my question is, what were you doing with the time you weren’t working?

Housewives league at Wash. MarketThis anonymous interview is with a public l librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

adult service
youth service
technical service

This librarian works at a library with 100-200 staff members in an urban area in the Southern US.

Approximately how many people applied for the last librarian (or other professional level) job at your workplace?

√ 25-75

Approximately what percentage of those would you say were hirable?

√ 25% or less

And how would you define “hirable”?

right skill set for a public librarian
right personality for same

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

all apps go through County HR first – they screen to ensure that formal criteria (degree, experience, etc.) are met – then qualified apps come to the library for review by the hiring supervisor and branch/division manager

What is the most common reason for disqualifying an applicant without an interview?

inappropriate or insufficient previous work history – for example, not enough direct customer service, whether it be retail, front-office or volunteer
poorly written cover letter
error-filled resume or cover letter (spelling/grammar errors)
long, unexplained gaps in employment history (I get that it can be very hard to find a job but my question is, what were you doing with the time you weren’t working? If you were volunteering somewhere and included that in your app, that will answer my question. Otherwise, it looks like you’ve been doing nothing.)
If the applicant is switching from another kind of librarianship – special, school or academic – to public library work and is not able to offer a compelling reason for the shift, her/his application does not go to the top of the candidates’ list.

Do you (or does your library) give candidates feedback about applications or interview performance?

√ No

What is the most important thing for a job hunter to do in order to improve his/her/their hirability?

GET SOMEONE TO PROOFREAD SUBMISSION MATERIALS!! You only get one chance to make a first impression and you want it to the best it can be. Fresh eyes can find small mistakes you might miss (because, let’s face it, how many times can you go over your own resume before your eyes glaze over) or help you with more effective and targeted wording.
Also, get someone to practice interviewing you. There are some generic questions you should be able to answer off the top of your head (why do you think you’re a good fir for this job? what’s your greatest weakness/strength? where do you see yourself and your career in 5/10 years?), and the more you practice and are comfortable answering them, the more energy you’ll have in the actual interview for other questions.

I want to hire someone who is


How many staff members are at your library/organization?

√ 100-200

How many permanent, full time librarian (or other professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ 5-6

How many permanent, full time para-professional (or other non-professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ Other: Don’t Know

Can you tell us how the number of permanent, full-time librarian positions at your workplace has changed over the past decade?

√ There are more positions

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with part-time or hourly workers over the past decade?

√ No

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with para-professional workers over the past decade?

√ Yes

Does your workplace require experience for entry-level professional positions? If so, is it an official requirement or just what happens in practice?

we look for customer-service experience along with the MLS

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ Other: maybe

Why or why not?

It depends on how we adapt to new technological/budgetary/societal realities while retaining our core purpose: to serve as a keeper/organizer of and conduit to information for all people.

Do you have any other comments, for job hunters or about the survey?

I know it’s hard and job-hunting can be discouraging, but hang in there! Stay positive, keep looking. If you can, it helps if you’re willing and able to move for a job. If and when you get an interview, put your best, authentic foot forward – don’t bad-mouth your present or previous job or co-workers. Make the effort to learn about the library before you go to the interview: one question we ask is “What did you notice about our web site? What would you change on it if you could?” If you have a portfolio – physical or virtual – please be willing to show it to us. Make sure that your use of social media is appropriate and professional – you know I’m going to Google you and see if I can find you on Facebook and Twitter, so be careful what you put out there.

Do you hire librarians?  Take this survey: or take other Hiring Librarians surveys.

For some context, look at the most recent summary of responses.

1 Comment

Filed under 100-200 staff members, Southern US, State of the Job Market 2015, Urban area

One response to “my question is, what were you doing with the time you weren’t working?

  1. KL

    Although I know it is common practice, I would like to point out that in some states, “Googling” the person you are considering hiring is against the law, falling under the same privacy regulations as what kind of questions you can ask their references. Regardless of actual legality, there are many other ethical and legal implications–an employer could end up with a lawsuit filed against them if the prospective employee can prove that they were disqualified or not selected for interview because of a Google search and not because of their actual qualifications. I.e., this could very easily be considered discrimination, and, ethically-speaking, a good employer should not be the kind of employer that seeks to winnow applicants based on surreptitious web-searches.

    Liked by 1 person

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