Category Archives: 50-100 staff members

If the role doesn’t have a detailed and up to date position description then be very cautious

Mrs. Joan T. Phillips, reference librarian, inputs data into a computer at Fairchild Library, Air University. The university offers formal training in many areas of military studies to officers and senior non-commissioned officers in the Air Force. National Archives

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Manager

Titles hired include: Library 0fficer, librarian, senior librarian 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ 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:

Raise requisition through human capital management system, two layers of approval, advertisement published, responses come in, I shortlist as hiring manager, organise interviews, run interviews, write selection report, do reference checks, make offer

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

They were prepared for interview and had relevant qualifications 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Not responding to selection criteria

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more 

CV: √ Two is ok, but no more

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?

Practice 

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?

Create a mapping document – map your experience and skills to the job, know your weaknesses and how to remedy them 

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?

Gender balance on panel, must abide by discrimination legislation and policies 

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 culture, expectations, what we would change about the organisation

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Australia/New Zealand 

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? 

If the role doesn’t have a detailed and up to date position description then be very cautious 

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 50-100 staff members, Academic, Australia/New Zealand

I want to see problem-solving, communication skills, ability to facilitate meetings or host programs, and enough technology skills to make the job go smoothly.

Front of the Harry S. Truman Library. National Archives.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Other: State Library

Title: Library Development Director

Titles hired include: Youth Services Consultant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor 

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions 

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

The agency director, with input from the department head, writes a job description for the desired position. (If it’s an existing position, the department head may just need to edit/review.) The HR manager posts it to various sites and monitors applications. Once the deadline is past and a sufficient number of candidates have applied, the department head reviews them with the help of HR and the agency director. First round interviews are sometimes online, due to COVID or if the candidate is too far to travel. They usually include the department head and HR manager. They frequently involve a short presentation related to the job, as well as some scenario based questions. Second round interviews are in person, with the agency director involved, and may also include a demonstration. HR then extends an offer to the desired candidate.

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

Good presentation skills, ability to problem-solve, obvious knowledge of their field of expertise and our agency’s role

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Pushy or rude, glaring errors in the writing sample questions, hasn’t reviewed our agency website and info to see what we do; bad references

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

It’s sometimes hard to see their judgment/diplomacy when dealing with difficult situations. We need candidates who have good judgment and can be trusted to represent the agency when not under direct supervision.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more  

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more 

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Too vague with answers, not specific enough examples of relevant work; not reading the job description (our work isn’t directly with library patrons)

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

Yes – know your technology and also don’t be flustered if something goes wrong, have a backup plan. Have a nice background and no distractions. 

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?

Emphasize skill sets related to your knowledge base. I may not need someone who can catalog materials, but could use someone who can work with databases and sort or categorize data. If you can put together a storytime or manage a summer reading program, those are project management and program development skills. I want to see problem-solving, communication skills, ability to facilitate meetings or host programs, and enough technology skills to make the job go smoothly.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

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

Our HR tries to promote job openings to HBCUs and other diverse audiences, but we primarily hire degreed librarians and the degree is still out of reach for many. 

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

Ask what we hope to accomplish in the position. What major projects are coming up or in progress, or what aspects we want to develop. They need to know that our patrons are the library staff and that we don’t work directly with patrons. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Other: statewide; a lot of rural with some suburban and urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: working on work-from-home options 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100 

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

Metadata models can be intimidating, and this candidate made it seem much more accessible.

WACS with the Army Service Force – Librarian. National Archives.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Other: Software vendor

Title: Senior DAM Architect

Titles hired include: Taxonomist, DAM librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Other: CEO

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

√ Resume 

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview 

√ More than one round of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

I currently hire information professionals as consultants – we’re hoping to start hiring FT roles once this program expands. I start by posting on LinkedIn, both my feed and on relevant professional group pages and will be posting to SLA in the future. I had candidates reach out to me on LinkedIn to start. It allowed me to vet them beyond their resume, and have a brief conversation before moving toward a full initial video interview (or phone, depending on their preference). Once someone passes that, I bring in our customer success managers who handle the areas where these folks would be working. Anyone who wows them moves back to me for follow up, then they provide references. Our head of hiring calls the references and has a lengthy conversation about the candidate and not only their strengths and weaknesses but how they prefer to communicate and the way to get the best out of them. She sends a detailed report to the CEO and me, and we discuss further. If we decide to move forward, I let the candidate know and then the CEO and CFO discuss the contract with them. We’re a small company, so working directly with the CEO isn’t outside the norm. However, a full-time employee may have a slightly different experience, as they won’t be dealing with the CEO for the contract – that will go through the CFO and hiring manager.

