Author Archives: Emily@HiringLibrarians

I wish I could know if the job was a stopgap or stepping stone, or if they really were ok with working for such low pay.

Antoinette Humphreys Hollabaugh, from a 1911 newspaper. No photographer credited., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Library Manager

Titles hired include: Public Services Assistant, Youth Services Assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

√ Other: The position’s supervisor and one other manager in the hiring department

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

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ References

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ 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:

HR screens applicants based solely on their qualifications matching. Those that are qualified are passed on to the hiring manager who decides who to interview. I am the hiring manager at my branch. 

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

Before we opened, I saw him on the steps engaging in casual conversation with the homeless men who were waiting to come inside and warm up. It was a good indication that he had the right attitude for this library and its clientele. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Failing the alphabetization test. I let that slide once and regretted it. 

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

Honestly? I wish I could know if the job was a stopgap or stepping stone, or if they really were ok with working for such low pay. (I don’t control the pay rate.)

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this 

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?

I’m tired of hearing vague claims about how much candidates value the library. If they are really a library user or advocate, I want them to tell me something that demonstrates that. If they aren’t, that’s okay! Tell me something else that shows me that they’re a kind, helpful, socially aware, critically-thinking and/or tech savvy human that is interested in learning how awesome the library is. 

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

Yes. Candidates seem to grasp what’s needed virtual interviews. 

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?

Since I hire paraprofessionals rather than librarians, I can’t answer this. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the information provided at the interview 

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

Nothing, as far as I know. 

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

I just like questions that show they have given the position some thought. It’s important for them to know that they need patience and that not everybody is nice to you at the library. It’s a customer service job. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 101-200 

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, Midwestern US, Public, Urban area

Stats and Graphs: How many pages should a resume/CV/cover letter be?

It’s Staturday!

In the old survey, this was two questions, “How many pages should a cover letter be?” and “How many pages should a resume/CV be?” Invariably, people wanted to explain that the second question was invalid and resumes and CVs were *not* the same thing, and the question was *terrible.* And those people were basically right, but at that point I had already published the question and couldn’t think of a way to make it better anyway.

So when I was testing the current survey I was so blown away when Marleah Augustine suggested I should just make it a matrix question. What a simple and elegant solution.

The question is:

Question from survey. Text reads 11. How many pages should each of these documents be? Choices on the Y axis are Cover Letter, Resume and CV. Choices on X axis are We don't ask for this, Only One!, Two is ok but no more, As many as it takes but keep it reasonable and relevant, and As many as it takes I love reading.

As of August 4, 2022, 182 people have responded to this survey. Their answers to this question are:

Bar chart of question answers. Chart explained in text that follows this.

For Cover Letters

We don’t ask for this | 23 (12.6%)

Only One! | 90 (49.5%)

Two is ok, but no more | 54 (29.7%)

As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant | 17 (9.3%)

As many as it takes, I love reading | 0 (0%)

For Resumes

We don’t ask for this | 14 (7.7%)

Only One! | 19 (10.4%)

Two is ok, but no more | 68 (37.4%)

As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant | 76 (41.8%)

As many as it takes, I love reading | 2 (1%)

For CVs

We don’t ask for this | 79 (43.4%)

Only One! | 4 (2.2%)

Two is ok, but no more | 12 (6.6%)

As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant | 76 (41.8%)

As many as it takes, I love reading | 4 (2.2%)


This is one of the few questions that doesn’t include a write in option. But, I’d still love to know what you think! Comment or tweet at me, and don’t forget to like and subscribe to this YouTube channel.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Stats and Graphs

Further Questions: What’s the Worst Job Search Advice You Ever Heard?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is:

What’s the worst job search advice you ever heard? Why was it bad? Bonus info: who said it and when/where did you hear it?


Jaime Taylor, Discovery & Resource Management Systems Coordinator, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts: Literally anything and everything from my mom, who tried to give me advice when I was a new librarian struggling to find a job in 2009-2010. She hadn’t job searched since the early 1980s & everything she said was out of date & useless. (No, mom, no one keeps a file of promising resumes that they will pull out later, so sending mine to orgs that weren’t hiring – on paper, no less – wasn’t going to go anywhere but the trash.) So – the worst advice comes from anyone who has neither job searched nor hired lately, doubly so if they have never worked in your field and are therefore unaware with the field’s norms. That person might care about you and want you to succeed, but that doesn’t mean they have good advice.

(Yes, you can put my name on it.)


Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor and Brooklyn Public Library’s Job Information Resource Librarian: The worst job search advice I’ve ever heard is that you should lie or mislead others in order to get a job, and that includes presenting a resume or cover letter that someone else wrote as if it is your own work. Employers don’t want to hire people who are dishonest and/or desperate, and who don’t actually have the required experience and skills for the job, or for the job search(!)

