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

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, Academic, Southeastern US, Suburban area

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