Category Archives: 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey

Smoking while with members of the search committee

A man in a cap browses a colorful book shelf
Image: Tommy T. Gobena visiting Dilla University library. From UNICEF Ethiopia on Flickr via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for an:

√ Academic Library

Title: Head of Content Curation

Titles hired: Library Director; Head of Research Services; Electronic Resources & Serials Librarian; Discovery & Systems Administrator, etc.

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?

√ Online application

√ 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:

As a supervisor, I generally chair the search committee for positions within my own department; and serve on other search committees as well.

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

They modeled kindness, respect, and diplomacy in their interactions.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Disrespect; talking over everyone else at a meal and not letting the search committee members get a word in edgewise; smoking while with members of the search committee.

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

How well they get along with people in the workplace from day to day, not only in terms of respect, but also in terms of how they might continually burden others with their own anxieties.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

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

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?

Trying to perform, even while in casual conversation, instead of communicating like an authentic human being.

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

Yes. They should be familiar with virtual presentation software and how to best situate their camera, lighting, etc., as well as having a strong connection (dialing in by phone for audio, for example, if their home network has bandwidth issues).

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 that they’ve done their homework in researching the new library. Demonstrate that they understand the responsibilities, the environment, and the people, and what attracts them to this new role.

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 have required online training in anti-bias hiring techniques from HR.

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

Ask us what we find fulfilling for ourselves here, and what we hope to see from the new person in this role in the short term. They should be familiar with our library’s mission, and our institution’s mission and values. And they should know the responsibilities and the organizational structure as described in the position ad.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern 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

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? Or are there any questions you think we should add?

Our main challenge for the past 2 years has been getting approval to post positions. Like many other libraries, we are short-staffed due to normal attrition and not being permitted to hire replacements. The resulting double/triple workloads cause ripple effects, with the remaining people seeking other jobs due to burnout and little hope for improvement; thus exacerbating the situation. This is not limited to libraries; it’s pervasive across academia lately.

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

Most people have not heard of us before applying with us

A group of four white people are having a discussion in front of book shelves. One man looks bemused.
Image: Special Collections Tour with Dr. and Mrs. Arnfield From Flickr user Topeka Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for:

√ Special Library

√ Other: government library

Title: Librarian

Titles hired include: library technicians & librarians

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

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

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes

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

HR pre-screens initial applicants. Those deemed qualified are passed to the hiring panel (where I would be), who assess & invite ~4 candidates for interviews. References are checked and the hiring manager makes the final selection based on all the information gathered. The selection is passed back to HR, who extend the offer. 

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

Part of it was out of their control by the time they got to the interview: they had experience working with a niche type of materials our library offers. Part of it was in their control: They expressed a genuine interest in us and made the interview a conversation with give & take on both sides, both revealing the breadth & depth of their experience and knowledge and giving a small insight into what they would be like as a colleague. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Revealing they over-stretched the truth of their experience & expertise on their resume

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

It’s almost impossible to assess how they’ll *really* work on a team or on complicated projects, because that’s just not testable in the average library hiring process, and self-assessment isn’t always reliable. 

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?

Not displaying any curiosity about your potential new workplace. Especially in government hiring the questions we are allowed to ask are often formulaic and can’t be personalized for each candidate. Ask us follow up questions if you think of them. When we hand the floor over to candidates for their questions, that’s the time to really dive in and get a conversation out of us. Put together thoughtful questions about the organization – ask us about upcoming projects, recent challenges, jot notes about what we mention during the questions and ask us to expand, etc. This is another way of expressing enthusiasm about the position and getting to know the people you might be working with (and vice versa) that a surprising number of candidates forgo entirely. 

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

We do. My advice: Don’t overthink it, and keep it simple. You don’t need to stare into the camera the entire time or try to make it look like you don’t live in a house. Make sure your audio & camera (if relevant) are working, have a non-distracting (decently clean, no TV blaring, etc) background, & smile. Not that different than an in person interview really.  

