Category Archives: 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey

If I put my pen down and stop taking notes, don’t talk for five more minutes.

Photograph of Card Catalog in Central Search Room. National Archives.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Branch Manager

Titles hired include: Librarian, Associate, Materials Handler, Manager

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor 

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

√ Online application

√ References 

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: We did in the past but it wasn’t equitable with hiring so we have turned it off and am reviewing every application. 

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

Post position, review applications, send out SparkHire interviews, review SparkHires, email for in-person, offer position. Depending on my role in hiring, I would be organizing the entire process or stepping in at reviewing and/or in-person. 

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

Cover letter stated experience in their natural voice and fully answered questions in the in-person interviews – and I mean tying the answer back to an experience they had and how it relates. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

For a professional position, no cover letter. In interviews, rambling while not answering questions. If I put my pen down and stop taking notes, don’t talk for five more minutes. 

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

Honesty. Let’s say the schedule is set and they are “Yep, can work that” and then after hired want changes. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Not answering the question completely!!!

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

We do if location is an issue. Job hunters should know that technical difficulties happen and to not let it fluster them. We expect it and can work through it but can’t work through you getting thrown off. 

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?

Customer service experience is a huge plus. I have hired staff with zero library experience but customer service experience because the skills are transferrable. I am looking for someone kind. Library skills can be taught but kindness and patience cannot. 

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 require “education OR similar experience.” Getting a degree can be a barrier which is why we look at every application. 

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

They should ask about the team and environment. What they can expect with training. How they will be evaluated. I’ve offered people that I have offered the position to to talk with my staff for an honest view as me as a supervisor. Job seekers know they will be happy in a position so interview the hiring manager. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100 

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

How important it is to attach a cover letter and explain how your skills would be a good fit with my position. And insert personality. 

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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

Nothing is more frustrating than finding an amazing candidate, and then they realize moving is not feasible once we’ve made the offer.

Archivist Joseph B. Howerton. National Archives

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Archives

√ Public Library 

Title: Executive Director

Titles hired include: Assistant Director, Archives Librarian, Cultural Engagement Coordinator, Library Assistant, Programming & Outreach Librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

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

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Applications are submitted via online application, with resume’s and cover letters being emailed to myself, Executive Director.  Hiring panel comprised of myself, positions supervisors, and sometimes peers review and rate applicants.  Hiring Panel conducts interviews, often via zoom.  Top candidates have references checked, before offer is made.  

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

Excellent hiring packet, including application, cover letter and resume.  Good communication throughout process, but not overburdening.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

incomplete application, too informal cover letter (like less than a paragraph total), with no greeting or closing.

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

why they want to move to our community, we usually ask, but few if any have an answer. The ones that do stand out.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

CV: √ We don’t ask for this 

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

not knowing anything about the community they applied to work in.  

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

We do almost all supervisory level via virtual platform.  Have a non-distracting background, and expect a few hiccups, despite good internet connections, sometimes we miss things and may ask you to repeat, it’s ok to ask us to repeat as well.

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?

Focus on transferrable skills, if you are good at working with people, in a variety of settings, tell us!  We need people who are adaptable and willing to learn!

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

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

I like it when they ask questions related to research they’ve done about our organization, or what the immediate need it for the position.  Those come off better than immediately asking about benefits, which are listed in the job ad.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Rural 

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? 

Please consider whether you are willing/able to move before you apply.  Nothing is more frustrating than finding an amazing candidate, and then they realize moving is not feasible once we’ve made the offer.

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, Archives, Midwestern US, Public, Rural area

some of my colleagues also ask “why do you want this job” and it irks me because we’re IN A SCENARIO.

Original caption: The Librarian Carefully Enters the Consignment Into Her Books, 12/1952. National Archives.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library  

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration 

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter 

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions 

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

For librarians (faculty): search committee, of which I’ve been a member and a chair

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

Well thought-out, well-written cover letter that was exactly what we were looking for. It showed the candidate really, really understood the role and would be amazing in it.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Not understanding, in the foggiest, what the role entails. Things like talking about an aspect of library work that isn’t within the realm of the position. I understand that you can’t know what it is for sure, but if I’m hiring for an instruction librarian and all your examples/things you’re excited about are technical services, I’m a bit concerned.

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

How well they would actually fit the position. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ 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?

A personal pet peeve: if we give you a presentation topic and fake audience, pretend we are the fake audience. Do not talk librarian shop if we are supposed to be faculty in a different college. To be fair, some of my colleagues also ask “why do you want this job” and it irks me because we’re IN A SCENARIO. This is petty, I know. 

