Monthly Archives: April 2022

Further Questions: Do you send questions to interviewees before the interview?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is from a reader. She asks, “Do you send questions to interviewees before the interview? [and I’d love to know why or why not] How long do you give the interviewees to prepare? Also, does that influence how you evaluate the answers/responses?”


Hilary Kraus, Research Services Librarian, UConn Library: I am a huge advocate of sending questions ahead of time, especially for phone or video interviews. We did this the last time I chaired a search committee, and many of the candidates told us it made the interview much less stressful. In addition to reducing anxiety, we found the answers we got were more thoughtful and substantive, which helped us make more informed decisions about which candidates to invite for the next round of interviews. I would recommend providing questions at least 24 hours before the interview; 48 hours would be even better. Candidates already have very full lives, and are taking time out of their day to speak to you. Providing questions earlier will make it easier for them to also carve out enough time to prepare.


Jaime Taylor, Discovery & Resource Management Systems Coordinator, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts: I’ve just started sending questions ahead of time with the most recent search I’ve led. We send them between a few days and maybe a week ahead of time (I try to make sure there’s a weekend in there), making sure that each candidate has the same amount of time with the questions before their interviews. I think it takes some of the anxiety out of interviews, which can help level the field, since some candidates do well in that situation and some don’t, and the high-stress environment of a job interview usually has nothing to do with the position we’re hiring for. It also helps reduce bias on a socio-economic basis, as some candidates may have gotten formal or informal coaching for job interviews in school or their family and others have not – and, again, that has no bearing on the position.

I don’t think you need to worry that candidates will getting them ahead of time to prepare bullshit answers to your interview questions. My experience so far is that good candidates continue to answer questions well, and less good candidates still don’t have solid answers. If anything, it highlights the differences between candidates; some candidates will have taken time to thoughtfully consider and prepare their answers, and others will clearly have not, which may provide you with information about how those candidates approach important work assignments. And, of course, there’s always the opportunity for us to ask on-the-fly follow up questions or have discussion based on a candidate’s response to a question. I think I expect a little more of our candidates now that we’re sending questions ahead of time – if you know what we’re going to ask you but haven’t prepared a response, it doesn’t look good.


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: I have never sent questions to interviewees. I guess I’m curious now about what the difference would be. We have already given you some things to respond to in writing, in the ad, so it seems like the interview should be about your ability to answer questions about the job on the spot. If you are really prepared for the job, you should be able to answer interview questions. There are some situational questions that may take a minute to think of an example, but that’s okay. I’d rather have you take your time and answer the question well rather than rambling until you find the answer. I think, yes, we do take that into account when evaluating responses. We may follow up or try to put the person at ease. Honestly, we’re trying to get the best version of you and your ability to do this job.


Katharine Clark, Deputy Director, Middleton Public Library: I’ve never been involved with an interview before where candidates were given the question beforehand. Part of the interview process is seeing how well potential employees can think on their feet and be prepared to give off the cuff elevator pitches to anyone they meet in a professional setting. The only time questions are given ahead of time in my experience are essay questions that are part of the screening process. Use your colleagues and network to find out what types of questions they have been asked in the interview process before and you can certainly come with notes about what parts of your career/job history you want to share with those interviewing you.


Larry Eames, Instruction Librarian, Kraemer Family Library, University of Colorado Colorado Springs: Yes absolutely! I advocate for sending the questions about 24 hours in advance of the interview (shout out to the ability to schedule emails in outlook) so that every candidate has the same amount of time to prepare. I believe in sending the questions in advance because it gives the candidates the opportunity to be their best selves in the first round of interviews and to highlight their talents and accomplishments so that we can make an informed decision about the next round of interviews. It’s also good accessibility practice; you never know how choppy someone’s connection might be or how well they hear over the phone/over zoom. When I get push back, I point out the accessibility element and that we want to make the best decision we can about who we bring to campus and this gives us the opportunity to gather the data we need to do that. I’ve only been unsuccessful in advocating for this practice in one instance. For that search we instead told the candidates what themes each question would touch. Ultimately I think it was better than nothing but would have been far better to share the questions in full in advance. Knowing that the candidates had the questions in advance only influences my evaluation of their responses in that if a candidate is evidently unprepared in that scenario it weighs more heavily in my assessment of their answers.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: We have sent questions in advance for both library faculty and other staff positions for phone interviews although I am not sure we have done that for the in-person interview. I think about this the same way I think about giving students exam questions in advance. Any kind of assessment should not be an attempt to find out what people don’t know, or ask questions which are a surprise. With limited time we should be interested in doing our best to learn about candidates through thoughtful responses to questions. I’m guessing most, if not all, readers have been a candidate and have experienced that silence that seems like hours when you are frantically trying to think of an example or other response to a question from a search committee. Having time to think and prepare may improve the performance of most candidates (which is a good thing, right?). But students who have exam questions in advance don’t all get an “A” on the exam, and candidates will still vary in their overall performance.

I would want to give questions to candidates at least a few days in advance. A week is a good lead time, but sometimes a search is moving quickly enough that we want to schedule the first phase of interviews as quickly as possible. I think supplying questions in advance is very helpful for the phone/video interview and can make what is often a very stressful and awkward experience a little more comfortable and productive for everyone involved. There would be no reason, in my opinion, to evaluate candidates differently when given questions in advance.


Ben Van Gorp, Manager, IT & Digital Experience, East Gwillimbury Public Library: Our library currently offers two questions for each interview candidate. If I had my way I would give the full interview list. It’s an accessibility issue, especially for people who suffer from anxiety.

I would much rather have people coming in with confidence, able to fully show of the abilities they would bring to their role, than just the nerves that comes with job hunting.


Christian Zabriskie, Executive Director, Onondaga County Public Library: My answer is…it depends entirely on the job. For frontline staff I don’t do this since I am looking to see what skills they bring to the positions that we have that are honestly not all that flexible. Sure, I love it when reference librarians come up with new stuff, but it is not a daily requirement of the job. When I am interviewing people for “C Suite” jobs on my personal admin team I absolutely give them the questions ahead of time. Often this will entail doing a presentation or addressing a specific issue. This is another place where I can check for emotional intelligence. For a recent interview for our head of facilities I asked “You have been handed a plan for a redesigned library that you can tell will absolutely not work. Your boss (that’s me), loves it. How do you convince them (me) that this is a terrible idea”. The person who got the job had a great answer that showed her ability to “manage up” and she’s been an incredible asset to the org ever since.


Randall Schroeder, Director, Retired:

I have never as a supervisor sent the questions ahead, nor as a job seeker have I ever received the questions ahead of time. The only mild exception is if we expected, or I was expected, for a presentation to be given for an audience. Interesting question though.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: What an interesting question! When I read it I first thought of the current Instagram meme of “hard no” or “absolutely not” superimposed over an animal, usually a dog…and said repeatedly! So the simple answer IS a hard no for my organization’s hiring today, but the concept brought back my days teaching in Library School Graduate Education – specifically “Management” in Library School. My general curriculum included a unit on hiring with a major emphasis on the interview itself and part of this was a collection of “ways to handle interviews” including ways for organizations to interview as well as ways for interviewees to prepare. In those days (too many to count) there were many more ways to interview than now but times have changed. Practices have morphed, processes have been automated and federal, state, local and organizational guidelines, rules and regulations have been infused with much needed equity, diversity and inclusion content, with measurement and assessment metrics embedded in processes. So while there are libraries with freedom in interviewing and hiring, there are many more who need to and should conform to a process that is consistent and provides a standard platform for applicants to engage with interviewers.

So why send them out in advance? Standardized questions present the library’s values. Questions in advance allow the applicant to focus on what the expectations are for specific positions in the organization. Questions in advance can emphasize organizational priorities such as customer service relationships, teamwork, flexibility, etc. Questions in advance provide interviewers a standard for comparing answers to organizational expectations.

And what are the prevailing views for NOT distributing questions in advance? Interviewers ask the same questions of each applicant NOT to determine if the applicant “got the answer right” but instead to try to determine what the applicants’ thought processes are, what critical thinking skills they might have, and to find out if applicants DID prepare for the interview. Other reasons for not distributing them can include: do applicant’s bring experience or education to the interview or both? Are they succinct in answers? Can they speak extemporaneously? Do their answers to questions match their resume? What gaps are there in their overall application process, that is, does their resume match the answers to questions but not their resume?

Final thoughts on not sending questions out in advance really focus on the need for more data for a comparison process. There are so many self-help environments for interviewing (beginning with this excellent web environment) applicants often show up with pat answers and generalities while interviewees are left to seek as much data as possible on applicants in trying to determine how applicant one is a better match to the position than applicant two is.


Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject…

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I try to avoid using the word “fit”

Headshot of Alison Armstrong

Alison M. Armstrong is the Collection Management Librarian (CML) at Radford University in Southwest Virginia. 

She has been at RU since 2007, beginning in a paraprofessional role in collection development and cataloging. She began her role as CML in 2011.

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

For Librarian positions, we have a Library Personnel Committee and the hiring committee may involve the LPC and the position’s supervisor. (Sometimes the configuration involves some members of the LPC and some staff members who would be supervised by the position.) They conduct the hiring process and make a formal recommendation to the Dean of the Library. 

Staff positions have a less formal group and involve peer colleagues and the supervisor. The supervisor makes the final decision. 

Titles hired include: Archivist (2), Instruction Librarian (2), Resource Sharing Librarian (1), Dean of the Library (1), Collection Assistant (3)

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

They clearly did their research on the university and the library and are engaged in the process. They are genuinely interested in what we are talking about (or at least pretend to be), knowing that, since we legally can’t ask personal questions, we are limited to fairly superficial conversations. 

Showing their personality and personal connections. It helps when making decisions to feel like you got to know the person you will actually hire, not the person they think you are looking for, or someone so bland that you couldn’t identify anything about them later. 

How they treat others – especially how they address and treat staff members. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Someone who didn’t “do their homework” and take the time to learn about the university/library as well as the surrounding area. Coming in with a preconceived idea that once it is corrected, they can’t shake. Expecting something unrealistic (goes back to doing their homework). Disinterest due to either deciding during the interview that this is not the place for them or deciding they are clearly the best candidate and not making an effort. 

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

My glib answer is, whether or not they are a jerk and how well they play with others. 

I try to avoid using the word “fit” (based on the Core Best Practices for Academic Interviews – check out this webinar) because it can be used as a way to say “people who look like me”. Diversity is important. 