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?

Take a copy of the job description you’re interested in. Highlight in one color everything you have experience in, or transferable experience in, and make notes on what that experience is to make sure it’s mentioned somewhere in your resume or cover letter. Make it really easy on the committee to see your qualifications. Highlight in another color everything you don’t have experience in, and do some research, even if it’s just passively watching a webinar. Hiring managers want to know that A) you can already do something, or B) you wouldn’t be difficult to train. Saying in an interview “I’ve never done X, but I’ve watched a webinar and worked on a committee with people who did, and I see (fill in the blank of) these parallels to Y, which I’m very experienced in” goes a long way. And it’s a step further than the majority of candidates go, which will make you stand out. It is more work, yes, but if you’re stretching for a job that’s not a clear cut match for you, I strongly recommend it. Doing this is what helped me make multiple big jumps across very different types of library work in my career. 

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?

Every time a position is filled, there is a meeting to determine A) if the position really needs a masters B) how to advertise it as broadly as possible, with emphasis on under-targeted populations. If I had the power to do so I would love to see the additional step of blind reviewing materials to reduce potential name and gender bias. Appearance bias is hard to avoid with in-person or video interviews, but we try to select diverse panels and offer pre-hiring anti-bias training that helps the panel identify internalized biases as well. 

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

Most people have not heard of us before applying with us. We know that so don’t be afraid to admit it. Ask us a lot of questions about our structure, our history, our challenges, our successes, our goals, our work culture. Really dig in. As I mentioned before, what we can ask you is often structured and limited. Your questions are your time to get all the information you need, information we will happily give even if government hiring isn’t easily structured to let us offer it outright.  

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

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Northeastern US, Other Organization or Library Type, Special, Urban area

Focus should be on how the candidate can make a contribution

young man and male librarian stand on opposite sides of a desk, black and white
Image: Librarian at desk with patron from The New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Director – retired

Titles hired include: Librarian, Library Assistant, Page, Division Manager, Supervising Librarian, Executive Assistant, Police Assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

Applications are prescreened by HR and hiring manager, finalists invited for panel interviews

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

Clearly prepared, understood the job as advertised, researched the organization and could express why they wanted to work there and why they were a good fit for the role.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Rude to HR or support staff, only interested in the benefits, critical of previous organizations or managers

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

work ethic, ability to deal with stress

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: √ We don’t ask for this 

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

Lack of preparation, not knowing anything about the organization they’re interviewing with, not asking any questions

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

Be mindful of what’s in your background

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?

Study the desired qualifications and tie in your experience where you can

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?

Applications are carefully evaluated based on minimum qualifications only

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

Questions I like to hear are things like “What would you expect the person you hire to accomplish in the first 6 months?” or “How can the person you hire best help the library to be successful?” Focus should be on how the candidate can make a contribution.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western 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, Public, Suburban area, Western US

There is no “magic” question

Heather has worked in public libraries for several years, happily serving in every staff role. She cites the best part as helping staff reach their goals.

Outside of work, Heather can be found out hiking the local trails in Southern California.

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

First step is the online application with supplemental questions, second, the panel interview (internal or external depending on the position); if a two step position then it will be an internal panel second round interview. If a supervisory position, the final candidate would meet with the City’s executive team.

Titles hired include: Digital Navigators, Librarians, Supervisors, PT/FT

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ 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?

They were enthusiastic about the opportunity, the organization and understood that working in a public library was a challenge but it was one they really wanted.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Attitude — unwillingness to learn, take direction; unfamiliarity with the job/organization; skills can be learned, attitude cannot.

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

Sometimes attitude isn’t revealed in the interview; there is no “magic” question.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

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?

Being honest with themselves about whether or not this is the right position for them

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

Practicing beforehand and staying relaxed; it’s hard for both interviewer and subject; don’t be afraid to admit that this is awkward

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?

