The Successful Applicant


By: Kari Siders, Director of Library Public Services, Centennial Library, Cedarville University

Erica has been searching for a few months on a quest to be the successful applicant for a library position. She updates her resume and writes one more cover letter. Finally, the call, someone wants to interview her for a position. In her elation, she pauses remembering what a mentor in her past told her, “always go into an interview prepared to sell yourself well.” At that point, her preparation begins. She reviews the job posting highlighting the skills that she would bring to the table. She also considers examples of how she has demonstrated those skills in the past.

Armed with her list of skills and examples she looks up some generic interview questions and rehearses how she may answer those questions in a real interview situation. Happy with the work she’s done, Erica confides with a trusted friend that she has an upcoming interview. The friend asks, “have you considered what you’ll ask them?” Erica immediately starts brainstorming questions she could ask her potential employer in the interview. One week, and a lot of preparation later, she dresses in her best interview attire and confidently says to herself, “you’ve got this!”

Walking into the interview, she hides her nervousness behind her practiced smile and confident answers. She deliberately includes examples of where her prior experiences intersect with the position at hand. At the end of the interview, she thanks everyone for their consideration and goes home to follow up with individualized emails to all interview participants. Three days later she gets the call. The interview panel was impressed with her level of articulation and detailed answers and offered her the job. Erica is delighted!

A woman with blond hair looks contemplative as she scrolls on her laptop

We can draw many lessons from Erica’s story to inform our own job hunt. Applicants easily make simple mistakes when job interviewing and coming to an interview ill-prepared is one of the top mistakes people make. You may get your foot in the door with a stellar resume or cover letter, but you must also prepare well to succeed in the interview process. How can you prepare best for an interview?

  • Review the Job Posting: Look over the job posting dividing skills into three categories: skills you already have, skills you can improve on, and skills you do not possess.
  • Create Examples: Write out examples of how you have demonstrated the skills for the position.
  • Rehearse Questions: Google or look up interview questions and rehearse them using your examples.
  • Your Questions: Write down 3 questions or more for the interviewer. Some great examples could be: What is your favorite thing about working here? What is the typical day like for someone in this position? What would you say is the most important skill someone in this position could have?
  • Confidence Boost: Find a confidence boost going into the interview. Stand in a superhero pose, have a pump-up conversation with a trusted friend, do something else you do excellently to give yourself a win. You can pray, meditate, etc.

From the employer perspective, consider how to parse out who is well-prepared for the interview. Your job in this is to ask good questions. It’s not sufficient to ask, “are you a confident person?” because most people will say they are confident. Instead, consider questions such as “give me an example of when you took initiative to solve a problem” which gets at the meat of whether they can navigate simple or complex issues that may arise.

Listen not solely to the content, but to the quality of the applicant’s responses. A well-prepared candidate will answer your questions with the context and examples needed for you to see they can demonstrate the skill.

A blond woman is sitting on a couch with her laptop on her lap. She is talking on her cellphone and smiling as she looks forward

Overall, it’s important for both the employer and the applicant to do their role well to ensure we are getting the best candidate for each position.