Please wear all your clothes (pants, too!)

Librarian Marie Bracey and another woman look at a book at a circulation desk
Image: Librarian,_Marie_Bracey,_1952, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Director

Titles hired include: All of them from Page to Associate Director

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ Employees at the position’s same level (on a panel or otherwise)

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

I place an ad in the local paper and on indeed. From applications a pool of applicants is selected. The Manager who will be supervising the new hire and I as director meet and discuss. Interviews are set. The same questions are asked of each interviewee. Depending on the position, a second interview may be set. All candidates receive an interview or letter letting them know the status of the position. Those who were interviewed always get a call in addition whether they were hired or not.

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

They seemed together and organized, not desperate. They asked questions when they did not understand something. That is not to say they were not nervous. I have had extremely nervous candidates do very well in interviews.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

People who are not really interested in the job they are interviewing for.

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

Actually, part of the reason I usually have two or more people in on the interview is staff sees things I don’t or confirms what I notice. And when a manager makes a call, I let them try someone out–unless I feel very strongly to the contrary. I have a few new managers here, and they need to make supported mistakes.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this

Resume: √ We don’t ask for this

CV: √ We don’t ask for this

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Being late or talking too much–rambling.

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

Yes. I’m horribly not judgmental about this. However, try and look as groomed as you would in a regular face to face, please wear all your clothes (pants, too!) and have a plain wall, a potted plant, books, or something behind you. Keep the tv or radio off–housemates (and pets) out of the room. I only say thins because these are my mistakes. I have interviewed people who have rolled out of bed (literally–in their bedroom) and hired them after a second interview because we saw something valuable to the community there.

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Know your computer experience–what systems did you work with. What did they do? Did you train people on them. Did you work in retail or customer service? How did you interact with the public? Are you organized. How? Are you familiar with any filing systems? Do you use your library? How? Are you familiar with its shelving system, online catalog, e-materials, anything else it offers? Other work translates well to the library, and we need people from the public sector who understand accounting, marketing, computers, and the like. Be willing to continue your education. I have worked with pages who are now MLS YA librarians, programmers, IT specialists. Managers who have come from marketing and admin assistant positions. All very capable. Several who began as shelvers. I try and cover some of their schooling if I can. Many of them are the next library generation. I need them to be successful here, and go on if necessary to spread the good word.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

We interview anyone qualified. My biggest issues in staffing are people who are retired and looking for part time work (which unfortunately has not worked out in the recent past) and those who think that a rural city is like any other, and do not enjoy living here. I’ll take all comers, they have to accept the place for what it is.

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

What’s the best thing about working here? What is the work environment like? Other than specific duties and hours which are frequently discussed during the interview.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Other: Northern Great Lakes (which sometimes feels like the end of everywhere)

What’s your region like? (Check all that apply)

√ Other: It is a Rural City. 90 miles from the next rural city, but the biggest place with a variety of big box stores (other than Walmart)

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.


Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Public, Rural area

2 responses to “Please wear all your clothes (pants, too!)

  1. The comment – I have a few new managers here and they need to make supported mistakes.


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