Further Questions: What questions would you ask job hunters?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

I’m working on a new Hiring Librarians survey which will be a reboot of the survey of job hunters that ran from December 2012 to January 2016 and gathered 587 responses. This week’s question is designed to help me write it:

If you could survey a bunch of job hunters about their needs and experiences, what questions would you ask (and why)?


Anonymous Federal Librarian: If I could survey job hunters, I would ask them about how they view the job postings. Is there anything on a posting that stands out as being attractive? Anything that they see that is a red flag and means they won’t apply? Are they more focused on what type of library it is or what the job is? Does the reputation of the library play any part in their decision to apply or not? If the candidate applies and gets an interview, what makes a good interview for them? What tactics have hiring manager or hiring panel made the candidate feel at ease and confident?  I would want to know these things so that not only would our library stand out, but that we are ensuring that we are representing our library in the best way possible.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: One of the first questions I think I would like to ask job hunters is what specific step of the job search process do they wish would go away and why? This includes submitting statements (teaching philosophy, etc.), phone/video interviews, in-person interviews, or even smaller components like the “dinner/breakfast with search committee members,” or “meeting with XXX.” I have probably missed others. We talk about which of those pieces we don’t find useful, or perhaps even enjoyable. It would be helpful to know what active job seekers think. If I, as someone doing hiring, thinks a particular part of the process is really critical, it would probably help me to have a more up-to-date understanding of how that same request or activity might be stressful. When I applied for my current position I had been a library director for twelve years. I experienced being a candidate in a very different way than I had early in my career.

A few other possibilities:

  • What is one piece of information that would help you during the process, or that you would want to take away, that you almost never seem to get and that you find it awkward to ask about? I am thinking here that salary is probably the response that some people would give. But it could be a range of topics.
  • How do you interpret minimum qualifications and preferred qualifications and have you ever been encouraged or discouraged from applying for a job based on either category? Here I am not thinking of someone doesn’t meet minimum qualifications, but the gray areas (education + work experience, how much the preferred qualification might “count,” etc.).
  • If you are closer to the start of your career, how often do you encounter entry-level positions that also ask for experience? This one is a pet peeve of mine. We can certainly take into account all kinds of work/practicum/internship experience that people have, but entry-level should mean just that.
  • Do you have a long-range plan for the arc of your career or a sense of how long you anticipate staying in a new job? This one just interest me. We talk a lot about how a resume looks when someone changes jobs frequently. I remained at the same institution for 22 years directly out of library school before changing job (and only applied for one).

These questions don’t lend themselves to Likert Scale, or multiple choice responses, but they make me curious.


Alan Smith, Director, Florence County, SC Library System: 

I’d love to hear from job hunters what you consider a red flag. Is there anything in a job posting (or missing from a job posting, like salary information) that discourages you from applying? 

I’m also curious about the applicant’s perspective on the details of interviewing. We try to make the interview process friendly and comfortable, both out of courtesy and respect for the applicant’s time, but also because a less stressful interview tends to produce better and more thoughtful answers. Is there anything about an interview that would make you turn down a position, or anything that would make you even more interested?


Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: I would want to know from them what they struggle with in these processes. Where are we unclear or giving seemingly conflicting information? When I was in library school, my Academic Library Management course covered the hiring process, including writing a resume/CV and cover letters/letters of application. I was the only student in the class applying for/interviewing for jobs at the time and the class followed my whole process! I think the hiring processes are so different in differing types of librarianship that it would be difficult if you were applying at different library types. For example, in academic jobs, you don’t need to have an objective in your resume and your resume and letter should/can be more than one page each. I think most academic hiring managers would welcome an email from an applicant asking for clarification, but applicants may be afraid of doing that.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: These are the questions I would LOVE for someone to answer!

When seeking professional positions – do you have a “formula” for identifying the ones that look good for you? 

If you have a formula for identifying positions for application, are these formulaic pieces of information prioritized?

What are deal breakers for you in seeking employment? 

What keywords do you look for in job advertisements? Is there a keyword – when seeing it – that makes you avoid applying? Is there a keyword – when seeing it – that makes you apply for that job? or any job with the organization?

Does anyone ever say (anymore) “I want to go to that organization because I want to work for x.” (Someone you have heard speak? Someone whose reputation is exemplary in general? in an area of expertise you want?

Do you assess the tech opportunities in organizations before applying? (Example – Do you look for organizations known to be “high tech” or “cutting edge?” Do you determine if you get new equipment in a timely manner? The software you need?)

Given that almost every applicant I have every interviewed asks if they will be supported in their professional development AND given that very few organizations – and especially now – provide “it all” or are able to honor requests – how important is that “ask?” 

Are there sources you limit your search to? That is, only professional association publications? only specific online e-discussion groups or e-lists?

Do you see the mega-job banks as advantageous to you? helpful at all? (Example – Indeed? Monster.com? Linked In? 

Is there value in the new job seeking registration services higher ed is using in their career initiatives? (Example – Handshake?)

How much research do you do – as you decide what job to apply for – on an institution prior to applying?

For recent graduate school graduates – what is the best advice they have given you in your search? (Do you use the career center? Work with your professors?)

If you choose to network to find positions, what is the best approach you have used? or heard about? (Example – Using Linked In?, Contacting alumni? Field experience/internship/capstone contacts? What else?)

Do you plan out your next five to six years of employment or do you focus on “your first (or next) job?”


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or chanted under the full moon. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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