Anyone who gives this advice is telling you that they are dishonest and they are comfortable enough with lying that they recommend it to other people. If they are employed they probably lied in order to get their job. I would keep that information in mind as you interact with them. 


Randall Schroeder, Director, Retired: The worst piece of career advice I received was cumulative. Too many suggested that if you stay in one place and one position, your career is static and you could become irrelevant. I knew of one small college director who claimed when hiring a new librarian, the new librarian was expected to move on after three years and that after five, the library would start working to make them want to move. I hesitate to think what they might have looked like.

Sometimes, you are, in fact, where you need to be. Some of the happiest people I have known in academe knew early on that where they landed with their first or second jobs was where their bliss was. Not participating in campus politics or professional politics to climb to the next level was of no interest. They seemed to be very happy.

Don’t be ambitious if it doesn’t feel authentic to you. I felt pressured to move to the next levels and I regretted it. Where I was in my first and second jobs was where I wanted to be and I was good at it. Don’t let outside pressure sacrifice you from your authentic happiness to your misery. To me, the object of the game is to serve your community, patrons, clients, or students, not your ego.

“What do you want to be when you grow up, Linus?

Outrageously happy.,” – Peanuts


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: I have friends (who don’t know libraries) trying to get me to apply for every job that’s out there, not really understanding how library jobs at my level are so siloed (public universities vs private/small vs. large/collections and systems and access vs. Learning Commons or teaching, etc.) My experience is varied, so I have a little more leeway, but it’s a total waste of time for me to apply to jobs outside my niche and expertise. If you don’t meet the qualifications and can’t even make your experience work, don’t bother. It’s a waste of time for you and the people who have to review applications. Academic applications take a tremendous amount of time to put together, if you do it right. I’m very careful about choosing jobs that are a good fit. Also, job openings run on a cycle for most academic libraries, especially at the higher levels. Fiscal years start on July 1 or August 1. Deciding to apply for everything in the fall isn’t really going to get you very far. 


Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College:

I have heard people recommend trying to negotiate your starting salary, but most of the places I’ve worked have had a static chart based on qualifications and years of experience with no room for variation.

If you try to bargain at a place like that, you will probably come across as arrogant and entitled. 


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: Let me start with the last “bonus” question “Who said it and when/where did you hear it?” In short, the bad answers I am including are coming from years of reading articles, books and blogs on both commercial and non commercial content to determine not only specific paths (the best EDI questions, recommended organization of the room, online-only interviews, etc.) but also best practices for overall HR hiring practices. The worst advice includes “ask this question” and “give this answer” typically but also includes advice for length of resumes. 

I have two bad questions: “Where do you want to be in five years?” and “Please identify three of your strengths and three of your weaknesses.”

The first or “five year” question is a no-win for everyone. There IS no right or genuine answer. If someone outlines their retirement you don’t want to invest time in them only to leave. If the applicant says “I want to be in your job” it doesn’t show “your vision for the future” or the fact that you want to assume a leadership position and it certainly doesn’t signal ambition the way some think. If the organization wants to determine if an applicant is interested in moving up eventually or if they are trying to determine if the applicant will – for example – hopping from job to job there are better and more direct questions to determine an applicants next role or if they are possible successors or have an interest in succession planning.

The second question of strengths and weaknesses is – obviously – an opportunity for applicant self-assessment. As the first question – it doesn’t typically produce authentic answers but instead – if applicants have thought about it – strengths identified might be valuable, but weaknesses are strengths re-positioned such as “I pay too much attention to detail.” If the organization needs to know specific elements they should instead – list some strengths and list some weaknesses and ask applicants to rank these as they pertain to their potential roles and responsibilities. 

Finally some ideas not recommended include:

  • Don’t feel obligated to squeeze your resume into one page or less as we often hear. Clearly a lengthy resume is too much but it is better to be accurate, organized and specific to the position being advertised and that is seldom able to be reduced to one page.
  • Resumes that lead with a single job goal quickly become out-of-date. It is best to state areas of work interested in and map education, experience and competencies and attributes against job descriptions/job advertisements identified in cover letters or in attached documents such as a statement of professionalism or a values statement.

and finally and most importantly

Job seekers should be very, very careful about the content a search firm or professional employment consultant creates to represent you on a resume or document packet or specific position or job search. Specifically – positions held, job titles, specific roles and responsibilities, length of employment professional goals, values, promotions or job trajectory in one or more organizations, or products produced as exemplary of education or experience. 

Why? I can recall more than one situation where documents didn’t parallel, answers to questions didn’t jive, job titles were similar but inflated, reference check information wasn’t the same as applicant paperwork had implied and – literally – the applicant’s narrative about their work life was simply not accurate. It is also obvious to say that with today’s alternate avenues for finding out about applicants through web resources and often an applicant’s own web-published content – great care must be taken to be accurate, to be proactive about possible discrepancies and to be forthcoming about addressing appropriate interview questions. Simply put, advice to inflate or better represent oneself or to stretch the truth is never good advice.


