“You can train a lot of things, but it’s nearly impossible to make someone care”

Two men in suits are behind a circulation desk
Ignore the camera, pretend to be working! By Flickr user National Library of Ireland on The 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: Head of Information Services

Titles hired include: Adult Services Librarian, Youth Services Librarian, Technical Services Assistant

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 

√ Supplemental Questions 

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc) 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Supervisor and Assistant Director review JD/Job Narrative, agree on posting timeline and posting locations. Admin Assistant posts. Supervisor reviews applications and narrows to a reasonable number. Supervisor and two peers review chosen applications and interview. After all interviews are conducted, the supervisor and two peers compare results. Supervisor checks references, and uses references and interview feedback to make a decision. Assistant Director approves suggested salary. Director signs off on hire. Supervisor calls candidate and extends offer. If a candidate accepts, the first day is agreed upon. Offer letter is emailed and orientation scheduled. 

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

Their attitude and values aligned perfectly with the job description. They were professional but enthusiastic, on time to the interview and asked good, relevant questions that showcased their interest. 

What are your instant dealbreakers?

We cannot interview candidates for librarian jobs without an MLIS/MSI. The job also requires evening and weekend work, and we cannot hire if none of their references responds to inquiries.  Otherwise, instant dealbreakers would be hateful language or inappropriate jokes or conduct. Smaller red flags are tardiness or failure to follow instructions; inappropriately criticizing their current employer during the interview; failure to fully answer questions; questions that only focus on pto/time off/vacations (this question is fine, but not if it’s their only question); candidates who express distaste for working with people, running events, or making decisions in lieu of a manager. 

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

Their true work ethic and reliability (or lack thereof). You can train a lot of things, but it’s nearly impossible to make someone care. People can fake it for the interview, and it’s generally easy to find a reference or two to vouch for you, so it’s only until after hire that you’ll see if someone is only there to do the bare minimum. 

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: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Interviewing for a job you don’t really want. If you’re just using us as a stepping stone, it will usually show. 

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

I have not yet, but certainly could. I’d expect good wifi and all equipment to work (camera, mic, etc.) test beforehand! 

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?

A library degree is the most obvious. Other coursework in lieu, volunteer work, sub work, etc. 

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?

Multiple people involved in the hiring process to reduce bias. 

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

Ask for elaboration of the job responsibilities. Make sure you can work the required hours and that the nature of the work is what you want. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50 

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, 10-50 staff members, Midwestern US, Public, Rural area, Suburban area

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