There is something that is close to “fit”, though, thinking about “do this person’s expectations and goals match the direction the library is going in?” “Do they have champagne taste while we have a beer budget?” Which is really, “will this person be happy here/Will they thrive here?” because one person’s unhappiness/dissatisfaction can make a load of other people unhappy, too. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more 

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant 

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant 

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

I am guilty of this: not going into enough detail and assuming they know your background/experience by the words in your documents. This is your opportunity to shine and tell them and, maybe not bore them with details but be passionate about what you bring to the table, your experiences, and what you have accomplished. (Don’t assume they did a close read of everything and retained it all; everyone is busy.) This is your opportunity. 

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

I have not been involved in any virtual interviews on a hiring committee but I can say that a messy background is distracting, as is a blurred background-void that your body/head/hands keep disappearing into. It is something to keep in mind for everyone involved. The candidate is making judgements about the situations they are put in and what goes on via a remote interview just as much as in person. 

And, I think 10 years ago I would have been worried about a dog bark or a doorbell – holding my breath that no one would find out that I was a person, who lived in a house. I think now, we recognize that these things are outside of our control – while you don’t want the dog barking to continue (or the doorbell ringing), these things aren’t that big of a deal. 

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?

For Librarian positions, it is about having the degree. 

For non-library to library work, there may be parallels. Working with spreadsheets, attention to detail, working with others, customer service, communication skills. Talk about your experience and what you do in your current/past positions and what you have learned. Tell me/show me that you can learn. Show me that you are interested.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: The salary range is provided as part of the interview and negotiated after the offer

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

I can’t speak to current practices by the Committee.

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

In addition to getting a pretty clear picture of the position, a clear idea of the University and the area. Asking what we are looking for in a candidate can give a candidate a way to see if there is alignment with them and the position. You may learn that what they are looking for is not something you can or want to be.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: We can telework on occasion upon request with approval from our supervisor and requires a list of work tasks for that day. 

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.

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For those on the job market, hang in there!

Hilary Kraus is a Research Services Librarian and liaison to kinesiology and psychology at the University of Connecticut. She has worked as a reference and instruction librarian, focusing on the health and social sciences, at universities in the Midwest and New England. 

Hilary holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from Northwestern University and an MSI from the University of Michigan.

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

At most places I’ve worked, the job description is generally written by admin and reviewed by the hiring committee or written/revised by the hiring committee and approved by admin. This is around the time the hiring committee is selected and charged. The job is posted for a period of time, typically around 4 weeks, and then application review begins. The committee agrees on first round candidates and does phone or video interviews, then clears a short-list for campus interviews with admin. Campus interviews (pre-COVID) included dinner the night before and then a full day interview. The hiring committee submits strengths/weaknesses for who they consider qualified candidates among those who visited campus. Admin makes the final decision.

Titles hired include: Reference/instruction/liaison librarians

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: I don’t know

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

They really expressed themselves well in their cover letter, not only highlighting relevant qualifications but also emphasizing why this job appealed to them. I get that people want a job because it means money and security, but as a hiring committee member and future colleague I still want to know why this job was on their list, and that they are actually interested in doing the work.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

I try to extend all possible grace, so I ignore minor errors in application materials (up to and including putting the wrong institution name at the top, because I have to say, as a candidate, I would never get over the mortification, so they’ve already been punished enough for that mistake). For me, it’s a deal-breaker if there’s no indication anywhere in the letter that they have any real investment in this specific job.

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

I can’t think of anything specific. We already demand people share so much information in the application process!

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant 

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant 

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

I think mistakes in interviews are very candidate-specific. I also don’t like to think of what they do as “mistakes,” but just as not being as successful as they could be. That said, I guess the only one I can really think of that’s helpful is not allowing themselves enough time to think of an answer to a question they didn’t anticipate. Stalling is fine! “What a great question! Give me a moment to consider my answer.” It’s also ok to ask for clarification or elaboration of a question if you’re not sure how to approach it.

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

Yes. This is hard, because not everyone has a good space that meets these requirements, but if you can, try to have: a comfortable chair where you’re sitting up relatively straight, decent lighting, a quality microphone or headset you’ve tested in advance, and a background without too many distracting elements. It’s fine to blur your background or put up a virtual one. Wear something you’re comfortable but professional-looking in — no need for anything extra fancy, especially since mostly the interviewers will just see your upper body.

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?

Lean into what you already know and have done! Many parapros have more library experience than new MLS grads, plenty of skills are applicable in multiple types of libraries, and many non-library folks have lots of transferable skills. But you have to be able to make the connection for the hiring committee, you can’t depend on them to figure it out themselves. As unfair as it seems, they’re also juggling a lot of different responsibilities and probably reading through a ton of applications, so help them see why your background is relevant.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: It depends, but at my current place of work, we now put it in the ad.

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

I wish there was a way to scrub the application docs to make it impossible to assume gender, race, etc., but there really isn’t in academia. Several places I’ve worked used a matrix to ensure that everyone was evaluated in a well-documented fashion, and had hiring committee members write up their notes/reactions for screening and campus interviews without discussion to reduce groupthink. I think those types of things help, but honestly, implicit bias is obviously a real thing at every stage.

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

Ask what people like about working at the organization, where they see it heading (even the rank and file folks have opinions on this!), what would make someone successful in the role.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? 

The academic job search process is such a hazing ritual. Thanks for trying to make it better and more transparent.

For those on the job market, hang in there!


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.

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Filed under 50-100 staff members, Academic, Northeastern US, Suburban area, Urban area

If I have an anatomy professor on the hiring committee, they may not be able to connect the dots between managing retail operations and providing front-line library services

Ruth Castillo is the Director of the Library at Emory & Henry College in Virginia. Prior to coming to Virginia, she was a library department head at another private university. 

In these roles, Ruth has chaired numerous librarian and library staff search committees and served on faculty and administrator search committees for positions outside of the library. 

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

I chair search committees for library positions at the college. For all types of positions, candidates must apply online with a resume/cv, cover letter, and references. For staff positions, the committee typically does in-person interviews with the top 2-3 candidates before making a decision. For librarian (faculty) positions, the committee does a video call first-round interview with the best 5-10 candidates then recommends 1-3 candidates for an on-campus interview day. The interview day involves 5-8 different interviews, meetings, and often a teaching demonstration and includes meetings with the Provost, the library staff, and the Faculty Hiring Committee. After the on-campus interviews, the search committee and the Faculty Hiring Committee make independent recommendations to the Provost who will make a final decision regarding offering the position.

Titles hired include: Technical Services Librarian, Technical Services Specialist, Technical Services Assistant, Health Sciences Librarian, Public Services Librarian, Circulation Assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

The most impressive candidates I have seen are all able to articulate why they want to join us and what they would bring to the library.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Coming to an interview and asking no substantive questions.

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

What the candidate needs to know to determine if this would be the job for them (salary, schedules, work/life balance, health care, moving to the community, etc).

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

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

Not doing their homework. If you don’t know where we’re located, what type of institution we are, and how big the library staff is before I talk to you, I assume you don’t have an interest in working here.

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

We do! The beginning of a virtual interview can be awkward, for everyone. A great way to overcome that is handling the basics, like making sure people can hear and see you okay.

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?

Directly reference the job posting in the context of your experience. I intentionally look for these connections, but if I have an anatomy professor on the hiring committee, they may not be able to connect the dots between managing retail operations and providing front-line library services. Utilize cover letters and interviews as opportunities to make these types of connections.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: My institution does not allow us to post salary information. For staff hires, I provide salary and work schedules at the interview. For librarian (faculty) positions, it can be awkward to have that conversation during the interview with the committee present. I typically do a follow-up to the first interview with candidates we’re interested in bringing to campus that opens the door to discuss salary 1-1 before moving forward as a candidate.

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

All search committees are required to do training at the beginning of the search. We also use the same questions for all candidate interviews within a search.

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

What is the first challenge you would ask me to tackle in this position? How does this position fit into the strategic goals/plans of the library? When you started here, what surprised you the most about working here? What does communication within the library look like?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Academic, Rural area, Southeastern US

It’s important that candidates know we are part of active unions governed by collective bargaining agreements, and that we are state workers.

Headshot of Jamie Taylor in front of a white board, wearing a bike cap

Jaime Taylor is the Discovery and Resource Management Systems Coordinator at UMass Amherst. Her professional interests include the racialized and gendered nature of librarianship, rethinking librarian education, flattening institutional structures beyond what is currently fashionable, and providing library services in unconventional settings.  Her non-professional interests include bicycles, cats, and old houses. 

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

I have chaired two search committees at my current organization. At my library, hiring is done via committees, which work with library admin to conduct the search & interview process, then make recommendations to the hiring authority (that is, the Dean of Libraries) about which candidate to offer the position to. Committees have 3-5 members, and include both librarians and paraprofessional staff, per our union contracts. For librarian positions, we usually have a phone interview round & then a finalist round of on-campus, full-day interviews, including a presentation by the candidate to library staff. We have recently begun revamping our processes with a DEI/justice lens, and so this process is under renovation. 

Titles hired include: ILS/LSP administrator; collections analysis librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ A Committee or panel 

Note: The committee makes recommendations, but the Dean of Libraries has the final decision.

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

They had thorough answers to questions about soft skills — the why & how questions; questions about justice, inclusion & equity; and demonstrated through their answers introspection about their work. They showed a growth mindset, through the research & other professional development they do, as well as through their interests inside & outside the library. They showed interest in cross-departmental connections & shared library/university governance. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Since I work for the state & hire other state workers, if a candidate does not meet the minimum requirements listed in the job description I *cannot* hire them, even if they make a very compelling argument that would be convincing in another setting.

Displays of subtle or overt bias or discrimination, especially against existing library staff. I have hired a young trans woman, for example, and we have workers of color and queer workers thorughout the library. I will not endanger my coworkers through my hiring decisions.

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

I wish I had better ways of sussing out which candidates will actually be able to quickly grow into a role that is a step up the career ladder or involves a new skillset. I’ve had libraries take that chance on me, and I think it worked out well for both me and the institution, so I’d like to be able to extend the same when I’m doing the hiring. Anyone can say that they are lifelong learners & relish a challenge, but it’s harder to concretely prove that someone will be successful at something they don’t yet know how to do.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant 

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

Note: Two pages max each for resume/CV & cover letter is probably the sweet spot for early to mid-career positions. In a digital environment, keeping each to only one page isn’t important.

