Category Archives: 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey

We often have tight scheduling for interviews and wasting 10 mins while an applicant gets their microphone to work is problematic

A white lady in sunglasses and 1980s sweater smiles
Esther Johnson. Arbor Day Celebration – 1984. Photo by Norden H. (Dan) Cheatham From UC Berkeley Library Digital Collections.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: User Experience Librarian/Head of Access Services

Titles hired include: Library Assistant, Student Assistant, Research & Instruction Librarian, Systems Librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ 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

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ 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:

HR posts the job and all members of the hiring committee can see applicants. We use a rubric/metrics tailored to the job to assess all applicants and then meet to sort them into categories including yes, no, maybe. Depending on the job we will either have one round of on-campus interviews (assistants) or for librarians we will have two rounds including a first round phone interview. My role depends on whether or not I am head of the search committee, if I am head then I work with HR to post and market the position, create the rubric and interview questions, and do all of the work to contact and arrange interviews and follow-up references and then submit the decision and paperwork for approval. If I am a member of the committee I complete the necessary reviews and take part in the interviews as directed and then attend meetings to discuss applicants. 

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

Their cover letter was perfectly tailored to our position. Every requirement we listed they specifically addressed how they met it or how they might meet it. During the interview they were very articulate and had a student-centered view of instruction. They also didn’t shy away from discussing tough topics surrounding inclusion and social justice. Additionally, they asked very thoughtful questions about our institution that showed they had done some prior research. All combined, it gave the sense that they really wanted this specific position. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Not necessarily, if someone has the wrong library listed in their cover letter I tend to put them into the “no” pile and that does happen in our library assistant searches fairly frequently. 

I am also hesitant of PhD holders and former faculty members who are seeking to switch into libraries as their cover letters don’t often show a full understanding of the work that libraries do. 

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

While this can change as people develop, I wish I had a better sense of what candidates are looking for long-term. Is this position a stepping stone to something else? Do they really want to work in public libraries and are just applying to everything that comes along? 

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?

Not owning up to something that they aren’t familiar with and instead having a rambling non-answer to a question. I appreciate a person saying that they don’t have a ton of experience with a specific product or situation and asking for clarification about how we would handle something. 

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

Yes we do. I think testing the technology ahead of time is a good idea. We often have tight scheduling for interviews and wasting 10 mins while an applicant gets their microphone to work is problematic. Also, if cameras are on they should be looking at the screen the same way we would expect them to be making eye contact with us in 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?

For library assistant positions, we’re looking for people who have customer services and supervisory skills. Library experience is helpful but we’d prioritize a person who knows how to manage people and handle a fast paced environment. The same is true when we hire Systems or Technology positions, the systems might be different but if you can demonstrate that you have competence in managing data or working in networks, then we assume that you can extend those to library products. 

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 collects demographic information and will specifically tell us if there are certain candidates that they would like us to reconsider based on this information. We also send applicants copies of our questions ahead of time to reduce any issues for those who need more time to process information. We try our best to overlook simple grammatical and spelling errors that could be attributed to language barriers but we could stand to improve on that. 

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

I usually like for them to ask what a typical day/week is like. I want them to ask what we like about working for the library. Questions about the tenure process are usually helpful. I think that they should know about where we are geographically and how that impacts the types of students we encounter. I think they should have a sense of how large (or small) our staff is and what the work environment is like. I also think they should know about our tenure process and the criteria that they will be evaluated on. 

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?

√ 11-50  

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

Consistent use of STAR technique

Image: Hudson Park, Picture book hour, Miss Cutler, children’s librarian. From the New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Titles hired: Regional manager, Librarian, public service assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Resume

√ References

√ 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:

Pre screen panel of 3 interviewers, 3 questions, 10 minutes to answer. If selected to move on, 1 hour interview with 5 member panel

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

Consistent use of STAR technique, involvement in professional associations, and ability to articulate concepts from self guided professional development

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

No

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

Not providing specific examples to support answers

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

Yes.

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?

Hype up customer service skills

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?

Pre and post bias discussion. Diverse hiring panel

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

I’d like them to ask more about our strategic mission and the culture between admin and branch level. What is the role of Librarian in the organization. How do you see it changing in the next 5 years.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: Occasional WFH opportunities. Generally discouraged for non management

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, Suburban area, Urban area, Western US

We’d rather wait a few seconds and get a well-thought out answer!

