Most people have not heard of us before applying with us

A group of four white people are having a discussion in front of book shelves. One man looks bemused.
Image: Special Collections Tour with Dr. and Mrs. Arnfield From Flickr user Topeka Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for:

√ Special Library

√ Other: government library

Title: Librarian

Titles hired include: library technicians & librarians

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

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

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes

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

HR pre-screens initial applicants. Those deemed qualified are passed to the hiring panel (where I would be), who assess & invite ~4 candidates for interviews. References are checked and the hiring manager makes the final selection based on all the information gathered. The selection is passed back to HR, who extend the offer. 

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

Part of it was out of their control by the time they got to the interview: they had experience working with a niche type of materials our library offers. Part of it was in their control: They expressed a genuine interest in us and made the interview a conversation with give & take on both sides, both revealing the breadth & depth of their experience and knowledge and giving a small insight into what they would be like as a colleague. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Revealing they over-stretched the truth of their experience & expertise on their resume

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

It’s almost impossible to assess how they’ll *really* work on a team or on complicated projects, because that’s just not testable in the average library hiring process, and self-assessment isn’t always reliable. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only one! 

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?

Not displaying any curiosity about your potential new workplace. Especially in government hiring the questions we are allowed to ask are often formulaic and can’t be personalized for each candidate. Ask us follow up questions if you think of them. When we hand the floor over to candidates for their questions, that’s the time to really dive in and get a conversation out of us. Put together thoughtful questions about the organization – ask us about upcoming projects, recent challenges, jot notes about what we mention during the questions and ask us to expand, etc. This is another way of expressing enthusiasm about the position and getting to know the people you might be working with (and vice versa) that a surprising number of candidates forgo entirely. 

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

We do. My advice: Don’t overthink it, and keep it simple. You don’t need to stare into the camera the entire time or try to make it look like you don’t live in a house. Make sure your audio & camera (if relevant) are working, have a non-distracting (decently clean, no TV blaring, etc) background, & smile. Not that different than an in person interview really.  

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?

Take a copy of the job description you’re interested in. Highlight in one color everything you have experience in, or transferable experience in, and make notes on what that experience is to make sure it’s mentioned somewhere in your resume or cover letter. Make it really easy on the committee to see your qualifications. Highlight in another color everything you don’t have experience in, and do some research, even if it’s just passively watching a webinar. Hiring managers want to know that A) you can already do something, or B) you wouldn’t be difficult to train. Saying in an interview “I’ve never done X, but I’ve watched a webinar and worked on a committee with people who did, and I see (fill in the blank of) these parallels to Y, which I’m very experienced in” goes a long way. And it’s a step further than the majority of candidates go, which will make you stand out. It is more work, yes, but if you’re stretching for a job that’s not a clear cut match for you, I strongly recommend it. Doing this is what helped me make multiple big jumps across very different types of library work in my career. 

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?

Every time a position is filled, there is a meeting to determine A) if the position really needs a masters B) how to advertise it as broadly as possible, with emphasis on under-targeted populations. If I had the power to do so I would love to see the additional step of blind reviewing materials to reduce potential name and gender bias. Appearance bias is hard to avoid with in-person or video interviews, but we try to select diverse panels and offer pre-hiring anti-bias training that helps the panel identify internalized biases as well. 

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

Most people have not heard of us before applying with us. We know that so don’t be afraid to admit it. Ask us a lot of questions about our structure, our history, our challenges, our successes, our goals, our work culture. Really dig in. As I mentioned before, what we can ask you is often structured and limited. Your questions are your time to get all the information you need, information we will happily give even if government hiring isn’t easily structured to let us offer it outright.  

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

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, Northeastern US, Other Organization or Library Type, Special, Urban area

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