“Nobody is perfect and the questions we ask allows for candidates to give examples of when they were less than perfect”

Librarians, State Library of New South Wales, 1952

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 LIS workers for an:

√ Other: Government

Title: Branch Chief 

Titles hired include: Systems librarian, acquisitions librarian, library technician, electronic resources librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ A Committee or panel 

√ Other: Candidates selected need to get a security clearance, so if they can’t get through the process they won’t be hired.

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

√ Online application 

√ Resume 

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: HR reviews candidates before they get sent to me

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

The jobs get posted on USAjobs.gov. HR reviews the candidates and selects the most “qualified” based on how candidates respond to the application questions. For positions I supervise, the hiring panel will be led by me and have 3-5 total people on the panel. Once we receive the list of “qualified” candidates the hiring panel will individually score the resumes to determine if the candidates address the qualifications listed on the job posting. We then meet to discuss which candidates to interview. Each person interviewed is asked the same series of questions and they are scored based on how they answered the questions. After interviews are done we meet again to discuss the candidates, tally up the interview scores, and determine which candidates will be asked for references. I will conduct the reference checks and meet with the panel to make a final decision. I let HR know if our choice and they contact the successful candidate. It can take anywhere from 3-6 months (sometimes longer) to get through the security clearance. 

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

Many of our questions asked during the interview are situational questions and we tend to get a real feel for candidates emotional IQ. The last candidate who blew me and the hiring panel away had an extremely high emotional IQ that came out strongly during the interview. They’ve been in the job for two years now and they were absolutely the perfect hire.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Lack of personal awareness. Nobody is perfect and the questions we ask allows for candidates to give examples of when they were less than perfect. We are most interested in the lessons they learned from that. 

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

If they are interested in the actual job or if they are just looking for a way to get into the government. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this 

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?

Not giving enough information on a question. Even if it seems like a simple answer, we usually asked the question to learn more about the candidate. So while the answer may be a simple answer they need to elaborate. 

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

All of our interviews are now virtual. Bring your true personality and self to the interview and it’s fine. 

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?

Between library types is an easy transition and there’s no issue there. Paraprofessional to professional is rare in the librarian series, unless you have a MLS, in the federal government. If you have a degree it’s easy. A paraprofessional without a degree would have to go into the other two library adjacent series. 

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?

The hiring managers don’t have a choice on who ends up on our certification list. The questions we use have been vetted against bias in theory. There are programs that they are putting in place to encourage minority hiring that we’ll explore for our next open position.

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

Anything else they want to know about the library, the job, the organization within the library.  We just don’t have any answers about anything HR related or benefits, so those are always weird and awkward questions. 

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?

√ Other: Over 20 in the library, but it’s a huge government institution so many thousands.  

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, Northeastern US, Other Organization or Library Type, Urban area

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