Holly Luetkenhaus took the Job Hunter’s survey on January 27, 2014.
Her responses appeared as Put yourself in the best position to get hired
How long has it been since you got your library degree?
Just under one year; I completed the degree in December 2013.
How many years of library work experience do you have?
Prior to beginning my current job, I had 1.5 years as a graduate assistant while completing my program, and 2 years as a student assistant in my college’s library while an undergraduate.
How many years of work experience outside of libraries do you have?
Three years, as a college composition instructor.
How old are you?
Your Job Hunt
How long did it take you before you found your job?
I found my job while I was still in graduate school–I am one of the lucky ones, I know. The search took me about 5 months, from first application to hire date.
How many positions did you apply to?
I am not sure of the exact number, but somewhere between 10 and 15.
How many interviews did you go on?
One on campus interview, 2 phone interviews.
What was your work situation while you were job hunting?
I was still in school, working as a graduate assistant in a campus library.
Were you volunteering anywhere?
Did you travel for interviews? If so, who paid?
Yes, and the institution paid for all of my travel expenses, including meals.
Did you decline any offers?
Nope, I took the first job I was offered.
What’s your new job?
Is your job full or part time? Permanent or temporary?
Full time, permanent
Did you relocate? If so, who paid?
I did relocate, about 2000 miles. I was given a relocation allocation by the institution. It covered most of the moving expenses, but I did end up covering some out of pocket.
How did you find the listing for your job?
Did you meet all of the required qualifications? How many of the desired qualifications?
I met all of the required qualifications, and most of the desired.
What was the application process like? How many interviews did you do?
For the job I was hired for, it was a pretty quick process, as the institution wanted to fill the position quickly. I did one phone interview, and then an on-campus. Most other communication was done through email (such as scheduling interviews), which I really liked because it gave me time to think about scheduling, etc., before replying. For the overall application process, I did 1 on-campus interview (the job I eventually got), 2 phone interviews, and turned down 1 phone interview offer that came through after I had accepted a position.
How did you prepare for the interview(s)?
I put my research skills to the test and did a lot of searching for sample interview questions, talked to my supervisors, dug through past school and work projects to find examples of work I was proud of or showcased a skill, and started an “interview log” where I recorded things that could be good to talk about in an interview.. I wanted to be sure if I was asked about strengths, weaknesses, or examples of work I had done that I had clear, relevant examples to share. Also, because I was applying and interviewing for positions that included a large teaching component, I also took some time to write and reflect about my teaching experiences and philosophy, so I could speak to that as well. And of course, I researched the universities, libraries, and cities/towns a lot, so that I could connect my experiences and skills to their institution’s strategic plan, etc. This also helped me to brainstorm (and write down!) questions to ask the search committee about the school and library.
Did you know anyone in the organization that hired you? If so, how?
Is your job commensurate with your skills, experience and expectations?
Yes. I really feel lucky that I found a job quickly, doing exactly what I wanted to do, and it fits my skillset.
Is the pay scale higher or lower than you were looking for?
It is about what I was expecting, based on my research of pay for similar positions in the larger geographic area.
What do you think was the biggest obstacle in your job hunt? How did you overcome it?
I am a terribly shy, quiet person, and I hate talking about myself. So I had to practice, and I did, with friends, family, and coworkers. I had to figure out how to “brag” about my accomplishments in an authentic way, without sounding fake, which was hard, because I have always been someone who purposely avoids being the center of attention. Preparing a presentation was probably the biggest hurdle for me, so I practiced in front of people I trusted to give me constructive feedback..
What set you apart from the other applicants? Why did they hire you?
There are 3 reasons members of my search committee have mentioned since I began my job. First, my teaching experience. This position required teaching a large number of information literacy classes, and required being a liaison to the composition program. Having the experience as a college writing instructor set me apart. Second, one colleague said it was the way I talked about myself and my work. He was impressed that I talked about myself as a professional, rather than a grad student trying to be a professional. The third reason I have heard is because of my willingness (even excitement) to relocate. My current institution is in a small town, in a fairly rural area, and I’ve heard that for some people, that’s a big deal-breaker, and they can pick up on it fairly easily. It seems my enthusiasm for the small town charm (which was not exaggerated–I really do love small towns)–was a big plus for them, and gave them some hope I was would stick around for a while.
State of the Job Market
What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve seen on a job announcement?
I think it’s crazy when I see part-time positions that require an MLS, and loads of reference or teaching experience.
What was your favorite interview question? What was the worst?
I cannot remember a specific favorite question, but I liked the ones that gave me the chance to talk about a specific project I had worked on. As I mentioned before, I hate talking about myself, so being able to shift that a little bit, and talk about the work I was doing and what I loved about made it easier. On the flipside, I always hate the “Tell us about your weaknesses” or “Describe a time when you failed at something, and how you responded.” I don’t think anyone ever answers those questions completely truthfully, because why would we? People either respond with cliche answers, or we stretch the truth. I also think there are better questions you can use to really get at a candidate’s passion, so why waste your time with questions that won’t get you information you need?
Any good horror stories for us?
Unfortunately, no. I always love a good interview horror story. Mine experience was pretty straight-forward.
Has job hunting been a positive or negative experience, for the most part?
I think mine was about as positive as they can be. Job hunting is so stressful, especially if you’re in a situation like I was, where you are about to graduate, can’t keep your current job because you will no longer be a student, and have a family counting on your income. I probably would have taken any first job offer I got, simply because I had a finite amount of time to find a job before the student loan payments kicked back in.
Would you change your answer to “what’s the secret to getting hired”?
I don’t think so. I think the job search process is a great time to be self-reflective about what you truly want and what you are truly qualified for, and find where those intersect. I would add one thing to my earlier answer, and that is to restate how important it is to know what you want. Search committees can tell the difference between someone who is not really interested in specific job, and one who is excited about the opportunities the job offers. At least, mine could, and many people I met that day have since commented that it it was very clear that I really wanted this job, not just any job.
Anything else you want to tell us?
This was such a great resource while I was job hunting, and it gave me a lot of perspectives to consider. So thanks for doing this–it helps a lot of us keep some peace of mind during a crazy, stressful time.