Category Archives: Further Questions

Further Questions:  What’s your most horrifying hiring horror story?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is:

What’s your most horrifying hiring horror story? Either as a hirer or hiree. If you have incorporated lessons learned in your current hiring practices, it would be great to hear about that too.


Anonymous: As a hirer, I’ve had a few. One person, during phone interviews (years before Zoom) started her answer to each question, “Well, I don’t really know, but…” then proceeded to ramble on for what seemed like hours. We couldn’t find a way to politely end the interview. I had one candidate who said to me, during the tour of the library the afternoon before her interview, that undergraduates are stupid. We are primarily an undergraduate institution and were even more so back then. I knew she wasn’t going to get the job, but had to continue. We got to dinner to discover that she was a vegetarian and hadn’t said anything and we had scheduled dinner at a restaurant that had no vegetarian option. They made something for her, and I’m sure it was lovely, but definitely lesson learned there!

As a hiree, I have been put in campus housing of some kind for my interview. This has really become a pet peeve for me. The last time, there would have been no way to make coffee (if I hadn’t brought some things for myself) or have breakfast before my interview started at 8:30am. I was the only person there and had no idea about thermostat, wifi, etc. It is really not great for a candidate to feel comfortable and be able to sleep. I looked and felt tired the next day, which was a second day of a gauntlet of meetings with various constituents. I also, very early in my career, had an interviewer ask me about one of my grad school professors. Uuuuuuuuugh, this person was horrible to me and made me cry almost every time I went in his office. I froze and didn’t know what to say. The interviewer (who really was an awesome guy) leaned over and quietly said, “it’s okay. We can’t stand him either.” At my most recent interview, no matter what we did, I could not log in to their guest wifi for my presentation, which was simultaneously in person and via Zoom, with Google slides. After trying and failing and getting help and having to give up, someone brought me a laptop to use. Huge relief. It was all fine, but more stressful than it should have been – and I had even discussed all of these logistics with them in advance!


Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor and Brooklyn Public Library’s Job Information Resource Librarian: My horror story actually happened twice. It was at two different workplaces, but was basically the same story.

I was on the hiring committee both times, but not the hiring manager for either position. In both cases the applicants interviewed very well, but lied about their experience, claiming to have years of specific experience crucial to the position that they did not actually have. Beware the slick applicant who seems “just perfect” for the position!

In one of the positions references were checked but only in a superficial way, and in the other case, references weren’t checked at all.

In both cases it became clear early on that the person hired did not know what they were doing – within weeks. Also in both cases, the new hires made up “best practices” to try to cover for the fact that they did not have the experience they claimed to have, and doubled down when confronted, insisting that the way they were doing things was effective, and the way things should be done.

As you can imagine, this caused a lot of problems as the work they were hired to do was not getting done properly, and their managers struggled to supervise and hold accountable these employees who refused to follow policies and procedures in favor of their own fictional “best practices”.

The moral of this double horror story: always check references and check them thoroughly. Don’t just go by the info on the resume and cover letter, and an impressive performance in the interview. Skipping this step in the hiring process can lead to disaster, endless headaches, and lowered morale among other staff. Ask probing questions of references, to (perhaps) uncover some red flags you would otherwise miss. It is best to contact “unofficial” references too (others beyond just the references provided by the applicant), if it is at all possible. The more info you have about the applicant, the less chance there will be of hiring someone who turns out to be a problem.


Anonymous: We hired a new librarian a number of years ago. The interview went very well and the individual arrived and it was quickly apparent that they had all of the skills and qualities that we were looking for. The person worked well with their library faculty colleagues including team teaching and long overdue work on some collections. I began to get the impression that this person and one other librarian were spending a lot of time together. I am not usually very perceptive about this kind of thing but I had a feeling.
At the end of the most recent hire’s third year, the other librarian came to me to say that they were each leaving their spouses and also taking a separation incentive package from the institution and leaving. I also found out they were pregnant. So this hire resulted in the break-up of two marriages and the departure of two librarians. And both positions were then eliminated. Clearly more of a horror story for me than for them.


Jess Herzog, Director of Adult Services, Spartanburg County Public Libraries: My assistant director and I were interviewing an internal (already in our department) to move up from one role to another, and the head of HR was in the interview as well. The four of us were seated at a round table, and at one point I crossed my legs. I am what most would consider A Large Human, and the table is what most would consider On The Smaller Side, and I whacked my knee pretty hard on the underside of the table. As one often does when one is shocked by a jolt of pain, I forgot where I was, and said “ow, f**k!” 

Silence.

And then the head of HR and I both turned beet red while my two staff began cackling. Oops! I apologized profusely and counted my lucky stars that everyone in the room was internal. Lesson learned: keep the legs crossed at the ankle, Herzog.


Anonymous: While it isn’t universally evident, oftentimes a workplace suffering from a toxic culture is unable to hide that discontent from candidates. The most obvious example of this I experienced as a candidate was at a parochial institution. About four or five minutes into the interview the search chair referenced a day of particular importance within the organization’s founding religion and noted, casually, that they had always wondered why this event was celebrated on that specific calendar day. Another member of the search committee, one whose aggression and disdain had made me question if I wanted to continue in the search at the phone interview level, immediately snapped and shamed the search chair (who was also their boss!) for not knowing the reason behind the date and, further, remarking that it was amazing the search chair had ever been hired into their position given their “ignorance.” From that point on, I knew I was basically only in town for a free lunch. However, I did continue to pay close attention to the aggressive committee member’s interactions throughout the day. It quickly became apparent that this individual had been with the organization the longest and had a long, long history of being moved from department to department as they wore out their welcome in each unit. They had left a significant, multi-year (multi-decade?) trail of carnage in their wake because multiple leaders were unwilling to take on the admittedly gruelling and often thankless job of documenting and terminating this employee. It further became evident that this person was the primary source of the organization’s current toxic culture as people either suffered their abuse or tried desperately to avoid their attention, even if that meant throwing someone else under the bus. Obviously I didn’t take the job, but I think about it often as a lesson in the harm of not confronting a problem early and, if needed, definitely. 


Anonymous: I was hired for an administrative position over an internal candidate. They informed me on my first day that every single library employee objected so strongly to my hiring that they were actively seeking employment elsewhere. That was when I started perfecting my neutral, flat-affect “oookaaay,” which has come in handy many times since.


Alan Smith, Director, Florence County, SC Library System: This may not be truly horrifying, but as a hiree (in previous positions long ago) I have had experiences where the organizational culture was not at all what it seemed during the interview and recruitment. In interviews now I try to give an accurate picture of what it’s like to work here, both in the questions I ask and also just describing it outright. If a candidate decides it’s not for them I’d rather them do so during the hiring process, not after the first day on the job!

As a hirer, I won’t go into specifics about horror stories, but I have learned that the most likable, charismatic interviewees do not automatically become the best employees. After an interview that feels more like a fun conversation, or reuniting with a long-lost friend, it’s helpful to ask, ‘do I want to hire this person to do a job, or do I want to be their friend?’ Having whatever social charm or spark to make an interview enjoyable does not necessarily mean the candidate has the necessary skills or alignment with the library’s mission. And in a worst-case scenario, a person who breezes through interviews on charisma alone will do the same thing on the job, getting by on likability rather than competence — and that can make disciplinary action as well as co-worker relationships a lot more difficult.


Anonymous: During the hiring process, there are things that don’t always come out because they are things you can’t ask and the person wouldn’t be able to answer you honestly, anyway. Most jerks are unaware of their jerk status. And, while you can ask some questions and watch for signs of jerkiness, it is sometimes undetectable until it is too late. In my experience, “plays too well with others” has never been a concern, however, “does not play well with others” can have some lasting and pretty devastating consequences.

On the hiree side of things, it can be a challenge to see just how dysfunctional a place is until you are on the inside. There is being honest and then there is “airing dirty laundry”. You don’t get to smell the laundry until you are there for a while. I used to have an “ideal” workplace with people who worked together in perfect harmony as a goal. I am an adult now and know that you are better off if you recognize the “odd ducks” for who they are just as you recognize the toxic bullies for who they are. And deal with each appropriately.

As an interviewee, I had the privilege of interviewing for a position I was excited about virtually. For the most part, everyone was very professional. Being completely virtual was a unique experience and, in much the same way a person might be “assigned” to help with the transitions between sessions, they assigned someone to help make sure everything was set up and working properly and there was some friendly chit chat during that time.

Obviously, we all have very different spaces and Zoom can provide a bigger glimpse into someone’s life than one would ordinarily share. I was surprised that there was a giant box of adult diapers featured prominently on the screen the entire day. I was also surprised when I popped into a Zoom room after a break to find this person having a bit of an argument with a family member. Full sound and all of the details. I tried to make my presence known, but it took a while.

It was more than I had signed up for.

A person in an important role that I was looking forward to meeting was a no-show at my first opportunity to meet them. Later, when we were supposed to meet one on one, the person had to be called to be reminded to join the Zoom. While awkward, it didn’t seem “out of the ordinary” to the person who had to make that call. When they “arrived” they were very apologetic but very clearly had been asleep. They volunteered that they did not want to return to campus due to the distinct benefits of being at home (naps, apparently). During the entire interaction, this person referred to me in an overly familiar way. I played along, but was taken aback at how overly casual and candid the conversation was.

I felt like I was playing a game called “Tell Me I Don’t Want This Job Without Telling Me I Don’t Want This Job”.


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or whispered on the wind. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Further Questions: How do you ensure your hiring process is accessible to people with disabilities?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week we featured a post written by Gail Betz that is based on her research and article Navigating the Academic Interview Process with Disabilities. So this week’s question is about hiring and disabilities:

When designing your hiring process, what steps does your organization take to make sure that it is accessible to candidates with disabilities? Bonus questions: Do you have advice for candidates who are requesting accommodations? Do you have advice for candidates about whether or not to disclose a disability, and at what stage?


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: In thinking about my response for this week I decided it would be helpful to provide some context. The last time I hired someone for a full-time position in my academic library was in 2019. Since then, the library has lost two faculty and three staff positions. Since I arrived in 2014 the number of library faculty has gone from 8-3 and staff from 12-5 (not including me). There is very little chance that I’ll be able to do any hiring in the next 3-5 years unless someone resigns and I am able to hold onto the position.

That said, over my 30 years as an academic librarian I have participated in many searches for a variety of positions on two campuses and have been responsible for hiring for 20 of those years. My first thought about this question was that our Human Resources office (through the university system I work in) controls many aspects of our searches, and particularly the very first interaction a candidate has with us through the online application. And I have no idea whether access to that application meets accessibility guidelines. I eventually found a paragraph about accommodations in employment (presumably negotiated after an offer is made), but could not determine how one would request accommodations for submitting the online application, or even to read through all the FAQ information for someone who found that difficult.

My campus has fairly good ADA compliance and the library is fully physically accessible. So far as I know, we have not interviewed candidates with disabilities. I hope that anyone needing an accommodation in order to have a successful interview experience would feel comfortable requesting that during the interview planning process whether that is something we would need to do online or on the phone, or in person. If the accommodation is something that would be important once the person was hired, I have to admit I’m not sure. I think I would be fine with the person waiting until an offer was made. But, again, I think the decision should be the candidate’s and our role as employers is to try to make stating the need for an accommodation (not requesting one) a part of the hiring process. My sense is that we do this in fits and starts, especially those of us without a lot of experience. And that we will also make mistakes. Our growth in supporting the use of appropriate pronouns has helped us learn to make mistakes and use them as ways to become better. In many ways I think this is still how we are approaching supporting colleagues for whom accommodations are needed in order for them to be successful members of our teams.