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

One of our recent candidates wowed everyone throughout the hiring process. She was knowledgeable but also approachable. She communicated clearly and resisted using industry jargon, except occasionally with me. It was clear that she had a lot of experience and could set clients at ease, which is important as our clients are usually speaking with a taxonomist or librarian because they are starting on their DAM journey or are having issues with an existing DAM. Metadata models can be intimidating, and this candidate made it seem much more accessible.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Inability to communicate clearly and exaggerating experience.

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

Any constraints with working remotely – we have an office but have mostly been hiring full-remote candidates. It would be great to know if they have the appropriate bandwidth or need that to be supplemented, or if they are set up to work comfortably from home, or if they prefer to work in a public place or rent a workspace.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this  

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this 

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

Answering too quickly, which I commonly see leading to not answering the question thoroughly.

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

Yes, as of right now we only hire via virtual interviews due to the pandemic. Show that you can handle the technology – you’re going to need it anyway, so it’s disheartening to see someone who doesn’t know how to work their camera or lights themselves poorly (which I personally find distracting). 

Don’t worry about issues with internet connection or working with a particular video conferencing app for the first time. We have all been there, and it’s good to see how someone handles that. Pivot quickly and over-communicate if there’s an issue. We had a candidate who had construction that knocked out her wi-fi the morning of the call. She let us know immediately and offered a phone interview, which went very well.

Turn any mishaps into an opportunity to show how you can handle these (currently common) issues professionally and efficiently.

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 consider all of the facets of the role I’m hiring for. For better or worse, we typically end up managing our own projects. So project management experience is a plus. As we work with clients, I value experience in customer service. We also work with software engineers on occasion, so any work in that area, even a course on coding, is beneficial.

My advice to candidates is to find the pieces of your experience that you can tie into commonly used skills, even in a setting that you haven’t worked in before. Connect the dots for any hiring managers so they can see how your experience translates.

I would also say that candidates should come with some understanding of why their type of experience could bring new opportunities. One of my best supervisors had been a high school teacher, and that’s where she learned how to work with clients who had different ways of processing information and wrangling a meeting with lots of strong voices. Her skills from that background made her a more attractive candidate for the role she was in, but she had to make sure the hiring manager understood that.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: Only when we make an offer, but I am hoping to change this.

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

To reduce bias in the interview process, we ensure there are a range of perspectives included and the panel is diverse. 

We currently don’t post in enough places and leverage my own network significantly, since we’re just starting to build out our team. While I try to ensure my network is diverse, posting in places where I’m more likely to reach diverse candidates is hampered because I cannot include the salary with the posting. Once that is fixed, I hope to reach more candidates.

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 me what tools we use to collaborate and communicate, why I chose to work at the company, and what challenges we’re trying to alleviate with this role.

It is important for candidates to know about our most recent (public) wins and that we service a wide range of clients. I would love for candidates to come into an interview with some basic knowledge of our product, whether that be from asking contacts who work with the tool or visiting our Youtube channel and/or our site. I’d hope any candidates who haven’t worked in digital asset management have read up on why librarians are important to the field and what skill sets they need to use.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western 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? 

I would add more options for the type of organizations – none of my previous roles have been in those types of environments. I would include something software-related, as there are so many of us working for companies like Spotify or Netflix or software vendors, like me. I only worked for a library in grad school.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 50-100 staff members, Other Organization or Library Type, Urban area, Western US

We ALL feel a lot, your level of maturity is reflected in the library-twitter world you inhabit.

Exterior of the University of Exeter Library, with students entering and exiting the building
The University of Exeter Main Library, Benjamin Evans, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Dean & Director

Titles hired include: All of the library faculty and staff in our university library

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor 

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions 

√ Other: DEI Statement

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Depends if it is faculty or staff. We have search committees, DEI expectations, training and meetings before the job description can be approved by HR. We have a very strong procedure to ensure that we are fair and accommodating to all applicants.  

Faculty run the faculty search, but the dean makes the final decision (provost must give approval)

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

They had a strong sense of self and understood the value they would bring to the workplace. An openness to experience and to joining an academic environment. An understanding of our student-centric campus ethos.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Yes! You can be the smartest person in the room but if you have a low EQ and can’t work with others the hire will not be successful.

One must come with a well formulated concept of self in regards to DEI work and evidence of support/knowledge for our campus population. As a majority under-represented campus, we require a DEI lens/mindset.

