They had questions pertaining to the work of our specialized library although they had no background in our type of librarianship.

A white man with glasses sits at a desk holding an open booklet
Folger Library. Mr. Slade, librarian at Folger Library. From the Library of Congress.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Special Library 

Title: Library Director

Titles hired include: Medical Librarian; Library Tech

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor 

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

√ Online application

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ 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:

Online application including screening questions. We are in a healthcare system so applicants must agree to vaccination willingness. Screened applicants are sent to the library director for review, then informal phone interviews where schedule, salary, any questions are discussed. Applicant then moved to interview with other library staff, also done online as we are geographically separate. Chosen candidate then offered the position through HR.

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

They had done research on our organization, asked questions about how the library fit into the overall goals of the health system, and had spent time looking at clinical databases. Mostly they had questions pertaining to the work of our specialized library although they had no background in our type of librarianship. 

What are your instant dealbreakers?

Lack of curiosity. Very few of our candidates have experience in our specialization and showing no interest in the resources we use (freely available) is a quick end to an interview. Lack of professionalism as well. We work with high level administrators, nurses, research scientists and physicians. They all must be treated respectfully and kindly, mostly through emails and we will judge the emails you send us as a preview of what will be sent to our patrons.

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

How well a candidate handles day to day variability. When we are a little slower will they look for other tasks that need to be completed or take on expanding their own education.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this  

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 showing any natural curiosity about our organization or work.

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

Yes. We do not turn on cameras so it is more like a big phone conversation. Just take a minute and breathe. We do a lot of virtual teaching and need candidates to be comfortable in this format.

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?

We take on candidates with very little experience in our type of librarianship. Having a background in ILL is great, but someone coming from retail is always helpful as well. Show me that you are interested in what we do, that you have initiative by learning about our work and the resources we use and we can have a great conversation. Someone that shows they are truly interested in our field will always outrank someone with experience but is just looking to get out of a library they dislike. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: I usually bring it up at the beginning of our phone interview. As in, this is when I need you to work and this is the salary range, does that work and would you like to proceed? Our pre-screen from HR asks for a range, we can usually meet or beat it. 

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

All of our interviews are virtual, but we keep cameras off. 

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

What role does the library play in the organization? Do you see your library growing in the future? Do you participate in research? Can I do my own library based research?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ Other: 6 library staff members; 9,000 associates

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? 

I would add a question about how you think your library pays in relation to similar systems in your area.

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, Northeastern US, Special, Suburban area, Urban area

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