Category Archives: Public

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

I did a virtual interview this year where the candidate was playing a video game at the same time

Librarian stands at bookshelves talking to a teen
Image: Librarian with young reader in Browsing Room of the Nathan Strauss Branch for Young People From The New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Library Administrator

Titles hired include:

Librarian, Library Assistant, Clerk, Access Services Assistant, Security Manager, Library Administrator 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ 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:

Recruitment – alternating between internal and external, screened for minimum quals, randomly selected pool of about 20 at a time sent to interview panel (3-5 people), panel interview creates a list of ranked candidates based on score, names are referred out to hiring manager based on score and location/FTE preference, second interview is done at local level (3-4 people usually), selection is made. 

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

demonstrated leadership in answers,  complete answers, good sense of humor, thoughtful and prepared (we send questions at least 24 hrs ahead of time)

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Because we send questions ahead of time, someone who is obviously unprepared (doesn’t have an answer) is kind of a deal breaker. I did a virtual interview this year where the candidate was playing a video game at the same time. Poor answers to diversity and equity questions. 

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

references, and sometimes resume – only the initial hiring panel who makes the list sees the resume generally 

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?

incomplete question answers, answers that are too SHORT. If you have 30 minutes for the interview and you are done in 10, you need to rethink the details in your answers. 

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

yes. Don’t be afraid to communicate issues you have – poor internet connection or equipment, etc.  Otherwise, just relax. We are mostly taking notes and sometimes don’t even have you on our main screen, 

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?

It doesn’t take a lot to convince me. Candidates who can show parallels are actually my favorite because it takes skill to show how you have the skills without having worked in a library before. I try to have some questions to encourage this as well – ie. Tell me about a time you had to teach yourself something complicated, how did you go about it? What did you learn? What would you do differently? – Advice – have an awareness of how the library is part of a larger system, its own type of environment – think about public access on a bigger picture level. Say more than “I love the library” – tell us what a library means to you.  ASK IF THE PERSON HAS SEEN YOUR RESUME.  I tell people if we haven’t, which isn’t uncommon, but others might not think to tell you that before the interview starts. When you answer questions, answer every part – an incomplete answer is the easiest way to rank someone lower in a large candidate pool. When you are finished with your answer, go back and summarize your answer as it pertains to each part of the question – make there be no doubt.  

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

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

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

√ Other…

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

random selection pool of applicants, training on bias. Where bias still exists – in my org it does not exist as much for race, sexual orientation, or gender – but it’s very prevalent with older age and weight. 

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 an average day looks like, how promotions occur (although sometimes asking about this can give a bad impression that you don’t want the job you’re interviewing for so be careful about your wording). Most people ask what we like about working at the library. This is an ok question. Ask what our challenges are as a system or branch. Ask what success looks like for someone in this position after 6 months. Ask what type of employee the manager finds the easiest to manage and the staff the easiest to work with.. Benefits questions are best asked to HR. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

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? 

Again – answer COMPLETELY.  Talk about teamwork, problem solving, and highlight your previous work experience. We do love to hear that you love the library, but make your answer larger than that – why? What does it mean to you? What do you think it means to the public or country at large?  If there’s something specific you need – ask about it – but also be careful. For example, we sometimes have people asking about very specific schedule needs around other responsibilities (school, children, etc). Weekends and evenings are part of public library life and jobs that don’t include one or both are few – so be prepared for that. 

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 200+ staff members, Public, Urban 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

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!!

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Public, Suburban area

What do you expect from an organization that hires you?

Jimmie Epling is a native of Eastern Kentucky with 40 years of experience in Kentucky, Ohio, and South Carolina public libraries. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education in History and Economics from the University of Kentucky and a Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of South Carolina. 

Currently, he is in his tenth year as the Director of the Darlington County (SC) Public Library and serves as an officer in the South Carolina Library Association (SCLA). 

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

Facilitator/moderator. Review applications, selection of candidates, in-person interview, task portion of the interview (if required), review of interviews, call references (if required). 

Titles hired: Youth services librarian, circulation clerk, reference assistant, branch manager

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization: 

√ A Committee or panel, with the final approval of the Director 

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates? √ Online application 

√ References 

√ In-person, structured interview 

√ Demonstration/task (teaching, storytime, etc) 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Formal training and experience related to the job on paper. Passion, articulation of ideas, and examples of work offered during the in-person interview. 

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?

The candidate’s true personality and work ethic. 

How many pages should each of these documents be? 

Cover Letter: √ Only one! 

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

CV: √ We don’t ask for this 

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

Indecisiveness. Reflection before answering (for a moment) is acceptable. Lack of a strong, well conceived, or decisive answer. 

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

Appearance counts. This includes the background and setting. Also, extraneous noises or interruptions can be a problem. 

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? 

Decisiveness in their answer. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information? 

