This week we asked people who hire librarians
What questions do interviewees ask you during an interview? Have there been any questions you are particularly impressed by, or others that are more inappropriate? Do you evaluate applicants based on the questions they ask? Why or why not?
I think it is most noticeable when a candidate does not have any questions to ask, especially if a session with the search committee or supervisor happens toward the end of the interview. For an academic library I think questions about institutional and library strategic planning are interesting and demonstrate that the candidate is thinking beyond the specific job. I have received questions about funds for professional development which is important information to have. A candidate once asked each search committee member to say what they liked most about working in the library and on campus. I asked the committee when interviewing for my current job to identify something about the library they would like to see change.
I’d say it is always a good thing to think about your “stock” questions, i.e., what is it like to live here, what are the professional development opportunities, etc. But I also recommend really thinking about the place you are visiting and finding some questions that demonstrate your interest in the place and the position. Asking good questions can enhance your overall impression. Not asking any will send a message that you may not have thought a lot about the job.
– Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH
We usually get a range of questions. Some of the best have been very specific about the job-for a technical services position, for example, a candidate asked us about our ILS, and for clarification on our collection development policy. Some of the worst- I was in an interview once for an entry-level librarian position and the candidate asked a series of questions that made me give her the side-eye: she wanted to know how much vacation she’d get, whether she could take time off a few weeks after starting, what her seniority standing would be because she wanted to take off Christmas, etc. Needless to say, she was not hired. I’ve also had people ask about salary-in two ways. The way that didn’t immediately make me mentally cross the person off my list was just one on the range and clarification about starting salary. That’s reasonable. The one that made me twitch was the candidate who asked and then wanted to negotiate the salary right then, as well as moving costs. That candidate also didn’t get a job offer. Negotiating salary and moving costs or asking about benefits is not bad, but wait for the job offer before you do it.
Questions asked do get evaluated as part of the whole interview-the more intelligent, thoughtful or otherwise interesting questions get my attention and are noted.
My advice would be to go to the website, read up on the institution and the job you’re applying for, basically…be a librarian and research. Then, during the interview, if there’s something that doesn’t get answered or you want more information, you can ask. And you should ask, always. Just don’t ask me how much vacation you’re going to get on day one because you really want to go to Cabo soon.
– Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library
We conducted interviews for one of our Library Assistant positions last week. I was particularly impressed with the candidates that had obviously done research about our library and those that asked questions about our patrons and service methods. I was not as impressed with the candidates that had no questions prepared and asked about scheduling/time off and vacations (this position clearly states days/hours with full benefits). The questions applicants ask are a factor. I know you didn’t ask, but we had a candidate with a list of questions so long we had to cut him off due to time constraints. Very awkward for everyone! Plus, we hated to let him go without answering all his questions, but didn’t have a choice due to policy (allowing reasonably equal time with each).
Will I be able to acquire new skills?
Are there opportunities to teach/serve on committees/participate in campus events?
What does the organization need?
When can I start receiving benefits?
How soon can I get promoted?
Can we date our students?
-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus
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