Try and build a bridge or tell a story about your experience that links the two; I’ve done x and this is how it relates to or is similar to y

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 have not examined our practices for bias, yet, but will be doing so.

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

What can I do to be successful in this role; What would be the most challenging aspect of the position; what is the culture like; what do you like about working there

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western 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, Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Suburban area, Western US

Stats and Graphs: When does your organization first provide salary information?

It’s Staturday!

Welcome to a Stats and Graphs post, in which I examine survey responses through stats and graphs!

The survey that I am calling Return to Hiring Librarians opened on March 25th, 2022. As of today, May 14th, 2022, we have 180 responses. There are 23 questions in the survey. 13 are open-ended and 10 are closed-ended. Of the closed-ended questions, only one measures an opinion (it’s a grid which asks: How many pages should a cover letter/resume/CV be?). The others are primarily demographics but do also ask for things like when salary information is first shared and what materials/tasks are asked for in the application and interview process.

The survey is still open. If you hire library workers, please consider filling it out.

In the past, I’ve posted the stats for all questions. I’m going to try just looking at one question at a time, plus demographics.


I’m starting with the question “When does your organization first provide salary information?” The recent post Currently, we’re over 300% turnover since 2016 and cannot attract candidates garnered some discussion which blamed the lack of candidates on not telling folks salary info until after they’d made an offer. While I think that the responses indicated much larger problems than that, I thought I’d take a look at the answers to the salary information question in aggregate.

The good news is that the majority (70%) provide salary information as part of the job ad. In addition, many folks who chose “other” described their desire to make this information available up front, and talked about either successfully lobbying for the change or feeling stymied by their organization’s refusal.

This survey does not use representative sampling, so it would not be appropriate to generalize for our larger population of LIS organizations. However, if your organization does not currently provide this information up front, it might be worth opening a discussion with your administration about the message it sends to candidates when salary is hidden.

Now might also be a good time to mention – this blog collects salary information from currently employed folks. You can contribute yours here. These links, along with the Interview Questions Repository, are always available in the sidebar over on the right there ——–>

When does your organization first provide salary information

Chart of responses to When does your organization first provide salary information

180 responses

It’s part of the job ad 126 (70%)

We only discuss after we’ve made an offer 19 (10.6%)

It’s part of the information provided at the interview 10 (5.6%)

Other 25 (13.88%)

  • I usually bring it up at the beginning of our phone interview. As in, this is when I need you to work and this is the salary range, does that work and would you like to proceed? Our pre-screen from HR asks for a range, we can usually meet or beat it.
  • Salary discussion is handled by the recruiter
  • It depends, but at my current place of work, we now put it in the ad.
  • Only when we make an offer, but I am hoping to change this.
  • I always list it when I hire, but the library board usually lists none or a range when hiring a director.
  • For most jobs it’s part of the ad, at least for the department I manage. There are some in the library who don’t want to include it, but I think it is an absolutely essential piece and I won’t post an ad for this department without one.
  • Our department lists the salaries in the job ad. It is inconsistent across the institution.
  • We list a range in the job ad, and that’s all I can speak to at the interview. HR determines their salary based on education and experience, and discusses specifics in the offer.
  • A range is usually provided during initial HR screening.
  • Pushing to put it in the ad, but it’s not always done
  • My institution does not allow us to post salary information. For staff hires, I provide salary and works schedules at the interview. For librarian (faculty) positions, it can be awkward to have that conversation during the interview with the committee present. I typically do a follow-up to the first interview with candidates we’re interested in bringing to campus that opens the door to discuss salary 1-1 before moving forward as a candidate.
  • We often mention in the ad that we need the states salary guidelines.
  • Only brought up when there’s an offer or is asked during the interview. Would prefer to put
  • We just started providing ranges or minimums in ads this year
  • It’s usually part of the online job description. Faculty are members of a bargaining unit so starting salaries are set in the CBA, but can also be negotiated.
  • The minimum is posted in the job ad (not a range) but is not discussed in detail until an offer is made.
  • It’s a separate phone call with HR that occurs between the first and second round interviews — I hate this system, but we don’t have any say in it.
  • the range is on the job ad, we can answer general questions, then HR makes their final after vetting
  • Desired salary is a question in the HR screening interview and the HR rep can provide the salary range
  • The salary range is provided as part of the interview and negotiated after the offer.
  • Our institution does not post salary information in job ads (which I cannot get them to budge on). So I provide it as soon as I reach out to schedule interviews.
  • Salary Range in job ad, specific salary with job offer
  • As of April 2022, it’s part of the job ad
  • For me, I didn’t find out salary until the interview. Since I started, the pay info is included in the job ad. we finally got our campus to share. As a state institution, there is one solid number. But it is uneven.