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

Not answering the questions I am actually asking! Please find a way to give a substantive answer to my actual question, even if you don’t have the particular qualification I am asking about. I want to hear specificity and details to know that you know what you are talking about.

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

We are actively trying to make this as equitable and stress-free as possible! As long as we can hear each other, it’s all good.

Virtual or phone interviews make it much easier to have notes on hand to refer to as you speak — take advantage of that!

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?

Make a convincing argument that your skills & experience translate. Tell me why it makes sense. Be confident in them and sell it to me. Customer service experience is always relevant, for example, even if you are only communicating with coworkers.

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 have rewritten job descriptions to allow for more kinds of experience to be applicable. We actively advertise in places that are relevant to wider, more diverse audiences. I personally cultivate a diverse professional network & use it when hiring. We have an orientation session for the search committee at the beginning of the process to reinforce methods of bias reduction & have checklists & exemplars to refer to. 

But, since the library is largely staffed by white people, the collective networks of staff are mostly also white. We see names & other possible ethnic identifiers on applications. We are currently understaffed & in a rush to hire, so we may not think we have the time to slow down a process enough to give it proper attention with an anti-bias lens.

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

Please ask something, anything! It looks bad if a candidate has zero questions. Ask us about the culture and supervision style of the unit the position is in. Ask us about what kind of professional development opportunities there are. Ask us why we chose to work at this library. Ask us what exciting projects or changes are on the horizon. Use your questions to show us that you are curious & forward thinking & are aware of trends in the library world.

It’s important that candidates know we are part of active unions governed by collective bargaining agreements, and that we are state workers. These two facts govern the choices a candidate has once they’ve been offered a position – negotiation, selection of benefits. Candidates should also know that unions are only as strong as their members, so expect to be involved in making our institution the best workplace it can be. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Rural 

Note: New England rural, not flyover state rural, though.

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100 

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? 

Don’t apply for positions that aren’t a good match to your experience & skills. It’s a waste of your time & ours. Instead, spend more time honing your application materials & interview skills for positions that are a close fit.

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.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 50-100 staff members, Academic, Northeastern US, Rural area

Return to Further Questions Questions

Update 7/9/2022: I am moving this information to a static page. This post is no longer updated.

It’s been really interesting to return to this blog, after six years away, and slowly rediscover the sheer volume of information that’s here.

On April 6, 2012 I began the Further Questions feature. Each week, I asked a question to a group of folks who were hirers of library workers, and posted the answer on Friday. Some of the questions I thought up, some were reader questions, and eventually some were thought up by Sarah Keil, who ran it from 2014-2016.

Like the rest of the blog, it’s back, baby. If you have a question for people who hire library workers, please let me know! If you are someone who hires library workers who’s interested in a no-pressure way to reflect on your thoughts and processes, let me know!

If you’re interested in the running list of questions that have been asked, they are linked below. I’ll add each week’s question and link on a semi-regular basis.

Further Questions Questions

New School (2022-Present)

Why do candidates have to type information into an application which is already provided on their resume or CV? Does your organization do this? Even if it does not, could you shed a little light on why this might be a common practice? Bonus questions: are there other hiring redundancies in common practice? How much control do you have over the bureaucracy of the process and how much is decided by another part of your organization?

What’s your most horrifying hiring horror story? Either as a hirer or hiree. If you have incorporated lessons learned in your current hiring practices, it would be great to hear about that too.

When designing your hiring process, what steps does your organization take to make sure that it is accessible to candidates with disabilities? Bonus questions: Do you have advice for candidates who are requesting accommodations? Do you have advice for candidates about whether or not to disclose a disability, and at what stage?

Is it possible to be fair when hiring for a position with internal and external candidates? Hiring for a position that has both external and internal candidates can be tricky. Is it possible to do this fairly? If so, what are some specific recommendations to ensure an equitable process?

Should applicants address gaps in their employment history? Does it matter how long it is? Does the reason matter (i.e. raising children, tough job market, illness/injury, etc.)? If you think gaps need to be addressed, how should it happen?

Is it possible to do all of your hiring virtually? Some managers are saying that they feel comfortable designing a 100% virtual hiring process for all of their vacant positions. Others are saying that only certain positions can be hired from 100% virtual and that some positions need a hybrid process. So…post-pandemic – IS it really possible to substitute 100% of in person hiring with 100% online/virtual hiring for librarian positions? If yes, can we say that about all positions we hire in libraries? Paraprofessional? Professional/Technical? Hourly?

Can we talk about specific interview questions? Do you have questions that are especially illuminating or are there well-known questions that you think are useless?

What “hot topics” would you ask candidates about in an interview right now (i.e. virtual programming)? Or what topics have you recently included? What current issues in librarianship do you think candidates should be aware of and how can they best keep up on current topics?

What are your personal standards for how applicants should be treated? For example, you might make sure that all applicants are notified of your decision promptly, or you might always have water for in-person interviewees, etc.

With increasing reports of outsourcing, I am interested in how hiring managers view catalogers/tech services departments and, if possible, how a job seeker with experience in this area can best convey the worth of their skills. Another question from Twitter.

Do you send questions to interviewees before the interview? [and I’d love to know why or why not] How long do you give the interviewees to prepare? Also, does that influence how you evaluate the answers/responses? A question from Twitter.

What are your thoughts on age? A reader asks, “How open or closed are library hiring managers to women over 60?” I’d like to know if you have particular thoughts, observations, or tips for any kinds of folks who are worried about their age (older, younger, or in the middle) affecting their ability to get hired.

How did you learn to hire people? What did you learn through formal training versus through mistakes, mentoring, or some other method? Are there trainings or tools you would recommend?

How has COVID affected hiring and staffing at your organization? Were there any layoffs? Hiring freezes? Did staff participate in “the great resignation”? How many interviewee pets did you get to see on Zoom? Please share whatever you think might be interesting


Old School (2012-2016)

What is your final piece of advice for Hiring Librarians readers?

Which outfit is most appropriate to wear to an interview with your organization? Please pick one for women and one for men, and feel free to provide commentary as to why you chose one over the others (or share how you might change an outfit). Bonus question: Can you share any funny stories about horrifying interview outfits?

How should job seekers display their degrees and certifications in documents like resumes or signatures (in cover letters or emails)? Should they put “John Smith, MLS, MIS” at the top of their resume or when signing a cover letter or email, or should that information be included elsewhere, as in an education section, or text in the cover letter? Does etiquette change if the degrees are terminal such as a PhD or JD (or the MLS)? What about librarians who hold other degrees beyond the master’s level such as a subject area PhD, EdD, etc.?

Does your institution require any type of training to be part of a hiring committee? If so, did you find it useful? If not, what sort of training would be beneficial (diversity, human rights, conflict of interest, etc.)? How do you think training (or its absence) affects candidates?

How do you cope with hiring decisions you might not agree with? How might this affect working relationships later on, either with current colleagues or the new hire? If a candidate you think was amazing was not hired, do you have the ability to reach out afterwards to connect them with other libraries/later openings in your organization? Feel free to answer either personally or “for a friend/colleague.”

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?

Can you share your recommendations for post-interview etiquette in regards to thank you notes, follow ups via phone/email, providing additional information, etc.? Do you have examples, either from your own interview history or from candidates you have worked with, where conduct after the interview has influenced the hiring decision?

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?

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?

What advice do you have for long-term job seekers, i.e. those who have been looking for over a year (see our stats on Hiring Librarians; about 40% of those who have taken our survey of job hunters have been searching for a new position for over a year, see the second question under the demographics section)? When it is obvious that a job hunter has been looking for awhile (either by graduation date or lack of a current position in the library world, etc.), do you consider this a red flag? How can job hunters stay fresh throughout a long job searching process?

When is it time to leave your first professional job? Does your library/organization value longevity or variety of experiences more? Can you share a little about your job history (position/length of time) and rationale for changing positions (or not)?

How have generational differences affected your organization with hiring at any level–for professional, paraprofessional, or even student workers? Any tips for candidates to mitigate generational differences throughout the application and interview process? Or is this not an issue at all?

Do you include role playing, presentations, or skill demonstration in an interview? What are you looking for? Is content or delivery more important? Do candidates prepare for this ahead of time or are they spontaneous?

Does it matter when in the process an applicant applies? That is, do you accept applications on a rolling basis, select a quota, and work from there? Or are applications set aside until a deadline and reviewed all at once? Do you use the same approach for all positions, or are professional versus paraprofessional treated differently in this regard?

Do you think it is possible for applicants to be too qualified to succeed in a position? At what point do you determine over qualification–application/CV/cover letter, phone interview, in person interview? Do you ever include a maximum amount of experience that you will accept in your (internal) rubrics? What are the possible pros and cons of hiring an individual who is too qualified?

What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made while job searching? And what (if anything) led you to those things, and how did you figure out you should do things differently?

How do you determine what questions to ask in an interview? Is there a standardized set of questions for each candidate, or are questions personalized? Does your organization have policies on this to create fairness and equity in the hiring process, or is this not a consideration?

Which would draw fewer red flags, an application packet with no listed address or an address that does not match the listed work experience?

How can a resume or CV be used to demonstrate subjective skills (e.g. leadership, written communication, presentations, problem solving, work ethic, motivation)? Or is it more appropriate to leave it to examples in cover letters and/or recommendation letters? Additionally, how do employers recognize those skills?

What is the best way for someone to get promoted in your organization? Are there any particular indicators that show you when a staff member is ready for more responsibility? Do internal candidates have to follow the same application procedures as external candidates? Any other advice for succeeding when you’re already an employee?

What would your advice be for part time job applicants looking to use the job to gain experience and a foot in the door? In a tough job market, flexibility is important for applicants. Many LIS blogs/websites suggest exploring part time work, even post grad school, as a way to gain experience and enter the library world. Sometimes this means multiple part time jobs. Do you have MLS degree holders in part time positions (professional or paraprofessional) in your library? Would you hire MLS degree holders for part time positions? How would you advise applicants for full time jobs to sell any part time experience they may have?

What is the most productive way to spend your pre-employment unemployment? What can recent grads do to make themselves more appealing to employers?

Legalities aside, should applicants address a noticeable physical condition in an interview? The applicant certainly does not have a legal obligation to discuss anything of a medical nature, particularly if it would not hinder job performance and would not require accommodation. How would you wish (or how have you seen) this handled?

