“Be polite, but don’t kiss my ass!”

Helen_Virginia_Stelle “Courtesy, Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System.”, 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: Director

Titles hired include: Desk clerk, Children’s Librarian, Circulation Coordinator, Volunteer Coordinator, Page

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ 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:

We post the job advertisement with instructions to email me their resume, references and cover letter. I will notify that I received it then reach back out when I have enough candidates (or immediately if the applicant is a gem) to schedule interviews. Lower level positions receive 1 interview (either in person or virtual) with myself (and possibly their direct supervisor). Higher lever position received 2 interviews. 1st is either in person or virtual, 2nd is in person. 1st is with just me and I will follow a rubric to rank them. 2nd is a panel with myself and 1 or 2 other higher level positions. After a decision is made, I will make an offer to the candidate, and if they accept, cut the others loose with a kind email. If no successful candidates, then we will relist and repeat.

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

One was wayyyyyy over qualified. My jaw literally dropped. It was for our Children’s Librarian position. In my state each district has a consultant, and that was her current role (plus previous youth services experience and director experience). She was on state committees for youth services initiatives. A real “unicorn”. During her second interview, we had them do mock storytimes and I’ve never seen so many elements incorporated in a successful and meaningful way. She had rhymes. She had songs. She had props. She had sight words. It was insane! Hired her in December 2020 to replace a beloved children’s librarian (who was there for 34 years) and she not only matched the high bar the community set for her- she exceeded it!

Second would be my head of circulation. While an MLIS was recommended, the candidate I went with didn’t have one. She impressed me with her calm and collected, yet empathetic personality. Hard skills can be taught, soft skills not so much. She possessed the soft skills (people skills/flexibility and not black and white thinking/management style). With her position, I was replacing someone who created a toxic work environment (very clique minded, loved bullying weaker employees) so I was looking for the exact opposite of that former employee. Someone who could help staff heal from the trauma inflicted by the previous employee. I succeeded with this hire and our organization culture is the best it’s ever been.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Resumes/cover letter- misspellings. Interviews- complaining about previous employers. Also people with low emotional intelligence.

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

How well they handle pressure. How they got along with other coworkers. Are they gossips?

How many pages should each of these documents be?

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?

Overly sucking up to me. Be polite, but don’t kiss my ass! I want to see your personality and determine if it fits in our organizational culture. I can’t do that if you aren’t genuine.

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

Stage your room so there is no clutter. Wear nice clothes. Pretend I’m in the same room as you and forget it’s through a camera. (I’ve also noticed people can get overly comfortable virtually then overly nervous in the second, in person interview.)

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?

Skills are transferable! For circulation positions- any customer service experience far outweighs any previous library work. Management experience transfers! If someone has a positive attitude and willingness to learn, I’m willing to give them a shot.

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?

I look for the best person for the job. All of my staff are white and all but 1 are female. Unfortunately only white people apply (except once, I offered, she turned us down.) I am trying on that front.

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

Ask us what our current initiatives are. What our strategic plan is and how their position fits into it? Show that you researched us!

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: We use virtual work in special circumstances (usually for childcare issues) or shutdowns lol!

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?

Be genuine. Show that you can think outside the box. Try to connect your skills at every opportunity. Show you researched the library. And if you don’t get it- don’t be hard on yourself! Unicorns exist and sometimes there’s literally nothing you could have done! Also, apply again for other positions, they may have liked you but you just missed the cut.

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

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