Category Archives: Suburban area

Smoking while with members of the search committee

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

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for an:

√ Academic Library

Title: Head of Content Curation

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

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

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

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ CV

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

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

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

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

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

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

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

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

How many pages should each of these documents be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

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

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

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

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

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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

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

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

Focus should be on how the candidate can make a contribution

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

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Director – retired

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

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

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

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

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

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

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

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

work ethic, ability to deal with stress

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

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

CV: √ We don’t ask for this 

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

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

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

Be mindful of what’s in your background

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

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

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

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

Applications are carefully evaluated based on minimum qualifications only

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

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

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100

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

There is no “magic” question

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

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

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

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

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

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

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

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

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

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

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

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

CV: √ We don’t ask for this

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

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

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

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

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

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

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

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

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

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

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

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Suburban area, Western US

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

Headshot of Beth Walker

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

She lives in Haymarket with her spouse and two cats.

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

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

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

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Online application

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes

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

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

How many pages should each of these documents be?

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

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

CV: √ We don’t ask for this

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

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

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

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

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

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

When does your organization *first* provide salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

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

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

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

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

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

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

How many staff members are at your organization?

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

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

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

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

How often is the Library open? What kind of activities occur in the Library? 

Kathryn Levenson has been the Librarian at Piedmont High School for 6 years. Her passion as CSLA Chair for Freedom of Information is providing resources to Librarians with book challenges. 

She also loves mysteries, travel and cats. 

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

Update job description. Internal Posting. External Posting on EdJoin. Form hiring committee. Review applications. Interview panel. Contact references of 2 to 3 finalists. Committee members rank their choices. Some Discussion. The Librarian makes the final decision after consulting with the Principal.

Titles hired include: Library Assistant 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Other: Principal

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

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ References

√ 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?

Our choice was between someone like me in terms of skills, but with accounting skills as well and someone totally different: more creative, great with kids, had worked as a para educator for many years at the elementary school in our district. Good at working with SPED students and already knew many students. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Arrogance. Rehearsed answers.

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

Dedication. Love helping students. Creative problem solvers. Additional talents.

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?

Not really listening to our questions. Saying they can fix our system. Not trying to connect with the panel.

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

We did not pre Covid.

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

Be flexible, caring, willing to work around each others’ schedules, and be supportive when the Librarian has last minute meetings.

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?

Be open to all kinds of people. My most recent assistant is the only male in our library system. In our oral interviews, we had 3 female and 2 male candidates, all white. We have a DEI Administrator for the District and a commitment to hiring diverse staff. I especially appreciate people continuing their education at the same time.

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

How flexible are the hours? It is a 50% position but requires extra days at the start and end of the year. How often is the Library open? What kind of activities occur in the Library? 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

√ Other: Next to a large diverse urban area.

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100 

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Filed under 50-100 staff members, School, Suburban area, Western US

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

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

The most common mistake the hiring body makes is not sending the questions for a phone interview in advance

Larry Eames (he/him/his) is an Instruction Librarian based in Colorado Springs. 

He is a chronic search committee member and a part of the CU system Search Advocate Program which aims to reduce bias in the hiring process and enhance equity and diversity in hiring practices. He tweets @liblarrian.

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

A search committee is convened after the job description has been written by the supervisor of the position in question. In this meeting the dean (hiring authority) and the supervisor of the position lay out their expectations for the process. The job is then posted for 5-6 weeks before the priority deadline. The chair of the search committee is let into the HR system to be able to answer questions candidates may have about their applications throughout the process but the rest of the committee is only let into the talent acquisition portal after the priority deadline. Ideally every committee member reviews all applications, but if there are too many the chair will segment the applications so at least two people review each. Based on a rubric in which the candidates are rated y/n on the minimum qualifications and on a 1-5 scale for the preferred qualifications 10 or so candidates are selected for a “phone screener.” This is actually over Teams or HireVue. Based on those interviews, the committee convenes again to choose 3-4 people to invite to campus for in-person interviews. These usually go for about a day and include meetings with the department the position is in, the dean, other relevant stakeholders, and a job talk. The committee convenes after these on-campus interviews to rank the finalists and deliver pros and cons for each to the dean who makes the final hiring decision. I have been a search committee member in this process and am currently a search committee chair.

Titles hired: Electronic Resources Acquisitions Professional, Associate Dean, Online Learning Librarian, Instructional Assessment 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

√ Other: EDI statement, portfolio if relevant

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 told their story really well in their cover letter. They addressed each element of the required and preferred qualifications clearly so we didn’t have to read between the lines and they narrated their experience rather than regurgitating their cv.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Not respecting patron privacy/generally not adhering to professional ethics.