Headshot of Alan Smith. He wears glasses, a white shirt and tie.

Alan Smith is Director of the Florence County, SC Library System and holds a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of South Carolina. 

Over the past 20 years he has worked in rural, urban, and suburban public libraries, in a wide variety of roles.

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

I send all applications to the position’s direct supervisor and let them choose who to interview (I will sometimes add in a name too). We interview with a 3-person panel consisting of me, the position’s direct supervisor, and another manager. We rotate other managers in and out and always keep the panel as diverse as possible. After interviewing we score individually and discuss. I defer to the direct supervisor if our opinions differ.

After all this they go through our county’s background check and drug test.  

Titles hired include: Everything! From Branch Library Managers, Information Services Manager, Youth Services Coordinator, Training and Outreach Coordinator, to Pages, Library Assistants, Custodian, Maintenance, Courier…

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

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

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?

She had a wide variety of experience, none of it in libraries, but really convincingly demonstrated how those skills and experiences would translate to our mission and values. 

Interviews are limited in what they can tell you — and I’ve hired folks with great interviews who turned out not to be great employees — but someone who gives a pleasant interview with thoughtful answers is at least demonstrating that they can do well in a stressful personal interaction, which is a pretty good indicator of customer service skills.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Sounds obvious, but people who don’t show up for an interview and don’t call. We’ve had people do a complete no-show and then continue applying for other positions?! 

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

What kind of coworker are they? Will they help resolve conflicts among other employees or will they just enjoy watching drama unfold? Will they add to or strain social cohesion on the team?

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?

Feeling like they have to answer immediately and not giving themselves a second to think about their answers. We’d rather wait a few seconds and get a well-thought out answer! And, people who are clearly reluctant to talk about their own accomplishments and virtues. This is where you toot your own horn! 

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

Occasionally. Number one is site preparation – interview from a quiet, distraction free environment (as much as is within your control). 

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’m more concerned whether candidates have done work aligned around a mission or set of values, and whether they have experience building good community relationships and/or working with customers, than whether they have done those things in a library setting. 

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 always use a 3-person panel with members of different races and genders. That doesn’t eliminate individual unconscious bias, of course, but we try to acknowledge it in our discussions about candidates. I do worry about discrimination baked into the process itself, i.e., which candidates’ applications do we never even receive because we didn’t advertise where they would see it, didn’t convince them we were the type of place they would be welcome, etc. 

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

Asking any kind of questions shows a level of interest and critical thinking that we’re really looking for. I like to hear questions about culture and environment (“What’s a typical day like here?” “What do you like most or least about the job?”), and questions about the overall organization’s direction (“What are the library’s top priorities?” “What would a successful person in this position be doing a year from now?”)

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: Very limited remote options during early phases of COVID; our County required all-onsite after May 2020.

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? 

I’m always interested in hearing feedback on specific interview questions — questions that are especially illuminating, or well-known questions that are useless. Maybe beyond the scope of this survey though.

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

Search committee reviews all applicants using a matrix

Three tables each with people studying special collections
Image: Researchers at MSU Special Collections Library via Wikimedia Commons

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library

√ Archives

Title: Head of Special Collections

Titles hired include: University archivist, archivist, processing archivist

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Other: Search committee makes recommendation to dean

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

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

Search committee reviews all applicants using a matrix, selects first round phone interviews (8-10 people usually), selects 2-3 people for on campus interview (full day), makes hiring recommendation to dean

 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 doing any research on the hiring institution, not having any questions for interviewers

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southwestern 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?

√ 101-200

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 100-200 staff members, Academic, Archives, Southwestern US, Suburban area

Doesn’t the MLS itself promote bias as a gatekeeping mechanism?

