Category Archives: 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey

They asked excellent questions.

Fairleigh Dickinson College Library, Rutherford, New Jersey. Librarian room. LOC.gov

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Special Library

Title: Director – Library

Titles hired include: Associate Director, Digital Library;  Senior Specialist, Systems Librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Online application 

√ Resume 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

HR filters the applications and send them on to the hiring manager

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

Excellent interviewing skills; they were well prepared and had taken time to learn about the company. They asked excellent questions.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

No knowledge of the company they’re interviewing with.

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

Gaps in resume

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?

No eye contact

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

Yes, we did during COVID. Just need to be fully engaged in the conversation. I don’t see much difference really between in person and virtual.

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?

The job market is still tight so I’ll take a chance on people who do have a lot of experience in one particular aspect. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer 

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

We try to have a diverse interviewing panel. We also have mandatory training on working on removing biases.  

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 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10 

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Northeastern US, Special, Suburban area

Don’t expect the search committee members to carry the conversation.

LIBRARIANS WITH TERMINALS OF THE LOCKHEED DIALOG – NASA / RECON – DOE RECON USERS. National Archives.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Head of Research

Titles hired include: Research librarian; oral historian; circulation assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Other: The Dean makes the final decision but the search committee provides a report and everyone in the library provides feedback.

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

√ Cover letter

√ CV

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

For faculty: served on search committee (SC), often chairing it.  SC evaluates all candidates’ materials using a rubric developed from the job ad. Top scores are invited for Zoom interviews. Three are invited for on-campus interviews. All day interview includes dinner the night before, presentation to the entire library, meetings with the supervisor, home department, and a community member related to the candidate’s interest (this is for the candidate’s benefit and not shared with the hiring committee). References checked. Dean consults with SC, reviews feedback from others in the library, and makes an offer.

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

Made it very clear why they wanted *this job* at *this university*.  

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Rudeness to the administrative assistant who coordinates the search.  Generic cover letters which do not address the job ad, or spend a lot of time talking about items not related to the job description/ad. (Example: “I’m applying for the reference librarian position. Here’s why I love archives with much details)

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

Can’t think of anything

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

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

For in-person: be ready to make lots of small talk. Don’t expect the search committee members to carry the conversation.

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

Yes.  Test your setting to make sure the lighting is adequate, that your background is not distracting, that your Internet connection is strong and reliable, and that you  audio is clear.

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?

Write a compelling cover letter that explains how the experience transfers to the needed job skills.  One of the best letters I read was from someone who explained how bartending prepared them to work a public service desk.

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?

Everyone has to complete online training; we follow ‘best practices’ in the literature including having a sensitivity audit of job ad wording, using a rubric and common questions, giving questions in advance to candidates. Our uni is currently employing a search advocate firm which is intended to help us improve further.

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

Interviewing goes both ways, so candidates should think about what their priorities are in a workplace. Flexible schedule? Ability to choose your own projects? Support for professional development?  

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100 

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 50-100 staff members, Academic, Southeastern US, Suburban area

I really need to feel that you’ve thought through how to tackle this work and that you can do the job, or will be able to do so fairly quickly after hire

Regina Andrews (far right) and unidentified guest speakers during a Family Night at the Library program at the Washington Heights Branch of The New York Public Library. NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Coordinator of Research, Teaching & Learning

Titles hired include: Outreach Librarian; Assessment Librarian; First Year Engagement Librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

√ Employees at the position’s same level (on a panel or otherwise) 

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume 

√ References 

√ Supplemental Questions 

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Candidates typically submit cover letter, resume/CV and supplemental question RE: ALA-accredited degree). These are made available to a search committee of 3-5 staff usually including the position’s supervisor.  The committee identifies candidates for initial screening by HR; from this, 6-7 candidates are chosen for phone or Zoom interviews, and then 3 are brought to campus for a final interview.  Depending on the position, other campus stakeholders (ex, head of first-year program for FYE librarian) might be involved in this interview. The committee makes a recommendation for hire which is then approved by administration and passed on to HR (but I have never seen administration challenge the committee’s choice). I have served on 3 different search committees.

