Category Archives: Northeastern US

Most people have not heard of us before applying with us

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

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for:

√ Special Library

√ Other: government library

Title: Librarian

Titles hired include: library technicians & librarians

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

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

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes

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

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

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

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

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

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

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

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

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only one! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

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

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

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

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

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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

Ask about a typical day, ask what opportunities exist for advancement

Ryan McCrory is a historian of European Intellectual History with over 20 years of library experience in academic and public libraries, as far-flung as the University of Washington Libraries, Seattle Public Library, and Lititz Public Library.  

He is active in a variety of library organizations, and also serves on the Board of Directors of Hosting Solutions and Library Consulting.

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

Post job ad, receive and read applications, contact prospective candidates for interviews, interview and evaluate, make job offer. I do or assign each of these steps.

Titles hired include: Circulation Supervisor, Circulation Clerk, Maintenance

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Other: Executive Director

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

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ References

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

Clearly articulated why they were interested in this particular job and had a clear understanding of what the job actually was.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

No

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

Does their work match their words

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?

Try to say what they think is wanted, instead of just speaking honestly.

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

We could, but we haven’t had the need. Make sure they test out the audio before the interview. If I can’t hear them effectively, I’m not going to remain engaged well enough to give them a proper interview

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

Make me understand that they have people skills, can work with many types of people, are adaptable when necessary, and can think on their feet effectively.

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 in a pretty homogenous area, so we don’t attract a lot of diversity. I think even prospective employees would have a hard time seeing themselves as working for us – we probably don’t appear as inclusive as we are. I don’t have an easy answer to fix that, but do try and make sure that our programming and collections give the sense that we are open to all.

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 a typical day, ask what opportunities exist for advancement. Ask how we would view someone not looking for advancement. Ask questions that would let them know what they are in for.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: Not really. There may be occasions for it, but very few

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Northeastern US, Other Organization or Library Type, Rural area, Suburban area

You have to know yourself before you know what you’re looking for

A graduate of Kenyon College and Case Western Reserve University, Joan Baldwin is Curator of Special Collections for The Hotchkiss School where she works under the umbrella of the School’s Library. In 2020/21 she served as its Interim Director, serving as point person during the search for a new director. 

The co-author of Leadership Matters: Leading Museums in the Age of Discord, and Women and Museums: Lessons from the Workplace, she has spent her career in the museums,museum service organizations and libraries. 

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

Either as lead or as a team member craft job description, develop questions, participate in interviews. 

Titles hired include: Director, cataloguer, Circulation desk

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ 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

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Paper can be deceptive. Interviewing is a dialogue and sometimes what seems like perfection on paper falls apart in conversation. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Someone who says they won’t or can’t do tasks everyone is asked to do. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more  

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

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

They are too buttoned up and give pat answers or they don’t ask the kind of questions that make you think they care about your organization. 

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

Only during Covid. Make sure your IT works. Don’t carry your phone around the room. Your interviewers will feel dizzy.

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?

Concentrate on skills learned and qualities developed. Demonstrate some humility. The fact that you love books isn’t enough. Are you a good team player? Do you like people, college students or teens or whoever the organization defines as its audience? Enough to deal with them on their worst day?

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?

Names are removed in first reading so resumes are read blind. They pronouns used. DEI program part of every interview and much more.

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

Too often candidates either ask questions based on minutiae on our website rather than questions about how things actually happen—like how ideas develop.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10

Note: although as an academic library we are part of a faculty/staff of 500+

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

You have to know yourself before you know what you’re looking for.

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, Academic, Northeastern US, Rural area

Ask questions tailored to the person interviewing you.

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

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

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

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

Titles hired include: Information Specialist

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Online application

√ Resume 

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

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

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

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

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

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

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

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

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

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

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

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+ 

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

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

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

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 200+ staff members, Northeastern US, Other Organization or Library Type, Urban area

For those on the job market, hang in there!

Hilary Kraus is a Research Services Librarian and liaison to kinesiology and psychology at the University of Connecticut. She has worked as a reference and instruction librarian, focusing on the health and social sciences, at universities in the Midwest and New England. 

Hilary holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from Northwestern University and an MSI from the University of Michigan.