Charles Benjamin Norton, publisher and bookseller; Seth Hastings Grant, librarian at the New York Mercantile Library; and Daniel Coit Gilman, assistant librarian at Yale at the first annual meeting of American librarians, From the Library of Congress

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Special Library

Title: Program Manager

Titles hired include: Electronic Resources Librarian, Acquisitions Librarian, Reference Librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ 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

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes

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

Applications are submitted to USAJobs and reviewed by HR. HR creates one or more cert lists and highlights candidates who have preference (veterans, etc). Resumes and cover letters are included with the cert list(s), though sometimes we can tell that we are missing paperwork (i.e. a cover letter doesn’t come attached but is referenced in a resume, etc). Resumes are evaluated against a matrix and assigned points. The candidates with the highest number of points are given short-notice to attend an interview the next week. They participate in one 1-hour interview, and each candidate is asked the exact same questions by the exact same panel members. Panelists rank the responses against another written matrix and compare scores only after all interviews are complete. The panel then provides a recommendation and a back-up recommendation to the hiring manager, who will then start contacting references and evaluate. 

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

They were obviously so skilled, but also so polite and lively

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Attitude and tone, though it’s not a problem for others. I’m trying to heal my organization’s culture.

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

What did they think of us? Would they be happy here?

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this  

Resume: √ As many as it takes, I love reading

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Losing track of time – you have to answer all questions within the same 60 minutes assigned to all candidates – if you skip or miss a question, I have to give you a score of 0 on it, and no matter how great your other answers were, this will drive down your score.

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

Yes. Great question! BE EARLY, at least 5 minutes early. Make sure your microphone and headset is working. It’s hard to keep animals and kids quiet, but at least keep other adults out of the room. It’s hard not to talk over people, so it’s okay to say “over” when your answer is complete. 

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?

Use the STAR method whenever answering questions and please tell stories that help me understand

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?

Another great question – doesn’t the MLS itself promote bias as a gatekeeping mechanism?

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 culture, fit, and what a typical day might look like

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern 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? 

Note – our resumes HAVE to be long (federal gov). I have had to throw away WONDERFUL resumes that are too short to make it past the first round of scoring. I have a matrix that I HAVE to follow and if your resume doesn’t address every little thing, it’s not going to make it or score high enough. I can’t stand letting go of great candidates just because they have a one or two page resume, it makes me so sad. I can’t reach out to them to ask them to send a resubmission. Plus the first person to look at your resume is NOT a librarian – help them understand why you’re qualified by using every single keyword you can think of. 

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, Southwestern US, Special, Urban area

I’ve had very good correlation between successful hires and composers of excellent cover letters

Black and white photo librarian sits at desk in an alcove under a vine, woman stands speaking to her
Image: Great Kills, Librarian and patron at desk From The New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Branch Manager

Titles hired: Library Assistant, Library Assistant Specialist, Youth Services Specialist, Adult Services Specialist, Branch Supervisor

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: The online application system does a very minor amount of screening, but still lets a lot of people through who don’t meet the minimum qualifications.

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

Applicants must apply online. Positions are open until filled. Interviews are scheduled after a sufficient number of promising applicants have accumulated. During COVID, Interviews were by Zoom. We are starting to move back to more in-person interviews. Interviews are with the manager (myself), the supervisor (equivalent of an asst. manager), and the HR director. The same questions are used with all interviewees for a position. Those applying for positions requiring programming are required to do a presentation. The manager makes the final selection with HR input.

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

We always ask for cover letters, but very few people actually write them. If a candidate writes a thoughtful cover letter, assuming they meet the minimum job requirements, they almost always end up at the top of my list of people to interview. I’ve had very good correlation between successful hires and composers of excellent cover letters. I’m also impressed by people who come to interviews obviously very well prepared. For example, they previously visited the library and researched our services. I had an entry level candidate who had no library experience. While interviewing, I noticed he had a notebook with the Dewey Decimal System written out in detail. He never referenced it, but I noticed his preparation and it did influence my decision to hire him.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

People who don’t use proper capitalization, punctuation or grammar in their applications. People who can’t work the required hours or meet the minimum job requirements. People who give problematic sounding reasons for leaving their previous jobs, particularly when that same reason is listed multiple times. People who are out of school, yet still have tons of job turnover (particularly yearly turnover).

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

How well they’ll work with the rest of the team. There are indicators, but in the end, its always a gamble.

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?

Revealing personal information that isn’t relevant and reflects poorly. Poorly handling questions like “What are you working to improve?”

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

More so than in the past. If you are asked to do a presentation, be prepared to screenshare. Nothing you try to hold up to the camera will look good.

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?

