We’d rather wait a few seconds and get a well-thought out answer!

Headshot of Alan Smith. He wears glasses, a white shirt and tie.

Alan Smith is Director of the Florence County, SC Library System and holds a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of South Carolina. 

Over the past 20 years he has worked in rural, urban, and suburban public libraries, in a wide variety of roles.

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

I send all applications to the position’s direct supervisor and let them choose who to interview (I will sometimes add in a name too). We interview with a 3-person panel consisting of me, the position’s direct supervisor, and another manager. We rotate other managers in and out and always keep the panel as diverse as possible. After interviewing we score individually and discuss. I defer to the direct supervisor if our opinions differ.

After all this they go through our county’s background check and drug test.  

Titles hired include: Everything! From Branch Library Managers, Information Services Manager, Youth Services Coordinator, Training and Outreach Coordinator, to Pages, Library Assistants, Custodian, Maintenance, Courier…

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

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

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?

She had a wide variety of experience, none of it in libraries, but really convincingly demonstrated how those skills and experiences would translate to our mission and values. 

Interviews are limited in what they can tell you — and I’ve hired folks with great interviews who turned out not to be great employees — but someone who gives a pleasant interview with thoughtful answers is at least demonstrating that they can do well in a stressful personal interaction, which is a pretty good indicator of customer service skills.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Sounds obvious, but people who don’t show up for an interview and don’t call. We’ve had people do a complete no-show and then continue applying for other positions?! 

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

What kind of coworker are they? Will they help resolve conflicts among other employees or will they just enjoy watching drama unfold? Will they add to or strain social cohesion on the team?

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: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Feeling like they have to answer immediately and not giving themselves a second to think about their answers. We’d rather wait a few seconds and get a well-thought out answer! And, people who are clearly reluctant to talk about their own accomplishments and virtues. This is where you toot your own horn! 

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

Occasionally. Number one is site preparation – interview from a quiet, distraction free environment (as much as is within your control). 

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?

I’m more concerned whether candidates have done work aligned around a mission or set of values, and whether they have experience building good community relationships and/or working with customers, than whether they have done those things in a library setting. 

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 always use a 3-person panel with members of different races and genders. That doesn’t eliminate individual unconscious bias, of course, but we try to acknowledge it in our discussions about candidates. I do worry about discrimination baked into the process itself, i.e., which candidates’ applications do we never even receive because we didn’t advertise where they would see it, didn’t convince them we were the type of place they would be welcome, etc. 

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

Asking any kind of questions shows a level of interest and critical thinking that we’re really looking for. I like to hear questions about culture and environment (“What’s a typical day like here?” “What do you like most or least about the job?”), and questions about the overall organization’s direction (“What are the library’s top priorities?” “What would a successful person in this position be doing a year from now?”)

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: Very limited remote options during early phases of COVID; our County required all-onsite after May 2020.

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? 

I’m always interested in hearing feedback on specific interview questions — questions that are especially illuminating, or well-known questions that are useless. Maybe beyond the scope of this survey though.

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, Public, Rural area, Southeastern US, Suburban area, Urban area

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