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

n/a

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 the most common mistake the hiring body makes is not sending the questions for a phone interview in advance. I think the mistake that candidates make most frequently is not pausing to consider their answers when they need to. It’s 100% ok to say “I need a moment to think about that” and then answer and to ask any clarifying, follow up questions.

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

We conduct virtual first round interviews. I don’t think I have anything to add beyond basic advice: watch your lighting (it’s good to be able to see your whole face and not have any campfire shadows) and sit comfortably. Sitting comfortably will help you present your best self.

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 clear statements about how your paraprofessional, non-volunteer, and non-library work reflects the qualifications listed in the job description. Don’t make reviewers read between the lines.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

Colorado requires salary transparency by state law.

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

We use a rubric to ensure we are all using the same language and standards to evaluate candidates. We also explicitly discuss common ways for bias to enter the hiring conversation like “cultural fit.” In the search committee I’m currently chairing, we’ll be introducing a new, uniform mechanism for gathering feedback from non-committee members during the on-campus interview.

In my experience, we do a good job of mitigating bias, but there are still structural issues and I think I would have to have a fully external perspective to identify all of them. In the search I’m currently involved in I was able to eliminate most of the physical requirements listed in the job description but unfortunately couldn’t fully eliminate the category. As this is my first time chairing, something I’m being especially proactive about looking for are ways we might make assumptions about candidate needs especially around accessibility.  

At the system level, I went through training to join the Search Advocate Program which aims to enhance equity and inclusion in the search process. This is still a nascent program for us so I have yet to see how that will be put into practice on my campus, but I gather that the intention at the very least is to have a trained search advocate on every search committee to promote better, more inclusive, less biased searches.

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

What was the most controversial thing to happen on campus or in the community recently? What is your organization’s strategy for retaining diverse talent? How did this position come open?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southwestern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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

You’d be surprised at how many candidates arrive for an on-site interview underprepared

John is currently the Head of Information Technology and Collections at Coastal Carolina University.  He has worked in academic library technology for over 30 years and is a former patent holder and co-founder of Journal Finder, the first OpenURL Resolver and knowledge base to go into production in the United States.  

Throughout his career, John has focused on identifying and implementing innovative uses of technology in the provision of library services, online user privacy protection, and improving the user experience for accessing online resources.  He is an active member of the Coalition for Seamless Access.

You may remember his answers to the survey What Should Candidates Learn in Library School and to the Further Questions feature. I appreciate his contributions!

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

We post the job ad, the committee reviews applicants and conducts on-site interviews.  We then make a final recommendation to the University Librarian, who then approves (typically pro forma).  If the position is in my department, I typically serve as the Chair of the Search Committee, but I sometimes serve as a search committee member on other searches.  

Titles hired include: Collection Strategies Librarian, Electronic Resources Librarian, Library Systems Administrator, Digital Initiatives Librarian, Web Development and Emerging Technologies Librarian, Head of Collection Management, etc.

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

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ A whole day of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: Yes but only for yes/no minimum requirement questions; e.g., “do you have an MLIS,” or “do you have two years experience.  We don’t use this for other questions to avoid having qualified candidates unknowingly excluded from our applicant pool due to a wrong answer or system error.  

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

They obviously knew their stuff and didn’t inflate their knowledge and experience. As importantly, they were able to communicate this in a way that was specific to the position for which they were applying.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Doesn’t meet minimum requirements or has obviously written a boilerplate cover letter.  [Note:  any librarian with search committee experience can easily identify a generic cover letter that has obviously been written and submitted for numerous positions.  If an applicant doesn’t have the time to write a letter that speaks to their experience and knowledge for the advertised job and how the library would benefit from hiring them, then the search committee certainly isn’t interested in considering the application.  

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

How they’ll interact with their colleagues after 6-12 months on the job – after the honeymoon period is over.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

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

Resume: √ We don’t ask for this

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

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

Overstating their knowledge or experience in their application package that they clearly can’t support in the phone or on-site interview. Also, you’d be surprised at how many candidates arrive for an on-site interview underprepared, have a negative attitude, and complain about their current place of employment and the people with whom they work.  Projecting a positive, solutions-based attitude goes a long way in impressing potential employers. 

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

Yes. I’d recommend dressing as if you were on-campus interviewing, and be just as animated and engaging. Virtual interviewees sometimes show up overly comfortable or just flat/disinterested.