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

1 – Truly thoughtful responses to questions — she would usually pause for a moment, which initially came across as hesitation, but then would come back with something incredibly well-thought-out, well-explained, etc. 

2 – Incredible level of preparation — we would never expect this, but for her presentation she was prepared to demonstrate live, and had a back-up screencast and slides with screenshots in case of technical difficulties. When a technical issue occurred, she was not thrown off at all. She was also very aware of publicly-available info about our institution.  

3 – Solid questions for the committee. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Rudeness/condescension to department admin or student observers (or anyone else); cover letter which does not address specific position; expressing disinterest in a key component of the position

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

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

Lack of preparation. Read the job responsibilities, look at our website, have questions! I never expect a candidate to have things memorized, but our business is research, so I generally expect that you will have done some ‘research’ on our library. 

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

Yes, sometimes. Seems simple, but being right on-time (or a little early) is really important for virtual interviews. Check your tech and set-up beforehand if possible — we’ve all had glitches and interruptions and I generally give a lot of grace for that, but it can put candidates at a disadvantage not least because they often get flustered and the rest of their responses suffer. Be comfortable with some silence, because we’ll be taking notes and won’t have the visual cues in most cases. 

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 look for candidates to demonstrate some understanding of the different work they’re walking into in the cover letter, and to attempt to connect their own skills. Ex, if coming from a job where your main duty is storytime and now you’re applying to teach info lit to college students — don’t just write a paragraph repeating your storytime duties. Tell me how you’ve employed outreach, teaching and/or presentation skills in storytime and connect it to the job you’ll be doing.  If the job is very different and I don’t get the sense that a candidate has considered how to translate skills, or that they have an interest in this kind of work, it can be a turnoff. I love to see different kinds of experience — I think it generally makes for a better librarian — but usually, when I’m hiring, we’re feeling the lack of staff. So to advocate for you, I really need to feel that you’ve thought through how to tackle this work and that you can do the job, or will be able to do so fairly quickly after hire. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: A range is usually provided during initial HR screening. 

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

All candidates are asked to address their commitment to diversity in their cover letter. The head of a search committee is also typically provided with information from HR about how to conduct a fair hiring process, avoid discrimination, etc. To my knowledge, we don’t have any formal processes around this for staff hiring (I think our academic faculty do). 

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

The most important thing is that you ASK questions. So many candidates do not! Questions about workload, onboarding and/or expectations are always great and show you’ve done some thought about the day-to-day of the position. Questions about the local area or culture are also good, because it shows you’re interested in our area and have considered living there (it’s urban, but not necessarily super desirable). I am always impressed by challenging questions (like, what is your least favorite thing about the campus?) or things that I can tell might be deal-breakers for you — I *want* you to take the position, but I also want you to want it. 

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?

√ 11-50 

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? 

I just want to thank you for bringing this blog back. I know it must be a lot of work, but it is such a valuable resource. I read it obsessively when I was first applying to jobs at the end of my MLIS and it means a lot to be able to contribute, however minutely, from the other side of the table. 

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, Academic, Northeastern US, Urban area

it’s hard to tell who really even would accept the job if offered.

Nella Larsen and others. NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Director

Titles hired include: All of them

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

Direct supervisors get the applications from my office, interview 3-5 candidates, decide who their top candidate is, contact references, reach out to the applicant to confirm they’re still interested, then notify my office to start the (cumbersome) new hire approval process.

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

Genuine enthusiasm

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Not getting the name of the library right on your application materials, badmouthing prior libraries (even if they deserve it, you can talk about that later)

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

How much they actually want to work here. So many are just shotgunning resumes out to every library job, it’s hard to tell who really even would accept the job if offered.

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?

Not bringing anything to write with/on. 

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

Sometimes; we don’t have a travel budget to reimburse interviewees, so out-of-state applicants we will interview virtually. It’s harder to make a strong impression via zoom/Skype, though

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?