Demographics

What type of organization(s) do you hire for? (Check all that apply)

Chart of What type of organizations do you hire for?

180 responses

Academic Library 55 (30.6%)

Archives 16 (8.9%)

Public Library 96 (53.3%)

School Library 2 (1.1%)

Special Library 16 (8.9%)

Other 14 (7.77%)

What part of the world are you in?

Chart showing replies to "what part of the world are you in?"

179 Responses

Midwestern US 38 (21.2%)

Northeastern US 42 (23.5%)

Southeastern US 32 (17.9%)

Western US 28 (15.6%)

Southwestern US 17 (9.5%)

Australia/New Zealand 5 (2.8%)

Canada 8 (4.5%)

UK 1 (0.6%)

Texas 1 (0.6%)

Other 7 (3.91%)

What’s your region like? (Check all that apply)

Chart of responses to What's your region like?

179 Responses

Urban 79 (44.1%)

Suburban 86 (48%)

Rural 43 (24%)

Other 16 (8.93%)

How many staff members are at your organization?

177 responses

0-10 23 (13%)

11-50 65 (36.7%)

51-100 29 (16.4%)

101-200 26 (14.7%)

201+ 27 (15.3%)

Other 9 (5.08%)


I hope you have found, and will continue to find, the statistics and the individual responses interesting and useful. I’m very interested in any feedback or observations you might have. You can communicate with me here via comment, on Twitter @HiringLib, or by email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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

Currently, we’re over 300% turnover since 2016 and cannot attract candidates.

A white woman sits at a desk covered in books, using a typewriter
Image: Anita Ozols works at typewriter in Chubb Library Cataloging Department, shortly before move to the new Alden Library by Ohio University Libraries on Flickr

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library

Title: Head of Cataloging

Titles hired: Reference Librarian, acquisitions, circulation

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

It’s a disaster. A committee makes and recommendation and the director ignores it.

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

Currently, we’re over 300% turnover since 2016 and cannot attract candidates.

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

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

we have for COVID but are starting to perform on campus 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?

technical skills

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 have a DEI statement that is ignored

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

What happened to the the last three people that had this job?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southwestern 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

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Southwestern US, Urban area

I did a virtual interview this year where the candidate was playing a video game at the same time

Librarian stands at bookshelves talking to a teen
Image: Librarian with young reader in Browsing Room of the Nathan Strauss Branch for Young People From The New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Library Administrator

Titles hired include:

Librarian, Library Assistant, Clerk, Access Services Assistant, Security Manager, Library Administrator 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

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:

Recruitment – alternating between internal and external, screened for minimum quals, randomly selected pool of about 20 at a time sent to interview panel (3-5 people), panel interview creates a list of ranked candidates based on score, names are referred out to hiring manager based on score and location/FTE preference, second interview is done at local level (3-4 people usually), selection is made. 

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

demonstrated leadership in answers,  complete answers, good sense of humor, thoughtful and prepared (we send questions at least 24 hrs ahead of time)

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Because we send questions ahead of time, someone who is obviously unprepared (doesn’t have an answer) is kind of a deal breaker. I did a virtual interview this year where the candidate was playing a video game at the same time. Poor answers to diversity and equity questions. 

