I really need to feel that you’ve thought through how to tackle this work and that you can do the job, or will be able to do so fairly quickly after hire

Regina Andrews (far right) and unidentified guest speakers during a Family Night at the Library program at the Washington Heights Branch of The New York Public Library. NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Coordinator of Research, Teaching & Learning

Titles hired include: Outreach Librarian; Assessment Librarian; First Year Engagement Librarian

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) 

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume 

√ References 

√ Supplemental Questions 

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Candidates typically submit cover letter, resume/CV and supplemental question RE: ALA-accredited degree). These are made available to a search committee of 3-5 staff usually including the position’s supervisor.  The committee identifies candidates for initial screening by HR; from this, 6-7 candidates are chosen for phone or Zoom interviews, and then 3 are brought to campus for a final interview.  Depending on the position, other campus stakeholders (ex, head of first-year program for FYE librarian) might be involved in this interview. The committee makes a recommendation for hire which is then approved by administration and passed on to HR (but I have never seen administration challenge the committee’s choice). I have served on 3 different search committees.

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

1 – Truly thoughtful responses to questions — she would usually pause for a moment, which initially came across as hesitation, but then would come back with something incredibly well-thought-out, well-explained, etc. 

2 – Incredible level of preparation — we would never expect this, but for her presentation she was prepared to demonstrate live, and had a back-up screencast and slides with screenshots in case of technical difficulties. When a technical issue occurred, she was not thrown off at all. She was also very aware of publicly-available info about our institution.  

3 – Solid questions for the committee. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Rudeness/condescension to department admin or student observers (or anyone else); cover letter which does not address specific position; expressing disinterest in a key component of the position

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

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

Lack of preparation. Read the job responsibilities, look at our website, have questions! I never expect a candidate to have things memorized, but our business is research, so I generally expect that you will have done some ‘research’ on our library. 

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

Yes, sometimes. Seems simple, but being right on-time (or a little early) is really important for virtual interviews. Check your tech and set-up beforehand if possible — we’ve all had glitches and interruptions and I generally give a lot of grace for that, but it can put candidates at a disadvantage not least because they often get flustered and the rest of their responses suffer. Be comfortable with some silence, because we’ll be taking notes and won’t have the visual cues in most cases. 

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 look for candidates to demonstrate some understanding of the different work they’re walking into in the cover letter, and to attempt to connect their own skills. Ex, if coming from a job where your main duty is storytime and now you’re applying to teach info lit to college students — don’t just write a paragraph repeating your storytime duties. Tell me how you’ve employed outreach, teaching and/or presentation skills in storytime and connect it to the job you’ll be doing.  If the job is very different and I don’t get the sense that a candidate has considered how to translate skills, or that they have an interest in this kind of work, it can be a turnoff. I love to see different kinds of experience — I think it generally makes for a better librarian — but usually, when I’m hiring, we’re feeling the lack of staff. So to advocate for you, I really need to feel that you’ve thought through how to tackle this work and that you can do the job, or will be able to do so fairly quickly after hire. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: A range is usually provided during initial HR screening. 

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

All candidates are asked to address their commitment to diversity in their cover letter. The head of a search committee is also typically provided with information from HR about how to conduct a fair hiring process, avoid discrimination, etc. To my knowledge, we don’t have any formal processes around this for staff hiring (I think our academic faculty do). 

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

The most important thing is that you ASK questions. So many candidates do not! Questions about workload, onboarding and/or expectations are always great and show you’ve done some thought about the day-to-day of the position. Questions about the local area or culture are also good, because it shows you’re interested in our area and have considered living there (it’s urban, but not necessarily super desirable). I am always impressed by challenging questions (like, what is your least favorite thing about the campus?) or things that I can tell might be deal-breakers for you — I *want* you to take the position, but I also want you to want it. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50 

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

I just want to thank you for bringing this blog back. I know it must be a lot of work, but it is such a valuable resource. I read it obsessively when I was first applying to jobs at the end of my MLIS and it means a lot to be able to contribute, however minutely, from the other side of the table. 

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.


Filed under Academic, 10-50 staff members, Northeastern US, Urban area, 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey

2 responses to “I really need to feel that you’ve thought through how to tackle this work and that you can do the job, or will be able to do so fairly quickly after hire

  1. Victoria

    These responses are so thoughtful! I am so glad that they were able to contribute after being a reader of the blog. And I am very glad that you brought the blog back – I just discovered it a few months ago.


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