Give solid examples of how your current skill set relates to the position you want. If the position you’re after is a stretch, say it requires programming skills and you’ve never programmed, make it clear to me that you’ve researched the topic and learned about professional resources that will help you grow and succeed in the position. I had a para-professional who wanted to become a youth programmer. She made an effort to get involved in anything she could that was remotely youth related. She sought advice from coworkers who were programmers. She practiced doing storytimes at home and filmed herself so she could self critique. Despite limited programming experience, she was the clear choice for the job. If a candidate keeps getting shot down for promotions, they should talk to HR and get advice. If there’s a clear problem area, they need to work on it. I’ve dealt with a person who applied for tons of jobs, but interviewed terribly. The fact that they never changed their style or seemed to learn from their experiences, made me concerned about how teachable they would be if given a promotion.

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 use a numerical metric to score responses to questions. I would like to see us advertise our positions more widely.

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

Asking questions is good. It’s fine to ask about things like schedule and benefits, but also ask some thoughtful things about the job. Examples: library goals, training process, management style, etc.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern 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?

√ 101-200

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 100-200 staff members, Midwestern US, Public, Rural area, Suburban area

Kindness. Honesty.

Justin Hoenke is a human being and a librarian. He’s worked in public libraries in the USA and New Zealand, and is currently the Library Director of the Gardiner Public Library in Gardiner, Maine. 

His professional interests include creativity, public libraries as community centers, and music. He offers library consultancy services for public libraries and can be contacted at http://www.justinthelibrarian.com. 

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

We put out a job ad, we accept resumes/cover letters, we review what we have, we set up interviews, we hire!

Titles hired include: Archivist, Library Assistant, Youth Services Librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration 

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume 

√ References 

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?

Kindness. Honesty.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

It’s weird to say this as a librarian, but if all that you bring to an interview is “I love books” and “libraries are my home” that doesn’t bode well for you. I love books and libraries too, but it’s not the focus. I wanna know about you.

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

Not sure

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ As many as it takes, I love reading

CV: √ As many as it takes, I love reading

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

Not sure

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

Yes

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?

Be honest and open. Tell me what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown

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 treat everyone that we interview and hire equally. We are all in this together.

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

What’s the workplace like

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Other: Rural/Suburban-ish

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10

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 0-10 staff members, 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Northeastern US, Public, Rural area, Suburban area

Internal hiring and promotions happen 80% of the time for posted positions.

Bodleian Library, Oxford: Duke Humfrey’s library with a man studying. From Wellcome Collection via CC BY 4.0

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library

 Title: Health Science Librarian

Titles hired include: Library Information Associate, Assistant Librarian 

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ 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:

Job is posted for at least 4 weeks, then director and librarian take candidates based off of a rubric, phone interview with structured questions, interviewees are notified if they make second round, in person interviews, director and librarian meet and discuss candidates and select one to offer position. 

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

Library experience, customer service experience, math degree, knowledge of library systems

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

Internal hiring and promotions happen 80% of the time for posted positions. Also people have people in mind and hire them.

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?

They don’t share enough details or examples of how they have done or not done something. 

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

Yes, a quiet place is best if possible. Headset with mic helps. 

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?

Tell your story and share your experience. Explain why you want a librarian position and how your previous experience helps you. Share what you learned.

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 ask all candidates the same prepared questions. We ask staff to sit in on final interviews. We provide questions printed out at the final interview. There is still bias towards people with no library experience. We have HR collect application materials. There is an online portal and screening rubric to record ranking and decisions. 

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 job and university environment? Ask about students and faculty needs? Ask about schedule and coordination for coverage during holidays etc. ? Ask about things you want to know? 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ 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, Academic, Southwestern US, Suburban area, Urban area

In an interview – quietly confident. 

A librarian in a red shirt looks at books of fruit and vegetable images
Image: Special Collections librarian Sara B. Lee selecting fruit and vegetable images from the Rare Book Collection. USDA Photo by Peggy Greb.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ School Library

Title: Library Coordinator

Titles hired include: Library Attendant

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

√ Cover letter

√ CV

√ References

√ Other: written key selection criteria

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

Written applications submitted online; shortlisting; interview (usually with some practical component); second interview

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

On paper – thorough KSC answers, had researched our organisation, good attention to detail. In an interview – quietly confident. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Lots of spelling errors in application; or completes application process incorrectly. Shows poor attention to detail!