Getting basic facts (the name of the institution) wrong!

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

Yes! When I’m on the committee, I advocate for the first round to be a phone and/or no video meeting. That way candidates can look at their notes. Rehearse so you can highlight your strengths without reading. You got this – we contacted you because we think you could be the person we need. This is a conversation where either party can say “yes” or “no.” For video-on calls (portions of the all-day academic interview during covid), we planned breaks and the like. Turn your camera off, mute yourself, or leave the room during breaks. It’s awkward. Interviews are awkward, Zoom is awkward, together it’s really awkward. Try to make the best of it. We’re trying too. Remember that the committee wants you to be the answer to their open position. Have your examples ready in your mind, be yourself, and be curious about the folks talking to you. 

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 had success couching it in librarian-type terms. I love when folks have been paraprofessionals or worked in tough customer service jobs, because that means they will handle the weirdness of an academic library likely quite well. 

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 depends on the search committee chair. We redact names & identifying information up until phone interviews, we require a good diversity statement (beyond “libraries are for everyone!” and more along the lines of “neutrality isn’t real and libraries can be racist so… here’s what I’ve done to get better”)

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

Whatever you want to know! Do you want to know things about living where we are? About the culture of the library? If there’s something that would be a dealbreaker for you, ask about it. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western 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?

√ 11-50 

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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

Know yourself and your service philosophy.

Fifteenth Annual Institute on Preservation and Administration of Archives. National Archives.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Children’s Services Librarian 

Titles hired include: Library Assistant, Librarian, Assistant Director, Director

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

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ Other: Depends on position.  Professional positions require resume and cover letter, non professional online application, demonstration if skill will be regular or main focus of position.

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

Online application, review of applications, interviews, hire or repost.  I have helped whittle down applications for coworkers, sat on interview committees, and been in charge of the entire process from posting position to hiring decision.

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

They knew what organization they were interviewing for, it was obvious they had done their homework, and were prepared.  Showed passion and how their service philosophy aligned with organizational philosophy.  Not afraid to show personality, they were genuine.  Could relate past experience to position interviewing for.  Were curious and asked good questions.  

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Show need to follow rules to the letter, no flexibility, no empathy.  We used to have a question about a five cent fine (before we went fine free).  If the person must collect the fine at all costs because it was a rule and were not able to waive the fine even with permission/prodding, deal breaker.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more 

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

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Not being prepared.  I don’t mean having an idea of what questions will be asked and having perfect answers.  I mean knowing even a little bit about the organization and the position.  Not being themselves and saying what they think the interviewer/s want to hear.

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

We have in the past and will do so if needed.  Not sure how to answer this question.  Being willing to do a video interview over a phone interview is helpful.  

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?

Lots of different types/range of previous experience can be relevant or helpful in a library setting, especially customer service.  Show willingness to learn.  Be able to see and articulate the connections.  Know yourself and your service philosophy.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: Salary Range in job ad, specific salary with job offer

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

Not advertising open positions outside of traditional avenues to reach a wider candidate pool.  

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 organizational culture.  This can be helpful in learning if the organization is a place they want to work.  Ask why people on the interview panel like to work for the organization or why not.  What is a typical day like for the person in the position. Whatever is important to them and will help them make a decision about whether the organization is a good fit for them.  

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Other: Not a suburb but not 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 

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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

Neurodiversity and physical ability aren’t even on people’s radars as indicators of diversity.

Photograph of the Visit of Mrs. Gladys Sheriff, Librarian of Fourah Bay College, University College, Freetown, Sierra Leone, to the National Archives, 7/23/1964. National Archives

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Department Head

Titles hired include: Most positions don’t have titles, just profiles

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

√ Other:  Department head (who is usually the supervisor for the position).

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ Other:  It depends. We usually have one round of interviews; two if there are 2+ good candidates. The second round will come with an assignment. 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

See comment under #5 (Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?). The hiring process is somewhat simple and structured and governed by policy. The writing of the job description and getting approval from the director is a long, less structured process.

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

Having a good cover letter, honestly. And in the cover letter, demonstrating that they’ve done a close reading of the job description and have a clear understanding of what the job entails. So few applicants do that – it makes the ones who do really stand out. Also, this has meant, in the majority of cases, a smooth transition into the new function – not to mention a good interview with a concrete foundation. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Maybe this makes me a jerk, but at the application stage, poorly formatted or unusually formatted resumes/CVs can be deal breakers (and by ‘unusual’, I don’t mean like the amazing comic resume/CV one candidate submitted).

