Becoming Mnemonic: Sticking In Your Interviewers’ Minds

by Mychal Ludwig, Head Editor, INALJ New Mexico
previously published on 4/4/13

Becoming Mnemonic: Sticking In Your Interviewers’ Minds

MychalLudwigClearly, standing out in an interview is the goal of most job seekers. By this stage (the interview), it’s likely, though not certain, that all candidates match to some extent what the employers are looking for in terms of skill sets and experience. Coming up with strategies and lists that promise to help you stand out though, I think, are not exactly helpful, as knowing what exactly stands out in a positive manner to an individual interviewer or committee isn’t particularly knowable. In this regard, doing your research on the institution, such as contacting someone you know with inside information, can give you the step up on crafting a successful strategy for being remembered positively.

I’d prefer anecdote as a preparatory strategy for the uninspired interviewee, and would like to share my experience and attempts to stand out during my (ultimately unsuccessful) interview for the position of Government Information Librarian at a university last summer. Again, as I wasn’t really worried, and couldn’t do anything concerning what skills and experience I came to this university with, many of my strategies for being memorable had nothing to do with the job I was interview with, or librarianship at all. This sounds strange, but I was looking to have them remember me, as a tangible person, not another list of classes or LIS skills.

The first thing I did specifically to leave an impression was to seem comfortable with myself. By this, I meant comportment. I dressed nicely, in a suit, but a suit I felt good in, that reflected my personality. I didn’t want to seem like a stiff, but like me, but well dressed for this important occasion. Maybe this seems simple, too obvious, but I think it’s really important to let them see your personality come through the formalities and suits.

My next strategy, building on the first, was to go paperless, and lightweight. I wore my personality-filled suit, and brought my iPad. This was both an attempt to illustrate my support of current technologies and knowledge of gadgets, as well as an attempt to not spend time fumbling around in a bag with papers. I wanted the process of interview after interview and presentations and so on, to go smoothly. Again, they’d remember me, not me dropping my papers everywhere.

The final strategy I’ll impart came after the two-day bonanza; as soon as I was dropped off back at my (very nice) hotel on the campus, instead of celebrating and relaxing or getting ready for my very early flight, I spent the next 3 or so hours writing emails. I had taken mental and written notes throughout the day, from each of my encounters with the various staff I had been introduced to, or interviewed by. With this information, I wrote every person (something like 20?) a personalized email, thanking him or her for discussing a particular topic, for interviewing me, and for giving me the chance to get the job.  I hoped that this would show that I wasn’t just there for a job, but to become part of their library community.

In the end, I didn’t get the job, and although I have no idea whether this was due to some difference in skill or experience, or how wide the gulf was between myself and the successful candidate, I know I did everything I could to get and maintain the attention of the staff of that institution. And when your hiring committee is asking around and making their decision, you want those extra efforts to stick out in their mind, you want to become mnemonic.

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of T160K.org, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ. INALJ has had over 20.5 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 

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