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

At most places I’ve worked, the job description is generally written by admin and reviewed by the hiring committee or written/revised by the hiring committee and approved by admin. This is around the time the hiring committee is selected and charged. The job is posted for a period of time, typically around 4 weeks, and then application review begins. The committee agrees on first round candidates and does phone or video interviews, then clears a short-list for campus interviews with admin. Campus interviews (pre-COVID) included dinner the night before and then a full day interview. The hiring committee submits strengths/weaknesses for who they consider qualified candidates among those who visited campus. Admin makes the final decision.

Titles hired include: Reference/instruction/liaison librarians

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

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ 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? 

√ Other: I don’t know

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

They really expressed themselves well in their cover letter, not only highlighting relevant qualifications but also emphasizing why this job appealed to them. I get that people want a job because it means money and security, but as a hiring committee member and future colleague I still want to know why this job was on their list, and that they are actually interested in doing the work.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

I try to extend all possible grace, so I ignore minor errors in application materials (up to and including putting the wrong institution name at the top, because I have to say, as a candidate, I would never get over the mortification, so they’ve already been punished enough for that mistake). For me, it’s a deal-breaker if there’s no indication anywhere in the letter that they have any real investment in this specific job.

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

I can’t think of anything specific. We already demand people share so much information in the application process!

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?

I think mistakes in interviews are very candidate-specific. I also don’t like to think of what they do as “mistakes,” but just as not being as successful as they could be. That said, I guess the only one I can really think of that’s helpful is not allowing themselves enough time to think of an answer to a question they didn’t anticipate. Stalling is fine! “What a great question! Give me a moment to consider my answer.” It’s also ok to ask for clarification or elaboration of a question if you’re not sure how to approach it.

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

Yes. This is hard, because not everyone has a good space that meets these requirements, but if you can, try to have: a comfortable chair where you’re sitting up relatively straight, decent lighting, a quality microphone or headset you’ve tested in advance, and a background without too many distracting elements. It’s fine to blur your background or put up a virtual one. Wear something you’re comfortable but professional-looking in — no need for anything extra fancy, especially since mostly the interviewers will just see your upper body.

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?

Lean into what you already know and have done! Many parapros have more library experience than new MLS grads, plenty of skills are applicable in multiple types of libraries, and many non-library folks have lots of transferable skills. But you have to be able to make the connection for the hiring committee, you can’t depend on them to figure it out themselves. As unfair as it seems, they’re also juggling a lot of different responsibilities and probably reading through a ton of applications, so help them see why your background is relevant.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: It depends, but at my current place of work, we now put it in the ad.

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

I wish there was a way to scrub the application docs to make it impossible to assume gender, race, etc., but there really isn’t in academia. Several places I’ve worked used a matrix to ensure that everyone was evaluated in a well-documented fashion, and had hiring committee members write up their notes/reactions for screening and campus interviews without discussion to reduce groupthink. I think those types of things help, but honestly, implicit bias is obviously a real thing at every stage.

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 people like about working at the organization, where they see it heading (even the rank and file folks have opinions on this!), what would make someone successful in the role.

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?

√ 51-100

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

The academic job search process is such a hazing ritual. Thanks for trying to make it better and more transparent.

For those on the job market, hang in there!


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

It’s important that candidates know we are part of active unions governed by collective bargaining agreements, and that we are state workers.

Headshot of Jamie Taylor in front of a white board, wearing a bike cap

Jaime Taylor is the Discovery and Resource Management Systems Coordinator at UMass Amherst. Her professional interests include the racialized and gendered nature of librarianship, rethinking librarian education, flattening institutional structures beyond what is currently fashionable, and providing library services in unconventional settings.  Her non-professional interests include bicycles, cats, and old houses. 

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

I have chaired two search committees at my current organization. At my library, hiring is done via committees, which work with library admin to conduct the search & interview process, then make recommendations to the hiring authority (that is, the Dean of Libraries) about which candidate to offer the position to. Committees have 3-5 members, and include both librarians and paraprofessional staff, per our union contracts. For librarian positions, we usually have a phone interview round & then a finalist round of on-campus, full-day interviews, including a presentation by the candidate to library staff. We have recently begun revamping our processes with a DEI/justice lens, and so this process is under renovation. 

