Further Questions: Do you ask applicants to address diversity as a part of their application materials or during an interview?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Do you ask applicants to address diversity as a part of their application materials or during an interview? By diversity, I mean the applicant’s experience with diverse populations, working in diverse situations, etc.? If so, is this strictly racial diversity or does it expand to other categories such as age, sexual orientation, economic, etc.? If you do not explicitly ask these questions, why not? Do you have other ways of evaluating this, do you not find it relevant to your hiring, or something else?

MargaretWe do not ask about diversity. The only place we come close is when we sometimes ask if a candidate can speak Spanish. El Paso is a border community and being bilingual is a definite plus. It’s not a deal-breaker, however, because many staffers (myself included) aren’t proficient in speaking it. For El Paso, the issue of diversity isn’t really as relevant as it might be in other urban areas. The city itself is somewhat homogenous, with an estimated 85% Hispanic-majority population, but there’s also a lot of people from different backgrounds brought in by industry and the military that make that other 15% rather diverse and the city pretty progressive. I have found that the staff here (as well as the applicants) reflect the community’s make-up pretty well.

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

Celia RabinowitzThis might depend on the position that is available. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say the type of question might depend on the position.  We might ask someone applying for a position that included a lot of student supervision how they approach student hiring when also considering issue of diversity.  I would also use the term in its most expansive sense and might draw a candidate out into that thinking if it appeared she/he was using a more narrow frame of reference.

I work in a demographically very homogeneous area of the country and the college has a very strong focus overall on adding to our diversity in many ways. So we might want to hear about how candidates think about diversity in the classroom setting, in their participation in the extra-curricular and cultural life of a campus, etc.  If a candidate has noted being active with initiatives at other jobs (with a LGTBQ or other identity group) then we could ask about their work and how they see that work connecting to their library work.

– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

Jacob BergAt my previous place of work we often asked about this, as our library served, and serves, and predominantly minority institution (PMI) population. We asked about “diversity,” that word in particular, and let applicants answer as they saw fit. I didn’t keep tabs on the responses, but it’s my recollection that most or a plurality of applicants spoke to racial/ethnic diversity, followed by age and/or economic diversity.

– Jacob Berg, Senior Librarian, Federal Library

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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One response to “Further Questions: Do you ask applicants to address diversity as a part of their application materials or during an interview?

  1. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

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