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

references, and sometimes resume – only the initial hiring panel who makes the list sees the resume generally 

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?

incomplete question answers, answers that are too SHORT. If you have 30 minutes for the interview and you are done in 10, you need to rethink the details in your answers. 

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

yes. Don’t be afraid to communicate issues you have – poor internet connection or equipment, etc.  Otherwise, just relax. We are mostly taking notes and sometimes don’t even have you on our main screen, 

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?

It doesn’t take a lot to convince me. Candidates who can show parallels are actually my favorite because it takes skill to show how you have the skills without having worked in a library before. I try to have some questions to encourage this as well – ie. Tell me about a time you had to teach yourself something complicated, how did you go about it? What did you learn? What would you do differently? – Advice – have an awareness of how the library is part of a larger system, its own type of environment – think about public access on a bigger picture level. Say more than “I love the library” – tell us what a library means to you.  ASK IF THE PERSON HAS SEEN YOUR RESUME.  I tell people if we haven’t, which isn’t uncommon, but others might not think to tell you that before the interview starts. When you answer questions, answer every part – an incomplete answer is the easiest way to rank someone lower in a large candidate pool. When you are finished with your answer, go back and summarize your answer as it pertains to each part of the question – make there be no doubt.  

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

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

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

√ Other…

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

random selection pool of applicants, training on bias. Where bias still exists – in my org it does not exist as much for race, sexual orientation, or gender – but it’s very prevalent with older age and weight. 

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

Ask what an average day looks like, how promotions occur (although sometimes asking about this can give a bad impression that you don’t want the job you’re interviewing for so be careful about your wording). Most people ask what we like about working at the library. This is an ok question. Ask what our challenges are as a system or branch. Ask what success looks like for someone in this position after 6 months. Ask what type of employee the manager finds the easiest to manage and the staff the easiest to work with.. Benefits questions are best asked to HR. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+

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

Again – answer COMPLETELY.  Talk about teamwork, problem solving, and highlight your previous work experience. We do love to hear that you love the library, but make your answer larger than that – why? What does it mean to you? What do you think it means to the public or country at large?  If there’s something specific you need – ask about it – but also be careful. For example, we sometimes have people asking about very specific schedule needs around other responsibilities (school, children, etc). Weekends and evenings are part of public library life and jobs that don’t include one or both are few – so be prepared for that. 

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

Skills are transferable, so I would rather see a candidate understand their capabilities rather than have exact experience.

Headshot of Beth Walker

Beth Walker (she/her) is a Senior Librarian at the Haymarket Gainesville Library in Prince William County Virginia. She received her MLS from UNC-Chapel Hill and her undergraduate degree from St. John’s College, which is known for its distinctive Great Books program. 

She lives in Haymarket with her spouse and two cats.

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

The supervisor of the position creates a hiring profile, laying out the main duties of the position and desired qualifications/experience. An ad is created and posted. HR uses an automatic screening system for minimum qualifications. Then an HR subject matter expert additionally screens the remaining applications to verify qualifications. All remaining applicants are interviewed. The interviews are scored based on responses demonstrating skills and experience. The top scorer is sent a “ban the box” question via email, and then references are called. References must be current and/or former supervisors. If the references check out, the top candidate is offered the position. Alternates may be selected by the hiring manager, so if the top candidate does not accept the position or leaves within 6 months, then the alternate may be considered.

Titles hired include: Librarian, Library Assistant, Library Technician, Library Page

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Online application

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes

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

Provided good, clear examples in the interview of their skills, even if they did not have direct experience for the proposed questions. Skills are transferable, so I would rather see a candidate understand their capabilities rather than have exact experience.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One! Note: We accept cover letters and resumes, but mainly focus on the electronic application submitted

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 providing enough details to answer the question. Also, repeating the same examples or going into too much detail about one aspect and then neglecting other areas (saying “I don’t have an answer for that” after spending 10 minutes on the previous question). It also helps to show enthusiasm for something other than “loving books”. Don’t rely only on your resume to demonstrate your skills. 