When contacting applicants for interviews, how long will you wait for a reply before moving on in the process? When do you expect a reply, and does it differ by position? Do you have issues with applicants not replying in a timely fashion? Of course, this is very circumstance-dependent, but if an applicant does not reply within a week, or two, and you have moved on, is there anything they can do to salvage the relationship for this position or a potential open position in the future?

How do you balance job searching with… ____ life? Another job? School? Reader response requested!

Any tips for out-of-area applicants? How much does the geographic location of the applicant matter to you?

Approximately what percentage of people who applied for your last open position would you say were hirable? Can you also share how you define hirable? This is a question asked on Hiring Librarians 2015 Job Market survey.

Is negotiation expected when candidates are extended a job offer? If so, on what matters–salary, time off, other benefits, etc.? Have you ever had a rescind an offer after negotiations? This can be a tricky process, so any advice you could give on facilitating this process with politeness and grace would be appreciated.

Does your library/institution have a probationary period for new hires? If so, can you tell us the typical length of this time and how employees are evaluated during probation? If not, are there other ways new hires are evaluated during the early days of their employment (first three to twelve months or so)? Generally, do you think probationary periods necessary for professional positions–why or why not? Feel free to provide answers for other types of library positions, if relevant.

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?

Who hires librarians and what do they do? Can you share with us the composition of the most recent search/hiring committees – number of committee members, their roles in the library, etc.? Are there stakeholders in the hiring process who should be involved but are not, or are only involved minimally (i.e. attending a presentation or meal with the candidate)? How is their feedback treated?

What tips do you have for job seekers attending conferences? How do you suggest they balance networking, attending sessions, and/or interview or informational sessions? Any special tips for first-time conference attendees?

Broadly, what does “or equivalent” really mean in a job announcement?  And more specifically, could a paraprofessional position ever stand in for librarian experience, if it included some librarian duties such as staffing the reference desk?  Can you describe any instances where someone with “equivalent” experience was hired at your organization?

How should interviewees answer tricky questions, such as “what is your dream job?” or other similar questions about weaknesses, strengths, ambitions, etc.? If you can talk a little about preparation for these sort of questions too, that would be helpful.

What do you a) love about libraries, and b) what do you love about the hiring process? As you likely know, it’s National Library Week. Therefore, instead of having a question centered around (what often is) a source of stress for many job seekers, let’s celebrate libraries on Further Questions this week.

Conventional job searching tips suggest informational interviews or job shadowing as a tactic to make connections and get your foot in the door with employers. Are these strategies used in your library? Does your library ever receive requests for this? Would you recommend these for job seekers–why or why not?

How do personality types play out in interviews? Librarians tend to be stereotyped as introverts–so what tips do you have for quiet, shy, and/or timid individuals to sell themselves and ace the interview? Are moments of silence/pauses in conversations, particularly during the more informal periods of an interview day (such as a meal) taboo? So as to not leave anyone out, feel free to provide insight into how more extroverted individuals can succeed in interviews as well.

What is your perspective on portfolios, especially if they are mostly comprised of class projects? Some library schools build them into coursework as a graduation requirement. Are they useful or influential in the hiring process? Do employers even look at them? If so, does format (electronic vs. print) matter?

How should applicants address gaps in their employment history? Does it matter if applicants have a long gap for personal reasons (moving for a partner’s career, raising children, illness or injury, etc.) or because the job market is tough? Should gaps be addressed in the cover letter or the resume/CV, or both?

What is the likelihood for interviewing/hiring a candidate from out of state for a position in your library? Legally, applications likely need to be accepted, but in practical terms, how are distance candidates viewed? Is it necessary to disclose in the cover letter a willingness to relocate? What factors influence your institution’s stance?

What value do you place on the post-interview email or mailed thank you note? What advice do you have for individuals interviewing with large committees–do they contact everyone they meet? Or what about other libraries that may not make email addresses easily accessible online–should candidates call and ask for an email address? In short, does sending a note (or not sending one) make or break a candidate’s chances?

Do you Google job candidates? Or look for them on social media, in your library system records (if local), or any other type of informal/formal background check? Have you ever done this and regretted it, or not done this and wished you had? When in the process would you be an online detective and why?

What “hot topics” would you ask candidates about in an interview right now (i.e. the new information literacy framework)? Or what topics have you recently included? What current issues in librarianship do you think candidates should be aware of and how can they best keep up on current topics?

Would you hire someone who has been fired in the past? Would it matter if they were fired for cause or if their position was simply eliminated? What tips do you have for job seekers in this position?

How does your organization value or consider membership/involvement in professional organizations during the hiring process? Is there a difference when hiring for an entry level role vs. a position requiring more experience?

How much does your institution consider ALA accreditation status in the hiring process? If a school was accredited when a candidate graduated, is that good enough to fulfill any accreditation requirements? What if the school loses accreditation or is granted conditional status? How does that reflect on graduates? Does that affect a job seeker’s chances of being hired?

One challenging aspect of job searching is knowing how to balance professionalism with personality, especially since personality can be intertwined with determining “fit.” What aspects of the job searching process, in your opinion, allow for a candidate to exhibit more personality–CV/resume, cover letter, interview, interview attire, etc.? What is your advice for candidates struggling with this issue, and how do you strike the balance from the other side of the table?

Can we talk about feedback? Is your organization able to provide feedback to applicants who are not hired (after they have been interviewed–not ones who never make the cut)? Why or why not? Oftentimes applicants ask why they did not receive the job only to receive vague answers or be told that the information is confidential. This can be frustrating but there are many reasons why this occurs, so learning about the process might help. On a related note, if feedback cannot be provided what is your advice to job seekers wishing to become stronger candidates in the future?

Can we talk about internal hiring? What is the process for promotions in your organization? Are there any particular indicators that show you when a staff member is ready for more responsibility? Do internal candidates have to follow the same application procedures as external candidates? Any other advice for succeeding when you’re already an employee?

What value do you place on references? When in the process do you contact references, if you contact them at all? Who do you expect to see on the reference list and does it vary based on where an applicant is in their career? What are some of the questions you ask of references and how do the answers influence your decision to hire? 

Can you explain what “fit” is and why it is important in hiring a new employee?

I applied for a position a month ago and it was relisted today with the same job description.  Is it appropriate to reach out to the organization and ask for feedback on my application materials so I can know why I wasn’t a strong candidate?  Would reapplying with a different cover letter make a difference?

What would transferable skills look like from an individual transitioning into librarianship from an unrelated job field? This job field could be anything from working in a daycare, to sales, to nonprofit management, etc. Any advice you could provide to adults seeking a career change by going back to school to get their MLS/MLIS/MIS would be appreciated.

Would you hire someone with a MLIS for a paraprofessional position (e.g. assistant, clerk, page)? If so, under what circumstances? If not why not?

Do you have any etiquette tips for candidates who have received an offer? How quickly would you expect a response?  Do you expect candidates to negotiate things like pay and benefits? Can a candidate decline your offer without burning a bridge with you?

Does volunteering or completing an internship at your organization help candidates secure a position of any level (professional, part time, or anything in between) at your organization? Many times library school students assume that experience at a specific institution leads to an “in” when jobs open up there, but have you found this to be true? How might you advise candidates looking to secure employment at the specific organizations or locations where they volunteer or intern?

What are the different hiring stages at your organization and how long does each typically take? What are the factors that can lengthen the process? Is there ever a point in time when a candidate should attempt to check the status of an application? Keeping these factors and your area of librarianship in mind, how long do think job seekers should expect to be searching for a position?

Should a candidate ever try to connect with you on a social media/networking service? Is it ever appropriate for a candidate to try to connect with you through social media (i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LibraryThing, your blog…)? If so, which ones and under what circumstances? What about in person (at a conference, etc)? Please feel free to include any additional insight you have on networking etiquette.

What are your favorite questions to ask in interviews? And why? If you can talk a little about the difference between what you ask over the phone versus in-person, that would be very helpful.

Aside from library experience, what volunteer and/or work experience do you find valuable in applicants and new hires?

Since it’s impossible to address everything in a cover letter, what portions of the ads should be focused on? What tips do you have for breaking down large ads? Job advertisements are often long, especially in academia, and often contain a lot of information including a position description, qualifications (desired or required), salary, schedule, etc. Feel free to bring in examples from past job ads.

Does your institution require job applicants to submit their SSN on online job applications? How should applicants handle this if they wish to keep that information private until later on in the process?

What education or experience requirements do you have for paraprofessional positions in your library? Of course, these will vary by position but what would you say is important for those pursuing paraprofessional roles, either for their career or while in library school?

From your perspective, how has library school changed in the past decade (or since you graduated, whichever you prefer to consider)? What areas of knowledge or experience do you see lacking in recent graduates applying for positions in your organization? Is there a difference between applicants from traditional and online programs? As a new crop of librarians-to-be start classes this fall, your advice can help them plan and prepare for the future.

How often does your library communicate with applicants throughout the process–from notification of receipt of application onwards? A common refrain in job seeker surveys on Hiring Librarians is that job seekers want more communication throughout the hiring process (i.e. at each stage). Is this realistic? Why or why not? An insight into your processes may give job seekers better expectations for what to expect.

Do you like hyperlinks included in resumes for sample or demonstration purposes? How have you seen this done well (or poorly)?

Beyond conferences, what are your favorite sources for professional development opportunities? This could include anything from technology resources, e-classes, books, blogs, webinars, and beyond, with a preference for free or frugal opportunities for the job seeker wishing to stay current. These can be resources you personally use OR resources you (hope) that applicants for positions at your institution are using. No matter how basic, please share!

How many people have been hired by your organization in the last fiscal year? What is the breakdown of roles (i.e. librarians, paraprofessionals, student/hourly, etc.)? Subjectively, is this figure standard or does it fluctuate year to year?

Traveling for interviews: who pays? Does your library pay for the interview expenses of a candidate such as airfare, hotel, meals, or mileage? Are candidates reimbursed or do you pay up front? Has anything changed in this realm due to the economy, such as a focus on local candidates, paying for travel but not meals, etc.?

Does your organization have educational requirements aside from the MLS/MIS for professional positions? If so, what are they and how were they determined? If not, why? These educational requirements may include things like: specific undergraduate degrees, a second master’s degree, a doctorate, etc. Obviously specific positions may require certain degrees but is there a baseline for all positions, either at the time of hiring, after X number of years, for tenure, etc.?

