Category Archives: Academic

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

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

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

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

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

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

Titles hired include: Director, cataloguer, Circulation desk

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

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

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

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

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

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

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

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

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

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10

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

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

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

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

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

If I have an anatomy professor on the hiring committee, they may not be able to connect the dots between managing retail operations and providing front-line library services

Ruth Castillo is the Director of the Library at Emory & Henry College in Virginia. Prior to coming to Virginia, she was a library department head at another private university. 

In these roles, Ruth has chaired numerous librarian and library staff search committees and served on faculty and administrator search committees for positions outside of the library. 

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

I chair search committees for library positions at the college. For all types of positions, candidates must apply online with a resume/cv, cover letter, and references. For staff positions, the committee typically does in-person interviews with the top 2-3 candidates before making a decision. For librarian (faculty) positions, the committee does a video call first-round interview with the best 5-10 candidates then recommends 1-3 candidates for an on-campus interview day. The interview day involves 5-8 different interviews, meetings, and often a teaching demonstration and includes meetings with the Provost, the library staff, and the Faculty Hiring Committee. After the on-campus interviews, the search committee and the Faculty Hiring Committee make independent recommendations to the Provost who will make a final decision regarding offering the position.

Titles hired include: Technical Services Librarian, Technical Services Specialist, Technical Services Assistant, Health Sciences Librarian, Public Services Librarian, Circulation Assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

The most impressive candidates I have seen are all able to articulate why they want to join us and what they would bring to the library.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Coming to an interview and asking no substantive questions.

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

What the candidate needs to know to determine if this would be the job for them (salary, schedules, work/life balance, health care, moving to the community, etc).

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

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

Not doing their homework. If you don’t know where we’re located, what type of institution we are, and how big the library staff is before I talk to you, I assume you don’t have an interest in working here.

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

We do! The beginning of a virtual interview can be awkward, for everyone. A great way to overcome that is handling the basics, like making sure people can hear and see you okay.

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?

Directly reference the job posting in the context of your experience. I intentionally look for these connections, but if I have an anatomy professor on the hiring committee, they may not be able to connect the dots between managing retail operations and providing front-line library services. Utilize cover letters and interviews as opportunities to make these types of connections.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: My institution does not allow us to post salary information. For staff hires, I provide salary and work schedules at the interview. For librarian (faculty) positions, it can be awkward to have that conversation during the interview with the committee present. I typically do a follow-up to the first interview with candidates we’re interested in bringing to campus that opens the door to discuss salary 1-1 before moving forward as a candidate.

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

All search committees are required to do training at the beginning of the search. We also use the same questions for all candidate interviews within a search.

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

What is the first challenge you would ask me to tackle in this position? How does this position fit into the strategic goals/plans of the library? When you started here, what surprised you the most about working here? What does communication within the library look like?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Academic, Rural area, Southeastern US

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ A Committee or panel 

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

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

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

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

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

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

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

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

How many pages should each of these documents be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Rural 

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

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100 

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

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

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.

Leave a comment

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

I like to be surprised by intelligent questions.

A woman shelves books from a cart
Image: Mildred C. Crabtree, a civilian librarian, selects books in the library for distribution to the wards at Kenner Army Hospital. National Archives Catalog.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library

Title: Public Services Librarian

Titles hired: Supervisors, Student Library Assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

If I’m hiring for the library, then I do interviews with the candidate. I have a supervisor with me to ask/answer questions as the perspective worker would either share the role with a supervisor or would be reporting directly to a supervisor.

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

I could tell if they put a lot of thought into their resume compared to most student employees.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Unwilling attitude.

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

Whether they really do have a strong work ethic and are willing to do the things that are listed on the job description.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

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

Not being able to come up with more than just “I don’t know”. I don’t mind uncertainty, but I at least want a “in this situation, I might, or I would probably . . . “

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

Yes. Nothing specific .

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

I look for talent in those who work for me and try to give them opportunities to progress when they open.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

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

I look at resumes and experience and try to look for unique characteristics, actions, or experiences.

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

I don’t have a definite answer. I like to be surprised by intelligent questions. I like them to know that they are being paid to work but that we like to create a fun and friendly atmosphere for employees, as well as library clients.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US

What’s your region like?

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ Other: Provost or other principal administrator

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

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

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

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

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

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

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

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

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

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

Being afraid to ask provocative or probing questions.

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

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

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

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

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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

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