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: For myself, I would want to know if someone has a disability or needs accommodation, especially for a campus interview. If it’s a Zoom first round, it would depend on whether or not the candidate felt like their disability would create issues that could be explained if the disability were disclosed. We don’t ever want to make ableist assumptions that would affect decision-making, when we could have had the information we needed, in the same way that we must remind ourselves of everywhere that lack of privilege may play a role in how a candidate handles themselves in an interview situation. Obviously, our buildings should be accessible, but if the person is giving a presentation, we need to know how best to make the person most comfortable. Can the person walk around campus on a tour? Do they need captions in Zoom? There are so many possibilities that would even the playing field, but we have to know about it. I think it makes the interviewers more comfortable if we know in advance and can offer those accommodations rather than being presented with a situation on the spot. I’m not sure if we design our hiring process in a certain way to accommodate, but I think we should!


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: 

When designing your hiring process, what steps does your organization take to make sure that it is accessible to candidates with disabilities? I think we do. Our position descriptions are clear as to our commitment and our website is said to be 508 compliant. We take great care to not only ask applicants if they need anything for any stage of the search and application process. AND we also include and support an inclusive interview team – making sure – for example – we have ASL assistance as needed for applicants and committee members. That is NOT to say that we only have – for example – deaf committee members when we might have a deaf applicant – rather we include our employees on our committees to be representative of who our candidates will be working with at the College – students, faculty and staff.

Do you have advice for candidates who are requesting accommodations? My opinion is that they should assess position descriptions carefully to see what they might need. If they see no need to disclose, that is, they determine they can be a successful employee without benefit of disclosure, then they shouldn’t. If interview committees ask – as we typically do – do you see any reason why – given the position description, etc. you could not perform any aspect of the work successfully, they just need to answer truthfully.

Do you have advice for candidates about whether or not to disclose a disability, and at what stage? Candidates who have a need for assistance should respond to the phone call or the email setting up the interview with a “Yes I would love to interview. For a video interview I need….For an in-person interview I will need..” That is, the approach should never be…”For the interview I need – now that you know this, do you still want to interview me?”…accept the interview and then provide what you need to be successful.

Also, the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy has great content for employers, employees and potential employees. Their “News and Publications” area also has great content for interviewing “Focus on Ability.”


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or written on a scrap of paper, shoved into a bottle, and thrown into the deepest ocean. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Further Questions: Is it possible to be fair when hiring for a position with internal and external candidates?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is from someone who hires library workers:

Hiring for a position that has both external and internal candidates can be tricky. Is it possible to do this fairly? If so, what are some specific recommendations to ensure an equitable process?


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: I do and have done it and I believe it’s been fair. I’ve also witnessed situations where it wasn’t fair, but that may be for an anonymous answer… First, the job description and ad must be written to reflect the needs of the library and not to match the specific qualifications of an internal candidate. Otherwise, you’re stacking the deck and it’s not even fair to the internal candidate. I had a position last year where I had the possibility of two internal candidates. I met with each of them to determine if they were truly interested (or just wanted a job that paid more) and what my questions might be about their candidacy. Second, the process must be the same for all candidates. The internal candidate must apply in the same way and interview in the same way. Other than maybe a library tour, the interview questions must be the same and they must meet with the same people. We often use similar interview questions for searches, so I’ve tried, when I have an internal candidate, to switch things up so they won’t have an unfair advantage. I’d say it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, you’ve worked with the person and know their strengths and what they could bring to the job (in addition to what they say in an interview situation – maybe they’ve just never had the opportunity to contribute at that level). On the other hand, you also know their weaknesses and where they need development. It’s all a part of the process and the manager has to be responsible for keeping it fair to both internal and external candidates.


Anonymous: It can be tricky, but not always for the reasons you might expect. Sometimes candidates automatically assume they’re out of the running when they find out there is an internal candidate, but being an internal candidate comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, I will almost always interview an internal candidate if they meet the position’s basic requirements, as a professional courtesy. So they do have a foot in the door. But, we have more detailed knowledge of an internal candidate’s skills and abilities than we do for an external candidate, and sometimes that means we know the internal candidate would not be a good match for a certain department or position. In other words, an external candidate is evaluated on their application, interview, and references, while an internal candidate is evaluated on those factors plus their history of work at the organization. Honestly, this extra information usually works in the internal candidate’s favor; after all, if their performance was not good enough, presumably they wouldn’t still be working here. 

My one recommendation: don’t penalize a good internal candidate for any vacancies or staffing problems their promotion would create. Sometimes the internal candidate really is best, but then you remember how hard their current position was to fill, and how well they’re doing there, and how long it will take to find another good candidate. Don’t hold that against them! If they’re outstanding enough to be promoted in your library, they’re outstanding enough to get a higher position somewhere else, and I’d rather have the temporary problems associated with rewarding good employees rather than the longer-term problems associated with an organizational culture of no room for recognition or advancement.


Anonymous: I am sure it is possible, but damned if I have ever seen it, either as an applicant or a hiring team.

My only suggestion is to be honest and transparent with all the candidates if you can, but that would probably get you sued.

Actually, I have nothing that can make this situation better. Almost all of my worst horror stories on both sides of the table involve internal with external candidates.


Jaime Taylor, Discovery & Resource Management Systems Coordinator, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts: This question should not be answered at the time a search is being conducted! Instead, this is a policy question, and if your library does not have policy about internal candidates, it should create it. If your library does have policy, then those conducting the search should refer to it.

Examples of policies might be that there is always an internal posting for x amount of time before an external one, or that internal candidates will be considered first, or that internal candidates will be considered first if there are x number of internal candidates — or the opposite, a written policy that says internal candidates will not be given first consideration. Either way, everyone’s expectations are clear and you’re on the same page. If you have a union and a collective bargaining agreement, these policies likely are (or could be!) in your contract. If your library is developing this kind of policy for the first time, be sure to think about how the policies, whatever they are, will influence your ability to recruit and retain a diverse staff and create an inclusive organization.


Ellen Mehling's headshot. She is wearing a cloth mask

Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor and Brooklyn Public Library’s Job Information Resource Librarian: This is an example of why it is always better to have a panel/committee reviewing resumes and conducting interviews, rather than a single person (who would usually be the hiring manager). Those on the committee should discuss pros and cons and skills/experience/strengths of each applicant that meets the requirements of the position, and internal applicants should be considered and vetted as thoroughly as external ones. In general you’ll have more information about internal applicants, but that should not automatically mean that they are preferred for the new position.


Katharine Clark, Deputy Director, Middleton Public Library: Yes, it can be very tricky to interview internal candidates at the same time. Having been a part of the process on both sides, as an interviewee and interviewer, here are my two recommendations. First of all make sure and contact everyone to set up initial interviews the same. Don’t ask your internal candidate in the break room if next Thursday works for them. They are most likely going to tell coworkers about the upcoming interview, so be vague when talking to others at work about the process. You want it to be a fair and equal process. Secondly, if you don’t hire the internal candidate make sure and follow up with them. If you are part of a large system that sends out generic emails to candidates that aren’t hired, be sure to have a one-on-one chat with your co-worker that didn’t get the job. Let me know what they can work on and how much you appreciated them taking the time to apply for the position. I highly suggest this second piece of advice, makes for a more comfortable work environment for both parties.


Jaime Corris Hammond, Director of Library Services, Max R. Traurig Library, Naugatuck Valley Community College: I think that hiring when there is an internal candidate can be done fairly, as long as the committee is clear on what they can and cannot consider when they are comparing candidates. If the committee agrees ahead of time that they will treat the internal candidate as a new person, and only consider what is on the person’s resume and cover letter, then the hiring process can be fair. In many cases, the internal candidate has the advantage because they have direct experience at the institution, but I have also seen outside candidates be hired because they had deeper and/or broader experience that better aligned with the goals of the hire.


Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System: It is possible to hire from a pool of external and internal candidates fairly. From experience, my recommendations are:

1) Use the same hiring process for both internal and external applicants. An internal applicant must go through the same application process as external candidates. If you require an application and/or resume of an external candidate, the internal candidate must provide the same.

2) Provide external candidates with information that may only be readily available to the internal candidate. As an example, provide youth services programming statistics to both internal and external candidates. Offer a tour of the facility or area to the external candidate before the interview. For an IT position, offer a tour of the server area and schematic of the network (of course leaving off specific information).

3) Have the candidates perform a job related task or program. When interviewing for a children’s position, a story time presentation can be a decisive factor between an external and internal candidate.

4) Have a nonemployee who is knowledgeable about the position on the interview committee. The nonemployee will not know any of the candidates, providing the best opportunity candidates can have for an unbiased opinion.

Having a non-employee who is knowledgeable about libraries as part of the interview committee is one of the best way to assure fairness and equitable treatment between internal and external candidates.

When interviewing for an IT Manager position, the South Carolina State Library help us by allowing its IT Manager to be part of the interview team. This person provided excellent questions, spotted exaggerators, and was impartial. I regularly invite either a director friend or someone from State Library services to participate in branch manager interviews as they do not know the candidates and are knowledgeable on public library services and issues. As part of the interview committee, the non-library employee has no knowledge on the internal candidate and requires us as employees on the committee to explain our observations and choices.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: When answering this question, we must remember that – within our organizations – librarians move laterally, within levels of promotion, between or among departments, into other roles within libraries, as well as those who apply for temporary or permanent roles, current positions to project management, frontline positions to management, public to behind-the scenes or technical services or technical services or behind-the-scenes to public services – or – and what we think of more typically – further upward on the management track. In addition, managers may choose to step back and apply for leadership or positions that coordinate or facilitate only, rather than management. This means that there are MANY different areas for feedback for our employees so that not only are they aware of how they are performing throughout a year, but they are also better informed on how they might position themselves to apply for other positions, projects, team work, etc. within the organization.