How might a candidate overcome a bad first impression? Job searching advice always says to be early, prepare for the unexpected, and research everything ahead of time, but social faux pas can still happen. Can a candidate still advance in the process or land the job if they make a mistake, particularly in an in person interview? Why or why not? Bonus points if you have any related stories, personally or from your libraries.

Would a candidate’s travel plans be a dealbreaker? For example, a reader has a seventeen day trip planned in three months. Would this be a negative factor in your decision? Would you prefer to learn about it during the interview, or is it ok if the candidate waits to reveal until a job offer has been made?

Does word really get around? The idea of someone’s reputation comes up fairly regularly in career discussions. Does it really matter? Has there ever been a case where you haven’t hired someone because of something you heard (or vice-versa)? And how is this information about reputation transmitted?

What if candidates are interested in obtaining another degree? Is it a turn-on or turn-off when applicants mention their desire to obtain a further degree which is not strictly library science, but is tangentially related? (For example: a degree in education, management, etc)

Is salary range included in your job postings? Do you include a salary range in your job postings? Why or why not? Who makes that decision?

Would you hire someone for a librarian position if s/he had no library experience? If yes, under what circumstances? If not, why not?

Is becoming a librarian still a reasonable dream? What advice would you give to someone who’s been searching for a librarian job for two years? Is it still a reasonable dream?

If you hire interns, do you pay them? Why or why not?

Should internships go under employment experience or in a separate section? On resumes, should internships go under employment experience or in a separate section?

What “hot topic” would you include if you were currently interviewing candidates?  Or what “hot topic” have you recently included?  For example, in an interview about six months ago, I was asked for my opinions on “Bookgate”. What are the current library issues that you think candidates should be aware of?

What’s the Best Way to Practice for Interviews? It seems a bit wrong to apply and go through the interview process when not interested in a job, but how else can one get practice interviewing? Toastmasters and public speaking classes are helpful but not quite the same skills required for a presentation and interview – talking about oneself, and thinking on one’s feet. Any suggestions for gaining the skills to really impress you in an interview?

How many librarian positions are there at your library? Can you tell us a bit about how has this number has changed over time (e.g. higher or lower than last year, five years ago, ten years ago, etc.)?  How has your service population changed over those same time periods? Please let us know if your answer is ballpark or exact.  Bonus information: are there unfilled positions that will be left unfilled for a substantial period of time?

Does participation in the ALA Think Tank Facebook group hurt a candidate’s chances? Would participation in ALA Think Tank hurt a candidate’s chances with you? Why or why not?

Is it standard practice for your institution to ask to contact the candidate’s current supervisor as a reference? At what point do you do this?  How do you handle it if the candidate has not told her current supervisor she is job hunting, or does not want to give you this information for some other reason?  Are they still considered for the position?

Should a candidate list a previous subordinate as a reference? How would you feel about a candidate that lists his or her previous subordinate as a reference? Would it make a difference if the candidate was apply for a position that had an equivalent or more amount of staff oversight, or for a job that had less or no staff oversight?

Does HR screen applications before they even get to you? If so, do they use a program that screens for keywords or do they use some other method? Do you give them any instructions on what you are looking for?

How do you count part time work? How is part time work counted, when looking to see if a candidate meets a requirement for a certain number of years of experience? For example, if a position requires two years of experience as an adult services librarian, and the librarian has worked 20 hours a week as an adult services librarian for two years, should she go ahead and apply? What about if she had worked even fewer hours? Any insight is appreciated!

How are job postings written? How does your institution write job postings? Do you have any input, or does HR do it? Do you list salary? Are you allowed to add things like “strong internal candidate”? Do you include any language about being an Equal Opportunity Employer, or do you encourage any specific demographic groups to apply?

How are oral boards or search/hiring committees formed?When hiring, what committees are formed at your library? Do you use an oral board, a search committee, and/or a hiring committee?  How are the members chosen? What do they do and who are they accountable to?

Do you use interns/volunteers? Does your library use interns or volunteers?  What tasks do they do?  How are volunteers and interns chosen?  What qualities are you looking for in potential volunteers/interns?

How can new hires start off right? After hiring, are your new hires put through any sort of probation period?  Have any of them been unable to make it through this period? Do you have any general tips for new employees, to help them start off on the right foot?

How can a candidate get an accurate understanding of the workplace atmosphere? Any tips/tricks/methods for a job seeker for seeing through the “Company Behavior” that goes on during an interview, to get a sense of what the “everyday” atmosphere at a library is like? I’ve heard way too many horror stories about people feeling like everything clicked in an interview, accepting a position, and only then discovering that it was a really toxic environment.

Should an applicant include more than one reference from the same job? Do hiring managers prefer to see 3 references from the same library job, or do all 3 references need to be from different jobs, even if some of those are non-library?

How can candidates changing library types, or fields, best present their skills? Have you hired someone whose previous work was at another type of library, or in another field altogether? What made them a good candidate?

Where and how does your library advertise its open positions? Please name specific sites or listservs, where possible.

Would your library consider hiring ex-felons? These individuals have been working as inmate library clerks. They have the skill-set for circulation desk and book shelving duties. Also they have entered new book titles into the library’s catalog database and managed circulation records. They have been dependable staff members. Would your library consider hiring ex-felons?

Do you have any tips for internal candidates? Can you share any stories about successful or unsuccessful candidacies by internal candidates? What are the pitfalls to avoid?

Do You Prefer Long or Short Resumes/CVs? Do you generally ask for resumes or CVs? Do you prefer long or short ones and why? How many pages should it be?

Do you require any sort of presentation or demonstration of skill? Do you require any sort of presentation or demonstration of skill during the hiring process? What are you looking for? Is content or delivery more important?

Will You Tell Us About Your Last Job Hunt? What was your last job hunt like? What was your biggest anxiety, and what did you learn? Did having been a hiring manager influence you to employ any new strategies?

How and when should a candidate decline an interview? What’s the best way to decline an interview without burning any bridges? Under what circumstances should a candidate decline an interview?

What’s a Skype Interview Like? Have you interviewed candidates via Skype or another videoconferencing platform? How do these interviews differ than in-person interviews? Any tips for candidates about to do a Skype interview?

Reader Response Requested: How Do You Stay in Touch after a Conference? This week you are the experts. Do you have any tips for staying in touch with new contacts, for example potential future employers you might have met at a very large library conference? What should you do, and how frequently? Please post your answer in the comments.

Does Library Support Staff Certification Give Candidates an Edge? What value do you see in the Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC) program? Would it give an edge to candidates? Have you ever hired someone with this certification?

The Tattooed Librarian Should tattooed candidates make any attempt to hide their ink? Would tattoos make you think twice about hiring someone? How tattooed is too tattooed? (Part of a series that also includes: Stats and Graphs: The Tattooed Librarian Part II and  Reader Response Requested: The Tattooed Librarian Part III How tattooed are you? What types of libraries have you interviewed at? Did you cover your tattoos? Share your answers (and tats!) in the comments.)

How Can a Candidate Ace Dinner with the Search Committee? Do you have any tips for acing dinner with the search committee? If you do not work for an organization that includes a meal as part of the interview process, do you have any tips do for the more informal, social aspect of mingling or making small talk with your interviewers?

What Was the Last Position You Hired? What and when was the last position you hired? How many applicants did you get, roughly? How many did you interview?

Does Personal Branding Help? Personal branding has become one of the tools recommended by those dispensing job hunting advice. Have you ever hired a librarian who uses this strategy – developing and managing a personal brand in order to shape the image he or she presents on the job hunt and professionally? Do you have any thoughts about this trend? (If you want to read more about branding before answering this question, there’s a recent-ish American Libraries article here.)

Could You Hire Two Probationary Workers? In filling a position, could you hire two probationary workers, maybe each half time, and then decide a couple months later who got the job? Why or Why not?

Do You Do Any Sort of Pre-Employment Testing? Do applicants have to take a multiple choice test, or provide a writing sample, or do a presentation/sample lesson? Why does your workplace do this, and how can candidates prepare?

Do You Read Hiring Librarians? If so, have you been surprised by anything, or have you changed your mind about any aspect of the hiring process? (I really won’t mind if you say no – this is not a vanity question!)

Reader Response Requested: Who Are You Anyway? I’d like to know who you are and why you’re here. If you haven’t already filled out the polls, won’t you do so? Any brave souls are welcome to introduce themselves in the comments!

When and how should candidates check-in after an interview (if at all)? Have you ever told someone you’d get back to them by a certain time, and then not been able to do so?

When and How Should an Applicant Check-In? After submitting an application, when and how is it appropriate for the applicant to check in with you? If they haven’t heard back within a week? Two weeks? Should they call? Email? Drop in?

Who has input on hiring decisions at your organization?

What can recent grads do to make themselves more appealing to employers? What is the most productive way to spend your pre-employment unemployment?

Does Where You Go to School Matter? Would attending a for-profit school count against a candidate? Do you hire for any positions that require a second Masters? If so, do you give more weight to candidates from prestigious schools?

Do You Google Job Candidates? Or look for them on social media, or do any other sort of online sleuthing/informal background check/personal curiosity assuaging?

Reader Response Requested: Is it the Worst Time Ever to be a New Librarian? This week you are the experts. Economically speaking, is it the worst time ever to be a newly graduated library job hunter? If not, when was worse? Please leave your answer in the comments!

Further Answers: How Did Prop 13 Affect You? Can you describe how you were affected by Prop 13? Were you laid off or did you have hours reduced? How long did it take to return to work? Did you return to the same level and hours as before you left? Can you see any similarities or differences between what it was like then, and what the library job market is like today?

Further Answers: Any other advice for someone preparing to be off work for a while? (Final post in series about extended leaves of absence)

Are Gaps in a Resume Really a Red Flag? Have you ever hired someone who has been unemployed for an extended period of time? If so, can you provide any details about how this person discussed his/her absence on a resume or cover letter, or in an interview? (part of a series – companion post Further Answers: What happened when you decided to return to the workforce?What happened when you decided to return to the workforce? How did you frame your absence? How long did it take to get rehired? Was the position you found similar to the one you had before you left?)

How Can Someone on an Extended Leave of Absence Stay Professionally Relevant? What do you recommend that a person on an extended leave of absence do in order to stay professionally relevant? (part of a series – companion post Further Answers: What did you do to stay professionally relevant during your leave? )

Any Tips for out-of-area applicants? How much does the geographic location of the applicant matter to you?