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or in the faint burbling of a mountain stream. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Filed under Further Questions

Personal Professional Websites: Lisa Chen – Information Professional

Lisa Chen graduated from Western University with a Master of Library and Information Science in 2015. 

She works as an Information Management Analyst at the University of Toronto. When not working, she volunteers for NaNoWriMo and the ViMLoC Mentorship Program.

What is your site’s URL?

lisacchen.wordpress.com

Briefly, what is the current purpose of your site?

To share articles/tweets related to the information and library field, creative writing, career advice, and tours of libraries, art shows, and museums

Was the original purpose of your site different from this current purpose? If yes, how and why did it change?

Originally, it was set up for a class assignment to create a virtual presence for ourselves. It focused on librarianship only. It changed to include my interests such as creative writing and art because I wanted to use it as a personal blog.

Are you actively looking for work? (check all that apply)

√ Nope! Not at All! 

Has your site brought you any work? And if so, what?

None 

About Your Site and Sites in General

Did you pay someone to design or build your site?

√ No 

Which of the following content do you have on your site (check all that apply)?

√ Blog about personal topics

√ Blog about professional topics

√ Book reviews

√ Work Samples

√ List of publications

√ List of presentations

√ Twitter or other social media feed

√ Your Bio

√ Your photo 

Which of the following personal links or connection methods do you provide on your site? (Check all that apply)

√ Contact Form

√ LinkedIn

√ YouTube 

Is your site strictly library/archives/LIS related?

√ No, I include my arts/crafts/hobbies/other tangential or unrelated work 

When was your site last updated?

√ Within the last week 

What causes you to update your site, and about how frequently does that occur?

When I visit a place or have something to share, be it personal or professional. I strive to post at least 12 times a year.

Does your site use any of the following platforms/services?

√ WordPress.com 

How much do you pay annually to run your website? (for numbers not in American dollars, please use other)

√ $0 

Do you allow comments on your site?

√ Yes 

Do you have advertising on your site?

√ Yes, but I don’t have any control over that/it’s part of the platform I use 

Do you have analytics on your site?

√ Yes 

About how many people visit your site in a month?

√ 0-50 

Is having a personal website a “must”?

√ Yes, for job hunters

√ Yes, for librarians

√ Yes, for people who are independent contractors/freelancers

√ Yes, for new LIS graduates 

Do you have any privacy concerns associated with sharing your personal information, resume, etc., on a public website? If so, what measures do you take to feel safer?

I use a contact form to avoid providing my email

What advice would you give someone wanting to create their own personal professional site?

Decide your scope and scale. If you only want to have some visibility on the web, you don’t need to blog, use Instagram, tweet, etc. Sometimes, a LinkedIn profile is all you need. If you want to be a children’s librarian who promotes books, set up a Goodreads profile or even a TikTok account. You don’t have to be on every platform creating content.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your website? Or personal websites in general?

You don’t need to purchase the domain. Sometimes, the cheapest solution is the best one.

Demographics

What is your job title?

Information Management Analyst

What types of organizations do you work for or with? (Check all that apply)

√ Academic Library

√ Other: University, as IT staff

If you work for someone besides yourself, does that organization have rules about what you can share on your personal site?

√ No 

What part of the world are you in?

√ Canada  

Thanks for reading! If you have a personal professional website that you’d like to talk about, please fill out the survey.

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Filed under Personal Professional Websites

Job Hunter’s Web Guide: Archives Gig (Revisited)

Meredith Lowe started Archives Gig in 2010 and has been posting jobs for Archivists, records managers, and students ever since. We profiled the site back in 2013 and wanted to provide a quick update.

The site has a new URL (no more LiveJournal) and has continued to grow and evolve. 

I caught up with Meredith with a few questions:

What has changed with Archives Gig?

One thing that has been really interesting is the research and tools that have cited AG as a resource! A couple of recent favorites are:

It’s incredibly rewarding that AG has been helpful to these important contributions!

How is archives job hunting different now versus ten years ago?

This field has been steadily moving toward seeking those with skills in digital curation, projects, and collections, and those who are looking to work in the GLAM fields would be well-served to pick up skills in those areas. With the pandemic, there has been a big shift to remote work in all sectors, and that includes the archives field. Although most positions are still in-person, there are a lot more remote-only positions as well as hybrid schedule options – and I think with digital projects that hybrid/remote work is even more achievable.  

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Filed under Job Hunters Web Guide

Personal Professional Websites: Brittni Ballard, Learning Technologies Librarian – Higher education, eLearning, and disability justice

Brittni is a fat, White woman with shoulder-length wavy brown hair and blue-framed glasses. She holds her pug-beagle mix Rupert. He is mostly fawn with a black mask and ears and a white chest.