As to the process that we use to select applicants who seek to move up, on, or differently, the best success for hiring for any positions to be filled internally OR from a pool of internal and external candidates comes from a combination of the following practices throughout the process:

Before/The Standard

  • Organizations should articulate their practices on seeking applicants for positions which could include this variety of approaches:
    • We are committed to developing our employees.
    • Our mentor program is designed to not only provide employees multiple avenues for success within the organization for this position but also to get assistance if they decide to move within the organization.
    • Although the organization is committed to developing employees, we consistently post all available positions both internally and externally at the same time to ensure equitable opportunities and the best possible project and customer services.
    • The organization values its employees and their development and available positions within the organization will be posted internally for x days, then finding no successful applicants, the position will be posted externally. Internal employees may apply at any time, following the same standards and practices for the hiring process.
  • To be able to assess internal employees’ performance as well as eligibility for moving within internal work roles and responsibilities, organizations must have up-to-date position descriptions, organizational, departmental and individual goals and outcomes as well as project or team outcomes and evaluation of those outcomes to provide information for employees seeking moves within the organization.
    • Outcomes – for initial team work – must be assigned in part or overall – to provide direction for completion.
    • “The usual” must be in place for individual or group successes such as timelines, resources, organizational tools, etc. (Many organizations identify “levels of success,” that is, “the project is completed to level 1 with x available with level 2 articulated as possible only if additional funding is granted.”)
  • Organizations need organization-wide annual performance evaluation policies and processes.
  • Organizations need – within their annual performance evaluation processes – systematic feedback for completion, successes, needs for improvement and failures throughout each year. This can come from consistent feedback that provides positive feedback as well as negative feedback with a requirement of constructive examples to accompany both positive and negative comments designed to avoid repeats. Feedback can be given in many ways:
    • direct manager giving teams feedback on overall performance of the team
    • a matrix of managers (all involved and/or all affected) providing feedback on overall performance of the team
    • direct or a matrix of managers giving teams feedback on the product while leaving project or team chairs or leaders the responsibility to provide individual team member assessments based on product assessment or “assigning” feedback to individual
    • performance
    • managers giving individuals feedback on their performance for basic as well as advanced duties throughout a year
    • teams, groups use peer evaluations as part of performance assessment for the project
    • teams, groups use peer evaluations as part of performance assessment for a project, within basic roles and responsibilities of a department or service, etc.
    • teams, groups use self evaluations as part of performance assessment for a project or within basic roles and responsibilities of a department or service, etc.
    • teams, groups use upward valuations as part of performance assessment for a project or within basic roles and responsibilities of a department or service, etc.
  • Managers need to commit to effective orientation, training, education and development programs that strive to ensure that employees get the information and curriculum – and as possible and as needed – the funding for development for individuals, departments or services to assist in ensuring successful work product and performance and maintenance of required and preferred competencies
  • Organizations should explore onsite or virtual/digital mentor programs that provide opportunities for employees to discuss roles, receive feedback and experience attention to their performance NOT from their managers of record for job performance or project or team work.
  • Organizations need processes in place to assess the organization’s future needs in order to provide training, education and development to ensure employee competencies are maintained or upgraded to meet those needs.
  • Organizations should have clear, fair processes for “acting,” “interim” and temporary roles employees may take on for open, pending positions that include:
    • clear instructions on whether or not interim or acting employees will be allowed to apply for positions
    • practices for providing orientation and training – and as needed – development during acting or interim roles
    • practices for providing feedback during acting or interim roles
    • articulated, specific practices and scripts for how managers might answer questions from existing employees on internal openings
    • practices in place for feedback and “next steps” for internal applicants NOT successful in the selection process
  • If organizations offer internal candidates the opportunity for interim or acting roles and responsibilities, they should take great care in organizational announcements as well as instructions to teams or projects or departments when interim or acting individuals are announced and integrated into the work and consider:
    • use of the interim or acting or other relevant title
    • specific timelines to announce for beginning, middle and ending roles and responsibilities
    • the possibility of announcing whether or not interim or acting can apply for position

Interview Practices and Policies (in general but also to ensure equitable internal applicant consideration:)

  • Position descriptions and job advertisements should be designed NOT to favor internal applicants (ex. required position elements should avoid – as much as possible – citing specific products or software the organization uses – that is “in-depth knowledge of (the organization’s specific online circulation software) versus “in-depth knowledge of current online circulation software used in (x such as a type of) library
  • Committees must have identical, carefully designed questions for all applicants.
  • Identical modes and methods should be used with applicants for interviewing (if – for example – initial interviews are virtual – internal applicants at the first stages are virtual as well)
  • Standard rubrics should be used for evaluating applicants – based on among other things – position descriptions.
  • Organizations should have formulas for creating equitable selection committees to assist in the process of balancing internal and external (normal) applicant support or lack of support.
  • Committee chairs should take great care to have carefully trained committee members who understand and commit to confidentiality during the entire hiring process including post-hiring discussions with both successful and unsuccessful candidates.
  • Managers must establish practices for organizational announcements for introducing successful applicants in general but especially for internal unsuccessful applicants and co-workers.

Post Interview candidate exchanges:

  • Human Resources standards and legal issues must be addressed for any q and a with unsuccessful candidates such as sessions on “Why didn’t I get this position?” as well as “What might I have done differently?” or “What should I do next time?” or “What is my future here now that I didn’t get the position?” as well as “How can I work with x who got the job instead of or over me?”
  • If discussions are allowed by HR for unsuccessful applicants, scripts must be created for what questions can and can’t be addressed such as “Why DID x get this position?” and “Why was x chosen over me for the position?”

Finally – the goal is to have well-designed practices in place avoid:

  • …”I thought I was getting this position.”
  • …”I was promised this position.”
  • …”I was not oriented within this (as interim) position and therefore could not be successful as interim or acting.”

We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or in a novelty song! If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Further Questions: Should Candidates Address Gaps in Employment?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week I profiled The Library Returners website, which is a great resource for people returning to work after a break. In keeping with that theme, the question is:

Should applicants address gaps in their employment history? Does it matter how long it is? Does the reason matter (i.e. raising children, tough job market, illness/injury, etc.)? If you think gaps need to be addressed, how should it happen?


Randall Schroeder, Director, Retired: My fear is that employment gaps mean more than they should to some decision makers.

For me, I almost always assume that a candidate’s gap is for a good reason, especially during whatever stage of the pandemic we are at now. I am reminded of what my mentor said a few decades ago at a small, private college library in Illinois, “everybody’s got a story.” Especially librarians. In 30 years, I have only met one librarian who went straight from high school to undergrad to graduate school to the profession. Everybody else, including me, has had a stop or two along the way.

For me, an application need not be a personal confession every time. If I have a question, I’ll ask it during the interview. In many instances, the resume gap may be an indicator of a life experience that will help a candidate’s case in my mind.

Your mileage may vary.


Jess Herzog, Director of Adult Services, Spartanburg County Public Libraries: On our external applications, we ask for reasons behind gaps of more than six months. I think that’s a solid period of time to expect an explanation for (or longer). I think it’s most sensible to address it on a line item within the resume, for example: “July 2017-January 2018, unemployed while recovering from an injury” or something similar. I don’t want or need a lot of detail, but I’ve worked with others in the past who find it very suspicious when there’s a gap in someone’s work history that is left completely unaddressed. It’s smart to be proactive about explaining your work history with the lumps and bumps, and to me that indicates that you own the fact that your work history is imperfect, just like every other work history out there.

A note on one of these breaks from “work”: if you’ve taken a break to raise children or be a caregiver for a family member, I would LOVE seeing that listed as a job on a resume. That’s a job in and of itself, and the amount of work you do and things you learn and manage is absolutely worth highlighting, and there are often significant transferable skills, especially soft skills like strong communication, time management, and creative thinking. Nothing teaches you to think outside the box quite like a kid, that’s for sure, and nothing teaches you empathy like caring for another family member going through health difficulties.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: My initial and quick response is to admit that I often notice and wonder about employment gaps. At the same time, I am not really sure I believe that people should have to explain them. I have noticed that candidates will sometimes refer specifically to gaps that result from staying home to raise families (mostly, but not always, from women). There are plenty of reasons why a person may have employment gaps and I am increasingly of the opinion that a candidate should not feel obligated to explain a gap. For some reason, either within the candidate’s control or not, they have chosen or been unable to work.

We read into these kinds of things all the time. An academic librarian seeking a new position in what is their 6th or 7th year at another academic library is someone who hasn’t received tenure, right? Maybe. Or perhaps they realize that they don’t want tenure at their current job and will have a hard time finding another once they have it. Or something else. What about someone who changes jobs every two-three years. Bad choices? Difficulty holding a job? Military spouse?

I think it is more important to ascertain whether the candidate has the skills and other assets needed to do the job or to learn to do the job, particularly in a field that changes as quickly as ours can. Candidates often provide explanations for the gaps which is fine but I would like to move away from guessing, asking, or even making a candidate feel some pressure or obligation to explain.


Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System: While an applicant may not need to address a gap in their employment history, the applicant must have a rational explanation for the gap. The reason for the gap might be alluded to in a cover letter or application.

There are many reasons for a gap in employment. It is reasonable to expect that an applicant has had a job where “it just didn’t work out.” It is reasonable for an employer to wonder about a gap and inquire about it in an interview. A question about an employment gap may be framed as a behavior interview question, giving the interview committee some insight into the applicant’s future performance.

When it come to the length of time an applicant has not worked in the field and it matters, it varies from job to job. An IT manager with a 10 year gap in employment may well matter more to an employer than the same gap for a circulation desk employee. Knowledge and skills have a shelf life. The IT manager candidate needs to explain the gap and demonstrate current IT knowledge.


Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College:

I personally would be inclined to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt and assume that a gap in employment was for a good reason that was none of my business. If their work history shows a number of gaps, however, I would prefer that they volunteer an explanation. Otherwise, the committee is likely to assume that past performance is predictive.


Headshot of Jaime Corris Hammond

Jaime Corris Hammond, Director of Library Services, Max R. Traurig Library, Naugatuck Valley Community College: I don’t feel any need to know what applicants did during employment gaps, nor would I ask anyone to explain one. That is in part because I understand that many employment gaps pertain to personal circumstances that are none of my business, and in part because our interview questions are standardized and pre-approved so a question about someone’s particular resume would not be on our list.

If someone wanted to address an employment gap with me, they could always bring it up in one of their answers or at the end, when I ask if there’s anything else they would like to share.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: Yes, It is my opinion that it is VERY important for candidates to address gaps and especially in some circumstances (keep reading) in their employment history. There are some more perfect proactive approaches by applicants as well as perfect questions for interviewers.

Why should gaps be addressed?

For the majority of positions we fill it takes a great deal of time. In fact, it takes time to just fill the position but that it is just beginning and is soon followed by the time it takes to orient, train, develop and maintain new employees – even when the candidate is internal or has worked for the institution before. And by stating the obvious “time is money,” the amount of money invested in new employees is astronomical once you add up pre, during and the first few months of hire. And at many institutions, it takes much longer than a few months to have a fully prepared employee – often at least a year. So – getting back to the topic at hand, selecting the right people is one of a manager’s most important roles and as much information as possible is critical to this expensive decision. Most managers; therefore, pour over resumes, cover letters, search social media and web content and compare applicants to the needs of the organization and the position description. And although we have to be fair and careful in asking questions and seeking clarifications, finding opportunities to reconcile timelines, etc. is valuable and can include:

  • seeking information from software networking platforms (Linked In, etc.)
  • accessing explanatory content from online job seeker platforms (Indeed, Monster, company, association and agency employment, etc.)
  • reviewing interview questions for opportunities to ask followup questions (carefully done to retain parity in asking all applicants the same initial questions)

What “gap” circumstances make it even more important for gaps to be addressed?

While one gap is probably not of major import, multiple gaps between employment, longer gaps than usual for typical job seekers unemployed and trying to find work, patterns of concern (gaps occurring when positions repeatedly end at the end of probations) as well as gaps that don’t match the employment dates/timelines offered on official applications. And the reality is what the interviewer is being told might not be learning anything such as – the answer might be vague or generalized (family illness, a bad economy, nothing was a good fit, didn’t meet my needs, there was no match for my education or training, etc.) or avoided by the candidate (I’m sorry, I don’t feel comfortable discussing that.) 

Where and when and what might applicants say and when should they say it?

  • The gap might be addressed in the cover letter rather than on the application form in general (where there probably isn’t space.)
  • The gap might be addressed in the cover letter rather than on the application form with specific information.
  • The cover letter could say “if I am selected as a finalist for this position, I would be more than happy to answer questions about xxxx.” (Much as applicants often do if references say “do not contact.”)
  • An applicant could state “I have a gap after the position where I had the most reference experience, due to the need to recover from an accident.” (It’s personal so keep it brief and interviewers should NOT ask for any specific follow ups.)
  • Applicants should focus on accomplishments achieved during the gap. (Although it took me almost a year to find a position that was the best fit, I took that time to learn x software, or take x courses online or fine tune my time management and organization skills.)
  • Applicants should – if the gap was for fun – which is perfectly okay – identify their fun time but emphasize their work ethic and return to work and benefit and impact of the “gap” period.
  • Applicants should consider bringing in extraneous but closely involved people such as “My partner had another 8 months in school so I spent this time working on my x certification.”