If your priority is to work 100% at home. We allow telecommuting, but we are a F2F campus and that requires equal focus on site.

Negative angry-twitter postings. We ALL feel a lot, your level of maturity is reflected in the library-twitter world you inhabit. You do not have to say everything you think. It is called being a grown up

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

what their career goals are. I consider growing people my responsibility and knowing what people want re: knowledge acquisition would be useful

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?

They don’t consider their fit with the campus. Do your homework. 

Sell what you bring to us. 

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

We have. Practice a solid presentation. Two years into COVID/online work there is NO EXCUSE for a lousy presentation. Make sure the lighting is good, sound, your entire face!  I just had an interview for an instruction position and one candidate only had 1/3 of her face visible.

Bring the energy – it is more difficult for us to get to know you. Show interest and excitement.

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?

Connect the dots. I hired a Home Depot manager who strongly connected her skills to running a service desk. She’s awesome

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: we finally got our campus to share. As a state institution, there is one solid number. But it is uneven.

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

So much. 

All search committees have training and overview by the Inclusive Excellence office. HR and the Dean looks to highlight and be aware of all diversities.

1) pre-search mtg

2) mid-way through mtg

3) post-work mtg

We have standard questions and a strong process that enforces an open mind and process

We have rubrics so that we are rating the same skills

We have changed our minimum standards of requirements

We try to present a diverse search committee, as much as possible

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

What DEI work are we engaged in?

What is the strategic plan and how is it incorporated into regular work? It is great to have values and goals, but are they important enough to accomplish!

What new, exciting projects is the library involved in?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western 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? 

Have hope, empower yourself, align your priorities/goals with the institution. There are many good jobs and some bad ones. Be picky even when it feels like you can’t be. 

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

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

Always share that you speak another language

headshot of Rachel Schmidt

Rachel Schmidt loves all the facets of being a librarian. In her current role, she serves as the Supervising Youth Services Librarian for the Santa Clara City Library. Growing school and local education partnerships, leading story times and providing access to learning opportunities for ages 0-18 are her main priorities. 

Rachel also loves to collaborate with other librarians. Feel free to reach out!

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

1. Application submissions

2. Oral Board (Outside Panel)

3. Interview (Library Staff Panel)

4. Ref check

5. Possible 3rd Interview

Titles hired: Librarian I, Librarian II, Library Assistant, Intern Consultant

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

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

1. Passion and love of serving community

2. Demonstrated Problem solving and leadership

3. Excited to learn and demonstrate flexibility

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

1. Bad story time demo

2. Not friendly

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

Their compassion for all walks of life.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

CV: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

Not preparing. Not studying the organization. A little nod to the organiztion goes a long way. Like “ I really love how your Library uses social media to connect with your community” or “One of the main reasons that I applied for this position is that I found that EDI Is deeply embedded into the organiztions strategic plan”. 

Practicing general interview strategies beforehand can really help a candidate warm up for the interview. I suggest revisiting LinkedIn for Learning or any other basic interview courses to get a reminder on the basics. When I am gearing up for an interview, I tend to practice answering questions in my car during my commute so that I can make my answers sound more succinct and I can avoid too much repetition in my experiences/statements. 

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

You need to have a strong internet connection and be able to show friendliness and professionalism. Zoom interviews are very difficult. Also, make sure to take notes and ask a few thoughtful questions after the interview to get more engagement with the panel. 

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?

Great customer service is great customer service and we can learn that anywhere. Demonstrate how they go above and beyond and serve with equity. Being welcoming. Skills and job processes can be 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?

Use a rubric and have multiple interviews

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

Work culture. What is a regular work day like? What are your organizational goals? Strategic plan? What would you like to see accomplished in 5 years? How does your Library support professional development? How do staff have fun and bond at work? 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western 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?

You need to show a confident version of yourself! Show passion. And it’s always great to demonstrate how you have built relationships in your work with partner organizations. Always SHARE THAT YOU SPEAK ANOTHER LANGUAGE…this always gets overlooked.

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

I’ve also received resumes that list a spouse and children as accomplishments, and the person’s ability to crack jokes in the office

11/30/44 Librarian – Elizabeth Edwards. doe-oakridge, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Special Library

Title: Senior Reference Librarian 

Titles hired include: Library Assistant, Visitor Services Assistant, Assistant Reference Librarian, Vice President of Development, Reproductions Coordinator 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Cover letter

√ 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:

Most hiring is done at the department level. In my department we typically circulate the job description internally, post externally on our website and relevant listservs and job aggregator sites, and accept applications by email/post. The hiring supervisor reviews the applications and shares a short list with the hiring committee. The hiring committee decides whom from that short list to invite for interviews. Interviews are typically about one hour and either happen in person or virtually (during the pandemic we switched to Zoom). Questions are offered in advance (in my department). We then follow up by calling references and finally selecting our top candidates to whom 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?