√ It’s in the job posting and part of the information provided at the interview 

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

We standardize questions. The information collected for Federal statistical purposes is not shared with the interview panel. An upfront acknowledgement and commitment to diversity by the interviewers. 

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

If the candidate doesn’t ask, we ask “what do you expect from an organization that hires you?”

Additional Demographics 

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like? 

√ Suburban 

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual? 

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization? 

√ 11-50 

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

Ability to get along with coworkers

Katharine Clark is the Head of Programming and Community Engagement at Beloit Public Library and recently accepted a new position as Deputy Director of Middleton Public Library, both libraries are located in Wisconsin.

She is a leader with the Wisconsin Library Association most recently serving on their Board as Treasurer. A graduate of UW-Madison iSchool, she has been working in libraries for over twenty years.

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

We use NeoGov to screen and score applications and then interview top 3 or 4

Titles hired include: Library service specialist; youth service librarians

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

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?

included a thoughtful cover letter

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

use a generic letter and forget to change library name to right one

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

reliability and job attendance record

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!

Resume: √ Only One!

CV: √ Only One!

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

not brag about themselves enough

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

We did during COVID…dress to impress

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?

Stress ability to get along 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?

take out names in NeoGov screening process

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 some of the challenges your organization is facing?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

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, Midwestern US, Public, Urban 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.

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Filed under 100-200 staff members, Northeastern US, Public, Rural area, Suburban area, Urban area

I figured if she could handle middle school students, first-year college students should hold no terror.

Randall Schroeder has been a professional librarian for over 33 years. A graduate of the University of Iowa library and information science program, he has spent most of his career as an academic librarian in public service and instruction, but briefly went over to the dark side of administration. Most recently he was a director of a small, rural public library in Iowa.

 His recent projects include publishing his first book and a TEDx Talk about information literacy, media, and misinformation. He currently lives in Coralville, Iowa. 

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

As the library director, I was usually the chair of a hiring committee. I had a big voice, but not the sole voice.

Titles hired include: Public service librarian, information technology librarian, Library Dean

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration 

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ CV

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ 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?

I had one candidate who led school groups at a science museum in Indiana. I figured if she could handle middle school students, first-year college students should hold no terror.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Getting the name of the organization wrong in materials. Grammar and spelling mistakes. No degree if the position says it is required, especially in academe.

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

Ability to be collegial and general people skills. Anybody can fake it for the duration of an interview.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more 

Resume: √ Only One!  

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 all different. Everybody is on their best behaviour. There hasn’t been any single common mistake.

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

Be patient with technology issues and low bandwidth. Be ready for a ‘Plan B’

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?

More advice to the people doing the hiring: Don’t silo people. Everybody’s story is different and you are losing out on some great talent because they don’t fit into your square hole.

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?

Not much. I always have a dean hollering to hire more diversity, which we want, but it is excruciatingly hard to convince diversity to come to Iowa, let alone apply. I don’t know what the solution to that is.

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

Have at least one question that is specific to my organization so I know they at least looked at the web site before they showed up.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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

He gave one of the best untrained booktalks that I’ve ever seen

Jess is the Director of Adult Services at Spartanburg County Public Libraries, where she started as a page 13 years ago. Jess has planned and facilitated hundreds of programs including dozens of author events, offered reader’s advisory services to thousands of readers, and has even managed to squeeze reading a book or two into the process.

When she’s not at the library, Jess can be found riding her horse, Max, or rapidly downing a small bag of Cheez-Its.

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

Our process is usually a four step test for candidates: the application, pre-employment testing, a live interview, and credit/background/reference check. I am involved in the review of applications and one of the interviewers, along with my Assistant Director. The pre-employment testing is computerized and administered by HR; it’s required for all applicants before an interview as an equalizing test of knowledge. My AD and I are responsible for selecting a top applicant after interviews, but we can (and often do) request input from our hiring specialist, who sits in on all interviews with us.

Titles hired include: Assistant Director of Multimedia & Fiction, Media Assistant, Multimedia & Fiction Assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree (if applying for an MLIS-required position)

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc) (my department usually requests a program idea)

√ Other: Paper application (we’re working on getting it online)

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?

One of our recent hires came into the interview a few minutes late, which had dropped him a few points for all of us. But once he was in the room, I was really struck by his personality and his ability to take things in stride: from the jump he explained how he navigated the unexpected traffic jam he was stuck in to get to the library more quickly, and he was open, honest and expansive with his responses to our questions. One of my favorite interview prompts is “tell us what you’re watching right now and why we should watch it too”, and he gave one of the best untrained booktalks that I’ve ever seen. His passion and enthusiasm for the show (Ozark) clearly came through, and that’s a standard that I now hold other applicants to. (He’s proven to be a great employee!)

