We often have tight scheduling for interviews and wasting 10 mins while an applicant gets their microphone to work is problematic

A white lady in sunglasses and 1980s sweater smiles
Esther Johnson. Arbor Day Celebration – 1984. Photo by Norden H. (Dan) Cheatham From UC Berkeley Library Digital Collections.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: User Experience Librarian/Head of Access Services

Titles hired include: Library Assistant, Student Assistant, Research & Instruction Librarian, Systems 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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

HR posts the job and all members of the hiring committee can see applicants. We use a rubric/metrics tailored to the job to assess all applicants and then meet to sort them into categories including yes, no, maybe. Depending on the job we will either have one round of on-campus interviews (assistants) or for librarians we will have two rounds including a first round phone interview. My role depends on whether or not I am head of the search committee, if I am head then I work with HR to post and market the position, create the rubric and interview questions, and do all of the work to contact and arrange interviews and follow-up references and then submit the decision and paperwork for approval. If I am a member of the committee I complete the necessary reviews and take part in the interviews as directed and then attend meetings to discuss applicants. 

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

Their cover letter was perfectly tailored to our position. Every requirement we listed they specifically addressed how they met it or how they might meet it. During the interview they were very articulate and had a student-centered view of instruction. They also didn’t shy away from discussing tough topics surrounding inclusion and social justice. Additionally, they asked very thoughtful questions about our institution that showed they had done some prior research. All combined, it gave the sense that they really wanted this specific position. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Not necessarily, if someone has the wrong library listed in their cover letter I tend to put them into the “no” pile and that does happen in our library assistant searches fairly frequently. 

I am also hesitant of PhD holders and former faculty members who are seeking to switch into libraries as their cover letters don’t often show a full understanding of the work that libraries do. 

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

While this can change as people develop, I wish I had a better sense of what candidates are looking for long-term. Is this position a stepping stone to something else? Do they really want to work in public libraries and are just applying to everything that comes along? 

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?

Not owning up to something that they aren’t familiar with and instead having a rambling non-answer to a question. I appreciate a person saying that they don’t have a ton of experience with a specific product or situation and asking for clarification about how we would handle something. 

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

Yes we do. I think testing the technology ahead of time is a good idea. We often have tight scheduling for interviews and wasting 10 mins while an applicant gets their microphone to work is problematic. Also, if cameras are on they should be looking at the screen the same way we would expect them to be making eye contact with us in an in-person interview. 

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 library assistant positions, we’re looking for people who have customer services and supervisory skills. Library experience is helpful but we’d prioritize a person who knows how to manage people and handle a fast paced environment. The same is true when we hire Systems or Technology positions, the systems might be different but if you can demonstrate that you have competence in managing data or working in networks, then we assume that you can extend those to library products. 

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?

HR collects demographic information and will specifically tell us if there are certain candidates that they would like us to reconsider based on this information. We also send applicants copies of our questions ahead of time to reduce any issues for those who need more time to process information. We try our best to overlook simple grammatical and spelling errors that could be attributed to language barriers but we could stand to improve on that. 

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

I usually like for them to ask what a typical day/week is like. I want them to ask what we like about working for the library. Questions about the tenure process are usually helpful. I think that they should know about where we are geographically and how that impacts the types of students we encounter. I think they should have a sense of how large (or small) our staff is and what the work environment is like. I also think they should know about our tenure process and the criteria that they will be evaluated on. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

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

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