Reason 1: I want my team to have good teammates. My team specializes in information and data literacy, which includes presenting info and data clearly and with/within certain professional standards. So, to me, the format alone already gives some indication about whether the applicant is at the expected level – and in some cases, if they are tech or information literate themselves. 

Reason 2: We process, review and respond to every single application ‘by hand’ so anything that makes a resume or CV harder to read and get through (like dates in weird places, inconsistent or odd formatting or fonts, missing email addresses, etc.) means it can get overlooked in favor of those without issues. 

That said, a good cover letter and some enthusiasm will almost always win the day.

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

If they’re going to drop out after getting tenure and/or make things harder for the rest of the team.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ Only One!  

CV: √ Two is ok, but no more 

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

Being too nervous or putting too much pressure on themselves to do everything ‘right’. I’m just trying to have a conversation to get to know the candidate & I’m not trying to trick anyone or pull any gotcha moves. I want to know who the candidate is and how they think and what they want from the job. I want to see if there’s a connection and if we can work together.

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

Yes! I’m not sure, honestly. 

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?

There are at least two levels for me here. 

#1 is organizational awareness or sensitivity or understanding of working in a large or complex organization. One interviewee talked about her experience organizing a volunteer event with the city, but she forgot to inform an important party about something and ended up causing some hurt feelings and mistrust. She was able to resolve things but learned a lot of lessons about stakeholders and hierarchies. Her example was convincing and worked for me.

#2 is content knowledge. This is a little trickier, perhaps. I’d be convinced by someone demonstrating some research and/or asking good questions. For example, one fresh graduate from a non-library program asked which information literacy framework we followed and then drew upon her experiences as a student to connect to the job description and tasks. “After I saw the framework, I thought back on the library skills training we did as freshmen and I realized how well the training fit with the framework. I never knew!”

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 are required by policy to have diverse interview teams (usually 3-4 people in any interview process). ‘Diverse’ has very little meaning here as 95% of the library staff are white and local to the region. A ‘diverse’ interview team generally means we have to have men + women, preferably from departments outside of our own. Neurodiversity and physical ability aren’t even on people’s radars as indicators of diversity. Strangely, LGBTQ+ people are so accepted as to be almost invisible, hence the return to man + woman as indicators.

Discrimination is still crazy. In one application round, we had a fantastic application from someone who grew up in Vietnam. He had an amazing cover letter, too. My former boss said, “Guess we’ll have to pass on this one.” I asked why. He said, “You know how they are. No respect for women. We already have enough turmoil in the department.” (The turmoil being me, the first new employee in 10+ years, and an immigrant to boot.) After picking apart his weak ‘argument’, I took the issue to HR. 

In what contexts does discrimination still exist? Well, that ^. Also in what I wrote above about semi-dismissing messy resumes/CVs. We could very well be rejecting good candidates who just don’t know how things work here (not that we get many applications from people from diverse or international backgrounds), even with lax language requirements.

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

Ask me anything! It’s important to know that we, like all other university libraries in the country, work with profiles and not with strict job/task descriptions. That means that in 3 years or 5 years or whenever, people can be asked to do different tasks that fit their profile. I see it as an overall positive, though it was very confusing when I started my own job.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Other: Mainland Europe

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?

√ 101-200 

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

To you: good questions – good food for thought! Thanks for the opportunity to reflect!

To job hunters: I’d rather hire a person with potential who fits with the team and has a growth mindset than a stick in the mud with experience.

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 100-200 staff members, Academic, Urban area

Energy and enthusiasm always make a lasting impression

Gregg Currie is the College Librarian at Selkirk College, a community college in the southeast corner of British Columbia. Like many Canadian librarians who graduated from library school in the 90’s, he started his librarian career working for the New York Public Library. Gregg moved from NYPL to being the evening/weekend librarian at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, then managed the circulation department at Fordham University’s Walsh Library, and has been in his current position since 2008.

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

I create a posting, submit to HR, HR & my supervisor approve posting, I form a committee.  The committee selects candidates to interview, then decides who is successful.  Committee is usually 3 Library staff.

Titles hired include: Librarian – Instructional Services and Digital Initiatives ; Casual Librarian ; Library Technician  – Public Services ; Library Technician – Serials and Administrative Support ; Director of Communications (for the college , not the library), VP Education(for the college , not the library)

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration 

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume 

√ References

√ Proof of degree 

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?

Energy and enthusiasm always make a lasting impression, as does being prepared for the interview. Preparation not just being able to answer questions, but also having spent time to understand the position and the organization.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Submitting the wrong cover letter, or submitting a generic cover letter. 