Brittni Ballard is the Learning Technologies Librarian for Towson University’s Albert S. Cook Library in Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. She came to academic librarianship after experiments with classroom teaching, video game development, and non-profit work.

When she’s not working, she can be found collecting photos from villager friends in Animal Crossing: New Horizons while sipping coffee, snuggled under fuzzy blankets with two dogs and one cat on their chaise sofa.

What is your site’s URL? 

https://www.brittniballard.com/

Briefly, what is the current purpose of your site?

The site is a way for me to share my work, notably my scholarship (writings and conference presentations), in one central space while highlighting what makes each piece special. Specifically, I include my favorite quote from each piece so that, even if folks don’t read the entire thing, they still have a better idea of what I value, think about, and do. Ideally, even these brief glimpses will facilitate new conversations with others interested in the same kind of work.

Was the original purpose of your site different from this current purpose? If yes, how and why did it change?

To some extent, as might be expected, this site was created as I was job searching, and if / when I look for jobs in the future, I’m sure it will be a useful way to better share who I am and promote my efforts to search committees. However, it is now primarily a way to connect and even build relationships with fellow library workers. This is why I explicitly name my positionality, values, and interests on the homepage.

Are you actively looking for work? (check all that apply)

√ Other: I am actively curious about new opportunities, places, and people, including formal and informal teaching / learning / speaking engagements

Has your site brought you any work? And if so, what?

 No, it has not.

About Your Site and Sites in General

Did you pay someone to design or build your site?

√ No

Which of the following content do you have on your site (check all that apply)?

√ Resume or CV

√ Work Samples

√ List of publications

√ List of presentations

√ Your Bio

√ Your photo 

Which of the following personal links or connection methods do you provide on your site? (Check all that apply)

√ Email 

√ ORCiD 

√ Twitter 

√ LinkedIn  

Is your site strictly library/archives/LIS related?

√ Yes 

When was your site last updated?

√ Within the last month 

What causes you to update your site, and about how frequently does that occur?

Whenever I publish a new piece, I add it to the site.

Does your site use any of the following platforms/services?

√ Google Sites

How much do you pay annually to run your website? (for numbers not in American dollars, please use other)

√ $10.01-$20.00 

Do you allow comments on your site?

√ No

Do you have advertising on your site?

√ No

Do you have analytics on your site?

√ No

About how many people visit your site in a month?

√ I don’t know 

Is having a personal website a “must”?

√ Nope! Not at All! 

Do you have any privacy concerns associated with sharing your personal information, resume, etc., on a public website? If so, what measures do you take to feel safer?

To avoid having crawlers collect my email, I hide my email address behind the display text “Email me.” Because my work profile is public, and includes my work number and work email, I do include my institutional affiliation (in my online resume). However, I don’t mention my affiliation on Twitter. If my site was being used regularly, I may switch from including an email to just using a Contact Me form.

What advice would you give someone wanting to create their own personal professional site?

Have fun with it! I enjoy thinking about how to present my work in a public way that emphasizes visual organization, standard American English, and values rather than productivity. 

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your website? Or personal websites in general?

Google Sites works nicely with other Google products, like Drive and Photos. That makes it easy to maintain.

Demographics

What is your job title?

Learning Technologies Librarian

What types of organizations do you work for or with? (Check all that apply)

√ Academic Library 

If you work for someone besides yourself, does that organization have rules about what you can share on your personal site?

√ No 

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

Anything else you’d like to say, to me or to the readers?

Thanks for investigating personal web usage among GLAM workers and students!

Thanks for reading! If you have a personal professional website that you’d like to talk about, please fill out the survey.

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Filed under Academic, Northeastern US, Personal Professional Websites

It’s okay if you don’t have experience working as a librarian, but you need to demonstrate that you can think like a librarian

Gemma Doyle is currently the Collection Development Manager at EBSCO, managing a team of other collection development librarians for the Books program. She spent over a decade as a paraprofessional in various library systems in the US and Canada before becoming a librarian. She worked in public and special libraries before moving over to the library vendor sphere with EBSCO. 

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

The application is screened by HR for bare essentials (MLS, etc.), phone screen by hiring manager or HR, first full interview by hiring manager, second interview by members of the team (2-3 people)

Titles hired include: Collection Management Specialist 1/Collection Management Specialist 2

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor 

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

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ References

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

The candidate had extensive experience in library work: had worked in different kinds of libraries, had supervisory experience, had handled a large budget used over multiple library departments, and had extensive achievements under each of these points of experience.  Their wide breadth of experience meant that they were comfortable doing just about any aspect of librarianship.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Someone who is inflexible and doesn’t have the ability to self-motivate will not last in this environment.  We work with so many stakeholders, and the work has such a fast pace that flexibility and motivation qualities in candidates really are necessary.