If you have the credentials, don’t apologize or be defensive. Just explain why it’s relevant. Bad library experience can be way worse than good non-library experience

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?

Probably not enough. Unofficially, we get so few minority candidates that most of them will get an interview.

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

Whether the role is new or replacing someone, and what processes led to whichever outcome. If new, what’s our vision for it. If replacing someone, do we want a change or more of the same from the role.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern 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?

√ 51-100

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, 50-100 staff members, Northeastern US, Public, Rural area, Suburban area

We can’t ask follow-ups, so give ALL the info that might be relevant.

Post Graduate Hospital : convalescents and librarian on sun porch, 1923. NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Supervising Librarian

Titles hired include: Librarian 2, Librarian 1, Library Aide, Library Assistant

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?

√ Online application

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Written Exam

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview 

√ 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:

Applications are initially screened by city HR to determine eligibility for the job classification. Eligible candidates are asked to take either an oral exam, a written exam, or are scored based on supplemental questionnaires. This leads to a ranked list based on score. When the library has vacancies to fill, they are given a list of names from the list for that classification – number of names given determined by number of vacancies to fill.  Those candidates are invited to a departmental interview (aka an interview with the library) which is a panel interview.  Panel presents recommendations to Administration and discusses each candidate. Sometimes candidates may be invited for a second interview that is more casual. 

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

They confidently and thoroughly answered each question. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

inappropriate comments (racist, sexist, transphobic etc). 

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 thoroughly answering the question. We can’t ask follow-ups, so give ALL the info that might be relevant.

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

Yes. We know it’s awkward, but we’ve gotten very used to it!

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?

Share how your experience in other areas (other jobs, volunteering, even school) is relevant.  If you haven’t done something, share what you WOULD do, or how you’ve handled similar things.

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?

We try to frame our questions to ensure candidates are given a chance to share their experience in a way that doesn’t favor any particular candidates. Include questions that get beyond “diversity” and into real inclusion and equity and anti-racism. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: Very rarely for really specific positions.

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+ 

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 200+ staff members, Public, Urban area, Western US

The field is saturated. My advice is to continue down their original path and not attempt to enter into the information field.

Langston Hughes signing autographs during a program on the story of jazz held at the Washington Heights Branch of The New York Public Library as part of the Family Night at the Library series. NYPL Digital Collections.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Administration 

Titles hired include: Tech services, access services 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration 

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume 

√ References 

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

Done by committee, final approval by admin. Applications screened. Applications that are incomplete, lack min qualifications, or include personal headshots/pictures of applicant (inappropriate, can be used to discriminate) are automatically rejected. Others proceed to committee. 

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

Excellent skills and personality. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Lack of experience, links to personal social media or inclusion of personal headshots. Any negative from a reference. Too long of a cover letter or resume.

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

Whether they truly want to be in the field. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √  Two is ok, but no more  

Resume: √ Only One!  

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

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

Discussing personal lives or trying to be extra. 

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

Act as if it is an in-person meeting. 

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?

The field is saturated. My advice is to continue down their original path and not attempt to enter into the information field. I would question why they want to make this move. 

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?

We do not consider applicants who provide a headshot or other personal photo. We do not look up their social media. 

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

They should ask about professional development opps.

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?

√ 51-100 

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? 

Be professional with your cover letter and resume.

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, 50-100 staff members, Academic, Northeastern US, Urban area

Demonstrate how roles in previous positions apply directly to library setting

Singer Marian Anderson (left) and Regina Andrews, Mahopac, New York. NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Director

Titles hired include: Supervisory librarian, outreach librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Online application 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

HR posts position, screens applicants, library administration choose candidates and arranged interviews, conducts interviews, recommend candidate for conditional offer to HR, hr background checks and tests

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

Great resume, spoke well in interview

What are your instant dealbreakers?

Not responding

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

Job rigor, personalities

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?

Underselling selves

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

Yes, test connection, do a mock interview with friend

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?