What might interviewers say and when should they say it?

  • “As a follow up to your summary of the x position, could you address the employment years from x to x (and include the unaccounted for time period.)”
  • Interviews could have candidates instructed by mail, support staff contact with “please be prepared to offer the committee a 15 presentation,” or “the committee will be – for a 30 minute period – your teen book group, please be prepared to lead a discussion on a popular teen title.” or “During questions and answers on required job experience, candidates may be asked to provide rationale for moving among types of libraries, gaps in employment or frequent job changes as well as identify the positions and roles and responsibilities that best prepared you for the position for which you are interviewing.”

What should be avoided in the “gap” issue?

During interviews – as managers know – all questions should be tailored to the position at hand, should be compared against the organization’s HR recommended questions and should be compared against legal and illegal question lists. To avoid tangents or the absence of parity in asking candidates the same questions, gap questions should be raised as follow up questions to answers from the standard questions or as follow up to statements made by candidates. In addition, HIPAA laws should be followed to avoid asking inappropriate questions on health or treatments, candidates should avoid complaining about organizations or past supervisors, or environments that may have been involved in creating “gap” situations. 

Finally, it is unrealistic – especially looking back at the last two years and certainly to negative economic or employment time periods – to assume that the most successful candidates should have NO evidence of gap time in employment history. 


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or on a threatening letter where the words have been cut out of newspapers. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Further Questions: Is it possible to do all of your hiring virtually?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Today’s question is from someone who hires library workers:

Some managers are saying that they feel comfortable designing a 100% virtual hiring process for all of their vacant positions. Others are saying that only certain positions can be hired from 100% virtual and that some positions need a hybrid process. So…post-pandemic – IS it really possible to substitute 100% of in person hiring with 100% online/virtual hiring for librarian positions? If yes, can we say that about all positions we hire in libraries? Paraprofessional? Professional/Technical? Hourly?

There are a couple answers below and even more discussion on Twitter:


headshot of jess herzog

Jess Herzog, Director of Adult Services, Spartanburg County Public Libraries: I hire exclusively public service staff, primarily paraprofessional, and one of the things I find most important to assess in an interview is body language, because this is the kind of non-verbal behavior that will be exhibited in front of patrons. Are there abrupt or rapid movements that may overwhelm or distract patrons? Does the interviewer exhibit defensive or protective body language about a certain topic? Is the interviewee capable of making eye contact?

I don’t hang the entire interview on body language, but patrons in a public library assess body language in many many ways, and we often have to use body language to our advantage to convey messaging to patrons. It’s almost impossible to read full body language–and in most cases anything from the shoulders down–when interviewing virtually. I think a first interview could be done virtually, but for positions I hire, I’d really want to meet a prospective employee in person first and have some sort of interaction with them.


Headshot of Laurie Phillips

Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: Since COVID, we’ve done a few hires completely virtual, both a librarian and two staff members. I think it has gone really well and I don’t think we missed out on anything. I do think it’s important for there to be some one-on-one interaction with candidates, rather than big committee meetings on Zoom. For staff, we do a pre-screening before they ever meet with the committee. For a faculty search, I don’t remember if we did two rounds on Zoom, but it worked out very well. It’s a little harder to bring out skills, etc., but I’m not sure what would entirely be gained by meeting someone in person, unless it’s for an administrator, who really needs to see the building and the campus and meet the people in person.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: Because of where we live – Austin – and not who we are, frankly – pre-pandemic applicants for many of our classified positions were from out-of-state. Why? To state the obvious (and identify things that many wonderful cities have)…many people move to Austin because a partner, spouse, friend, etc. is going to be going to the graduate library program in town or they themselves are OR their significant other has gotten a job in Austin (industry, tech, the music business, etc.) or they themselves are a musician or – again – their partner is OR because they love music and want to be near the city’s music scene.

I list these out because – and obviously for the classified positions – they need an income while they go to school, work, play, etc. and here we are! So we don’t flatter ourselves that we are that sought after at the senior library assistant or library assistant level but we do have good benefits and we have a variety of locations as well as managers with libraries with long hours so flexibility has always been our focus.

With that in mind, bringing people in from out-of-state- especially at the initial level of weeding out a pool of finalists – is not affordable or possible and certainly a candidate would not always choose to pay their own way. SO – many years ago we were the first department in the college to ask our HR department if we could interview online to assess the first round of applicants. Although they said yes, it meant that – for full parity – all initial finalists had to interview online and – yes – we even interviewed our internal applicants online for the first round. Of course, we quickly realized that the best outcome of this was far more than saving money or seeking a breadth of experience, etc. rather it greatly increased the pool in general and we were able to visit with candidates from vastly different settings, educational backgrounds and interests. With all of these aspects and opportunities in mind for the classified positions, we began to narrow down our faculty librarian applicant pools in the same way and we definitely had a bigger, richer pool to interview and thus narrowed down the longer list to five or six finalists to bring in/see in person.

Obviously these initial interviews online were only question and answer sessions, but as technology availability and ease of access grew, it became easier to imagine a full faculty librarian interview with not only questions and answers but also guided conversations or question and answer follow up, possible meet and greets as well as teaching presentations. After all, our growing distance learning program have – in fact – as all are, curriculum delivered both synchronously and asynchronously and we provide online reference and both hybrid (digital pre-learning and synchronous) and synchronous instruction for a class as well as online Zoom sessions for research assistance and curriculum design using library subscription resources, OPEN resources, etc. for not only students but classroom faculty.

It wasn’t such a stretch; then, as soon as the pandemic began, for us to decide the critical issue was to continue hiring and how we did that was less important than the fact that we were allowed to do it and needed to continue to fill positions. We expanded our reach, then, by moving all interviews online and continued to review our questions for currency with a focus on EDI issues as well as added with even more emphasis the assessment of the candidates design and delivery of online content. We have been very pleased with our “pandemic hires” although they interviewed only virtually AND were hired, oriented and trained virtually and – literally – in one case, did not step foot on a campus for months.

So what do we want to keep as we slowly move into Pandemic Stage 3? My guess is my managers all have distinctly different opinions – which is as it should be – but for my purposes, I very much like the virtual narrowing down of the larger pools for all levels of staff, but oddly feel more strongly about the second round for classified being either a hybrid or in-person session where we bring people in while the faculty librarian position could – in fact I think – remain online. I am not quite sure why I feel that way but because I think I should figure that out (!) I thought about it taking a look back at the last 18 months, read a little on online interviewing etc. and have decided on this list of “why.”

Why do we need to bring in senior assistant and library assistant candidates for at least part of an interview?

  • Classified staff – obviously – work alone at the public service or assistance desk/in assistance areas but overall operate as members of teams and – as such – train together, support the teams general and specific duties and often partner for not only projects but for public service…I see it critical then – if at all possible and especially for those not serving on the selection committees – get the chance to meet with candidates.
  • Many circulation desk roles and responsibilities are not stand-alone roles, rather a project or task or job responsibility is completed by the team – often stepping in at different times – therefore – timing, relationships, observation with the team (if possible) are key.
  • Classified staff work in fewer locations -that is – they have responsibilities for roles and responsibilities at their public service desk possibly, an administrative assistants desk – and one other location – specifically the workroom or work stations for work cubicles and now – they must also work in shared locations or on shared technology. Given the number of hours – literally- classified staff work in fewer, smaller spaces, it is important for them to see their work environment…windows or not? space to call their own or not? opportunities for more quiet or not? “protected” from the general public or not? opportunities – on the job – for privacy or not? People have to make their own decisions about where they might feel comfortable working and whether or not they feel as if they can be successful in work settings. That best happens with onsite visits and – if possible – observation of people working in spaces.
  • Classified roles and responsibilities might but aren’t necessarily “self-starter” in nature, but certainly once in play, staff need to be self-directed. Rather than – if at all possible – finding out if applicants can be or are self-starters through questions alone – it is important to show/illustrate workflow for teams so that applicants can be more aware of position expectations in general and so that interviews can ask questions following tours to determine awareness of/interest in and commitment to self-starting tasks and responsibilities.

Why is the actual in-person visit not as necessary – in some environments – for librarians as applicants?

So first the disclaimer, many environments do NOT have adequate workroom, office, or cubicle space for professionals – much less their classified staff. Professionals; however, have more flexible schedules typically as well as more locations where work happens and possibly (and certainly now typically) both on and off site. And the odds are professionals might have on site or in the building or general proximity, offices, more opportunities for privacy and “heads down” concentration and focus as well as individual – rather than team – roles and responsibilities. If your environment for your professionals is one where space is shared (offices, hardware/tech, space for supporting resources, etc.) it is incumbent upon interviews that you communicate that to all applicants. Much like the difficult answers that are typically given to “What is your support for staff development?” applicants must be told what they have and what they don’t have either through verbal discussion or through lists of resources available for new professionals including office/work space information.

Smart applicants ask questions such as “What does a typical workday look like for a librarian?” “Please describe workspaces for librarians beyond the public service desk.” “What support do instructors have in classrooms?” “What storage is there for maker resources (or children’s materials for programming, or parent support resources?” “What is the performance or programming space for my primary audience, my seniors?”

With the advent of streaming media, phones with cameras, inexpensive filming devices, etc.and taking great care to not provide TOO much information on recommendation of safety and security experts for environments, it is easy to not only create virtual visits for users to post on websites, social media, etc. but also to provide short media pieces for candidates showing public and behind-the-scenes workspaces (cubicles, offices), user environments, programming venues, and even supporting resource storage. In addition, those interviewing virtually should identify individual technology support in general and specifically (higher end computers, laptop availability, device distribution for staff, more memory given roles and responsibilities, etc.) as well as updates and ongoing maintenance and overall support for hardware and software. And while these elements have always been important it is even more important as we welcome people back to the workplace who may have VERY different working spaces in the past two years.


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or via carrier pigeon. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Further Questions: Can we talk about specific interview questions?  

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is:

Can we talk about specific interview questions? Do you have questions that are especially illuminating or are there well-known questions that you think are useless?


Katharine Clark, Deputy Director, Middleton Public Library: Here are three question I’ve recently started asking:

How do you handle it if your boss or supervisor asks you to do something you think is not useful or productive? How do you disagree with someone in charge?

What was the least favorite part of your last job experience? How did you try to change it?

When was the last time you offered a suggestion to improve a work environment? How was it received? Did the change occur?


Anonymous: My favorite interview question is “Tell me about a valid piece of criticism you’ve received.” The answers are incredibly telling. It avoids the fake weakness answers and also lets me know how well someone receives feedback. A red flag is if they respond that they’ve not ever received valid criticism.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College:

Can we talk about specific interview questions?