How important is knowledge of specific tools? As archivists and librarians, the tools we learn are a bit of a crapshoot. How important is that an applicant have previous knowledge in the specific tools or system that your library uses? Is it very important, we will not consider an applicant without that experience/ideal, but we will consider someone with training as a substitute (example: took EAD course but did not use EAD in a job), it’s more important that someone is willing to learn new technology and tools (perhaps demonstrated by the other tools they already know), or something else entirely?

Can You Tell Us About Successful Cover Letter “Hooks”? What is something that an applicant stated in a cover letter that prompted you to give him/her an interview?

When Shouldn’t Candidates Apply? When should someone NOT apply for a position?

Does Current Employment Status Matter to You? How much does current employment status matter to you?

How does the initial selection work? Who does your first round of sorting/selecting applicants for interviews (a computer/an HR professional/you/someone else…)? Is there generally a fixed number of applicants selected for the initial round or does it depend on the position, the pool of applicants, or something else entirely?

Reader Response Requested: Tales of Tackiness and Horror This week you are the experts. What is the tackiest response to a job interview/resume you ever received? Please post your ghastly horror stories in the comments!

Reader Response Requested: What Do You Read for Career Advice? This week you are the experts. Is there a particular publication (book, blog, column, magazine, journal, podcast, etc. etc.) that you regularly read for career advice? How did you hear about this resource and what makes it so valuable to you? Please post your answer in the comments.

Is there a Person Whose Career Advice You Seek?Do you have a peer, mentor, or other person (or group) that you seek out for career advice? How did you meet this person? What makes his/her advice so valuable to you?

What Questions Should Candidates Ask You? What questions should candidates ask you in an interview? (also see the Interview Questions Repository)

How are Library Directors Hired? Can you please give us brief run-down of the process of hiring a library director? What are some of the questions that candidates are asked? What are the most important qualities candidates can demonstrate? Any other advice for hopeful directors?

Are You Looking for Candidates That Speak More Than One Language? Does your organization/library give any additional weight to candidates who can speak more than one language? If so, what languages are you looking for and how do you determine proficiency?

What is the most important “soft” skill? What is the most important “soft” skill for a candidate to have, and how can it be demonstrated in an application packet (if it can)?

Does Your Library Do Background Checks? Does your organization do background checks? If it does, what exactly is checked? Credit rating, conviction history, job or education history, etc.? What kinds of things would keep a candidate from getting hired?

Advice for “older” job hunters Just as younger librarians worry about being perceived as inexperienced and skipped over, older librarians worry about stereotypes preventing them from finding work. Can you dispel some of this worry by sharing a story about hiring an “older” librarian? Any particular advice for this type of job hunter? And finally, just for fun, which do you think is a bigger disadvantage in a job hunt: youth or age?

How Has the Economy Affected Hiring at Your Library? Have there been freezes? Have positions gone unfilled? Are applicant pools larger? Please let us know what’s changed! And have you noticed any thawing lately?

Should Coursework Go on a Resume? Under what circumstances, if any, would you want to see coursework listed on a resume?

How Long Did it Take to Get Your First Library Job? How long did it take for you to get your first professional, full-time job in the library field? Would you please tell us a little bit about your search for that job?

What’s the Best Piece of Career Advice You Ever Received? And who gave it to you?

Do You Notify Rejected Applicants? What notifications do you (or your library) send to applicants? Do you acknowledge applications? Share your timeline? Notify rejected candidates? If you do, is it over the phone, via email, or by mail? Do you think employers have any obligation to do this? Or are there practical considerations that make it impossible?

What’s the Most Important Part of a Resume? And why?

Is Having Been Fired a Deal Breaker? Have you ever hired someone who had been fired from a previous position? Is having been fired a deal breaker, or are there understandable circumstances? Is there anything in your application process which would reveal that a candidate had been fired?

What are the most important “tech skills”? Everyone says it’s important for candidates to have “tech skills”. Can you please explain what, exactly, tech skills are? I realize it varies depending on position, but what would you say are the most important programs and proficiencies for candidates, and why?

What does “or equivalent” mean? Broadly,what does “or equivalent” really mean in a job announcement? And more specifically, could a paraprofessional position ever stand in for librarian experience, if it included some librarian duties such as staffing the reference desk? Can you describe any instances where someone with “equivalent” experience was hired at your organization?

Turning the Tables We all know that candidates have loads of questions for people who hire. But do you have the same kinds of questions for candidates? Do you wonder what they’re thinking about your job announcements, for example, or are you uncertain about the clothes you should wear to interview someone? What questions would you ask of job hunters?

What Should Candidates Wear? Which outfit is most appropriate to wear to an interview with your organization? Why or why not? Please pick one for women and one for men. Bonus question: Can you share any funny stories about horrifying interview outfits? (photo-based question! See also What Should Candidates Wear survey answers.)

Should Candidates Apply for More Than One Job at the Same Organization? Can a candidate apply for two different positions in your organization without seeming desperate? Are there any specific steps s/he should take in this situation? Have you ever hired someone who has done this?

When Should Library Students Start Applying? Have you interviewed or hired a candidate who is still in school for a librarian position? How early is too early for a student to start applying? Do you take into consideration the particular school a candidate has attended? Has a candidate’s GPA ever affected your decision to hire or interview a candidate?

Would You Hire a Person Who Has an Autistic Spectrum Disorder For a Reference Librarian Position? Would you hire a person who has an autistic spectrum disorder for a reference librarian position? Would you prefer if someone with an autistic spectrum disorder discloses that they have one during an interview? Would you as a reference department manager allow a librarian with an autistic spectrum disorder to have a trial period in which they could demonstrate their skills before fully hiring them? Have you ever had someone self-identify as an individual with a disability during the hiring process? How did it change things?

What’s the Best Way for Someone to Get Promoted in Your Organization? What is the best way for someone to get promoted in your organization? Are there any particular indicators that show you when a staff member is ready for more responsibility? Do internal candidates have to follow the same application procedures as external candidates? Any other advice for succeeding when you’re already an employee?

Can We Talk About References? Do you make any judgments based on who is on the list before even talking to the references? Do you expect to see the current supervisor on the reference list? If you call references, what are some of the questions you ask and how do the answers effect your decision to hire?

Can You Explain What “Fit” Is?  And why it is important in hiring a new employee?

Are there any extra or “non-traditional” materials candidates can provide to improve their chances? If a candidate provides a link to an e-portfolio, do you peruse it? Would you like to see a visual resume? Should a candidate bring examples of his/her work to the interview?

Would You Hire Someone with a MLIS for a Paraprofessional Position? (E.g. assistant, clerk, page)? If so, under what circumstances? If not why not?

Do you have any etiquette tips for candidates who have received an offer? How quickly would you expect a response? Do you expect candidates to negotiate things like pay and benefits? Can a candidate decline your offer without burning a bridge with you?

Does Volunteering Help a Candidate’s Chances? What kinds of volunteer or internship experiences (if any) help a candidate’s chances with you and your organization?

Why Is It Taking So Long? What are the different hiring stages at your organization and how long does each typically take? What are the factors that can lengthen the process? Is there ever a point in time when a candidate should attempt to check the status of an application?

Should a candidate ever try to connect with you on a social networking service? Is it ever appropriate for a candidate to try to connect with you on a social networking service (i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, LibraryThing…)? If so, which ones and under what circumstances? What about in person (at a conference, etc)? Please feel free to include any additional insight you have on networking etiquette.

What are Your Favorite Questions to Ask in an Interview? And why? If you can talk a little about the difference between what you ask over the phone versus in-person, that would be very helpful.

Would you Hire Someone Without Library Experience for a Librarian Position? If yes, under what circumstances? If not, why not?

Whew!  That’s a lotta questions!  Now here’s one for you:  Which of these would you like to see revisited?  My list of “people who hire librarians” has grown and changed since I asked the first question in April of 2012, and the hiring climate is always changing.  Should I re-ask anything?

Photo: By DuMont Television/Rosen Studios, New York-photographer. Uploaded by We hope at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Further Questions: What are your thoughts on age?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is from Twitter:

A reader asks: “What are your thoughts on age? How open or closed are library hiring managers to women over 60? Thanks.”

I add: To expand this a little, please give us your thoughts and observations for any folks who are worried about their age (older, younger, or in the middle) affecting their ability to get hired. Any tips for strategies to mitigate bias?


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: This is always tricky because we have a natural tendency to think about age even just looking at a resume or CV. I have noticed more and more that people leave off the degree granted date on credentials which can be effective although including dates of previous employment still provides some indication of age. In some cases I think it depends at least in part on the position. If someone is applying for a more senior position that requires experience then I would expect candidates who are older. I think it is interesting that the reader specifically mentions women over 60. I’m assuming the reader is a woman but I also wonder if more women have concerns over age than men.

We need to move away from making assumptions about age based on information we receive in documentation. Not everyone goes to college at 18. Not everyone who is over 60 looks like they are (or under). We can ask every candidate about how their prior experiences inform their thinking about this new opportunity. And about what they hope to accomplish. Given the departures from my library over the past five years I’d say a colleague in their 30s or 40s is just as likely to consider leaving as someone over 60 might be to retire. I wonder if the reader with the question meant the question of how long she would stay in a job, or whether she is still able to do it well. In 30 years I would say ability and interest have much less to do with age than any number of other factors


Anonymous: This is a question that has been much on my mind of late. Of course, an institution is best served by saying nothing when a candidate does not make the cut. What I have noticed, however, is that before I turned 60, which was on the eve of the pandemic, I was a valued candidate and could get an interview within a month or two of starting to look. I was published and a sought after national speaker on Information Literacy. There was no obvious problem with qualifications.

After I turned 60, I get crickets, even for jobs that I might have been over-qualified for.

To be fair, that might be part of the problem. Librarianship seems to have this weird thing going that if you want to step back from a top-leadership position to something with less pressure but doing something you love seems to be inconceivable. I was, in fact, told by a colleague and friend who was a college library director, “if, after being a director, you wanted to go back to being a public service librarian and the pay cut, we would probably want to know why.” It was suggested my candidacy would be a hard sell to voluntarily step away from administration. It is somewhat frustrating since if I were asked, I would tell them that I didn’t mind the pay cut. I can afford it, I want to go back to doing what I loved, and you would get an experienced public service/instruction librarian who was pretty damn good at what they did.

Is that age discrimination? I’ll let the reader draw their own conclusions.


