Doesn’t the MLS itself promote bias as a gatekeeping mechanism?

Charles Benjamin Norton, publisher and bookseller; Seth Hastings Grant, librarian at the New York Mercantile Library; and Daniel Coit Gilman, assistant librarian at Yale at the first annual meeting of American librarians, From the Library of Congress

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Special Library

Title: Program Manager

Titles hired include: Electronic Resources Librarian, Acquisitions Librarian, Reference Librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

√ 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

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes

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

Applications are submitted to USAJobs and reviewed by HR. HR creates one or more cert lists and highlights candidates who have preference (veterans, etc). Resumes and cover letters are included with the cert list(s), though sometimes we can tell that we are missing paperwork (i.e. a cover letter doesn’t come attached but is referenced in a resume, etc). Resumes are evaluated against a matrix and assigned points. The candidates with the highest number of points are given short-notice to attend an interview the next week. They participate in one 1-hour interview, and each candidate is asked the exact same questions by the exact same panel members. Panelists rank the responses against another written matrix and compare scores only after all interviews are complete. The panel then provides a recommendation and a back-up recommendation to the hiring manager, who will then start contacting references and evaluate. 

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

They were obviously so skilled, but also so polite and lively

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Attitude and tone, though it’s not a problem for others. I’m trying to heal my organization’s culture.

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

What did they think of us? Would they be happy here?

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this  

Resume: √ As many as it takes, I love reading

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Losing track of time – you have to answer all questions within the same 60 minutes assigned to all candidates – if you skip or miss a question, I have to give you a score of 0 on it, and no matter how great your other answers were, this will drive down your score.

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

Yes. Great question! BE EARLY, at least 5 minutes early. Make sure your microphone and headset is working. It’s hard to keep animals and kids quiet, but at least keep other adults out of the room. It’s hard not to talk over people, so it’s okay to say “over” when your answer is complete. 

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?

Use the STAR method whenever answering questions and please tell stories that help me understand

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?

Another great question – doesn’t the MLS itself promote bias as a gatekeeping mechanism?

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

Ask about culture, fit, and what a typical day might look like

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern 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

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

Note – our resumes HAVE to be long (federal gov). I have had to throw away WONDERFUL resumes that are too short to make it past the first round of scoring. I have a matrix that I HAVE to follow and if your resume doesn’t address every little thing, it’s not going to make it or score high enough. I can’t stand letting go of great candidates just because they have a one or two page resume, it makes me so sad. I can’t reach out to them to ask them to send a resubmission. Plus the first person to look at your resume is NOT a librarian – help them understand why you’re qualified by using every single keyword you can think of. 

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, 10-50 staff members, Southwestern US, Special, Urban area

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