Titles hired include: ILS/LSP administrator; collections analysis librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ A Committee or panel 

Note: The committee makes recommendations, but the Dean of Libraries has the final decision.

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

They had thorough answers to questions about soft skills — the why & how questions; questions about justice, inclusion & equity; and demonstrated through their answers introspection about their work. They showed a growth mindset, through the research & other professional development they do, as well as through their interests inside & outside the library. They showed interest in cross-departmental connections & shared library/university governance. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Since I work for the state & hire other state workers, if a candidate does not meet the minimum requirements listed in the job description I *cannot* hire them, even if they make a very compelling argument that would be convincing in another setting.

Displays of subtle or overt bias or discrimination, especially against existing library staff. I have hired a young trans woman, for example, and we have workers of color and queer workers thorughout the library. I will not endanger my coworkers through my hiring decisions.

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

I wish I had better ways of sussing out which candidates will actually be able to quickly grow into a role that is a step up the career ladder or involves a new skillset. I’ve had libraries take that chance on me, and I think it worked out well for both me and the institution, so I’d like to be able to extend the same when I’m doing the hiring. Anyone can say that they are lifelong learners & relish a challenge, but it’s harder to concretely prove that someone will be successful at something they don’t yet know how to do.

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

Note: Two pages max each for resume/CV & cover letter is probably the sweet spot for early to mid-career positions. In a digital environment, keeping each to only one page isn’t important.

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

Not answering the questions I am actually asking! Please find a way to give a substantive answer to my actual question, even if you don’t have the particular qualification I am asking about. I want to hear specificity and details to know that you know what you are talking about.

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

We are actively trying to make this as equitable and stress-free as possible! As long as we can hear each other, it’s all good.

Virtual or phone interviews make it much easier to have notes on hand to refer to as you speak — take advantage of that!

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?

Make a convincing argument that your skills & experience translate. Tell me why it makes sense. Be confident in them and sell it to me. Customer service experience is always relevant, for example, even if you are only communicating with coworkers.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

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

We have rewritten job descriptions to allow for more kinds of experience to be applicable. We actively advertise in places that are relevant to wider, more diverse audiences. I personally cultivate a diverse professional network & use it when hiring. We have an orientation session for the search committee at the beginning of the process to reinforce methods of bias reduction & have checklists & exemplars to refer to. 

But, since the library is largely staffed by white people, the collective networks of staff are mostly also white. We see names & other possible ethnic identifiers on applications. We are currently understaffed & in a rush to hire, so we may not think we have the time to slow down a process enough to give it proper attention with an anti-bias lens.

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

Please ask something, anything! It looks bad if a candidate has zero questions. Ask us about the culture and supervision style of the unit the position is in. Ask us about what kind of professional development opportunities there are. Ask us why we chose to work at this library. Ask us what exciting projects or changes are on the horizon. Use your questions to show us that you are curious & forward thinking & are aware of trends in the library world.

It’s important that candidates know we are part of active unions governed by collective bargaining agreements, and that we are state workers. These two facts govern the choices a candidate has once they’ve been offered a position – negotiation, selection of benefits. Candidates should also know that unions are only as strong as their members, so expect to be involved in making our institution the best workplace it can be. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Rural 

Note: New England rural, not flyover state rural, though.

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? 

Don’t apply for positions that aren’t a good match to your experience & skills. It’s a waste of your time & ours. Instead, spend more time honing your application materials & interview skills for positions that are a close fit.

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

I build opportunities to discuss failure into all of our interviews

Headshot of Christian Zabriskie. A kid sits on his shoulders reading a book

Christian Zabriskie is the Executive Director of the Onondaga County Public library that serves the City of Syracuse and supports 22 independent member libraries in Central NY. 

He is also the Executive Director of Urban Librarians Unite which he founded with business partner Lauren Comito in 2010. He and Lauren were Library Journal’s 2020 Librarians of the Year. 

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

We use Civil Service Lists to determine reachable candidates then interview based on resume from the list of candidates we are given.

Titles hired: Director of Communication, Programming Coordinator, Director of Operations

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

We use Civil Service Lists to determine reachable candidates then interview based on resume from the list of candidates we are given.