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

What they work like under pressure; how they really handle conflict.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more  

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant  

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

For jobs with us in particular, I would say making assumptions about the job even after we explain its requirements.  Library vendor work can be very different from working in an actual library, and it’s hard to convey fully to candidates what a corporate, for-profit environment can be like to work in as compared to working in a library, even if the job is for librarians. Some candidates may find that’s not an environment they thrive in if they’ve never experienced it.

In general, I think candidates want so much to sell themselves to the interviewer that they forget that interviewing should be a two-way street.  They should be asking a lot of questions to determine if they job is actually right for them, too. 

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

Yes – every position on our team is permanently remote, so we do all interviewing virtually, even if they are local candidates.  As for shining, mostly the same things in a face-to-face interview – preparation, double-checking time zones, etc. but also try not to let any technical difficulties throw you for a loop.  Interviews are nerve-wracking for everyone, including the interviewer, but dealing with issues as they arise and being flexible around them is going to give everyone a good impression.  

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?

I spent a lot of my early career as a paraprofessional, so I understand some of the nuances of making that transition. Mostly, I think it comes down to mindset.  It’s okay if you don’t have experience working as a librarian, but you need to demonstrate that you can think like a librarian.  While you can answer the “tell me about a time when” questions using paraprofessional examples, you should also throw in “as a librarian, I would” answers. I’m going to want to know that I don’t need to train you on how a librarian should handle certain things, or even explain that there are differences there.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the information provided at the interview (in the phone screen)

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

Every candidate is asked the same questions in the same order (with follow up questions relevant to them, of course); all interviewers attend anti-bias classes before hiring begins. The training is only as good as the intentions of those doing the hiring, and HR doesn’t really monitor the actual hiring process or ask candidates for feedback on the process, which I think would be helpful.

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

What’s the day-to-day job like? Is there an onboarding and training plan in place? What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the job and the organization? are the ones that I think will give candidates insight on what it’s really like to work here.  The most important thing for them to know is that working for a for-profit company is going to sometimes be at odds with the ideals of librarianship, mostly in small ways but some big ones.  We try to stress that in interviews with candidates, but culture shock still hits hard whenever we hire anyone new. Candidates should definitely try to get a feel for the organization so they can make a choice that feels good for them.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions (our team is all remote)

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+  

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 200+ staff members, Northeastern US, Other Organization or Library Type, Suburban area

Further Questions: Should candidates send thank you cards?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is:

Classic interview advice is to send hand-written thank you cards after the interview. Is this actually good advice? What are your recommendations for post-interview etiquette in regards to thank you notes, follow ups via phone/email, providing additional information, etc.? Bonus question: Do you have examples, either from your own interview history or from candidates you have worked with, where conduct after the interview has influenced the hiring decision?


Amy Tureen (she/her/hers), Head, Library Liaison Program, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas: I believe sending thank you notes following an interview is a good practice, but not a requirement. A handwritten note is always nice and will be received with pleasure, but an email thank you will be remembered just as fondly as well. Given recent changes in mail processing speeds and depending on the recruitment schedule, it’s entirely possible a written thank you note will arrive well after a decision has been made, so the arrival or non-arrival of a card really should not have a role in the decision process. Some folks bring thank you notes, envelopes, and stamps with them to interview so they can drop their cards in the local mail system before they leave town. This is a good example of thinking ahead but, again, not required. Thank you notes (virtual or physical) generally only leave the impression that the candidate is polite and/or acculturated to white American corporate working norms. It is never a deciding factor in my experience. That being said, I have been told more than once by new employers that I was the only person who sent a thank you note (suggesting it is indeed noticed, even if it is not a deciding factor). I have also been on one search committee that was very excited to receive handmade, handwritten thank you cards incorporating art the candidate had made of the library following their visit. We were already excited about the candidate in question, but we were also pleased to see an example of the artistic skills and craftiness of the candidate who was, at that time, applying for a position which sought those specific skills.


Jaime Taylor, Discovery & Resource Management Systems Coordinator, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts: You probably should not be sending hand-written thank-you notes at this point! I certainly do not expect them, and I don’t think I’ve received any in the approximately five years I’ve been working on hiring. Current etiquette dictates that you could send an email thank you. For one thing, it will get to the people you are thanking much quicker and more reliably than snail mail. For another, the entire application and interview process up to that point has likely been paperless or near so – which would make email totally appropriate.

If you want to send a note, the details are not terribly important. You could send on email to the entire hiring committee, separate emails to each person, or an email to the chair of the committee asking to pass your regards to the committee. Keep it short and sweet – no more than a paragraph. Mention something that was discussed in the interview and your continued enthusiasm for the position or institution. If there’s additional material you’d like to send to the committee, you could say something like, “I’ve attached the slide deck I mentioned from my presentation last year/the article I wrote about the thing we discussed” and then include the file or a link to it. If you are going to send a note, send it within 48 hours of the interview.

