Further Questions: What soft skills do you look for in job candidates within librarianship?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

What soft skills do you look for in job candidates within librarianship? How can candidates naturally demonstrate these skills to you? Is it ever appropriate to include them on resumes/CVs? How do you evaluate soft skills?

Jessica OlinMy library is really small, so everyone works at the circulation desk – even me on occasion. So the biggest soft skill I look for is friendliness. Nothing worse than getting up your nerve to go ask for help only to have the person behind the desk breathe fire at you. And it’s simple: does the candidate smile in a genuine way and/or have open body language? Skills and qualifications are uppermost, but between two equally qualified candidates, we hire the friendlier one.
– Jessica Olin, Director of Parker Library, Wesley College


For soft skills, the most important ones to me are communication, problem solving and critical thinking. I look for good communication skills during the interview-even nervous candidates can show good communication skills. Does the candidate look at the interviewers, do they speak well (no mumbling!), do they need to be prompted to answer a question more thoroughly? Problem solving is very important-I like a candidate who can think on their feet. It can be woven into the narrative during an interview-usually we’ll ask a question about dealing with an issue and the candidate can show skills there. Critical thinking is sort of nebulous, but I look for candidates who give thoughtful answers and who ask good questions during the interview. I like a good, interactive experience. An interview shouldn’t be one-sided.

– Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library


Laurie PhillipsI would say we look for ability to multi-task, deal with stress and conflict in a productive way, solve problems, adapt to change, work easily with others in a team and collaborate. If we address specific skills in the qualifications (which we often do), then yes, address it in the letter, but probably not the resume/CV. Most of these are demonstrated through the questions we ask in the interview, interactions during the interview day, and through the questions we ask of references. That’s a good reason to make sure you choose your references well!

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

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Filed under Further Questions

4 responses to “Further Questions: What soft skills do you look for in job candidates within librarianship?

  1. bshers

    Thank you so much for running this feature. I’m in the process of applying for entry-level library jobs and this is really helpful to read!


  2. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

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