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

They exuded energy, were confident yet self-deprecating, and had a deep knowledge in the area that they wanted to use on a larger canvas…and had good ideas for what that looks like.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Finding fault in colleagues, I build opportunities to discuss failure into all of our interviews. If the applicant cannot see themselves in a failure but pushes it off onto teammates out of the block then they are not a good fit for our organization.

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

Their emotional intelligence

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?

Oversharing and not seeing space for personal growth.

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

No, but I am not opposed to them. Do NOT judge people on their backgrounds! I run a large multi-million dollar library, my background through most of the crisis was a mess of reports, papers, printouts, and maps. If you looked at it without knowing my background or work habits then it would look like I was a disorganized hoarder.

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?

Speak to the work of the library at a level above the work they are doing now. Get past transactional definitions of the work.

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 work with the local office of diversity. We actively recruit as diverse a pool as is 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 are you looking for to move your organization forward? Referencing any 1-3 specific programs, locations, or collections that we have. I don’t care about the questions, I care about them doing the work to research our organization.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

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?

Bring your brightest energy and passion to the interview. I look for “the bright spark”. I can train staff to do pretty much whatever they need to know to be successful but intellectual curiosity and an agile mind are the essential starting point. Probation is important, give us an idea of what it would be like to work with you not just in this moment but a decade from now.

Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not trying 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 100-200 staff members, Northeastern US, Public, Rural area, Suburban area, Urban area

Underselling themselves; being too humble

A young person studies a book in a migrant camp library
Image: Arvin camp for migrant workers (Farm Security Administration-FSA) California. Retrieved from NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for:

√ Other: Federal Libraries

Title: Account Manager

Titles hired include: Metadata librarian, cataloger, project manager, library technician

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

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?

Asked intelligent questions and demonstrated passion for librarianship

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Poor communication / response time

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this

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

CV: √ We don’t ask for this

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

Underselling themselves; being too humble

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

Test equipment/software in advance; make sure background isn’t distracting (or use software features to obscure background); eliminate background noises such as pets, kids, roommates, construction & appliances

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?

Just be honest about what attracted you to the library world (maybe it was a friend/relative who works in the field, or you just enjoyed spending time in a library setting in school or taking your kids to one). Soft skills are the most important (library science isn’t rocket science). Skills can be learned on the job; friendliness, reliability, professionalism, work ethic cannot.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

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?

√ 101-200

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not trying 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, Federal, Northeastern US, Urban area

Candidates who can tie any previous work experience to aspects of the job available should be given serious consideration

Photo of Celia finishing first in her age group at a half marathon

This interview is with Celia Rabinowitz, who has been Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College (NH) since 2014. She also manages general education, digital learning, faculty enrichment, and undergraduate research. Celia has a MLS from Rutgers University and a PhD (in Theology) from Fordham University. Prior to Keene State, Celia worked in the Hilda Landers Library at St. Mary’s College in Maryland from 1992-2014.

You may remember Celia from her contributions to the Further Questions weekly feature. I am very grateful for her willingness to share her insight and expertise.

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

Permission to fill the position is approved by senior administrator. For library faculty a search committee is formed (the dean is not a member). The committee meets with HR to review guidelines and write a job ad (with dean approval). The search committee reviews applications using an online system to submit ratings linked to job requirements. Phone interviews for a first round. On campus interviews for finalists including meetings with the dean and provost. References are checked. Search committee makes a recommendation to the dean. The dean consults with the provost before an offer is made.

Titles hired include: Collections Strategies & Services, ILL coordinator, Access Services Manager

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ Other: Provost or other principal administrator

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

√ Other: Not all items are required at the time of application

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?

In addition to having good qualifications, the person used the cover letter to talk about why they were interested in this job at our library and institution.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Candidates who don’t acknowledge the type of institution we are (public, liberal arts), whose cover letters appear very generic, have an uphill climb to convince me we should consider them.

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

I wish there was a way for candidates to feel secure asking about concerns they have regarding a position – about their qualifications, about campus climate, etc.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

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

Being afraid to ask provocative or probing questions.

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

Our last hire was before the pandemic and we did everything in person. I’m not sure if we’ll return to that. We are unlikely to be able to do any hiring for the next several years.