Demonstrate how roles in previous positions apply directly to library setting

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer 

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

Don’t know

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

Hierarchy, job duties, regular day scenario

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

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, Public, Rural area, Southwestern US, Suburban area

Please read the Required section of the job ad. Take it seriously.

Archivist with Damaged Negative of Abraham Lincoln. National Archives

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library

√ Archives 

Title: Assoc director 

Titles hired include: Librarian, processing archivist, reference assistance, archivist 

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

√ CV

√ 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?

Skill, willing to adapt to organizational needs and culture

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Lack of knowledge about field

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

How well organized they are. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

Resume: √ We don’t ask for this 

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

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

Yes, make sure you aren’t interrupted during the interview. Keep your dog in another room. 

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?

They can show extra training or reading they’ve done to understand professional work

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

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

Training

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

Work culture 

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

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100 

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? 

Please read the Required section of the job ad. Take it seriously. Respond to each requirement in your cover letter. Don’t make the selection committee guess whether you meet them.  Make sure claims in your cover letter are backed up in your resume. 

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, 50-100 staff members, Academic, Archives, Northeastern US, Suburban area

Across 20 different independent libraries there are over 300 people employed

Isabel Miller hugging a librarian as Barbara Gittings looks on. NYPL Digital Collections.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: District Consultant Librarian

Titles hired include: Director; Youth Services District Consultant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

√ Other: Library Board

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume 

√ References 

√ Supplemental Questions 

√ 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:

I assist public libraries and their boards in my district on the hiring of library directors and other personnel. I also assist the district administrator in hiring positions for the district, such as the YS district consultant

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

passion, job knowledge, knowledge of library and area they were interviewing for (they did their research)  

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

misspellings on resumes, condescending attitude toward interview team, bad talking/dissing previous employers 

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?

not doing their homework to know about the organization and its role in the community it serves

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

yes; I always say somewhere toward the beginning of the interview that it’s the most awkward conversation anyone ever has, made worse by zoom/teams/etc. We’re all nervous and out of element, so relax as much as you can

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?

show (not tell – words can be extremely descriptive) how their experience translates. If they’re going for their degree, show (see above) how the background in the theory of our profession grounds them for the real world applications of that theory.

I am a big proponent of ML(I)S degrees but completely understand how they don’t really prepare you for real library work. Therefore, practical experience of many kinds (customer service is a big plus) can and does translate well into libraryland.

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?

working on this. we recently raised minimum wages to $15 hour and our state allows for provisional hiring for 45 days while waiting for clearances. 

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

culture, a day in the life of the position, outreach, biggest challenges facing the org, biggest opportunities (basically a SWOT analysis)

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 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ Other: across 20 different independent libraries there are over 300 people employed 

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Baristas, retail, restaurant experience is relevant to dealing with difficult behaviors

Traveling Libraries, Prince George’s County Memorial Library. National Archives

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: archivist

Titles hired include: Information Services Librarian, Reference Librarian (full time and substitutes), Assistant Director, Library Assistant, Paralibrarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration 

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ 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:

MLS level are by committee with the director having final say.  Paralibrarian and substitute level are done by the department head and peers.  We have asked for a live teaching demo or story time or they can submit a recorded one or link to something in a previous position.  

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

enthusiastic, innovative ideas, creative

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

people who answer why did you became a librarian  or your favorite thing about public libraries with I like to read.  People who answer questions about working with diverse populations are just about race ignoring age, gender, religion, culture, sexual identity, economics, education, family/household definitions

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

customer service, think quick on feet/in the moment, public service commitment,

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

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

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

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

they have not even visited the about us page on our website and know nothing about our collections

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

as a screening/first round for upper level positions and for all stages/levels during the pandemic

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?

include any and all experience related to people and customer service.  Baristas, retail, restaurant experience is relevant to dealing with difficult behaviors 

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?

our community is 75% white and we are working hard on this 

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

management style, supervision style, board and staff relationship

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50 

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