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

How much guidance / detailed instructions they will need on the job and in training – something you generally pick up on in their first few projects 

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 answering questions directly; not thinking about what the panel needs to find out about them

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

Honestly very similar to in-person interviews in my experience 

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?

We definitely take transferrable skills into consideration, so outline all those experiences. Show some knowledge of libraries too though – particularly the sort of work involved and what sort of organisations they are, not just an idealised view saying “I love reading so I want to work in a library!” 

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?

It very much depends on the individuals involved

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

Asking questions about their specific areas of interest, what projects they’d be interested to get involved in etc, helps because it helps the panel get to know them. 

It’s very popular to ask ‘what’s the culture like’ but I personally don’t think this is useful for either party – of course a hiring manager is going to give some generic positive spiel; if you have specific questions about professional development, flexibility etc – just ask that! 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Australia/New Zealand

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, Australia/New Zealand, School, Suburban area

We had someone use thinly veiled racist language during an interview which absolutely shut it down.

Black and white image of librarian sitting at circulation desk while a reader browses bookshelves behind them
Image: Librarian at desk and reader at bookshelves From The New York Public Library

This interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Director

Titles hired: Adult/Teen/Youth Librarian, Department Managers, Assistant Director, Custodian

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

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

Pretty traditional: Resumes are received by HR, HR forwards candidates to hiring manager. Hiring manager and assistant manager of that department select and interview candidates. Library Director reviews candidate pool with hiring manager to make sure a viable candidate was not skipped over. Hiring manager brings chosen applicant’s resume to director where starting salary is discussed and an offer is made.

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

On paper, I like to see directly relevant experience. This can be something like a decade of teaching in schools in an applicant for a school outreach position, etc… It does not have to be “library” experience.

In person, being friendly and approachable is always the most impactful. This is a service industry – if you can’t at least fake being nice in an interview, there’s little hope you will be nice to angry patrons.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Not many, we had someone use thinly veiled racist language during an interview which absolutely shut it down.

I’ve had people lie directly on their resume regarding positions/experience – we don’t bother even contacting them. The library world is too small for that to work.

If you had a bad separation from a library just be honest about it. Good hiring managers know that terminations happen and it is almost never solely an issue with the employee.

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

Long term positivity vs negativity of a hire. The interview can show you someone on their intentional best behavior but you will never be able to determine if that person will become a toxic center in a department until it happens.

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?

Pretending to know everything or dodging a question they don’t understand. If you aren’t familiar with an interview question topic be forthcoming. Show me you are interested in learning and that you are confident in admitting what you don’t know. We can teach someone willing to learn – I can’t do much with someone who is hiding behind a façade.

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

We no longer conduct virtual interviews. This is such a poor method, but I understand its necessity on a case-by-case basis. I would make sure you treat the environment you conduct the virtual interview in as a business-professional setting. Assure there will be no interruptions – book a study room at a local library if possible.

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?

We actively seek out real-world experience that can be brought to libraries. A candidate should be able to show they understand the position they are applying for by drawing direct connections between the desired job duties and their direct experience. “The daycare center also dealt with disruption and squabbles between grade schoolers, we handled it by performing XYZ. This is the approach I would bring to any disruption during a program/play area.”

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?

Administrative review of the candidate pool, direct conversations with hiring managers why certain applicants may not have been selected to interview. Debriefing of managers by administration regarding interview performance and the manager being required to actively defend why they chose a certain candidate.

We investigated blocking out names on resumes/cover letters to avoid bias, but it was clunky and often our applicants rely on their specific positions/experience and references. We also hire directly out of the community for many of our positions and if a patron had a good reputation among the staff this information was more important than preemptively assuming managers were selecting based on someone’s name.

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

I don’t think there’s anything a candidate ‘should’ ask. For some of the higher librarian positions it is good to hear questions regarding the specific duties and expectations of the position (how often is outreach expected, do we serve all schools in the area, etc..)

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Outside of having direct knowledge of someone’s work performance (ie, internal candidates) the next most valuable element to have is a reference from a previous supervisor. I don’t think the importance of this can be overstated. I want to know first-hand how your previous bosses characterized you as an employee. This goes well beyond skills/experience – I want to know if your personality and work ethic were considered a benefit to an organization or a detriment.

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