Ellen Mehling has been assisting job seekers, both librarians/info pros and the public, for over 15 years. She has worked in academic libraries, special libraries, and archives, for an organization that serves libraries, as director of a library school program, and works currently as a job search advisor/instructor and for Brooklyn Public Library’s Business & Career Center. She is founder/writer/editor of BPL’s Work Life blog.
Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:
Serve as hiring manager and/or on hiring committees, reviewing resumes, on interview panels (at current and past workplaces)
Titles hired include: Librarian, Archivist, Marketing Manager
Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:
√ 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
√ Proof of degree
√ Other: interview (usually a panel)
Does your organization use automated application screening?
Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?
An archivist hired at a past job – she had done her homework about the organization, and presented herself as calm, confident, and professional, in her interview. She turned out to be a great employee.
Do you have any instant dealbreakers?
Dishonesty, including exaggeration of skills and experience.
What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?
What really happened at a past job, the real reason someone left a past position, and how things went with former supervisors and colleagues. Applicants are not always honest about these things(!), and if references aren’t checked properly and thoroughly, you can end up with a big problem. I have seen this happen more than once.
How many pages should each of these documents be?
Cover Letter: √ Only One!
Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more
CV: √ We don’t ask for this
What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?
Not preparing and practicing! This includes doing some research about the employer. Also, applicants trying to take over the interview and steer the conversation to what they want to talk about and things they want to share. The interviewer(s) is/are conducting the interview – I have learned that it is a huge red flag when an applicant is pushy and tries to take over the interview. AND dishonesty! (did I mention that already?)
Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?
Yes. Practice so you are comfortable on camera, and remember that “eye contact” = looking at the camera, not at the people on your screen. Being interviewed via Zoom or Teams or whatever is very different than just attending a meeting or presentation. Make sure the light source in the room is in front of you so you are not a faceless silhouette.
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?
Think of which skills you have already that can be applied to a different kind of work (transferable skills). Figure out what skills you may need to improve or acquire, and how you can do that. NETWORK NETWORK NETWORK! Explain (briefly) anything that needs explanation, in your cover letter and interview. It is always better if your reason for making such a transition is that you are moving toward something you want, rather than running away from something you don’t want (or a bad situation in current position).
When does your organization *first* mention salary information?
√ It’s part of the job ad
What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?
How is success measured in this position? What are the first things they will need to get up to speed on if they are hired? They should know the job description thoroughly and know about the organization too. Their knowledge of the organization doesn’t have to be comprehensive but knowing nothing is a bad look.
What part of the world are you in?
√ Northeastern US
What’s your region like?
Is your workplace remote/virtual?
√ Some of the time and/or in some positions
How many staff members are at your organization?
Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author?
I am so happy Hiring Librarians has returned. It is such a helpful resource!
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.