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?

Candidates who can tie any previous work experience to aspects of the job available should be given serious consideration, particularly for entry-level positions. My advice is to own the change you want to make, don’t apologize for it.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: It’s usually part of the online job description. Faculty are members of a bargaining unit so starting salaries are set in the CBA, but can also be negotiated.

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

The search committee is required to talk with the Associate VP for Equity and Inclusions who will also review pools of candidates. Efforts are made to advertise in places that will reach wide audiences. The biggest challenge is our geographical location.

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

Candidates for library faculty positions could ask about expectations for tenure and promotion, about mentoring opportunities, about professional development support. They should know about the impact of staff and budget reductions over the past few years on the campus in general and the library particularly.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern 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

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

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

To paraphrase from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “a vague description is nobody’s friend”!

Geraldine Fain Browses in the Free LibraryThis anonymous interview is with a job hunter who is currently employed (even if part-time or in an unrelated field), has not been hired within the last two months, and has been looking for a new position for Less than six months. This person is looking in Academic library, at the following levels: Requiring at least two years of experience, Senior Librarian. This job hunter is in a Rural area in the Northeastern US and is willing to move Anywhere.

What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?

1) Flexibility in terms of job duties. I want to be nimble and as helpful as possible at all times, not locked into a limited and tightly defined role where I have to pass student/faculty/patrons off to others.

2) Collaborative opportunities. I love finding unexpected connections and exploiting them to benefit my library and the institution as a whole.

3) Variety. Going along with the flexibility I listed above, I don’t like doing the same things every day. I like knowing what is going on, how pieces of the organization work together, and problem-solving at the point of need. It keeps me creative and passionate!

Where do you look for open positions? (e.g. ALA Joblist, professional listserv, LinkedIn)

I subscribe to several listservs. I check ALA’s Joblist every now and then, and also jobs posted in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Finally, I look at the state library associations/professional websites for a few specific areas of the country where I am most interested in working.

Do you expect to see salary range listed in a job ad?

• No (even if I might think it *should* be)

What’s your routine for preparing an application packet? How much time do you spend on it?

First, I read the job ad closely and carefully. I think about how the job, as described, fits with the job I currently have, positions I’ve had in the past, and other positions I’ve applied for and not gotten. I have a file of cover letters I’ve previously written, and I pick through these for one that is appropriate/requires a minimal amount of tweaking to work. I make sure to change all names, job titles, and other relevant information, obviously. I keep my resume updated every couple months even when I’m not applying for a job, so that doesn’t change much. However, I make sure my cover letter speaks specifically to any points in the job ad that aren’t clearly addressed by my resume. The whole process, from the point I see a job ad to the time I apply….it probably takes me a few days of intermittent thinking and doing things.

Have you ever stretched the truth, exaggerated, or lied on your resume, or at some other point during the hiring process?

• No

When would you like employers to contact you?(Please select all that apply)

• To acknowledge my application
• To tell me if I have or have not been selected to move on to the interview stage
• To follow-up after an interview
• Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me

How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?

• Email

Which events during the interview/visit are most important to your assessment of the position (i.e. deciding if you want the job)?(Please check all that apply)

• Tour of facility
• Meeting department members/potential co-workers

What do you think employers should do to get the best candidates to apply?

This a tough question to answer! I suppose the “best candidate” for any position will apply if the job ad speaks to what they are passionate about – so be clear and honest about what the position entails and what is expected of applicants. To paraphrase from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “a vague description is nobody’s friend”!

What should employers do to make the hiring process less painful?

In the academic world, I know that there is a whole laundry list of committees and administrators that hiring decisions have to go through. Considering all of this, I wish employers would give a realistic timeline, and/or give candidates more frequent updates. I have applied for jobs, interviewed, and then heard nothing for over 2 months.

What do you think is the secret to getting hired?

Be well-spoken, intelligent, attentive, be able to “read” your interviewers well and respond in ways that do more than answer their questions – for lack of a better phrase, you need to speak to THEM, not their question. Which sounds weird and impossible. But when you are the right person in the right place interviewing for the right job, it works.

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Filed under Academic, Job hunter's survey, Northeastern US, Rural area