While we can and should, I have found that organizations expect or anticipate dramatically different responses to which questions to use, why they include them and what they expect to learn from responses. I think this is due to many factors, but I see many nuances underpinning examples. And some of these responses have to do with the geographic location of the position as well as the level of position. Examples include:
Many questions end up being trick questions such as “Where do you want to be in five years?” is a loaded question and new, middle level or more experienced level people NEVER know what to say …. does an answer such as “right here in this job” mean the person is stagnating? with no ambition?” …does “retired!” or “in my dream job on the beach” mean you shouldn’t hire them as you are investing time and money in someone already planning to leave? or the famous answer “in your job!” which many people see as cocky or even inappropriate. If pushed – I would have to say I don’t know what the right answer is and we stopped asking it 15 years ago.
“Do you value, x, y or z?” or what is the “mission of the x” – at the very least – should be answered with pat answers that reflect both the profession and the values or mission of the organization itself. So – at the very least – if they don’t answer it or can’t it is almost ludicrous and if they reflect the specific wording of the professions or the mission statement, it should be expected and tells us nothing.
Instead:

The concepts can be included but the questions should assume the person possesses these to be successful and then the question becomes “how does the applicant articulate why?” or “how does the candidate provide context?” The question might be worded as “what is the mission of x within the context of x” or “the current values of the profession are stated as x, which do you think should be worded differently or are outdated or classic? How do organizational mission statements, vision and values integrate with community or umbrella organization mission, vision or values?
You should ask for specific actions so after stating that you value something such as “our librarians are committed to EDI …please give us two examples of how you have infused or conceptualized infusing EDI into your user reference or research interviews? your collection development? the design or choices of your ideas for community programs? And they should be wording to include first time applications such as “in studying contemporary reference or research support librarian/user interactions, how is EDI infused into the process?” or “in updating materials collections, what three things do librarians look for in assessing the presence or lack of presence of current materials (or materials reflecting EDI, etc.)?
Do you have questions that are especially illuminating or are there well-known questions that you think are useless?

Useless

So reversing the order with useless first – even if the question has context!
Why our library? our organization? (I prefer that it come up naturally, rather than me forcing something less-than-genuine out of someone.)
What are you reading now? (Inappropriate and I didn’t put it on the list but it did bring my favorite answer “the want ads.”)
Where do you want to be in five years?
Why do you want this job? (The majority of answers make me angry and why they make me angry is too much to include.)

Interesting (and note I feel strongly about the question being preceded with context.)
Although managers should have a plan in place for orienting, training and overall integrating employees into the work environment, what do you do to integrate yourself into a team? into a workplace?
Librarians and library employees are always learning something new – and while there are many different learning styles and choices for teaching or training employees on new systems or processes – what is your learning style? How do you choose to learn something new? Be specific as to format, process, approach, etc.
Especially now – given the online world of business communication and extensive remote discussions – what two things do you want from your supervisor regarding communication with you or the team online or in person? and you can also provide an example of a supervisor you have had and how he or she communicated particularly well.
Many librarians say they love the job because there is something new and different every day, but there are many aspects of our users that we appreciate and some more than others. What is your favorite user group to work with? Doctoral students? First – time visitors/community members to the library? 4th graders? Small business people? And why are they your favorites?
No matter how hard organizations try, we end up with last minute work, plans, approaches during our work day/work week. What skills set do you use to be flexible in a work setting?


Jaime Taylor, Discovery & Resource Management Systems Coordinator, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts: Useless question: “What is your greatest weakness?” The answers to this are rarely illuminating, and it feels like a gotcha question or like you are trying to get the candidate to say something bad about themself. Do not ask gotcha questions! If you really need to ask something like this, you could ask, “What kind of support would you need to be successful in this role?” That’s a much more useful question — it sets the candidate up for success, and gives the position’s supervisors actionable information.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: I think by now most people recognize the futility of asking the “strengths/weaknesses” question. I like to try to ask questions that can give a candidate the opportunity to tell us more about who they are. It could be “Tell us about a successful project you worked on or class you taught. Why was it successful? What about the success could or did you apply to other tasks? Or we might ask about a project or class that did not work out as planned and how the candidate used that experience in future planning.

I sometimes like to ask candidates (often for more administrative positions) what aspects of work they enjoy most and least. For public facing work scenarios can also be useful. Even when someone has not done library work before thinking through a situation that might include a response like “doing what I can for a library visitor but also letting them know I’ll have to check with my supervisor” can add helpful information about a candidate’s experience.

Overall I think this question really points to the importance of a search committee/hiring manager thinking meaningfully about what they want to learn about candidates through the interview process. Then we need to craft questions that are most likely to give a candidate the opportunity to share ideas and information that will help us assess what they could bring to the position available.


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: Great question! I’ve been interviewing lately myself, so I have to say that, while I like asking situational questions (tell me about a time when…), I don’t love answering them. So many times, they are asking me to focus on negative situations and that’s difficult, but it’s about how you handle adversity. One of my favorite questions is “Why is this position a great fit for you and how are you a great fit for this position?” This is your chance to talk about why the job appeals to you, or why you feel like the position is a great fit for you and your skills. You may have covered some of this ground in your cover letter, but not everyone does. We sometimes ask about balancing collaborative and independent work, and we often ask how you approach learning something new (usually technology). Those are very telling answers! In our second round interviews, we will ask specific questions about the position and approach to the work, and we want to be sure that the person understands the position and what it entails. Terminology like one year extraordinary faculty can be confusing to someone who has never worked in an academic setting.


Anonymous: I like to use this question to gauge emotional intelligence:

Quoting RJ Palacio, author of the title Wonder, “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” What is your reaction to the quote? Based on your experiences, are there times when you must choose right over kind?

It will typically flush out the “black and white” thinker types, the “rules are the rules” kind of people. For me, the correct answer is choosing right when possible but leading with kindness. Libraries shouldn’t be using their policies as a bludgeoning tool to punish people. Enforce policies, yes, but understand that there are times when you need to bend the rules.

Also, the “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question is outdated and useless. We live in a society where loyalty to a company no longer exists. We can’t expect people to stay forever!


Hilary Kraus, Research Services Librarian, UConn Library: Since I work in academic libraries, there are typically two sets of questions: one for the initial screening phone or video interviews, and then another for the second round campus interviews. So many screening interviews focus on expanding upon the information in a candidate’s CV/resume or cover letter, when what I really want to know is the stuff that often isn’t well-represented in those documents. It’s the combination of what they’ve submitted and the additional content of the phone interview that helps a search committee make decisions about who to move on to the next round.

Following are some questions I’ve found to be especially informative during the screening interview process:

  • What appeals to you about this position specifically and more generally about working at [insert institution here]? (I know the cover letter should include this, but I find it helpful when the candidate can elaborate on it.)
  • Describe a project or initiative you’ve worked on of which you’re especially proud.
  • Can you give us an example of a situation in which you collaborated with a colleague?
  • What aspects of this job do you think would most challenge you and how would you approach them?
  • What areas of your professional practice are you most interested in developing?

When it comes to on-campus interviews, I certainly want to hear about a candidate’s experience, but also how they might apply that in the position for which they’re interviewing. For new or early career librarians, I think it’s particularly helpful to phrase questions as hypotheticals or ask them to describe what approach they think would be successful. That means, for example, asking “What approaches have you taken or might you take to make informed collection development decisions in x disciplines?” instead of “Tell us about your experience doing collection development in x disciplines?”


Alison M. Armstrong, Collection Management Librarian, Radford University: There are some questions that end up being throw-away questions that serve more as ice-breakers than content generators. Then there are questions that are more informative.

One of them is, “What surprised you when researching our library or university?” This gives us an idea of not just what they learned but also some of the preconceived notions they started with, or may still have. Sometimes these are particularly enlightening and can give you sense of what outsiders focus on when looking at your website, and how things might be misinterpreted. It can be useful for your edification as well as an opportunity to address anything that may have been misunderstood or may need information gaps to be filled. It also tells us how they are approaching the position, the library, university, and area. Backhanded compliments do not play well.

Another good one is, “You overhear your colleague giving incorrect information to a patron. How do you handle this?” This one can be very informative. It seems pretty simple but it speaks to multiple areas at once: How do you treat your colleagues/peers? Do you feel comfortable speaking up and, if so, how do you do it? How do view information sharing with patrons? How do you see your role/authority in this capacity? How do you approach what could be a tense situation? I have heard a wide variety of responses. We want you to answer as honestly as possible.


Karen K. Reczek, Social Scientist, National Institute of Standards and Technology:

Favorite Questions
Tell me about a time you failed.
What is the most useful job related criticism you have ever received?
If three of your colleagues were here how would they describe you?
If you could change one aspect of your last/current job, what would that be?
Tell me about a time you turned something around that was stagnant or unsuccessful.
What area of your work do you think needs improvement or what skills do you still feel you need to develop?
When looking for a job what are the three most important things to you?
Can you tell me about a time when you felt like giving up on a certain job or task and why? and what happened?
Describe your best boss.
What do you know about our organization? (So many people come to an interview and CANNOT answer this. Very telling.)

Least favorite Questions
Where do you see yourself in five years (Hey most of us don’t know – how about what is your professional goal and has that changed over the years?)
What are your strength and weaknesses? (I think you can learn more by asking some of the above.)
Are you a team player? or would you be successful working with a team? (who is going to say no?!)
Are you able to handle multiple priorities at once? (again, not sure who will say, no…)


Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System:

1) Do you have questions that are especially illuminating….

We have what we call the “snake question.” The question is “A parent (father or mother) and their child (son or daughter) come into the library 20 minutes before closing with a box in which there is a snake they want to identify. While helping them, three boys run through the library knocking the box off the table onto the floor. What do you do?”

There are so many experts and consultants offering candidate interview questions that we are told will help us discover something profound or significant about a candidate. Anyone wanting to do well on an interview can find these same questions online, in a book, or from a professional interview coach and learn how to answer them for success. There is a school of interviewing that focuses on asking “behavioral” interview questions. These questions are readily available and a candidate can prepare an answer for “Can you tell us of a time when you went above and beyond the line of duty?” or “Tell us about a time when you solved a problem at your job that wasn’t part of your job description.” How do I verify the candidate’s answer? The candidate’s answer can sound terrific, but has it been embellished or is it even true? I’m not sure a current or former employer will verify the candidate’s claim.

The snake question is specific. The goal of the question is to surprise the candidate, see how quickly the candidate recovers, and how the candidate prioritizes the actions necessary to respond to an unexpected situation. There are some answers that are better than others. The only wrong answer for us is to “run away.” One observation I will make is that on average only one out of one hundred will ask if the snake is alive. Almost all assume it is alive and respond accordingly.

Before thinking this is a ridiculous question and laughing, there are public librarians who will tell you they have encountered snakes in their libraries (“Bag of snakes brings new library policy in Madison County.” The Citizen-Times. October 20, 2019. https://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/madison/2019/10/20/madison-county-library-policy-bans-bags-snakes/4002405002/). If a candidate is able to respond to the question in a cool, thoughtful, and reasonable way to a situation like the snake in the box, it may be indicative of how the candidate would respond to an incident as an employee.

A few observations about using this question. I can’t say it originated with me. A public library director in Eastern Kentucky found it, used it, and as a consultant for the Kentucky State Library, I promoted its use. The question has become one of my staff’s favorites to ask because of the range of reactions by the candidates. It very often serves to lighten the seriousness of the interview, making it more congenial. The candidates also like it, later remarking how it made them see our work in a different way and being totally unprepared for it.

2) Are there well-known questions that you think are useless….

Once again, this question depends on the position for which the candidate is interviewing. Possibly the most useless question is “Where do you see yourself in five years?” In light of what we passed through with the COVID-19 pandemic, can we really predict where we will be in five years?