I always appreciate specificity and the ability of a candidate to narrate how their resume experiences brought them to this point in their career and how these experiences connect to the job description. I like evidence that the person has done some homework on our organization and thought about reasons it would be a good fit beyond wages (obviously important). 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

If a person fails to write a substantive cover letter I am unlikely to move their candidacy forward. I also dislike overly personal details on a resume, for example I received a resume recently where the applicant included details about their exercise routines and health. I’ve also received resumes that list a spouse and children as accomplishments, and the person’s ability to crack jokes in the office. These feel like inappropriate content for a resume. 

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

Because I am personally interested in hiring candidates who come from varying backgrounds and minoritized communities I often want to know things about personal identity that are not generally safe for candidates to share (chronic illness, queerness, religious background, socioeconomic status for example). I absolutely understand why people choose not to share these details; what I do try to do is be a little vulnerable in interviews about my own identities (mentioning my wife; referring to a chronic health issue) to make it more possible people will share some of those aspects of their own lives. 

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?

Speaking in vague generalities instead of concrete, specific responses. I also dislike over-use of industry specific jargon which can be a cover for simplistic or rote answers that don’t help me understand the candidate’s thinking. 

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

We have since the pandemic began. I don’t find these very different from in person interviews (perhaps since so many of my work meetings happen virtually now too). Being calm in the face of tech glitches and patient with small delays is helpful and demonstrates that the applicant is willing to roll with unexpected changes. 

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 appreciate hearing from these candidates how they see this previous experience building toward what they hope to do in their library career and/or at our specific institution. Hearing them crosswalk their learning helps me understand how they reflect on their work and make decisions about their skills, workplace culture, etc. as they look for compatible work. On some level, we do have t go back to the job description and assess whether a candidate meets required/preferred criteria, but we do try to be flexible and reflect on a person’s full range of experience. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: Our department lists the salaries in the job ad. It is inconsistent across the institution. 

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

In our department we try to be transparent and consistent in the hiring process (not ghosting candidates) and we avoid doing outside research beyond the application (e.g. LinkedIn, Google search, etc.) We assess applicants based on their submitted materials in the first round. As we move through the hiring process the committee has active discussions about how to weigh various kinds of diversity of experience in our hiring, understanding how cultural “fit” can shape our priorities in unhelpful ways. 

We are a majority-white, majority straight, majority-abled, professional class staff and in the midst of reckoning with the way our institutional culture is not necessarily equitable or inclusive. We shouldn’t (in my opinion) hire candidates we cannot enable to thrive once in the door. A lot of our current work in this area has to do with making our workplace inclusive for existing as well as future staff. It is slow going. 

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

I am always happy to hear questions from candidates about labor conditions and workplace climate. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100 

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

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

Unable to articulate what they will bring to the job

View of researchers using the Schomburg Collection From the New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Assistant Director

Titles hired: Librarian, Library Assistant, Supervisor

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?

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

We post the job ad, review resumes, conduct interviews with 3 to 5 candidates, possibly conduct second interviews with two or three candidates, select one.

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

Well-written cover letter that addresses the specific job, well formatted résumé, solid relevant job experience. Understanding of library work.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Lack of required skills, experience, or education.

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

Whether they plan to stay long term or if this position is just until something better comes along.

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?

Being late, unable to articulate what they will bring to the job.

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

We have, due to Covid. They should be sure to check out their technology before the interview starts to make sure it is working properly.

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?

What I look for in this situation is that they have solid customer service experience, such as retail, restaurants, and the like. Showing us that you understand that Library work is fundamentally customer service-based is important.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: We often mention in the ad that we need the states salary guidelines.

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

We are currently working with a DEI consulting firm to improve in this area.

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 what a typical day looks like, and what the management style of their supervisor is.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100

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

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.

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, Public, Rural area, Southeastern US, Suburban area, Urban 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

Focus should be on how the candidate can make a contribution

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

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Director – retired

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

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

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

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

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

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

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

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

work ethic, ability to deal with stress

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

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

CV: √ We don’t ask for this 

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

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

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

Be mindful of what’s in your background

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

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

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

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

Applications are carefully evaluated based on minimum qualifications only

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

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

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100

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