Further Questions: When is the best time and order to interview?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

When scheduling interviews, is there any value in going first, last, or in the middle? Does time of day or day of the week make any difference either? Being ready is obviously crucial, but is there value in the job search advice that encourages interviewees to set the bar, be easiest to remember, not interviewing on a Friday afternoon, etc.? If you are comfortable sharing, do you have any method that you use to schedule candidates (i.e. reach out to strongest first, use application or alphabetical order, etc.) or is it truly random and therefore something that job seekers shouldn’t focus on?


Laurie Phillips

I don’t think it matters, in general, except that I will judge you harshly if you apply the first day the job is posted and don’t spend the time necessary to write an excellent application. At that point, you’re wasting our time. We generally get a flurry of applications early on , then again right before the deadline, with a trickle in the middle. We post, for our library faculty, a spreadsheet with the candidates listed by order received. They answer yes, no, or maybe for each candidate. That way, when we meet, we can spend time only on those where we don’t have full agreement. After that, I think the candidates remain in that order, or in alphabetical order. Not certainly by strongest first. I just start calling people on the “yes” list and schedule them for phone/Skype interviews. Sometimes I get people right away, sometimes I leave messages. I would say, please don’t play games about scheduling your interview. We don’t have time for that. We have a certain number of slots that need to be filled and we don’t judge people differently by when they interview. In fact, we pay attention to the fact that the earliest interviewees will have less time to prepare a presentation and account for it. Job seekers should not focus on where they fall in a list. They should be memorable for how well they perform in their interview, not because they interviewed on a Monday or Friday or were memorable for other reasons.
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Jason GrubbI had always heard it was best to interview last. Now that I am on the other side of the table and interviewing I can tell you it doesn’t matter. Worry more about being prepared and representing yourself the best you can. We hire using a committee. Interview times are selected based upon interview committee members’ availability. Times are emailed out and a schedule is put together. We do not schedule strong candidates any differently.

– Jason Grubb, Director, Sweetwater County Library System

MargaretOur HR staff schedules the appointments. I believe the staff just goes down the list to contact people-which is alphabetical by last name. Those who respond right away usually get to pick the time (there are pre-set times before the interviewees are called), the ones who are last get whatever is left. For our interviews, we usually do mornings, which is better, in my humble opinion, because people are fresher and less tired (coffee!!!). As for interview position, I think there’s an intrinsic tendency to be easier on the first few and then get progressively nit-pickier simply because we’ve set a benchmark with the earlier interviews. I know I do this, so I usually go back and re-examine my notes and score all of them at the end of the whole process so I’m not being biased. Usually, in the committees I’ve been in, we all acknowledge this during the discussion and work it out via debate until we land on a candidate we can all agree on. Day of the week doesn’t usually matter, as far as I can tell.

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

Christine Hage songstressIt is important that you are dressed professionally. Employers know this is probably the best you will look. If you come in casually, dirty, sloppy I assume it will go down hill as I expect this the best you can look. The most important thing is for you to wear a smile! Look enthusiastic! Look like you have a lot of energy. Look like you are excited about the opportunity. If you can’t do this naturally, fake it.

I’m amazed how many people come in dressed in ill fitting clothing, look like their dog just died or look totally terrified. Come on folks, an interview is a two-way conversation. If you don’t look enthusiastic now, I can only image how you will look when you meet our customers.

From an interviewer’s point of view it doesn’t make a difference to me who is first and who is last. I know that architects prefer to be last when competing for a job as folks think you are more memorable.

– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library

index_slide01Tough question…because I have seen committees focus differently, but I would still choose to go first…fresh, you hope you become “the one to beat,” … most important of all, the committee is fresh, energized and what you say may be new to them…often this makes a better impression.

As to time of day, committees are made up of people who include “morning people,” “afternoon people.” The most important thing is when are YOU at your best? As to day of the week, it’s hard to be the last person interviewed on a Friday afternoon, right? I would hope that Fridays wouldn’t be the interview days but the reality is many people seeking new/different employment who are working elsewhere, find it easier to take off on a Friday. In addition, organizations conducting lengthy interviews (over one day) might find travel less expensive “if it goes over a weekend night.”

My organization identifies times for the interview and then calls people in order of travel arrangements. So someone from a greater distance might be asked to take a slot in the early afternoon so that they might want to travel in that morning. My advice is – if you are really great in the morning, go ahead and go in the night before. You will be fresher and there is less chance – if you are flying or driving from a distance – that a glitch in the travel would keep you from interviewing at all.That being said, I have sat on interview committees where the organization identifies strength in candidates based on paperwork or -for example – preliminary interviews by Skype, Google Hangout or conference calls. But what you don’t know is what is THEIR approach to scheduling. That is, do they want the strongest one first or last? There’s no one answer for this…at that point you could ask “do you want me to interview in a particular time slot?” and in the absence of asking that or getting a definitive answer, choose what works for you.

– Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College

angelynn kingWhen I am the one setting up interviews, I e-mail all the candidates at the same time and ask them for their availability on a particular date. When we’ve heard back from everyone, we schedule the interviews as close together as possible for efficiency. If a candidate cannot make it on the initial date offered, we usually have a secondary date, but then the committee may only be available in the morning or in the afternoon.

There is no advantage to any particular placement on the schedule. Worry if you will, but worry about other things!

-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

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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2 responses to “Further Questions: When is the best time and order to interview?

  1. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

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