Those seeking professional positions will tell you about career goals, often tailoring the answer to what the interview committee might like to hear. They are very unlikely to say “I’ll have quite your job by then because it is just a stepping stone in my career to a better job.” Non-professionals, such as those in circulation positions in public libraries, will often tell you “I hope to be still working for the library in five years.”

The restrictions and responses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in many leaving the workplace and wanting to work from home. COVID-19 has demonstrated how change can rapidly make a response to the question “where do you see yourself in five years” today meaningless tomorrow.


Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College: I like open-ended questions that are specific to the job and institution. For example, “What interests you about this job?” tells us how the applicant sees their skills matching up with our needs, while “What do you know about us?” lets us know if they’ve done their research.

I’m less fond of old corporate chestnuts like “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Anyone who has a crisp answer to that one is nowhere near flexible enough to survive in any library I’ve ever worked in.


Thanks for reading! If you want to read even more, there’s been some great discussion over on Twitter

We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or via creepy anonymous phone call. If you have a question to ask, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Further Questions: What current issues in librarianship do you think candidates should be aware of ?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is:

What “hot topics” would you ask candidates about in an interview right now (i.e. virtual programming)? Or what topics have you recently included? What current issues in librarianship do you think candidates should be aware of and how can they best keep up on current topics?


Anonymous: Materials challenges!

“An upset patron brings a children’s book to the circulation desk, saying that it is inappropriate for children. She demands it’s removal from the collection immediately. How do you respond?”

Material challenges are on the rise across the United States. Keeping up to date with the ALA’s challenged books, intellectual freedom statements, and the library bill of rights would give candidates a good foundation. The question also gives the candidate the opening to ask the interviewer if the library has a materials consideration form and collection development policy. Some libraries post these policies on their website, which gives the candidate the opportunity to study them beforehand and show the interviewer that they did their research.


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: Probably the number one topic right now is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and how that permeates all of our work – critical librarianship, information literacy, accessibility, hiring, collection statements. I would look at the ACRL trends documents and the library’s vision and values statements (and their strategic plan) to determine the issues that will be important to that library and the field.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: The answer to this question depends a lot, or course, on the type of library and even on the specifics of the position available (area of expertise and whether the position is entry-level or requires prior experience). My thinking about this has changed even in the past few years as my smaller public liberal arts college has struggled with enrollment and budget gaps. Current research and writing on a variety of topics is of intellectual interest but not much practical value for the work and challenges we face in my library. When I think about “hot topics” that would help us consider the strengths of a candidate, I might ask a candidate about the integration of our work – to talk about the connections between developing collections, supporting teaching and research, making collections accessible, etc. An example of this integration is the frequency with which we see “Collections Development and Strategies” positions advertised. When we used this title (the last hire we were able to make), we were clear that the “strategies” were not only about materials formats or access, but also about outreach and use.

I think I would be interested in asking a candidate what issues facing higher education in general, and academic libraries specifically, they consider to be of interest and most important for the work they do and the job they applied for. I might hope to hear something about topics such as data privacy, equity and inclusion applied in many areas of our work, approaches to information literacy work with reduced staffing, open education, the effects of the trauma of the past few years on incoming undergraduates, or many others.

My answer to the question about keeping up has changed a lot over the years. As a very early career librarian I often read the top 3-4 journals cover to cover, including articles in areas I had less interest in or knowledge of. Over time I became better and picking and choosing and also added journals in areas outside librarianship. I think following the daily Inside Higher Ed digest is very useful. I read a few of the bloggers faithfully. The same for The Chronicle of Higher Education. These days I rely a lot on Twitter. I have found it incredibly useful identifying newly published blog posts, articles, etc. in librarianship and higher education in general. I’ll admit that I find a lot of blogs and other writing more useful than many of the more traditional peer-reviewed published articles these days.


Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System:

What “hot topics” would you ask candidates about in an interview right now (i.e. virtual programming)? Or what topics have you recently included? The question of what “hot topics” to ask a candidate very much depends on the open position. With Youth Services Librarian positions, we have included questions revolving around “virtual programming,” but I don’t see this as a hot topic. Actually, I am not inclined to ask a question that centers on a “hot topic” because they tend to be short lived.

My preferred question is “What do you see as the greatest challenge facing libraries today?” A candidate’s answer can be very insightful or superficial. I expect to hear an answer focusing on “budget” or “censorship.” The answer to this question may well provide those on the interview committee an opportunity to dive deep into the candidate’s beliefs and values.

What current issues in librarianship do you think candidates should be aware of and how can they best keep up on current topics? Let’s be honest here, what might be considered a “current issue” in librarianship may well have little relevance to my library and/or community. Once again, the answer regarding knowledge of a current issue depends on the position in question. Being aware of the “current issues” in the community my library serves can be much more important, and ultimately more impactful to the operation of the library, than knowing about a “current issue in librarianship.”


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College:

What “hot topics” would you ask candidates about in an interview right now (i.e. virtual programming)? Or what topics have you recently included? I typically don’t answer “it depends” but it really does depend on the level of the position. For example – an entry level librarian’s hot topic might be something like – Have you or how have you changed your reference interview/customer service exchanges to build in a culture of EDI for your users? That question conveys that it is a “must” for the organization but shows the candidate that the organization knows it is everyone’s job to make sure the culture is comfortable and appropriate for users.

If I am interviewing a librarian who might be in a coordinative, managerial or leadership position (all different aspects of some positions as we know) our questions lean more to making sure applicants know that we have put things in motion to integrate and insure EDI is built into the organizational structure (customer service, signage, marketing, professional exchanges, language, etc.) but more importantly that a manager must be committed to “requiring and assessing behavior” and maintaining the new or revised processes as well as a constant evolution that focuses on change for this critical area.

Also – for middle or higher level managers (or this second group addressed) it is important to communicate that organizational documents must be reviewed for needed revisions and additions such as mission and values statements, goals, outcomes, budget allotments, as well as individual employee goals. Adding in interview discussions and questions for all levels communicates not only that an organization is changing but also to clearly communicate new requirements are in place for orientation, staff development and – more than likely – individual evaluations conducted to measure not only presence but application of critical approaches to structuring content and working with users.

Interview committees should also be ready for questions from applicants on the very hot topics of “How is your organization handling gun control?” or “How did/does your umbrella organization and how are you handling the administrative requests throughout the country for removing materials or banning certain materials from the library?”

What current issues in librarianship do you think candidates should be aware of and how can they best keep up on current topics? Like any current issue in the profession, those interviewing and interviewers need to be aware of the facts and both what general approaches and the narrower approaches that individuals must take to comply or refuse some current issues both in the profession as well as those in the surrounding community or society at large. For the profession certainly – as covered above – EDI, Open materials, book censorship and banning come to mind as those issues most directly in front of us. Societal issues – now overlapping for us in many areas – include some aspects of EDI, staff and user gun control issues, and -of course – public wellness and local, county, state and national health and wellness guidelines. Certainly underpinning many if not all of these areas is free speech and intellectual freedom – mainstays in our profession for protecting practices – but certainly viewed now with new topics guiding discussions.

Keeping up on topics must be a combination of where to look for the facts, terminology to be used and how manners should integrate these issues into work life. Obviously, cornerstone professional journals, identified online vetted forums – by library professionals and specialty journals with opinions by experts are places to find foundational information. Professionals should always; however, seek to find out the breadth of the issue – if for no other reason than to recognize terminology brought into the workplace by staff or by users, and likely flashpoints. Organizational administrators should begin to – if they haven’t already – provide their own information gathering foundation and share that with staff and users as needed. This sharing allows people to see that decisions are made after reviewing vetting environments. For example – pandemic decisions for the organization should have been accompanied with citations to or names of the organizations consulted such as the CDC, initially the WHO and local dashboards maintained by reputable sources such as County Public Health or an organization’s Risk Management office – those people tasked with maintaining valid information. Citing research provides managers with the supporting documentation for why decisions were made (or not) and then both staff and users better understand how decisions came to be. It was especially important during the last two years when the speed of decision making was unprecedented for organizations. Having a pre-defined and advertised approach lent credibility and a valued process and reduced stress for employees as well as avoided many triggers for users.


Thanks for reading! We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or from your closest rooftop. If you have a question to ask, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Further Questions: What are your personal standards for how applicants should be treated?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is:

What are your personal standards for how applicants should be treated? For example, you might make sure that all applicants are notified of your decision promptly, or you might always have water for in-person interviewees, etc.


Katharine Clark, Deputy Director, Middleton Public Library: Every library is so different with their hiring practices, but most rely on using their municipality or campus Human Resources Department and they often have standard ways of responding to applications and moving them through the process.

You could get a call that same day after an interview, but most likely will have to wait one or two weeks while other candidates are interviewed and/or move through additional screenings.

I always end an interview with letting the candidate know a rough time line of when they will hear back from us.

Unless an interview is schedule to go longer than an hour, I haven’t offered water. I have always made sure to let them know exactly which desk to go to when they arrive for interview and make sure they feel welcome as we head to the interview location.

How you treat a potential employee also reflects on their decision to take the job, so it’s beneficial to make it a pleasant experience.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: My most important standard is that applicants do not feel lost in the process, particularly at the beginning when materials may arrive over a period of weeks (or longer) and the primary communication is somewhat automated and does not come from the library. We don’t have any direct communication with candidates until we have a first round pool of people we will interview by phone (or Zoom). I always want to schedule those conversations as close together as possible so the process doesn’t drag on for too long. And I think it is important to give candidates a general idea of the next steps and time frame as much as I am able. I imagine that this is true for most of us managing searches. I might not tell them exactly where they fall in the schedule but they should at least know whether it is likely to be one week or three before they hear anything.

I always send names and titles of search committee members to phone interview applicants in advance, and include as many names of people involved in on-campus interviews on the itinerary as I can. Keeping any interview experience on time is important for the candidate and the individuals on campus involved. I have been on the receiving end of people running late and then being told that I need to shorten my time to get a candidate back on schedule. Some things are always out of my control (like the Provost’s schedule) but I try to be sure candidate’s don’t feel rushed.

There is a lot about a search that is not in my control even as the Dean. The office of Human Resources and our university system HR control much of the process and the speed with which digital paperwork is processed. So I focus on the things that I can do to help shape the experience each candidate has.


Justin Hoenke, Library Director, Gardiner (Maine) Public Library: I will always do my best to keep applicants updated on the process. In my last job, I liked to send “all applicants” messages to let them know when the job closed, when we were reviewing applications, and when we were booking dates for interviews. Communication is always the best way to go! There is no such thing as too much info in this process.

Managers & leaders need to do a better job at keeping applicants as up to date and anxiety free as possible.


Anonymous: Consistency is important across the board to ensure that everyone has a fair chance and is treated equally. We always have water available to candidates. We recognize that they may need a little time on their own beyond “bio-breaks”. Communication, of course, is really important as well but some of that isn’t always in our control. The hiring process can sometimes lag for a multitude of reasons. When it does and we have the option to communicate something to candidates, we do.

In the past, we were told we could not communicate with candidates to let them know they did not get the job. What ended up happening was an email was automatically sent to all of the candidates on the day the new hire started. This is often several months after the position closed. Over the last several years, we have gradually become more humane.

A challenge that I see with cookie cutter communication is that candidates have different needs and interests and it may go beyond what they can see while they are on campus for a day. Of course, the standard is that everyone should get the same information but what if the information they want is outside of what is provided? Local candidates likely already have a pretty good feel for the area and the library but candidates who aren’t local will not.