That all said, receiving or not receiving a thank you note, email or otherwise, has no bearing on my hiring process. About half of the candidates I interview send them, possibly a little less, and I do not think it’s necessary. We evaluate candidates on their ability to do the job they are applying for, as laid out in the job description, and a thank you note has no bearing on that.


Larry Eames, Instruction Librarian, Kraemer Family Library, University of Colorado Colorado Springs: The advice to send a hand-written thank you note makes essentially zero sense in today’s day and age. I’ve never received one as a search committee member and I would never expect one. That said, I’m always chuffed to get a thank you email. It’s never consciously influenced my decision making—to me sending a thank you note is one of those corporate shibboleths that people may or may not have been taught and therefore shouldn’t be used to make actual choices—but it is a nice thing to do.

If you’re going to send one, I recommend tailoring it to the interview. The formula I use is “Thank you for taking the time to interview me [today/yesterday]. I particularly enjoyed hearing about [thing you talked about]. I would be excited to join your team for [reason]. Please let me know if I can provide any additional information or documents.” I’ve never been asked for additional information nor have I ever sent any, but I suppose the thank you note could be a chance to include a detail you forgot to mention or didn’t get a chance to mention in the interview.


Gemma Doyle, Collection Development Manager, EBSCO: Thank you notes can be such a divisive topic.  I have worked with hiring managers who would automatically discard candidates who didn’t send them, which I think is a terrible practice.  As a hiring manager, you want the best candidate for the job, not necessarily the one that sends the most effusive thank you note, or any thank you note at all, but the fact that some people take it so seriously means that candidates really do need to send them. 

That being said, I would definitely encourage candidates to email instead of writing a handwritten thank you note.  Email is more immediate and more likely to get to the hiring manager more quickly, and if you have any questions in your note, it’s so much easier for them to just hit reply and answer them.  Hiring, at least in my experience, is a time-consuming process that I have to fit in at the edges of doing my actual day-to-day work, so anything you can do that makes things easier for me is appreciated. For that reason, a lot of post-interview follow up from candidates can be challenging.  I always give candidates an idea of what the hiring timeline looks like, but things can happen on our side that stretch it out unexpectedly.  Obviously, if you have questions or are missing information that I mentioned sending to you on anything you’d need to make a decision about the job, please follow up and ask for it.  But I think a lot of advice out there tells candidates to follow up to keep themselves in the hiring manager’s mind, which is completely unnecessary.  If we want to offer you a position, I promise we won’t forget about you! 


Alison M. Armstrong, Collection Management Librarian, Radford University: Handwritten cards can be a way to set yourself apart from other candidates but the timing is a challenge with the speed of some hiring decisions (following in-person interviews, anyway, it can feel glacial during the process) and the pace of the postal service. I know some search committees schedule candidate interviews in quick succession and have a meeting to choose the candidate the day following the last interview. Short of handing the notes to them in person, they may not reach them until after a decision has been made.

Instead, or in addition, I recommend sending an email to the people you met during your interview as a way to ensure they receive it before a decision is made. I also recommend making it as personal as possible – something that tells them that you remember them and the interaction you had.

In terms of further communication, they will reach out to you if they need additional information. If you think the process is dragging and you haven’t heard anything for a while, there are multiple things that may be happening. More than likely, you have not been selected however, it is best to let the process play out since you never know. But, it may be time to move on to the next job opening.

If you interviewed, you should hear something in a reasonable amount of time but, as with all things human relations related, there are different perceptions about who can do what in which situation which means that the search committee members may not feel comfortable reaching out to candidates. This may mean you hear from them later than you would think reasonable.


Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor and Brooklyn Public Library’s Job Information Resource Librarian: I recommend sending a thank you email, not a handwritten note. It should be short and sweet (one paragraph is fine) and personalized – if you were interviewed by a panel, send each person who interviewed you a separate message.

Strictly speaking the “thank you” is not required. The fact that you’re sending the thank you message is almost more important than its content. It shows courtesy and respect, and professionalism. It’s true that some interviewers don’t care about thank yous, but others do, and not sending one may be a point against you with them, so it is best to just send it.

You can and should mention something that came up during the interview, and you can give new information if you forgot to mention something you want the recipient(s) to know about, but understand that your chance at selling yourself was during the interview, so you shouldn’t think of the “thank you” as a way to share any substantial info about yourself. If the hiring manager / committee was not going to have you move forward in the hiring process after the interview, your thank you message is not likely to change their minds no matter what you write.