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

 How well they will get along with their coworkers.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more   

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

Showing no knowledge of my institution, or my library.  As in clearly they haven’t even looked at our website sort of thing.

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

Yes, much as I dislike them, we no longer have funds to bring people out. People need to be careful of their backgrounds, still need to dress up, still need to prep. 

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?

I can’t think of anything specific beyond hiring being done by a search committee and candidates must meet educational & experience requirements..

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

Questions about what working in the library is like, questions about our website, what work opportunities they might have.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Canada 

What’s your region like?

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ Other: The Library has 10, the college around 400 

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, Academic, Canada, Rural area

How long before they burn out

Morrisania, Thirteen women, librarians? NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: manager of collection development

Titles hired include: Materials selector, acquisitions assistant, processor, cataloging assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor 

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Resume, cover letter review, call for interview, selection, contingent offer, background check, hire

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

Expressed interest in my position, intelligent, relevant experience, thoughtful, outgoing – get along with any/everyone, highly adaptable

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Why interested? M-F 8-5, inability to problem solve, rigid/inflexible, typos, dense resumes

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

How long before they burn out

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Not answering the question

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

Yes. Smile, be natural!

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?

Tie it all to the skills gained through those experiences. Don’t mention the lack of experience, we see that. Talk about what you do know.

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?

Panels, standardized questions. Personal bias.

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 number one trait you’re looking for in the successful candidate? Why do you love your job? We’re (libraries) going through a lot of changes and flexibility is key in any library.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern 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+ 

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, Midwestern US, Public, Urban area

If a candidate is unfamiliar with the type of work done in a library, ask!

Captain (CPT) Robert Campbell and Brigadier General (BGEN) Gene Deegan, director, Education Center, assist the head librarian during the ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the opening of the rare book reading room at Breckinridge Library, Command and Staff College. National Archives

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Collections Manager

Titles hired include: Gallery Monitor, Student worker

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

√ Resume 

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview 

√ 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:

We submit a requisition to HR, noting that this position is specifically for student workers. They post it on our website, and all applications come directly to the position supervisor, who arranges interviews and hires candidates.

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

They were outgoing, and didn’t hesitate to look me in the eyes. They were clearly nervous, but not enough to throw them off. They readily answered questions and displayed interpersonal skills, making small jokes and smiling a lot.

What are your instant dealbreakers?

Not displaying skills- whether it’s on your resume or in the interview, if you can’t tell me why you’d be a good addition, it’s not going to work out.

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

Their work ethic.

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: √ Two is ok, but no more 

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

Being too nervous to look me in the eye. Answering a question too quickly without thinking a little more.

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

Pick the right background! Don’t be in bed, and present yourself as if you were at an in-person interview. Check everything on your computer beforehand- sound, video, background, lighting.

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

If a candidate is unfamiliar with the type of work done in a library, ask! For example, if the candidate previously did typical office work, I would want to know that they’re familiar with multi-line phones and learning a particular organizational system. So if the candidate asks what a typical day is like at my library, I would throw out a few basic tasks. Then they could demonstrate their skills in those areas.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

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

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

Unfortunately, we are incredibly behind in that process.

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

I want a candidate to ask deep details about the job- upcoming projects, how they can succeed in this role. I want us to talk about their personality and goals, and make sure a potential hire is a good fit. A candidate should ask not just about the job itself, but the culture, the hours, the pay.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

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, Academic, Southeastern US, Urban area

Job postings and position descriptions are a major problem

[Librarian Belle da Costa Greene, three-quarter length portrait, standing, facing slightly left] LOC.gov

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library

√ Archives

√ Special Library 

Title: Archivist

Titles hired include: Archivist, project archivist

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

√ 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? 

√ Yes 

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

Online applications go to HR who conduct an initial screening, they send applications onto the hiring committee which is almost always chaired by the supervisor for the open position.  The hiring committee always includes multiple staff from across departments with some knowledge of the work the incumbent will be performing (supervisor, curator, someone in a parallel or very similar position within the unit, someone with a tangentially related job in another unit). The committee goes through bias awareness training with HR.  The committee reviews all the applications and discusses them. In the searches I’ve been involved with, we go around the table and discuss each candidate and generally rate them as a yes, maybe, or no, though there is no formal rubric for this.  We go through the yes’s and maybe’s and narrow down to a few people we want to bring for a phone screening.  After the phone screening we narrow the finalists who will be invited for a full day interview.  The full day interview includes interviews and lunches/events with various configurations of staff from various units.  The committee collects feedback from staff on the candidate.  The committee meets to make a decision.  It’s generally after the full-day interview when we check references for the candidate we want to make the offer to.  HR reaches out to make the offer and handles the salary negotiations, sharing info about benefits, etc. 