Dr. Colleen S. Harris, Librarian, John Spoor Broome Library, CSU Channel Islands:

TL;DR: Yes, discrimination against older women applicants exists, but there are some ways to combat it.

This is a good question. Our most recent dean is a woman over 60 who the University-level committee hired, and is a dynamo of energy and advocacy; I’ve seen this a lot in libraries from our older colleagues. When I’m on a search committee, I look for the best talent and most potential—the balance of these shifts just a little depending on the position in that an early career growth position can be written in such a way that it attracts those with passion but not much experience, while a position requiring skills we need immediately applied might focus more on factors of experience. You should be able to tell by the way the position is written. I think women over 60 can (and do) easily market themselves with the vast amount of life experience they have compared to younger or earlier-career applicants.

If you have this concern as an older applicant, I would consider the following – all with a dash of salt, of course, because they’re largely drawn from my own experience as a search committee member. Some of these will seem silly and “of course don’t do that,” but after seeing cover letters where these things happen, some do/don’t/depends tips to not knock yourself out of the pool prematurely:

  • Do: concentrate on the position and how it is written, paying careful attention to those bullet points of requirements and responsibilities. Focus on what you can bring to that position and institution in terms of your previous experience (both library and non-library), professional development and/or passion. Most of the committees I’ve been on actually use the position description’s bullet points as their candidate rating rubric. Focus on bringing as many of those as you can into your cover letter without sounding stilted. Nota bene: the committee WILL NOT scour your CV/resume for details related to those requirement bullet points, you have to do that labor in your cover letter. Even if it’s a brief mention of how you meet the requirement and then a “more details on my responsibilities in my CV,” it helps you.
  • Do: focus your labor on the important documents: especially writing that cover letter, and the diversity statement. Your CV/resume is very rarely the make-or-break document.
    • N.B.: Your cover letter is the key to the kingdom, at least in academic searches I’ve been on in the library, in other academic departments, and when I’ve been on search committees for administrators (CBO, CFO). This is the space where you can make your age work for you in terms of experience, demonstrated learning over time, mentorship of younger or earlier-career colleagues, and broad skill set development.
    • N.B.: The diversity statement…very often these are very terrible. As in seriously terrible. As in, “I like diversity and have Black friends” terrible. Take some time to really sit and think about the prompt (they vary slightly by institution) and offer a meaningful answer. (If you have one, if you don’t you should reflect on that, too.) If you are an older applicant, you again likely have more experience to draw from in terms of approaching how your philosophy of librarianship has changed over the years (if at all), how your teaching/management/coaching style has changed, and how you can actively exploit the benefit of your age in terms of length of learning curve and practice in this area.
    • N.B. for applicants of all ages: if an institution says the diversity statement is required, it is required as a separate document. And we mean it when we say required. If you do not include a diversity statement, you are out of the pool (at least at my current POW). Even if it’s an optional document, consider it required. It’s important. In the past decade I have been on a committee where an applicant loudly and in print refused to submit a diversity reflection statement.
  • Don’t: say that you want the position at that institution because you want to retire in the area or because you want to live in a particular city for [insert non-library, non-institution reason here]. The institution and committee likely want to hear how you will be engaged as their employee and colleague, not focusing on ending the job before you’ve even gotten it. (That may seem obvious but it has happened in many a cover letter I’ve read for librarian searches as well as searches for faculty in other departments I’ve served on.)
  • Depends: Related to the previous, a more gray area is mentioning if you have family/children/grandchildren in the area. Some committee members will see this as a bonus in terms of locking you in geographically and likely keeping you for longer than folks without ties in the area, but it can also backfire because to others it will sound very similar to “I want to retire here.” Unless your family is somehow directly related to your professional experience (lots of practice at storytimes as a grandma, for instance), I would leave them out. Focusing on the professional is the safest bet, for the most part. (There are good ways weaving in family can be done, and some folks will say I’m wrong here. My focus in this answer is to advise as best I can how to maintain a strong presence in the pool and impress each committee member as much as possible. I lean towards a “Don’t” on this one because I hesitate to give bad actors any ammunition against a candidate, but I’m also mindful that we bring our whole selves to work, with all of our intersecting identities that inform our experience, and those intersecting identities are relevant to the ways in which we work with people and do the work. I wrestle with this one, and I’d probably land at “have multiple someones read over your cover letter to make sure everything is oriented to how you can benefit the institution in that position and how the institution can benefit you” (good advice for applicants at all ages).
  • Do: indicate how you are keeping current in the profession, especially in the area of the position you’re applying for. It’s illegal to discriminate based on age, but we know it happens, and the listed degree dates on your CV/resume or other parts of the application can bring age to a bad-actor committee member’s attention. If you can very briefly address how you have kept current on your knowledge of whatever the position is, that gives other committee members an ace in the hole if a member brings up the date of the degree and indicates an age bias by claiming that someone’s education may be “out of date” for the needs of the position.
  • Do: be confident in your application. At 60 and over (heck, at 40 and over), you have a wealth of life experience under your belt even if that experience isn’t in libraries, and much of that may be relevant to the position you are applying for. I think of my mother, who didn’t work until later in life, but managed a scratching-to-lower-middle-class household of five with one income for 20 years doing all of the budgeting/invoicing and reconciling, arranging for transportation for multiple actors to all different places, ensuring 3 squares a day, doing building maintenance, handling vendors (doctors/health care, the oil company, the electric company, cable, etc.), researching to save costs (the reams of coupon fliers she went through weekly), dealing with cost ebb and flow (new school clothes in August, presents at Christmas)…

Headshot of Kathryn Levenson

Kathryn Levenson, Librarian, Piedmont High School: Great question on age. For school libraries, you need a teaching credential before getting your Library credential and MLIS so most people would be older.

I was getting tired of all the work that went along with being a biology teacher, prepping labs, etc. I felt like I could perform Library duties under less stress into older age. I have been at Piedmont High School for 6 years now and am about to turn 64. I plan on working at least another 3 years.

The previous Librarian had been there for 13 years and was retiring. I interned at Berkeley where the main Librarian was probably in her late 60’s and she hired a replacement in her 50’s at least.

When I was hiring an assistant, I considered temperament and ability to work with high school students over any concern for age. Both of my assistants had teaching experience of some kind and ties to the community. There are many active Librarians in their 60’s, in my experience.

I would encourage older candidates to apply providing they can push the carts and lift boxes at times. But, if your Library uses high school teaching assistants, that will relieve much of the physical part of the job. I also had a very active middle school TA program at my previous library.


Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System:

What are your thoughts on age?

When approaching an interview, someone older may make a terrific employee. While there may be physical requirements which would eliminate someone, a specific age does not determine an employee’s ability to physically do a job.

How open or closed are library hiring managers to women over 60?

At my library, we hire women (and men) over 60! What older applicants, of any gender, need to avoid is giving the impression the job is “just to get them out of the house” or “give them something to do.” And especially, an employer does not want to get a sense the applicant wants the job as a way to “cruise to retirement” in a short time.

To expand this a little, please give us your thoughts and observations for any folks who are worried about their age (older, younger, or in the middle) affecting their ability to get hired. Any tips for strategies to mitigate bias?

When applying and interviewing for a job, regardless of age, you must demonstrate an interest in the employer and the job, a belief you have something to contribute of value, and NO expiration date. Too often, applicants show little interest in the job, have little idea what they can do for the employer, and give the impression this is only a temporary “gig” for them..


Headshot of Angelynn King

Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College: For the past 15 years, I’ve worked in small academic libraries in rural locations. I’ve served on numerous faculty search committees, and I’ve never heard the advanced age of a candidate discussed or even alluded to. This may be a function of the applicant pools being somewhat shallower in the country, but it’s been my experience that if you’re qualified and enthusiastic, we’re willing to consider you.

Once a member of a committee I chaired said of a young, single applicant that she’d “probably just get married and move away.” I reminded her that we absolutely, positively could NOT take that into consideration. We ended up hiring the applicant, and she did move away — but later she married a guy she met in a nearby town and moved back! So that just goes to show you…something.


Anonymous: My system does not require age information in any application process, but work experience and expertise mean that age is not completely removed from view. Internal policy is to offer openly based on whether or not certain education requirements or expertise requirements are fulfilled. In practice, level of experience can sometimes affect whether or not we look at an application. If someone has a ton of experience and are used to working in multiple library systems, but are applying for a library intern position, we will likely pick a less experienced candidate who may benefit more from getting their foot into libraries. When we’re dealing with librarian level or just more challenging positions, expertise is actually seen as a benefit. So I think this comes down to making sure you’re aware of the kind of position you’re going for and not underestimating your experience.

One issue that I see come up in hiring processes is that librarianship now requires a lot more technical skills. Making sure that that is clear in your resume is honestly more important than anything else. Showing that you know what modern librarianship means is really what’s important. As an example, we actually passed over a younger internal candidate for a position because an older candidate with more experience and a better vision for the position had applied.

If you’ve been in libraries for a while, you probably have a good idea of trends. Take advantage of that long-term vision and make sure the hiring manager can recognize it too


Christian Zabriskie, Executive Director, Onondaga County Public Library: It’s all about the energy. I had a colleague who referred to herself as “the resident Q-tip” because of her white bobbed hair. She had the highest energy, the best attitude, and the most drive of anyone in the work group. Bring your best to the interview, talk about something new you read that you think would work well. Don’t make excuses for yourself in your head when you interview. “I hope they overlook X” is going to make you feel like whatever X may be, it is the only thing that matters.

Older folks who have been in the profession for a while will want to show that they are up on new ideas and are not going to be doing a stale storytime. Younger professionals will want to show where they have shouldered responsibility. Stereotypes stink but people bring them to the table so make sure you are covering yourself. If you are going for a position with leadership responsibilities it is important to show that you are around for a period of years. This is less of an issue for front line work and part time desk/cataloging coverage work, those are longer term skills that are fairly interchangeable between libraries and locations so lean into your flexibility and classic reference chops.

I once had a new hire ask me what my policy was on tattoos in the workforce, my reply was “they are not required”. Show your best genuine self and that energy and conviction will shine out in your interview.


Thanks for reading! We’d love to hear what you think!

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The most common mistake the hiring body makes is not sending the questions for a phone interview in advance

Larry Eames (he/him/his) is an Instruction Librarian based in Colorado Springs. 