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

Have a good internet/audio setup. Otherwise I don’t really factor in setting (to the extent that I don’t even care about how a person dresses, or what the background looks like). I prefer not to have interruptions (animals, people), but you can always let me know if you are in a space that might not afford the same level of privacy as an in-person interview. 

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Again, skills are transferable, so try to give examples of what you have done that are similar to what the hiring manager is looking for. You may want to think outside of the box and maybe write out in advance some examples to refer to. I also accept personal life experiences as examples, even though it can’t necessarily be verified via references. Anything related to volunteer work, involvement in community organizations or church activities, or even jobs you may have had previously that were not library-related. We are always looking for people who are good interacting with other people, are able to follow instructions and relate that to other people, and have some experience with technology. 

When does your organization *first* provide 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?

Managers in our organization are required to take an Equal Employment Opportunity training every year to identify the various kinds of discrimination and how to avoid it. Hiring managers don’t see the applications until they are screened through, then all qualified candidates are interviewed. We try to score candidates based on only their responses, but obviously this is where potential discrimination can occur. Like many libraries, ours trends heavily white and female, which can contribute to implicit bias. However, hiring panels always include at least two managers and the scores must agree within a certain range. We use a competency matrix to score, so if the scores are too far apart you have to justify why the candidate’s responses scored higher or lower. 

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

Ask about the team and growth opportunities. Also, ask any questions you really want to know, because you are also interviewing our organization for fit. Since our library is a part of the county government, there can be quite a bit of bureaucracy involved, so if you are unfamiliar with that type of work environment ask about it. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: Certain positions can occasionally telework, but it is mostly in person

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+ Note: Our system has 11 branches; the larger branches have about 20-30 staff, and the smaller branches around 5, supplemented by volunteers

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

Don’t underestimate your own worth! It can be uncomfortable to talk about yourself, especially if you are worried that you are not exactly qualified, but sell up everything you can think of that is relevant to the job description. Particularly in the paraprofessional positions, managers can see your potential if you give good examples of skills. If you are applying for a public-facing position, make sure to highlight any customer service experience you may have. Write down some examples of things you have accomplished and are proud of, and use it in the interview. If you are more experienced, don’t be afraid to show the full extent of your knowledge, but be willing to demonstrate that you still enjoy learning. 

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

Ask questions tailored to the person interviewing you.

Headshot of Karen K. Reczek. She grasps her chin and smiles against a light blue background

Karen K. Reczek is a Social Scientist within the Standards Coordination Office (SCO) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  Karen works with high level Federal, State, Local & private sector officials to coordinate standards development and standards research to identify and support development of standard activities and programs to meet Federal needs. Previously Karen worked at Bureau Veritas CPS as Senior Manager, Information Resources Center for 14 years and prior to that at Bristol-Myers Squibb in Scientific and Information Resources and Services.  For over 30 years, Karen has served in various leadership positions in SLA, including elected and appointed positions at the SLA International, Community level. She is the winner of 2018 SLA John Cotton Dana Award.  She is currently President, SES: Society for Standards Professionals. 

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

Write description and skills requirements; work with HR to post the job; HR screens candidates that make a qualifying list; supervisor selects people to interview; panel interviews and makes selection in ranked order. HR extends offer. 

Titles hired include: Information Specialist

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 

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

Short answers that answered the questions. Articulate, organized in their approach, good examples, personable, and asked good questions. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Won’t look me in the eye, even on camera! No questions for me. Unorganized responses or responses that make it clear the person did not understand the questions nor did they ask to clarify. 

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

Their real ability to let go of set ways and learn new things and continue to adapt to the role should it change. I try to ask behavioral interview questions to get some of this revealed. 