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

For all candidates, take any knowledge and experience you’ve  learned along the way and translate its appropriateness to the job for which you’re applying in the cover letter. Simply listing a list of jobs you’ve held (in or outside the industry) w/o articulating how it speaks to the current position is of little benefit to the candidate.  For paraprofessionals, it’s important to get as much experience in as many operational areas of the library as possible.  Opportunities typically abound in their current places of employment to allow them to volunteer for time-limited projects in other departments, or to sit at the reference desk or teach one-shot library instruction classes.  Not only will that enhance one’s knowledge, but this strongly indicates a person who is motivated, takes initiative, and is willing to get outside of their comfort zone to make themselves a well-rounded librarian with a broad, marketable skill set.  

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?

DEI and EEO training.

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

Take the time to read a library’s strategic plan/mission statement, observe what library systems and platforms are in production, and what major initiatives are being undertaken.  This will enable the candidate to ask more intelligent, relevant questions about the job/library/university, and lets the search committee know that they took the time to prepare for the interview.  

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Southeastern US, Suburban area

Sometimes I fear they don’t know where we are located

Image: Bibliotecárias_nas_Biblioteca_Popular_de_Botafogo,_Rio_de_Janeiro,_1957 via Wikimedia Commons

This interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Assistant library director

Titles hired include:

Librarian. Library supervisors. Library aides. Library generalist. Lots of stuff.

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Other: Supervisor recommends, director has final approval.

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

√ Online application

√ Supplemental Questions

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

Review job post and supplemental questions to make sure we are presenting job well/getting info we need. Post/promote. Review applications. Phone screen top 5-10. Interview with 2 people 3-5. Final interview with director, more casual meeting with more stuff 1 or maybe 2. Call references. Sent to HR for hire, background check, etc.

What are your instant dealbreakers?

1) Incomplete application. Blow off online application and say stuff like “see resume”.

2) Lots of errors. I once had a candidate spell their own name wrong (multiple spellings of their name in application process)

3) Application and resume don’t match. Say you have 5+ years of customer service, doesn’t translate to anything you listed.

4) People who say stuff like “I want to work in a quiet and calm library because I love to read.”

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

If you live far away, acknowledge that and say, “I want to relocate.” Sometimes I fear they don’t know where we are located. Or they just want any job, not this job. Or not this location. Do you WANT to live in this state?? Do you understand the cost of living here? Does this region of the country interest you? Why are you even applying?

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?

They don’t come with questions for us. They haven’t even looked at our website to find out about us. Challenge me- ask why I like working here. Ask how we responded to COVID. Ask about our new building project. Ask about something that relates to the job. Ask to see your future work space. Ask me something!

Talking super negative about former employers. Think ahead about how you want to frame stuff. You know there will be some kind of questions that touches on your past work. If you don’t want to work for “a jerk”, try to ask questions that get to what matters to you. Ask what they do to try and help employees succeed. Ask what they do if an employee is struggling. Ask how they respect work /life balance. Interviewing is like dating. You don’t want to marry the wrong person as much as they don’t want to marry the wrong person.

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

We did for sure during COVID. And will for distance candidates for first round of interviews. They should still put in effort. Don’t wear a baseball cap and T-shirt (real example). I know it is not ideal or fair, but try to get a neutral background. Seeing a closed door right behind you is better than a messy kitchen. If we want a second interview we expect you to come in person. And I expect that you will be able to make an in person interview happen within a 2 week(ish) period. (See long distance applications issues above)

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?

Work on tech skills. You don’t have to have a degree. You can learn excel from online stuff. Customer service experience is highly valued. If you have worked waiting tables you for sure can deal with someone fighting about a $0.10 fine. Don’t be afraid to lean in on those past experiences. I value those experiences. So should you!

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?

Working on this. Have really been pushing staff about how they view (for example) education. If job calls for high school diploma or equivalent- that is either met or not met. You don’t get “extra points” for a college degree or masters. Very much trying to figure out how to get our job ads out to our diverse community. Would love article about this!

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

I address this above.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southwestern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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

If no one is calling you, your application is probably boring or generic. You can set yourself apart by valuing your past experience and bragging on it. The only person who is there to tell me how awesome you are is YOU! You didn’t work as a waiter from 2015-2019 at Denny’s. You worked in the 15th busiest Denny’s in the state. You were promoted to shift manager. You talked your boss into getting a second soda machine. You regularly juggled up to 8 tables. You have a customer satisfaction rating of 4.4, which was the highest at that branch. Tell me how awesome you are!!

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 10-50 staff members, Public, Suburban area