He is a chronic search committee member and a part of the CU system Search Advocate Program which aims to reduce bias in the hiring process and enhance equity and diversity in hiring practices. He tweets @liblarrian.

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

A search committee is convened after the job description has been written by the supervisor of the position in question. In this meeting the dean (hiring authority) and the supervisor of the position lay out their expectations for the process. The job is then posted for 5-6 weeks before the priority deadline. The chair of the search committee is let into the HR system to be able to answer questions candidates may have about their applications throughout the process but the rest of the committee is only let into the talent acquisition portal after the priority deadline. Ideally every committee member reviews all applications, but if there are too many the chair will segment the applications so at least two people review each. Based on a rubric in which the candidates are rated y/n on the minimum qualifications and on a 1-5 scale for the preferred qualifications 10 or so candidates are selected for a “phone screener.” This is actually over Teams or HireVue. Based on those interviews, the committee convenes again to choose 3-4 people to invite to campus for in-person interviews. These usually go for about a day and include meetings with the department the position is in, the dean, other relevant stakeholders, and a job talk. The committee convenes after these on-campus interviews to rank the finalists and deliver pros and cons for each to the dean who makes the final hiring decision. I have been a search committee member in this process and am currently a search committee chair.

Titles hired: Electronic Resources Acquisitions Professional, Associate Dean, Online Learning Librarian, Instructional Assessment Librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Other: EDI statement, portfolio if relevant

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

They told their story really well in their cover letter. They addressed each element of the required and preferred qualifications clearly so we didn’t have to read between the lines and they narrated their experience rather than regurgitating their cv.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Not respecting patron privacy/generally not adhering to professional ethics.

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

n/a

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

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

I think the most common mistake the hiring body makes is not sending the questions for a phone interview in advance. I think the mistake that candidates make most frequently is not pausing to consider their answers when they need to. It’s 100% ok to say “I need a moment to think about that” and then answer and to ask any clarifying, follow up questions.

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

We conduct virtual first round interviews. I don’t think I have anything to add beyond basic advice: watch your lighting (it’s good to be able to see your whole face and not have any campfire shadows) and sit comfortably. Sitting comfortably will help you present your best self.

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?

Make clear statements about how your paraprofessional, non-volunteer, and non-library work reflects the qualifications listed in the job description. Don’t make reviewers read between the lines.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

Colorado requires salary transparency by state law.

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

We use a rubric to ensure we are all using the same language and standards to evaluate candidates. We also explicitly discuss common ways for bias to enter the hiring conversation like “cultural fit.” In the search committee I’m currently chairing, we’ll be introducing a new, uniform mechanism for gathering feedback from non-committee members during the on-campus interview.

In my experience, we do a good job of mitigating bias, but there are still structural issues and I think I would have to have a fully external perspective to identify all of them. In the search I’m currently involved in I was able to eliminate most of the physical requirements listed in the job description but unfortunately couldn’t fully eliminate the category. As this is my first time chairing, something I’m being especially proactive about looking for are ways we might make assumptions about candidate needs especially around accessibility.  

At the system level, I went through training to join the Search Advocate Program which aims to enhance equity and inclusion in the search process. This is still a nascent program for us so I have yet to see how that will be put into practice on my campus, but I gather that the intention at the very least is to have a trained search advocate on every search committee to promote better, more inclusive, less biased searches.

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

What was the most controversial thing to happen on campus or in the community recently? What is your organization’s strategy for retaining diverse talent? How did this position come open?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southwestern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Academic, Southwestern US, Suburban area

You’d be surprised at how many candidates arrive for an on-site interview underprepared

John is currently the Head of Information Technology and Collections at Coastal Carolina University.  He has worked in academic library technology for over 30 years and is a former patent holder and co-founder of Journal Finder, the first OpenURL Resolver and knowledge base to go into production in the United States.  

Throughout his career, John has focused on identifying and implementing innovative uses of technology in the provision of library services, online user privacy protection, and improving the user experience for accessing online resources.  He is an active member of the Coalition for Seamless Access.

You may remember his answers to the survey What Should Candidates Learn in Library School and to the Further Questions feature. I appreciate his contributions!

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

We post the job ad, the committee reviews applicants and conducts on-site interviews.  We then make a final recommendation to the University Librarian, who then approves (typically pro forma).  If the position is in my department, I typically serve as the Chair of the Search Committee, but I sometimes serve as a search committee member on other searches.  

Titles hired include: Collection Strategies Librarian, Electronic Resources Librarian, Library Systems Administrator, Digital Initiatives Librarian, Web Development and Emerging Technologies Librarian, Head of Collection Management, etc.

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ A whole day of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: Yes but only for yes/no minimum requirement questions; e.g., “do you have an MLIS,” or “do you have two years experience.  We don’t use this for other questions to avoid having qualified candidates unknowingly excluded from our applicant pool due to a wrong answer or system error.  

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

They obviously knew their stuff and didn’t inflate their knowledge and experience. As importantly, they were able to communicate this in a way that was specific to the position for which they were applying.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Doesn’t meet minimum requirements or has obviously written a boilerplate cover letter.  [Note:  any librarian with search committee experience can easily identify a generic cover letter that has obviously been written and submitted for numerous positions.  If an applicant doesn’t have the time to write a letter that speaks to their experience and knowledge for the advertised job and how the library would benefit from hiring them, then the search committee certainly isn’t interested in considering the application.  

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

How they’ll interact with their colleagues after 6-12 months on the job – after the honeymoon period is over.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

Resume: √ We don’t ask for this

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

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

Overstating their knowledge or experience in their application package that they clearly can’t support in the phone or on-site interview. Also, you’d be surprised at how many candidates arrive for an on-site interview underprepared, have a negative attitude, and complain about their current place of employment and the people with whom they work.  Projecting a positive, solutions-based attitude goes a long way in impressing potential employers. 

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

Yes. I’d recommend dressing as if you were on-campus interviewing, and be just as animated and engaging. Virtual interviewees sometimes show up overly comfortable or just flat/disinterested.

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?

For all candidates, take any knowledge and experience you’ve  learned along the way and translate its appropriateness to the job for which you’re applying in the cover letter. Simply listing a list of jobs you’ve held (in or outside the industry) w/o articulating how it speaks to the current position is of little benefit to the candidate.  For paraprofessionals, it’s important to get as much experience in as many operational areas of the library as possible.  Opportunities typically abound in their current places of employment to allow them to volunteer for time-limited projects in other departments, or to sit at the reference desk or teach one-shot library instruction classes.  Not only will that enhance one’s knowledge, but this strongly indicates a person who is motivated, takes initiative, and is willing to get outside of their comfort zone to make themselves a well-rounded librarian with a broad, marketable skill set.  

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

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

DEI and EEO training.

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

Take the time to read a library’s strategic plan/mission statement, observe what library systems and platforms are in production, and what major initiatives are being undertaken.  This will enable the candidate to ask more intelligent, relevant questions about the job/library/university, and lets the search committee know that they took the time to prepare for the interview.  

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Southeastern US, Suburban area

Sometimes I fear they don’t know where we are located

Image: Bibliotecárias_nas_Biblioteca_Popular_de_Botafogo,_Rio_de_Janeiro,_1957 via Wikimedia Commons

This interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Assistant library director

Titles hired include:

Librarian. Library supervisors. Library aides. Library generalist. Lots of stuff.

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Other: Supervisor recommends, director has final approval.

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

√ Online application

√ Supplemental Questions

√ 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:

Review job post and supplemental questions to make sure we are presenting job well/getting info we need. Post/promote. Review applications. Phone screen top 5-10. Interview with 2 people 3-5. Final interview with director, more casual meeting with more stuff 1 or maybe 2. Call references. Sent to HR for hire, background check, etc.

What are your instant dealbreakers?

1) Incomplete application. Blow off online application and say stuff like “see resume”.

2) Lots of errors. I once had a candidate spell their own name wrong (multiple spellings of their name in application process)

3) Application and resume don’t match. Say you have 5+ years of customer service, doesn’t translate to anything you listed.

4) People who say stuff like “I want to work in a quiet and calm library because I love to read.”

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

If you live far away, acknowledge that and say, “I want to relocate.” Sometimes I fear they don’t know where we are located. Or they just want any job, not this job. Or not this location. Do you WANT to live in this state?? Do you understand the cost of living here? Does this region of the country interest you? Why are you even applying?

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

CV: √ We don’t ask for this

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

They don’t come with questions for us. They haven’t even looked at our website to find out about us. Challenge me- ask why I like working here. Ask how we responded to COVID. Ask about our new building project. Ask about something that relates to the job. Ask to see your future work space. Ask me something!

Talking super negative about former employers. Think ahead about how you want to frame stuff. You know there will be some kind of questions that touches on your past work. If you don’t want to work for “a jerk”, try to ask questions that get to what matters to you. Ask what they do to try and help employees succeed. Ask what they do if an employee is struggling. Ask how they respect work /life balance. Interviewing is like dating. You don’t want to marry the wrong person as much as they don’t want to marry the wrong person.

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

We did for sure during COVID. And will for distance candidates for first round of interviews. They should still put in effort. Don’t wear a baseball cap and T-shirt (real example). I know it is not ideal or fair, but try to get a neutral background. Seeing a closed door right behind you is better than a messy kitchen. If we want a second interview we expect you to come in person. And I expect that you will be able to make an in person interview happen within a 2 week(ish) period. (See long distance applications issues above)

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?

Work on tech skills. You don’t have to have a degree. You can learn excel from online stuff. Customer service experience is highly valued. If you have worked waiting tables you for sure can deal with someone fighting about a $0.10 fine. Don’t be afraid to lean in on those past experiences. I value those experiences. So should you!

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?

Working on this. Have really been pushing staff about how they view (for example) education. If job calls for high school diploma or equivalent- that is either met or not met. You don’t get “extra points” for a college degree or masters. Very much trying to figure out how to get our job ads out to our diverse community. Would love article about this!

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

I address this above.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southwestern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author?

If no one is calling you, your application is probably boring or generic. You can set yourself apart by valuing your past experience and bragging on it. The only person who is there to tell me how awesome you are is YOU! You didn’t work as a waiter from 2015-2019 at Denny’s. You worked in the 15th busiest Denny’s in the state. You were promoted to shift manager. You talked your boss into getting a second soda machine. You regularly juggled up to 8 tables. You have a customer satisfaction rating of 4.4, which was the highest at that branch. Tell me how awesome you are!!

Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not trying 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.

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Public, Suburban area