“If you show up in jeans looking like you just walked through a tornado, you’re crossed off the list immediately.”

The president of the Russian state library Victor Vasilevich Fyodorov. Just, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Please note: this is an anonymous response to an online survey; I do not have any way of contacting the respondent or verifying responses. Their answers may reflect good, bad, or middling hiring practices. I invite you to take what’s useful and leave the rest.  

This person hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Assistant Director

Titles hired: Adult/YS Reference Librarian, Teen Services Coordinator, Library Aide, Library Page

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

When a position opens up a job description is prepared and approved, then advertised by the state library online. The admin team collects applicants and reviews them to see who we want to interview, then convenes a hiring panel of relevant individuals (usually the supervisor of the position and the director/assistant director) with a third for Librarian and higher level positions. Candidates we select to continue do a background check and a city mandated occupational fitness exam, references, and then receive an offer letter. Librarian and higher level positions generally require a second interview.

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

The last candidate for one of our librarian positions had many fantastic ideas for the youth space that they spoke fluently about in the interview. It was clear that they had put a lot of thought into the position and wanted it for what it entailed rather than just because it was a job.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Unpreparedness or untidiness at the interview. If you show up in jeans looking like you just walked through a tornado, you’re crossed off the list immediately. If you’re doing a remote interview, clean your room before turning the camera on! I also very much am not inclined to hire anyone who doesn’t have anything to ask the interviewers at the end of or during the interview. Asking questions shows you’re engaged and interested in what the position entails.

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

How many pages should each of these documents be?

The true reason for why you applied with us. It’s 100% okay to say it’s just because you saw the listing online and you feel like a good fit, we don’t need a made up story about how our library has always been a dream for you! (Unless of course it actually has, in which case, go right ahead!)

Cover Letter: √ Only One!

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

CV: √ We don’t ask for this

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

Not practicing responses. There’s a wealth of sample questions at various places online, you should at least have a fluent response prepared for “Why do you want to work for us?” or “Tell us about yourself.” and similar basic questions. Should also run through some scenarios and questions specific to the position. I think a lot of people try to wing their interviews without really preparing beforehand, and it shows.

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

Tidy room (or blurred/green screened BG). Tidy appearance. Treat it exactly like you would an in person interview. But most of all make sure you have a decent quality microphone!

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?

Research what goes on in a library and relate the work through equivalencies. Stocking shelves at a grocery store can have many parallels to keeping shelves in order in a library. Caring for children at a daycare can be very relevant to working in Youth Services. There’s parallels just about everywhere, use your skills to both show you can do the work well but ALSO that you understand what work in a library asks of you.

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?

Trainings and conscious effort. Our region of the country is not terribly diverse, but we absolutely hear and hire diverse candidates, and I’m not aware of any context in which discrimination exists in our hiring process.

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

I always like to hear a candidate ask about the interviewers. “What brought YOU to this library?” “What do YOU like about working here?” as it will give the candidate a great picture of what it’s like working there and also is a great way to start a candid conversation in an interview. Never be afraid to make the interview a two way street, it doesn’t have to be just rigidly structured single direction questions. I also like for them to ask about what sort of projects/tasks the candidate would be expected to take on immediately, as it shows initiative and interest in the role.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

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?

The job market for librarians can be rough if you only look locally. I always advise aspiring librarians to look nationally (or even internationally, as an ALA approved MLIS isn’t just good for the US but Canada too!) for good opportunities. If you widen your search, and are open to a faraway move, it can actually be relatively easy to find a job! I’ve worked in all four corners of North America and two countries while climbing up through libraries, and compared to trying to search for a job just where I was, it’s a relative breeze.

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

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