On the 21st June 2013 the Section for New Professionals (SfNP) held their annual Summer Seminar at the New Register House Dome, ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh. During the afternoon a panel of employers discussed interview techniques and application forms. The panel was formed of Donald Lickley (Sue Hill Recruitment), Pam McNicol (Stirling Archives), Richard Taylor (York Archives and Local History Service) and Arnott Wilson (University of Edinburgh). The SfNP Communications Officer Louise Williams facilitated the discussion.
This is the third in a series of 4 blog posts summarising the advice and discussions from the day.
What makes a successful candidate?
People who are flexible in their approach. Being an archivist is a varied job and you will need to be able to: work on your own as well as in a team; concentrate; set goals; provide public presentations; work with different audiences such as the elderly, young children or lawyers.
First impressions are important. Interviewers will be looking to see: if you will fit into the culture of the organisation; if you are a good fit for the job on offer and the team you will be working with. You should be articulate, clear and concise.
An ability to do the job and a good fit for the team. Employers are looking for a candidate who can compliment and reinforce the skills in the rest of the team. They want someone who has read the job description and tailors their answers to the job, backing up their assertions with evidence. Evidence can be from any part of your life, not just your job. Mould the skills that you have into the framework the employer has provided.
Someone with the potential to develop further. Ask at the interview what opportunities there are for development within the role or organisation.
What are the worst mistakes you can make at interview?
Apply for a records management job and talk about archives. You need to tailor your approach to the job description and do your research about the organisation and if possible the team. The employer is looking for someone who wants the totality of the job, don’t fall into talking about research if you won’t be doing that as part of the job.
‘I don’t want to feel your pain!’ Avoid negative stories about previous roles and experience, laying blame or discussing bad relationships with colleagues. If you have a negative experience that you want to draw upon in the interview, do so in a positive way and talk about what you learned from the experience.
Lack interest or be over eager. Mistakes such as coming across with a genuine lack of interest in the role or stating incorrect facts will not help you. On the other hand if you are over eager and start gushing or interrupting the interviewer you will not be doing yourself any favours. Play by the rules of the situation.
Don’t assume the interview panel has read your application in great detail. Answer the questions you are asked and don’t just point them to your CV, explain. Try beginning your answer with ‘as you will have seen in my CV…’.
Does ARA membership or evidence of CPD help?
This will depend upon the quality of the candidate. A candidate who is keen to learn and train will go down well in an interview, as well as someone who shows interest in the profession as a whole. However a brilliant candidate wouldn’t be punished for not doing these things.
It will also depend on what the job is. If the candidate is chair of 6 committees you can expect that they will spend a lot of time travelling. There needs to be a balance. A commitment to develop in the profession can make a candidate stand out from the many applications received. It may also provide you with the opportunity to develop skills that you don’t have the opportunity to develop within your job.
You need to show how it has relevance to the job. Registration is good as it shows a commitment to development and shows you can manage your time. If you have many volunteer responsibilities, an interviewer may feel that you will not have enough time to commit to the job. Turn it into an asset and use your involvement as an evidence source for the skills that you have.