Most of the time when post-interview conduct affects a hiring decision is when the conduct is negative in some way – like aggressive, repeated follow-up or any other kind of pushy, entitled behavior. It is a good idea to ask at the end of the interview “What is the next step in the hiring process? What is the best way for me to follow up?” and then follow those instructions, or if you didn’t ask about that and received no info about when you would be hearing from the employer, I would follow up only once, maybe a week or two later, via email. After that you’ve done everything you could re: getting that job, and if you continue to contact the employer it will hurt your chances rather than help.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: I don’t ever remember being taught much about interviewing in any of my graduate school experiences. So the thing about writing a thank-you note wasn’t something I did at first. I’ll have to admit that I can take it or leave it. I understand that it is an opportunity for a candidate to acknowledge being grateful for the interview (which, in fact, they earned, it was not a gift). I have never viewed it as required. And these days I do not mind at all receiving an email expressing thanks which has happened. Would I change my opinion of a candidate if I did not receive a thank-you? I don’t think so.
I always want to conclude an interview by letting the candidate know the approximate timeline. Given that a search committee doesn’t always control all the moving pieces of a search, including making offers and negotiating, the timeline is always a bit uncertain. I would recommend that candidates not contact the search chair for follow-up unless (a) their situation has changed or they might not be reachable for a while), or (b) it is after the interval when the search chair indicated work would be ongoing. I would also recommend that a search chair reach out to candidates if there is going to be a delay that will affect all candidates.If, during the interview, something came up and a candidate feels the search committee would benefit from additional information then I think it’s fine for that person to reach out to the search chair (who can see that others receive it if relevant). It can get awkward if a candidate sends on unsolicited information which might lead to a chair needing to contact other candidates so there is consistency and equity. I don’t think this happens often but I strongly encourage erring on the side of not offering up unsolicited materials.


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Kathryn Levenson, Librarian, Piedmont High School: Thank you notes are something that I think many people feel are passé. I was raised to always write a paper thank you note. Lately, people seem just as happy to get a quick “Thank you for taking time to interview me” via email. I do think that it can be a way to get that last bit of marketing in. Maybe there was something short that the candidate did not get to say at the interview. So, maybe the candidates forgot to say. For example, responding to a question about resolving issues with a group of students, perhaps the candidate writes, “I forgot to say at the interview that I was a camp counselor for three summers with children from 8 to 12 years old. During that time, I was able to learn techniques from other counselors and to resolve some issues successfully on my own.”

So the short answer is that if I get a thank you note, I think, that was really nice, but it probably would not influence my hiring decision.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: Applicants can’t guarantee – in many organizations – and especially in today’s workplaces – if “handwritten notes” or any U.S. mail will come to them in a timely manner. Basically this is due to slow downs in postal deliveries (fewer staff) as well as fewer staff in organizations tasked with receiving and redistributing mail. Also – and hopefully this is temporary- hybrid schedules, all online interviews and reduced hours and closed locations means that a letter may sit somewhere that – prior to current times – received and processed information twice a day.  In fact, I was part of an online discussion recently where several vendors were talking about their print/paper/mailout budget vs. their online advertising (look and technique) and what they were moving for marketing and advertising. The discussion was spot on in focusing on speed and avenues of distribution as well as “look” that is, did people want their online catalogs to “look” like their print/paper ones or not – as well as – librarians have marked up, annotated, posted notes and communicated through print/paper catalogs at work (round robin, posted information, etc.) for decades…so how do they highlight, annotate or mark up online publisher’s catalogs? or aggregator lists? or email announcements? 
With that said, I will say don’t hand write a thank you but send follow up communication as such:
Best format?

  • Email to the chair and each committee member – or
  • Email to the chair and ask them to distribute as they see fit – or
  • Email to the Administrative Assistant in the process and ask them to distribute
  • Create any of these emails as formal letters including content within the email
  • Create a thank you note as an attachment and attach it to the email to any of the first three emails addressed first in this list

Why send?

  • You may want to correct something you may have said incorrectly in the interview (Ex – (I left out an example of education I would like to share in this follow up, etc.” or “I realize my resume reflects this while I share this….”)
  • Consider expanding a question you might now feel you have more valuable information on after reflection or self assessment. (Ex – I indicated my proficiency level was intermediate but in reflection and realization that I have both in-depth education and experience, I know my level of expertise is advanced and I welcome the opportunity to discuss if that is needed. Also, I have attached the outcomes/summary of my most recent certification in this area as well.”)
  • Send a second example of a product (They may have requested original work and you are now sending or linking them to additional original work or original instructional design AND content or pictures of you giving that program and the audience responding or even a video clip of you at work giving a book talk or storytime.”) 
  • Provide any information they asked for such as “timeline for starting the position” “willingness regarding salary discussion,” etc.

and – of course – the usual – “Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview.” but make it more robust …include:

  • a reiteration of how much you want the position – or
  • a reaffirmation of your fit for the organization – or
  • your enthusiasm for a possible acceptance – or

Finally – am I aware of any minds being changed? Not specifically for the good, but interestingly, I have had people point out why they made the mistakes they made …or why they chose to emphasize this rather than that. This insight is good but hasn’t moved any “don’t hire” to the “hire list.”


