could use them as a reference.The following feedback proves how wrong that assumption was:

  • Before you apply for a job, send your chosen references the job description and ask them if they will be a reference for a particular job before you apply.  Nothing is worse than having them ask your interviewers “So what job is this in reference to…?” or “What’s their name, again?”
  • If you will need recommendation letters, let your references know at least two weeks ahead of time—longer if possible.
  • Ask your reference if they would give you a positive reference. If they won’t, don’t use them as a reference. Imagine your interviewers getting this response: “She really gave me as a reference?”
  • In the document listing your references, write why that person is a reference for you.
  • Take into account how responsive your reference is, and whether they are likely to return emails or phone calls.
  • A very hard, but good question to ask your reference “Would you hire me again?” You may not want the answer, but it’s a less subtle indicator of what your reference will say about you!

Good luck!



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