Applicants frequently oversell or undersell technical skills

a group of librarians pose under a Reference & Research assistance sign
Relaxed librarians. Photo by Flickr user Library and Information Services Metropolitan State University

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Branch Manager

Titles hired include: Regional managers, records managers, literacy coordinators, dept. heads, evening-weekend shift supervisors, entry-level staff

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Online application 

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

Applicants are screened by application software; HR compiles ranked lists of applicants,; hiring committee selects interviewees from ranked list; hiring committee interviews, scores, and selects candidate; HR reviews and vets; job offer is extended by direct supervisor. My role extends from selecting interviewees to job offer.   

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

Immensely thoughtful and knowledgeable response to customer service questions. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Unprofessional behavior in the interview.  

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

How well is technical experience reflected in the application and interview; applicants frequently oversell or undersell technical skills.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this  

Resume: √ We don’t ask for this  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Rambling answers that don’t address our questions are common.

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


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?

Be knowledgeable about the work you’re applying for and show me how your prior experience fits that work.  

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?

We’ve changed aspects of screening and ranking, as well the structured interviews we use. Discrimination still exists primarily in the educational disparities in our community, and nation.    

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

Applicants should ask more questions about what their working days will look like, and about what it’s like to serve the whole public, not just folks like themselves. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern 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?

√ 101-200 

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


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, 100-200 staff members, Public, Southeastern US, Urban area

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