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 exceptionally well-written and told a compelling story about their career and why they were a great fit for the position.  It was truly impeccably written and the entire application package included a good mix of quantitative info (# of collections worked on, quantifying budget and workflow efficiencies) and more qualitative information about what they enjoyed about the work, their working style, and what it’s like to have them as a colleague.  One thing that really impressed me was that the cover letter included tidbits of how their colleagues would describe them and their accomplishments.  “I’m well-known within the department for my XYZ skills.  My colleagues have asked me to review documentation because of my expertise, and I am frequently asked to liaise with XYZ committees and units.  One colleague described me as “our resident XYZ expert.”  That kind of thing. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

If it’s clear from the CV and/or cover letter that they do not understand the job they’re applying for.  Something like applying for a cataloging position and spending the entire cover letter talking about how much they want to focus on exhibits and instruction. 

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

Honest assessment of their working style – not in terms of productivity but things like preference for oral vs. written communication, their preferred management style, the type of training they need and how they would like it delivered.  In my experience people are so eager to please that you can’t get a good sense of this from the questions we ask.  There are lots of vague answers which makes it difficult to gauge the type of training and onboarding they would actually need and whether it’s realistic for us to provide that in the way that would make them most likely to succeed. 

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 enough research about basic subject knowledge and core competencies for the position.  Not anticipating or being prepared for behavioral type questions “tell us about a time when…” “Tell us how you would hypothetically handle this situation…” 

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

Yes, we do Zoom interviews.  It can be hard to get the same degree of connection, so it can feel a little awkward.  Not much specific advice but don’t be afraid to ask for questions or clarifications.  

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?

This is one of my biggest pet peeves.  I honestly don’t have much advice for paraprofessionals or folks in this situation because I think the problem is absolutely on employers and hiring managers, not on the applicants themselves.  If you’re switching between library types you can definitely emphasize the functions which are the same and the skills that are transferrable.  If you’re a paraprofessional you can emphasize the degree to which you worked independently, and perhaps any areas where you have leadership or were asked to consult or offer your advice on workflows, documentation, etc.  Those are both indications of professional growth and expertise and ability to move into a professional 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?

HR does a training about this but in my opinion it is inadequate. 

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

I love when candidates have done a bit of research and ask about specific initiatives going on at the library, if they have a sense of recent projects we’ve done or know what our standards and workflows are, at least at a very surface level.  I also like questions about training and onboarding and the possibilities for cross-training and professional development.  It’s good when someone shows initiative and interest in a particular area, a willingness to be more involved professionally, or even offers feedback or suggestions if we’ve mentioned a particular challenge or ongoing issue.  

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern 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?

√ 101-200 

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

Job postings and position descriptions are a major problem.  They need to be clearer, more specific, and more transparent about a lot of things. I’ve personally applied for jobs where the job description listed every possible archives/library function under the sun, it seemed like a generalist job with “additional duties as assigned” thrown in for good measure, only to get to the interview and realize that the employer had a very specific focus for the job (95% one function or task) and they use a boilerplate job desc or just include all those other things so you can’t make the case that you’re being given tasks outside your scope.  Also, be transparent about salary, benefits, hours, and onsite vs remote work time from the get go.  

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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

lots of professional activities and a rich life outside of work

[Dorothy Porter, 6/2/70] LOC.gov

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Special Library 

Title: Director

Titles hired include: Sr Information Professional; training specialist 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ 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

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree 

√ More than one round of interviews 

√ Other: Complete background check 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

Recruiter is assigned to various departments.  They screen applicants for their departments and send along CVs of interest.  We choose several and those chosen will meet with various library team members, either 1:1 or in a panel.

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

Understood our industry, was well prepared, had many mutual contacts in the field, lots of professional activities and a rich life outside of work

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

No knowledge of our industry and no attempt made to ‘bone up’ prior to the industry 

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

How they handle conflict and uncertainty

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ We don’t ask for this 

CV: √ Two is ok, but no more 

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

Being unprepared

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

Yes.  Stand up during the interview.  You’ll appear much stronger 

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?

Explore my industry and come up with similarities or develop use cases pertinent to me.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

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

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

My small group within this huge organization is committed to diversity of all types.  Unfortunately, qualified candidates are often not as diverse as we would like 

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

How will I interact with each team member; what are my opportunities for professional growth; how does our group fit into the ‘big picture’ of the company; is this a new position or backfill

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ Other: 50,000 worldwide 

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.

2 Comments

Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Northeastern US, Special, Urban area