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or via impromptu web conference. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Reminder: Interview Questions Repository & Salary Info

Have you been on a library interview recently? Or are you prepping for one?

Sounds like you could use The Interview Questions Repository!

This resource holds questions that people were asked in interviews from more than 500 respondents over nearly a decade.

Click on the upside down triangle to the right of the question in the header row to sort by things like interview type, position, etc.

Please help this resource grow! Share the link widely with your friends and colleagues and if you’ve had a library interview recently, report the questions you were asked.


Interested in viewing Salary Info from more than 270 LIS workers? The second page of the Interview Questions Repository shares that data. If you are interested in adding your own salary info, please use this form.

If you have feedback, I’d love to hear it. Please feel free to email me or use the contact form.

Please note: The links should give you everything you need – please use and share those rather than requesting access through Google Drive. You can always find these links in the toolbar to the right —> and in the static pages listed in the tabs up top (Interview Questions and Salary Info)

yellow compact shelving
A View of the Yellow Repository. The National Archives (UK), CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Personal Professional Websites: Allie “Book Historia” Alvis

Allie Alvis is a book historian, and rare book cataloguer at DC antiquarian bookseller Typer Punch Matrix. They are the former special collections reference librarian of the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, and hold masters degrees in book history and information management from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow. They are passionate about bibliographic communication, and maintain popular social media accounts on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube (among others) as Book Historia.

What is your site’s URL?

https://www.bookhistoria.com/

Briefly, what is the current purpose of your site?

To act as a hybrid dynamic CV and central point of contact, with a place for miscellaneous pieces of writing not published elsewhere

Are you actively looking for work? 

√ Yes, for speaking gigs

Has your site brought you any work? And if so, what?

Yes! I’ve received a number of media inquiries and speaking opportunities through the “contact” portion of my website, and orders for book supports through my links. 

About Your Site and Sites in General

Did you pay someone to design or build your site?

√ No

Which of the following content do you have on your site (check all that apply)?

√ Resume or CV

√ Descriptions or list of services you provide

√ Blog about professional topics

√ List of publications

√ List of presentations

√ References, testimonials and/or press

√ Twitter or other social media feed

√ Your Bio

√ Your photo

Which of the following personal links or connection methods do you provide on your site? (Check all that apply)

√ Email

√ Contact Form 

√ Twitter 

√ Instagram 

√ TikTok

√ Tumblr

√ YouTube 

Is your site strictly library/archives/LIS related?

√ Yes 

When was your site last updated?

√ Within the last month 

What causes you to update your site, and about how frequently does that occur?

Generally whenever I give a new presentation or get new press, or get around to writing a blog post; frequency depends on how often those things occur

Does your site use any of the following platforms/services?

√ Squarespace 

How much do you pay annually to run your website? (for numbers not in American dollars, please use other)

√ Other: $144/year

Do you allow comments on your site?

√ Yes 

Do you have advertising on your site?

√ No 

Do you have analytics on your site?

√ Yes 

About how many people visit your site in a month?

√ Other: Depends on if I post a new blog; 0-50 if no new posts, 51-250 if I’m promoting a post on social media

Is having a personal website a “must”?

√ Nope! Not at All!

Do you have any privacy concerns associated with sharing your personal information, resume, etc., on a public website? If so, what measures do you take to feel safer?

Since I’m kind of a bibliographic “public figure,” there’s not much on my website that isn’t on my various social media presences, so I don’t feel any less comfortable having info there

What advice would you give someone wanting to create their own personal professional site?

That’s a hard one – I’m able to have an (I think) attractive website because I’m not *so* early career that I can afford to pay for it. If you don’t have the money to spend, Tumblr or WordPress can be a sort-of alternative.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your website? Or personal websites in general?

I’ve been thinking about good web design since I had a LiveJournal back in 2002, so I’m a bit picky! But there are lots of nice templates out there that you can use as-is with very little additional work.

Demographics

What is your job title?

Rare Book Cataloguer

What types of organizations do you work for or with? (Check all that apply)

√ Other: Rare book seller, formerly (and likely future) special collections library

If you work for someone besides yourself, does that organization have rules about what you can share on your personal site?

√ Yes 

What part of the world are you in?

√ Eastern US  

Anything else you’d like to say, to me or to the readers?

This is a cool project, good luck! 🙂


Thanks for reading! If you have a personal professional website (kind of an awkward phrase) that you’d like to talk about, please fill out the survey.

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