Nobody cares how long you sit at your desk, you are judged by what you accomplish

An older white man with an interesting striped coat sits in front of a book. A picture of a woman and vase of flowers are behind him.
Joseph C. Rowell, retired librarian of University of California. From UC Berkeley Library Archives

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Professor

Titles hired include: Subject specialist librarian (assistant prof rank)

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

√ Employees at the position’s same level (on a panel or otherwise)

√ Other: the committee may include a faculty member from the area the librarian will be supporting

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

√ Other: Prior to a formal job offer, the proof of degree is just a copy of unofficial (free) transcripts. Official transcripts are only required from the person who gets the job offer. We also require a presentation, but not in the form of a demonstration

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: We use an online system, but we haven’t been approved to hire since we got it. I think that’s an option not a requirement.

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

My role depends on the committee, which depends on the position we’re hiring for. We also haven’t had a position approved since the pandemic started. If we get approved, we will explore virtual options to replace the on-campus interviews.  

A committee is formed, generally consisting of 5 people, including 2-4 people from the department the position is in, one staff member, and maybe one faculty member from another discipline, as appropriate for the role. The hiring committee drafts the job ad, including requirements, and gets approval from the dean. And then the ad is posted to various job sites and email lists. After the deadline, we review applications and select 6-9 candidates for a round of phone interviews. Of those, we select 3 candidates to invite for on-campus interviews, which are full day interviews. The candidate usually flies in the day before and rents a car to drive to the area (1 hour from the airport), which gives them more freedom to explore the area. The interview day was grueling for all of us, starting around 8 or 8:30am, and ending with dinner around 5:30 or 6 – how that conversation went determined how late it would be when the candidate would be dropped off back at their hotel. And then the candidate traveled home the following day. 

After all interviews, the committee would discuss the candidates and agree on who to make the offer to and how to proceed if that person turned the offer down (would we be happy with another candidate as the second choice or would it become a failed search?). If the supervisor is NOT on the committee, then the committee outlines its decision to the supervisor. The supervisor conveys the committee decision to the dean, who then gets whatever higher approvals are needed. And then the supervisor calls the candidate to make an offer. 

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

In the last search I chaired, there was one candidate who really wowed us on paper and on the phone. Honestly, I don’t remember why, though. There was another candidate who looked good on paper, but seemed a bit awkward in the phone interview – timing was off since nobody could see body language. Both were invited to on-campus interviews. The first candidate was good with the short answers and small talk, but the second candidate stood out as really thoughtful, asking questions that showed they were really listening to what we said and putting pieces together, and thinking strategically about things. We made the offer to that second candidate. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

poor understanding of how structural oppression works; poor treatment of anyone “below” the rank they’ll be hired into; microaggressive behaviors

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

I can’t think of anything now

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more  

Resume: √ We don’t ask for this  

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant 

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

Failing to interview us as well

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

We haven’t, but we plan to explore this in the future

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?

The complaint I hear most about people transitioning from parapro work to faculty positions is that they don’t really understand the difference between the two. It may not be as significant in academic libraries where librarians are staff, but here we are tenure track faculty, which entails a lot more self-motivated work on your own schedule. Nobody cares how long you sit at your desk, you are judged by what you accomplish, including publications and conference presentations, serving on committees at all levels (university, system, prof org), in addition to core functions within the library. 

For a position as a subject librarian in my department, experience as a school teacher is more visibly relevant than work at a circulation desk. So what did you do at that circulation desk that connects with what we do? Did you answer reference questions? Did you take initiative to build your knowledge of resources available to support students in particular subject areas? How did that prepare you to build relationships as an equal (not providing a service to them but collaborating as a peer) with faculty across campus? 

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?

I’ve written too much and am running out of time! We attend conference presentations and keep up on current literature on best practices to reduce bias as much as possible. 

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

Read up on suggestions for questions to learn about the climate (is this a toxic workspace?). And think about all the info you get thru the day in order to ask questions that show you’re thinking strategically about how you fit and how you could succeed in this role. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Rural

√ Other: About an hour from a good sized city, many faculty commute, but the uni is in a small town.

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, Rural area, Southeastern US

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