To the degree you are comfortable, ask questions. Will I find my community here? Will I feel safe? Will I thrive? You don’t have to limit your questions to the people involved in the search. You will hopefully do some research into the area and institution/library ahead of time and you may encounter other individuals you can learn from. In those cases, you may feel more comfortable asking questions that may affect you on a more personal level outside of the more formal interview process.

For folks fielding those questions, it is in everyone’s best interest to be as honest as possible. It doesn’t serve anyone to tell someone who is looking for a big city life that your small town can offer all they are looking for. Just as it doesn’t serve anyone to tell a member of a historically marginalized community that your area has everything they ever wanted while you know your white, cishet community only WANTS to be that and it is perhaps decades away from being a reality. Be honest. If you build it, they may come. But not under false pretenses.


Hilary Kraus, Research Services Librarian, UConn Library: Applicants are human beings who are part of our profession, deserving of empathy and support. I often refer to the academic library job search as a hazing ritual. So much of it is terrible and doesn’t need to be. While it’s hard to change institutional processes (although it’s always worth trying), there’s a lot that individuals can do to improve the experience. While I have nearly endless thoughts about how applicants should be treated, from big picture items to something as simple as providing rest periods and beverages during a campus interview, the one I want to focus on here is communication. One caveat: because I’ve spent my career in higher education, some of this may not be applicable in other contexts.

Providing consistent, thorough, and open communication is something we owe our candidates. That starts with job ad that is concise, explains the position well, states the salary range, and tells them about our institution. It becomes even more essential when an invitation for a first-round interview is extended. Be clear about who will be doing the interview, how it will be done (e.g. phone vs. video), and provide questions in advance. Tell the candidate when they can expect to hear about second-round interviews. Do your best to get HR to allow you to notify those not selected in a timely manner. If that’s not an institutional norm, it’s an example of something you personally may not be able to change but that you can push back on in the hopes of future improvements.

For second-round interviews, communication becomes even more essential. Make sure they have a full itinerary in advance; if they’re traveling, that includes details of who may be transporting them locally during their trip. Provide an HR contact for any formal accommodations requests, and so they can get detailed benefits information. Proactively address any other logistics, including pronouns and preferred name, food allergies or preferences, whether they’d prefer a walking or driving tour if you’re showing them the campus, and anything else that can make their experience a positive one. If they’re doing a presentation, give them the prompt early so they have plenty of time to prepare, and tell them what you are hoping to learn about their skillset from it.

After the final interviews, let candidates know when they can expect to hear from you. This is sometimes the toughest time with communication, because in my experience the HR rules are very strict. But as a search committee chair, once a hire is complete, I push hard to be able to reach out to the unsuccessful candidates personally. It’s demoralizing to get that far and not get the job, and we owe applicants at the very least an email thanking them for their efforts and wishing them well.

To sum up: I treat applicants the way I’d like to be treated, not just as a job candidate, but as a person. I hope we can all aspire to that goal.


Randall Schroeder, Director, Retired: To me the gold standard of how an applicant should be treated was how I was treated when I interviewed to be the library director at a small college in Wisconsin. The college president’s assistant made sure everything was taken care of from the moment I left Michigan to when I got on the flight back. The assistant even asked seat preferences and made sure I was on the aisle. When it came time to do my presentation, I had an IT employee right there and during the presentation in case there were any hiccups with a technology system I wasn’t familiar with in the auditorium. In short, the only thing I truly had to be concerned with was showing up and my answers. If you think about it, that is really the object of the game.

On the other hand, I also learned from a disastrous interview process at a small college in Indiana that once the final interview was done, I was abandoned. Since I had been in interviews all day, I was unaware that the area was under a tornado warning, nor did anybody at the school think to tell me. If my wife hadn’t called me while I was driving my rental car back to the airport, I would have driven right into a serious storm. Instead, I took shelter in a shopping mall feeling left at the curb like yesterday’s trash. To add insult to injury, that cold front escorted a spring storm that turned to high winds and snow. My flight was cancelled and I had no place to go. It didn’t seem like the college could have cared less. Needless to say, by the time I returned home, there was no amount of money that could have persuaded me to take the job.

The moral to this story is that when I was in charge of these operations, I wanted my school to be more like the one in Wisconsin and not Indiana. To me it is a question of professionalism and respecting the people who took the time and trouble to indicate that they were interested in your position. It is never a great feeling when you don’t get the job, but being shown some professional respect lessens the pain. Even though I disagreed with the decision, I will always respect that college in Wisconsin. I was relieved that I wasn’t chosen by the school in Indiana. It saved me the difficult conversation of telling them “no thanks.”

Along those same lines, I have always wanted to be prompt in my communication. The mills of academe grind slowly but exceedingly fine. I wanted people to know what the result was. A rule of thumb that I once heard, and I don’t remember where, was to communicate with the candidates the last way you had communication. In other words, if the candidate never passed the mail/email stage, they received an email back that they were no longer being considered. In the email age, that was easy. If they made it to a phone call / zoom / on-campus interview, they got a phone call indicating their status. I figured that while the phone call offering the position to someone was usually fun, calling the unsuccessful candidates was a necessary penance. My mentor at my first college library job suggested to me a long time ago this was part of being a professional. Additionally, you never know when showing respect to other professionals would pay it forward.

At the very least, decision makers need to be empathetic to their applicants. Unless we have been very fortunate, we have been in their shoes. We should understand how they feel putting themselves out there and being vulnerable.


Anonymous: It’s important to me that all applicants are informed if they will not be moving forward. The timing varies on where in the stage they go out of the running. For in-person interviews, I do my best to tell them as much as possible about where the GPS will lead them astray, where to park, where the restrooms are, who to talk to and what to say when they arrive – anything I can think of that will help them visualize how the time between arriving at the library and sitting in the interview room will go. In the interview invitation, I also invite them to tell me anything the library could do to help make the interview a positive experience. It might be awkwardly worded, but I’m trying to give candidates the opening to ask about wheelchair access, if lighting besides fluorescents are an option, or whatever would help them to be at their best. I’m not looking for sensitive information, but if there’s something we can do to help someone be at their best, I want to give that to them. I also provide a copy of the job description, the interview questions, and a pen and try to make it clear that they are welcome to read along and make notes.


Amy Tureen (she/her/hers), Head, Library Liaison Program, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas: My personal standards for hiring library workers include making sure candidates feel welcome, that they get an understanding of what both working at the institution and living in the surrounding community would be like, and that at no time does the interview feel like a test or trap. For my searches, all known interview questions are sent in advance, as are schedules and menus for possible lunch/dinner places (this way candidates can ensure they have something they like to eat without having to declare their dietary needs). I am clear that the dinner between candidate and potential supervisor is not part of the interview, but instead an opportunity to ask questions that might have arisen over the course of the interview itself or simply socialize.

We provide a special Q&A session for candidates to learn more about living in the city and also developed a candidate libguide that provides helpful information on things like local schools, entertainment options, neighborhoods, and affinity groups both on and off campus. We include this guide in all of our advertisements as well. Additionally, when candidates indicate they are a member of a historically de-centered community, we try to make sure these candidates have opportunities to have off the record discussions before or after the interview with other employees who come from historically underrepresented communities. This enables candidates to ask questions and potentially receive answers that are less filtered than they might otherwise be able to ask/receive in a mixed group or during a formal interview.

Because we are in a desert location, we provide ongoing access to water both during the interview and provide a water bottle in welcome packages that are delivered to candidate hotel rooms when they first arrive. We also build in plenty of bathroom breaks (after all, we did just give you gallons of water!) as well as quiet prep time in advance of the presentation portion of the interview. Campus tours (which we get to do while zipping around in a golf cart!) are also key, because I think it is incredibly important to see more than just the building you’ll be working in.

I also try to provide additional optional quiet time throughout the interview as well. This is a practice I picked up from a previous supervisor at a past employer and while I never needed it as a candidate, I have seen how valued it is by candidates who are introverted or who have concerns back at home (kids, pets, work) that they would like to be able to regularly check in on. I’m still working on having this process become a formal norm, but we’re getting there!


Casey Burgess (she/her), Director of Library Services, Musicians Institute, College of Contemporary Music: With all applicants (which are mainly students at my academic college), I do the following:

I give them as much information up front as I can. This includes a job description with the hourly wage and number of hours for the position as well as the employee handbook and any attendance or enrollment requirements up front. I also give them “sample” interview questions (which are the exact ones) and just ask for them to email me their resumes.

For scheduling, I try to work around their schedule and always give the option for a zoom interview as is preferred by the candidate. I provide my pronouns and as for preferred name and pronouns, in case they felt they couldn’t include that on their professional resumes.

Once the interview is over, I give them a rough timeline of events, like when I plan to make my hiring decision and how they will hear from me as well as next steps if they are hired. I try to choose a candidate fairly quickly after the interviews are conducted and I email everyone I interviewed regardless of whether they got the position or not. I always encourage students to apply again next time there is an opening.

The only thing I think I have trouble with is that often these positions open and close very quickly and I’m not the best at advertising positions. However, I recognize that it is a fairly casual interview to match the entry-level position and minimum wage it provides.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: While my personal/professional hiring standards are what I could consider “high,” I have to focus on what my organization allows/includes in their process. What that being said, I have to focus on what I CAN control and what I can’t control, and for those elements of standards I think are necessary or highly recommended but I can’t make them happen, I have to make sure I account for those elements that absolutely should be part of the process but can’t be then figure out the best way to let the candidate know what should be happening but might not be. Also, in answering this question I have to step back to pre-pandemic interviews with the discussion of “what happens in interviews next” on my “to do” list!

What I think we should/and what we accomplish

Information

  • While the general direction of “provide information” should suffice, I think the better I am at providing information that applicants should be aware of/should read, the better applicant pool and the more I can focus on the person rather than on the organization. Specifically and somewhat obviously the Library’s URL but also any specific in depth online content that provides information to provide context to their primary roles – for example – links to the instruction program outline for the organization’s classroom faculty. More in depth public library links online might be links to the Library’s strategic plan specific to future reference projects, renovated public services, special services. The key is to link the applicant to something that peers created that would be in the roles and responsibilities for the successful hire.
  • Depending on whether or not the applicant lives in the area or travels in, pre-interview content should include the mechanics of the interview – timing, parking, location issues, tips on wayfinding, any pre-travel to locations such as booking travel in and out and travel assistance. Often organizations try to minimize costs if applicants must pay upfront and travel is expensive or if the organization typically has an extended reimbursement period. Outlining what the organization can pay is often best done by providing a cap on enrollments and then minimizing possible costs such as avoiding rental cars, choosing hotels, etc. A general rule of thumb might be – the fewer dollars available for reimbursement the more the organization should prepare and make the process easy by providing information. And while some organizations think they are under no obligation to make things easier for applicants, standards should provide elements of common courtesy. Some organizations have marketing packets or media kits about the organization with cost of living, relocation facts, labor market summaries, etc. This packet is pre-designed; however, Human Resources or management personalizes the content with links to more specific employment online content or connections on benefits and salary.
  • Another category of information should be all preparation required to conduct the interview, that is – if presentations are required, technology content, availability of equipment, space issues and any resource information. Other information that might be provided on request might be names of the interview committee members, questions applicants might want answered or prepared in advance, or parameters of the vacancy such as is this a new position, did the incumbent retire, or does the successful applicant have to begin by a certain date. Finally, prior to or “on the day” applicants need to know will there be a guided tour? Are other employees available for Q and A? Can employee workspaces be part of a tour? Are stakeholders part of the interview process? Upper level management? Are timelines outlined for any pre-interview paperwork clear (answers to questions, presentation outline/handouts, creative work/authorship examples, online content submitted, references/completed application information)

Note: Virtual hiring processes often prove problematic for applicants who wish to present using an institution’s authenticated resources. And – while guest or visitor access is typically easily possible onsite or within range of the Library’s network – guests or visitors at a distance are harder to accommodate. To assist applicants, organizations can establish parameters for resources used in presentations (live vs. cached) or open access resources only or web-based content only and if they choose not to, they need thoroughly articulated instructions on access to resources for the interview – typically outlined through scenarios for presentations. Limiting content used allows for new graduates or those NOT coming from other organizations to feel comfortable presenting with those – what some could categorize as – limitations.