This was before I was in a position that included hiring responsibilities, but one weekend I was working the desk and a patron came in and asked my coworker and I a ton of questions about what we did–the environment, what our responsibilities were, and so on. It turned out that she was interviewing that Monday for a job in our department. I was really impressed that she came in on a Saturday to talk face to face with possible future coworkers, and she asked really thoughtful questions. My coworker and I told our supervisor about it, and she was impressed too, and ultimately, this candidate ended up getting the job.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Total lack of personality, including sense of humor. It might seem weird, but it’s essential when working with patrons to have a sense of humor. Being late without warning or not showing up is a big dealbreaker. And although it isn’t INSTANT, it’s hard work for an applicant to overcome “I love to read” as an answer for why they want to work in my department.

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

Their true capacity for providing extensive customer service over a long period of time. That’s something we really only learn once someone is in the environment.

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?

Assuming that we read at work and that the environment is quiet! We also very often talk to candidates who have never been to a program as an adult or perhaps have never really even used the library. They know nothing about what we offer. Learn what we have available before you walk into the interview! If you work at a library, the patrons think you’re a librarian, no matter what degree you have, so show that you’re ready for that by researching the place where you want to work before you’re in the environment.

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

As needed, yes. Sometimes candidates live pretty far away or have a medical issue pop up at the last minute, and we try to accommodate that. It’s usually over Skype or Zoom, and of course the environment is subpar. I always, always recommend to anyone applying for any job, but especially via virtual means: let your personality shine through. We can teach you how to use the ILS and the difference between HDMI and XLR, but I cannot teach you to have a good personality and an ability to let things roll off your back. Be expansive with your answers, and try to make the interview into more of a conversation. That’s especially helpful virtually, where the back and forth can be painfully stilted.

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?

Think really hard and really broad about how your experience CAN be relevant. For example, I majored in Latin (and my parents still hold that one over my head). I never thought that my knowledge of Latin would amount to anything in the public library setting, but I’ve been sent multiple patrons over the years for reader’s advisory help because no one else knows what to give someone who just read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. Similarly, I wanted to be an architect as a kid, and I ended up harnessing my drafting skills to design miniature houses that patrons could put together and decorate for the holidays, which came to be an immensely popular program.

I can’t speak for other library types, but in public libraries (or at least MY public library), we will really work with you to harness your passions and turn them into something for our patrons. Virtually anything you do that could be considered “project management” (like planning a wedding, a trip, or a big move), “data analysis” (tracking your personal budget, extensive healthcare paperwork, or tracking your car mileage), or “customer service” (helping your partner’s mother with a TV input issue, looking for a good book for a friend, or making cold calls for a local nonprofit) can all be spun into something relevant to library 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?

Well, we’re a southern library in a fairly conservative area, so we’re working uphill on this. But we are working on it.

Hiring staff have all gone through training regarding bias in the interview process, and that was helpful for me, especially when it comes to communicating about bias. My AD and I work very hard to reflect on our biases and openly call them out on ourselves and each other during the deliberation process. We are both operating through the lens of managing all of the past staff we’ve managed and we have to be V-E-R-Y careful about putting those biases into context.

I also try to show at least one of my tattoos in the interview setting and my AD has purple hair, so I’m hoping that is a signal that we are stylistically speaking a more open, accommodating and relaxed atmosphere.

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

Please, for the love of all things great and small: ask us SOMETHING. You’re interviewing us as much as we are interviewing you, and not asking any questions is a signal to me that you aren’t thinking analytically about the role, the organization, or your future supervisors.

I think it’s always a good idea to ask about our benefits package–we say on our postings that we have an excellent benefits package, but not what it entails, so that’s a gimme. I like when staff ask what a typical day looks like for the position, and what parameters are for success in the role. Asking questions about our strategic plan is nice too, because it means they know we have a strategic plan in the first place. A candidate of yore asked what the library’s ultimate relationship with the community was and how we worked toward that, which was a very smart question that showed that the candidate was thinking about how to make the library work within the larger scope of our county.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Other: Urban city and rural county

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ Other: Currently, 189, but on a fully-staffed day, we have 229. (One branch is closed for rebuilding, and we have a lot of open positions right now.)

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

For the job hunters: Don’t give up. The jobs are out here. You’re going to have to LOOK for them, though, and look beyond the typical places. There are a lot of libraries hiring right now, but not all the jobs end up on the ALA Joblist or other big sites (some of them require that libraries pay to post their positions, and we don’t all have the money for it). Do some digging, research libraries in multiple areas, and go to their actual websites. 

For the survey author: So glad you’re bringing HL back. I’m very happy to see this resource return in full force; it’s been helpful to me as an applicant time and time again, and I’m happy to return the favor by sharing info from my perspective as a hiring manager now that I’m in that part of my career.

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, Public, Southeastern US