Do something besides interviews. Seriously.

The finish of the duck hunt at the New Zealand Division water sports, World War I, 7 Jul 1917This anonymous interview is with a job hunter who has not been hired within the last two months, and has been looking for a new position for less than six months. This person is looking in academic, archives, public, and special libraries, at entry level. Here is this person’s experience with internships/volunteering:

I’ve had two internships serving as a processing archivist at a government archive and at an academic archive. I’ve also had an internship in a university special collections focusing on metadata and rare book cataloging. I have performed volunteer cataloging and archival descriptive work at a local library/museum specializing in African American history.

This job hunter is in an urban area in the Western US and is willing to move anywhere.

What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?

Position in the specialization I am most interested in, namely special collections librarianship
Nature of the institution’s collections

Where do you look for open positions?

ischool listservs, professional organization listservs, general job search websites

Do you expect to see salary range listed in a job ad?

√ Yes, and it’s a red flag when it’s not

What’s your routine for preparing an application packet? How much time do you spend on it?

It depends on how much I want the position or how likely I think I am to hear a response from the institution. For optimum positions I might spend hours. For low priority positions (usually paraprofessional library jobs or non library jobs) I may simply send in a cookie cutter resume.

Have you ever stretched the truth, exaggerated, or lied on your resume, or at some other point during the hiring process?

√ Other: Sometimes online systems use radio buttons which force me to pick something even if the applicable answer for me isn’t on the list. Example: Why did you leave your last job? My answer might be “internship term ended” but my only options to select are “resigned, terminated, promoted, currently employed”

When would you like employers to contact you?

√ To acknowledge my application
√ To tell me if I have or have not been selected to move on to the interview stage
√ To follow-up after an interview
√ Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me

How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?

√ Email

Which events during the interview/visit are most important to your assessment of the position (i.e. deciding if you want the job)?

√ Tour of facility
√ Being able to present

What do you think employers should do to get the best candidates to apply?

Do something besides interviews. Seriously. Most interview questions encourage lying and the stretching of truth. They also in no way take into consideration that your best candidate may have just walked in the door but he got next to no sleep last night because his neighbor’s dog was barking and so he’s having trouble focusing, or that this small demure woman gets extremely nervous and stammers when three managers are staring at her judgmentally across a table even though she’s the best storyteller in a 500 mile radius. Interviews are so worried about how the applicant presents himself that they often fail to ascertain if the applicant’s skills run deeper than presentation. I don’t mean to imply presentation is irrelevant but interviews can’t help but give it the spotlight at the expense of all other candidate strengths or talents, some of which may more than make up for a mediocre personal presentation. (I’ve known way too many introverted or soft spoken or fashion challenged individuals who are awesome at their job to think otherwise).

Give me a test. Let me give you a presentation. Let me actually undertake tasks in your library for a day to see how I perform. Tell me about a problem your library has and give me a day to come up with a creative solution for it. Or ideally use some combination of all of the above. Please employ something that actually lets me show you my skills rather than having me passively sit and brag about my skills in my Sunday clothes. And let me demonstrate my abilities in planning and problem solving and not just my skills in spontaneous question answering and hand shaking.

What should employers do to make the hiring process less painful?

Provide as much feedback as possible, some “why” as to the reasons I didn’t get the job beyond simply informing me I didn’t get it.

What do you think is the secret to getting hired?

Part of it is perseverance and working to continually improve technique. Part of it is luck and connections. And an unfortunately high percentage of it is being a particular kind of people-oriented extrovert.

Are you hunting for a new LIS job? Take the survey!

This survey was co-authored by Naomi House from I Need A Library Job – Do you need one? Check it out!

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Filed under Job hunter's survey, Urban area, Western US

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