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, I love reading.

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

Not researching the organization, or the department/divisions; not coming prepared to ask questions; not being prepared at all.

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

Yes, recently. See above. Turn your camera on. Make “eye” contact”; smile. Be brief. Ask clarifying questions.

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?

No need to convince me. I know it’s possible. Just offered an administrative person and info specialist role because they seemed very capable of owning the role and doing quality work once trained. 

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?

HR’s new system is supposed to start to try and address that. Yet, it still exists. 

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

About opportunities for growth – like do you support belonging to professional orgs, attending conferences, opportunities for advancement. How the department works; what the supervisor’s style is and expectations; what the role is and responsibilities and what training will be offered to learn the job, etc. 

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?

√ 201+ 

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

Do your homework. Be prepared. Ask questions tailored to the person interviewing you. Ask HR about culture and training. Ask the hiring manager about day to day responsibilities, management style, work environment, etc. The job hunter is interviewing the organization just as much as the organization is interviewing the job hunter. Don’t forget that. Try to learn about the culture. Sometimes that’s make or break once you get there and realize it is not a good fit. 

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, 200+ staff members, Northeastern US, Other Organization or Library Type, Urban area

If I have an anatomy professor on the hiring committee, they may not be able to connect the dots between managing retail operations and providing front-line library services

Ruth Castillo is the Director of the Library at Emory & Henry College in Virginia. Prior to coming to Virginia, she was a library department head at another private university. 

In these roles, Ruth has chaired numerous librarian and library staff search committees and served on faculty and administrator search committees for positions outside of the library. 

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

I chair search committees for library positions at the college. For all types of positions, candidates must apply online with a resume/cv, cover letter, and references. For staff positions, the committee typically does in-person interviews with the top 2-3 candidates before making a decision. For librarian (faculty) positions, the committee does a video call first-round interview with the best 5-10 candidates then recommends 1-3 candidates for an on-campus interview day. The interview day involves 5-8 different interviews, meetings, and often a teaching demonstration and includes meetings with the Provost, the library staff, and the Faculty Hiring Committee. After the on-campus interviews, the search committee and the Faculty Hiring Committee make independent recommendations to the Provost who will make a final decision regarding offering the position.

Titles hired include: Technical Services Librarian, Technical Services Specialist, Technical Services Assistant, Health Sciences Librarian, Public Services Librarian, Circulation Assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ 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

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

The most impressive candidates I have seen are all able to articulate why they want to join us and what they would bring to the library.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Coming to an interview and asking no substantive questions.

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

What the candidate needs to know to determine if this would be the job for them (salary, schedules, work/life balance, health care, moving to the community, etc).

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

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?

Not doing their homework. If you don’t know where we’re located, what type of institution we are, and how big the library staff is before I talk to you, I assume you don’t have an interest in working here.

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

We do! The beginning of a virtual interview can be awkward, for everyone. A great way to overcome that is handling the basics, like making sure people can hear and see you okay.

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?

Directly reference the job posting in the context of your experience. I intentionally look for these connections, but if I have an anatomy professor on the hiring committee, they may not be able to connect the dots between managing retail operations and providing front-line library services. Utilize cover letters and interviews as opportunities to make these types of connections.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: My institution does not allow us to post salary information. For staff hires, I provide salary and work schedules at the interview. For librarian (faculty) positions, it can be awkward to have that conversation during the interview with the committee present. I typically do a follow-up to the first interview with candidates we’re interested in bringing to campus that opens the door to discuss salary 1-1 before moving forward as a candidate.

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

All search committees are required to do training at the beginning of the search. We also use the same questions for all candidate interviews within a search.

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

What is the first challenge you would ask me to tackle in this position? How does this position fit into the strategic goals/plans of the library? When you started here, what surprised you the most about working here? What does communication within the library look like?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

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, Academic, Rural area, Southeastern US