Someone with expertise in an area we don’t have is usually attractive – something like e-resource management, coding and technical skills, archives, etc.

Rose Bush. From the UC Berkeley Library Digital Collection

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Director

Titles hired include: Reference and Instruction Librarian, Circulation Assistant, Circulation Staff, ILL Staff

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

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

The library staff write the position description for approval by HR.  We create a selection committee of 3-5 people (usually supervisor, a coworker, and someone from outside the library).  We have access to applications and review candidates, and choose 5-8 for interviews.  For most positions, after interviews, we choose a candidate and do reference checks (our HR requires two, one of which must be supervisory), then HR approves the hire and calls to make the offer.  For any MLS required position, there may be a second interview with administration above the library director.

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

Candidates that are attractive have specific experience that fills a hole in my library.  We are a staff of 5, so someone with expertise in an area we don’t have is usually attractive – something like e-resource management, coding and technical skills, archives, etc.  It’s also impressive when candidates are able to answer interview questions with relevant examples that demonstrate their experience – many candidates try to do this, but are often too vague.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

If someone didn’t follow the directions in the posting, they usually don’t make my interview list, unless there aren’t many candidates.

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

As a very small community college in a rural area in the midwest, I’m always curious why people from out of state are applying, or why people very over qualified for the position are applying.  Answering those questions in a cover letter could be helpful.

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: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

In situational questions, saying “I don’t know how I would handle that” or “I’ve never been in that situation before” without speculating about how they would handle it.  In general, just being short with answers and not providing details or not connecting their experience to the question.

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

Yes we do.  Make sure you’re in a quiet location with a generally not-distracting background, with a functional camera and mic.  Make eye contact with the camera, and be as engaging as you would be in person.

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?

Focus on skills – someone with k-12 education experience knows a lot about curriculum and organization and deadlines.  Someone with retail experience has skills in dealing with patrons and answering phones, and potentially social media and marketing or inventory management.  Those are all things we’re looking for, so just make sure to take the time to explain the tasks that you have done and how they are similar to what we do in libraries.  With my small staff, I’m often looking for someone comfortable making decisions on their own and responsible enough to work alone sometimes – highlight those kinds of skills, it doesn’t matter what the decision was about.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: We list a range in the job ad, and that’s all I can speak to at the interview.  HR determines their salary based on education and experience, and discusses specifics in the offer.

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

We have required EDI training before being placed on a selection committee.  All committees have a person of color serving on them, and ideally a mix of genders as well.  HR also reviews interview selections, and sometimes adds additional candidates to ensure diversity.  Because of the size of our institution, the same people keep getting asked to be on interview committees, which is not a fair ask.  

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

I just want them to ask something.  I don’t mind if they ask about salary or benefits, but like it when they ask something about the library or the job too.  Questions about management style, daily work and responsibilities, interaction with other departments, the college or library in general – all of that is good.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10 

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 0-10 staff members, 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Midwestern US, Rural area

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