It’s okay if you don’t have experience working as a librarian, but you need to demonstrate that you can think like a librarian

Gemma Doyle is currently the Collection Development Manager at EBSCO, managing a team of other collection development librarians for the Books program. She spent over a decade as a paraprofessional in various library systems in the US and Canada before becoming a librarian. She worked in public and special libraries before moving over to the library vendor sphere with EBSCO. 

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

The application is screened by HR for bare essentials (MLS, etc.), phone screen by hiring manager or HR, first full interview by hiring manager, second interview by members of the team (2-3 people)

Titles hired include: Collection Management Specialist 1/Collection Management Specialist 2

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor 

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

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ References

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

The candidate had extensive experience in library work: had worked in different kinds of libraries, had supervisory experience, had handled a large budget used over multiple library departments, and had extensive achievements under each of these points of experience.  Their wide breadth of experience meant that they were comfortable doing just about any aspect of librarianship.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Someone who is inflexible and doesn’t have the ability to self-motivate will not last in this environment.  We work with so many stakeholders, and the work has such a fast pace that flexibility and motivation qualities in candidates really are necessary.

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

What they work like under pressure; how they really handle conflict.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more  

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

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

For jobs with us in particular, I would say making assumptions about the job even after we explain its requirements.  Library vendor work can be very different from working in an actual library, and it’s hard to convey fully to candidates what a corporate, for-profit environment can be like to work in as compared to working in a library, even if the job is for librarians. Some candidates may find that’s not an environment they thrive in if they’ve never experienced it.

In general, I think candidates want so much to sell themselves to the interviewer that they forget that interviewing should be a two-way street.  They should be asking a lot of questions to determine if they job is actually right for them, too. 

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

Yes – every position on our team is permanently remote, so we do all interviewing virtually, even if they are local candidates.  As for shining, mostly the same things in a face-to-face interview – preparation, double-checking time zones, etc. but also try not to let any technical difficulties throw you for a loop.  Interviews are nerve-wracking for everyone, including the interviewer, but dealing with issues as they arise and being flexible around them is going to give everyone a good impression.  

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?

I spent a lot of my early career as a paraprofessional, so I understand some of the nuances of making that transition. Mostly, I think it comes down to mindset.  It’s okay if you don’t have experience working as a librarian, but you need to demonstrate that you can think like a librarian.  While you can answer the “tell me about a time when” questions using paraprofessional examples, you should also throw in “as a librarian, I would” answers. I’m going to want to know that I don’t need to train you on how a librarian should handle certain things, or even explain that there are differences there.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the information provided at the interview (in the phone screen)

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

Every candidate is asked the same questions in the same order (with follow up questions relevant to them, of course); all interviewers attend anti-bias classes before hiring begins. The training is only as good as the intentions of those doing the hiring, and HR doesn’t really monitor the actual hiring process or ask candidates for feedback on the process, which I think would be helpful.

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

What’s the day-to-day job like? Is there an onboarding and training plan in place? What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the job and the organization? are the ones that I think will give candidates insight on what it’s really like to work here.  The most important thing for them to know is that working for a for-profit company is going to sometimes be at odds with the ideals of librarianship, mostly in small ways but some big ones.  We try to stress that in interviews with candidates, but culture shock still hits hard whenever we hire anyone new. Candidates should definitely try to get a feel for the organization so they can make a choice that feels good for them.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions (our team is all remote)

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+  

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 200+ staff members, Northeastern US, Other Organization or Library Type, Suburban area

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.