Environment/Ambiance

While interview spaces may be limited or may be held at central (or branch or affiliated) locations or in other institutional spaces (city halls, HR interview rooms, open classrooms) or in area commercial environments – overall issues should include does the room need to be darkened for a presentation? Do you want (and have) comfortable seating available? Are there enough chairs and – if needed – can chairs be arranged in an interview? Does there need to be a surface where attendees can write or take notes? Standards might include water for applicants (or coffee, etc.), extra pens/pencils, paper and nearby bathroom accommodations? Does the space lend itself to a lack of or no interruptions?

Processes

Life was easier when – in my opinion – Human Resources – had more control over their processes involving hiring employees. This control could create a standardized approach to letting people know when positions closed, when applicants were to be interviewed and – if they were unsuccessful – making sure respectful timelines were adhered to so – for example – if an internal candidate applied but didn’t get a position – HR could ensure that all applicants were informed before any public notices were distributed. Today’s automated processes do NOT ensure that timelines are met. Often human or management interventions take up an inordinate amount of time to make sure that applicants ARE treated equitably and the process is a respectful one. So while I can regale you with recent bad examples I won’t. Instead I will say that those interviewing should make it clear to candidates what the timelines are supposed to be, what goals are part of the process and where mistakes are made. This detail should be verbal rather than written out so that mistakes that are possible don’t become part of the process. Chairs – during the closing of the interview – should explain how the organization wants things to happen so that applicants – expecting automatic responses – are left waiting and unsure if they should contact HR, the committee or if calls, emails or texts will work and if nothing happens, where is the best place to turn.

At the very least, the process explained with possible problems will provide a context for not only successful timelines but possible fail points. Recognizing these potential missteps (hopefully) makes the organization look less like a failure in their process or unorganized or worst of all – uncaring about both existing and potential employees. Explaining this to applicants sets more realistic expectations and shows that parts of the structure that can be controlled are being controlled with – fingers crossed – improvement possible for existing and future technological innovations.

In short, it shows people care.


Thanks for reading! Comments are open and we’d love to hear your thoughts here, on Twitter @HiringLib, or wherever you like to declaim them from. If you have a question to ask, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Further Questions: How do you view catalogers/tech services departments?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is from Twitter. She asks, With increasing reports of outsourcing, I am interested in how hiring managers view catalogers/tech services departments and, if possible, how a job seeker with experience in this area can best convey the worth of their skills.

While we only have replies from a few of our pool of hiring librarians this week, there was some really good discussion on Twitter.

You should head over there after you finish up here!


Katharine Clark, Deputy Director, Middleton Public Library: I have worked in libraries where Cataloging was outsourced and ones where there was a dedicated TS Department. The last library I worked at the TS/Cataloging Department was right behind the Public Services Staff area and they helped cover shifts on the public service desk. There are many aspects of TS/Cataloging work that can be done by paraprofessionals, so having this type of flexibility of staff can benefit a small or short staffing situation. As someone that is seeking a job as Technical Services or Cataloging Librarian, I would say being open to the idea of helping cover service desks would definitely make a potential employer see you as a team player. Having skills that go behind Cataloging would definitely be seen as an asset in my opinion.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College:

With increasing reports of outsourcing, how do hiring managers view catalogers/tech services departments? I would not move to outsource our Tech Services department – primarily because TS – unlike what many think is actually happening – is a fast-paced, constantly changing environment. For example – if I tried to outsource “for a year” there is almost no way I could write a position description for activities that have taken place in TS roles and responsibilities in the past year….examples include: TS support of our assessment of print holdings vs. our media/online ebook patron-led purchasing collection; our integration of online database content opportunities in our online catalog to match the now-100% online coursework; our tracking local subject heading changes that must be made to match curriculum; the assessment of the special collection (Texana materials) for determining copy or original cataloging matches with other online local, statewide or national resources; our integration of our resource choices and interfaces with our LMS; and the growth of our librarian-led design of content interfaces to name a few areas. In addition, our TS employees work in teams to assist in collection development processes overall, the design of a iPad periodical load to expand size of collections in smaller locations; moving personalized metadata aggregating to dashboard formulas; and, their assistance in assessing uses of existing online resource use for data to support decision making for AY’23 resource subscriptions.

How might a job seeker with experience in this area best convey the worth of their skills? A job seeker with experience in this area (or related areas) can best convey the worth of their skills or their marketability by having a diverse portfolio of roles and responsibilities through specific projects where their successful outcomes are clearly articulated. Examples of proactive ideas of what TS staff might do besides “the usual” include pilots; resources usage comparisons; data providing context to frame questions and possible answers; and, flexibility for supporting not only Tech Services – but also and as needed – the ability to select collections, assuming the design of guides or user pathfinders, and the ability to provide content/infrastructure to information literacy curriculum designed for librarians to integrate into classrooms.

In the absence of experience in an organization, librarians should seek out workshops and training on different software packages and systems to have at least a rudimentary understanding of how a variety of systems work and have content they have designed themselves for association committee work, support supplied for other organizations and solid general knowledge on the design of content using the more standard approaches like LibGuides, Google “school” packages, and online freeware. In addition, any new librarian in general or any librarian moving to other environments need to have a good, in-depth understanding of “open education” concepts as well as copyright. Finally, an area that many librarians avoid is grant writing (significantly different from fundraising or friendraising) and librarians seeking maximum employability should become knowledgeable about the infrastructure of grantsmanship and grant writing itself.

Finally a realistic and highly desirable second or equal primary skill set besides Technical Services is a set of assessment competencies that move far beyond “counting” or “flat” data but instead into multi-leveled assessment beginning with knowledge of data availability in databases/online resources, the design of data aggregation through the design of outcomes and standardized processes for inputs to feed into outputs and outcomes.


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: This is a difficult question because we’re all struggling with it. Fewer and fewer people go to library school who are interested in cataloging or technical services. What I’m seeing is that, when we’ve had positions open where these skills would be useful, it’s very difficult to recruit, so we have moved to staff positions to fill those needs. I am personally trained as a cataloger and I find that background to be very useful on a number of fronts – managing and configuring data in and for the catalog and discovery system, understanding information retrieval, configuration of systems, etc. I have an excellent staff cataloger, but that person does not have my broad background in cataloging and metadata management. I’ve kept a hand in cataloging and systems because we don’t have that expertise anywhere else. I think there are definitely ways to show how this experience and background is useful to many different areas in the library. You just have to be able to express that value.


Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your comments…

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Further Questions: Do you send questions to interviewees before the interview?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is from a reader. She asks, “Do you send questions to interviewees before the interview? [and I’d love to know why or why not] How long do you give the interviewees to prepare? Also, does that influence how you evaluate the answers/responses?”


Hilary Kraus, Research Services Librarian, UConn Library: I am a huge advocate of sending questions ahead of time, especially for phone or video interviews. We did this the last time I chaired a search committee, and many of the candidates told us it made the interview much less stressful. In addition to reducing anxiety, we found the answers we got were more thoughtful and substantive, which helped us make more informed decisions about which candidates to invite for the next round of interviews. I would recommend providing questions at least 24 hours before the interview; 48 hours would be even better. Candidates already have very full lives, and are taking time out of their day to speak to you. Providing questions earlier will make it easier for them to also carve out enough time to prepare.


Jaime Taylor, Discovery & Resource Management Systems Coordinator, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts: I’ve just started sending questions ahead of time with the most recent search I’ve led. We send them between a few days and maybe a week ahead of time (I try to make sure there’s a weekend in there), making sure that each candidate has the same amount of time with the questions before their interviews. I think it takes some of the anxiety out of interviews, which can help level the field, since some candidates do well in that situation and some don’t, and the high-stress environment of a job interview usually has nothing to do with the position we’re hiring for. It also helps reduce bias on a socio-economic basis, as some candidates may have gotten formal or informal coaching for job interviews in school or their family and others have not – and, again, that has no bearing on the position.

I don’t think you need to worry that candidates will getting them ahead of time to prepare bullshit answers to your interview questions. My experience so far is that good candidates continue to answer questions well, and less good candidates still don’t have solid answers. If anything, it highlights the differences between candidates; some candidates will have taken time to thoughtfully consider and prepare their answers, and others will clearly have not, which may provide you with information about how those candidates approach important work assignments. And, of course, there’s always the opportunity for us to ask on-the-fly follow up questions or have discussion based on a candidate’s response to a question. I think I expect a little more of our candidates now that we’re sending questions ahead of time – if you know what we’re going to ask you but haven’t prepared a response, it doesn’t look good.


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: I have never sent questions to interviewees. I guess I’m curious now about what the difference would be. We have already given you some things to respond to in writing, in the ad, so it seems like the interview should be about your ability to answer questions about the job on the spot. If you are really prepared for the job, you should be able to answer interview questions. There are some situational questions that may take a minute to think of an example, but that’s okay. I’d rather have you take your time and answer the question well rather than rambling until you find the answer. I think, yes, we do take that into account when evaluating responses. We may follow up or try to put the person at ease. Honestly, we’re trying to get the best version of you and your ability to do this job.


Katharine Clark, Deputy Director, Middleton Public Library: I’ve never been involved with an interview before where candidates were given the question beforehand. Part of the interview process is seeing how well potential employees can think on their feet and be prepared to give off the cuff elevator pitches to anyone they meet in a professional setting. The only time questions are given ahead of time in my experience are essay questions that are part of the screening process. Use your colleagues and network to find out what types of questions they have been asked in the interview process before and you can certainly come with notes about what parts of your career/job history you want to share with those interviewing you.


Larry Eames, Instruction Librarian, Kraemer Family Library, University of Colorado Colorado Springs: Yes absolutely! I advocate for sending the questions about 24 hours in advance of the interview (shout out to the ability to schedule emails in outlook) so that every candidate has the same amount of time to prepare. I believe in sending the questions in advance because it gives the candidates the opportunity to be their best selves in the first round of interviews and to highlight their talents and accomplishments so that we can make an informed decision about the next round of interviews. It’s also good accessibility practice; you never know how choppy someone’s connection might be or how well they hear over the phone/over zoom. When I get push back, I point out the accessibility element and that we want to make the best decision we can about who we bring to campus and this gives us the opportunity to gather the data we need to do that. I’ve only been unsuccessful in advocating for this practice in one instance. For that search we instead told the candidates what themes each question would touch. Ultimately I think it was better than nothing but would have been far better to share the questions in full in advance. Knowing that the candidates had the questions in advance only influences my evaluation of their responses in that if a candidate is evidently unprepared in that scenario it weighs more heavily in my assessment of their answers.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: We have sent questions in advance for both library faculty and other staff positions for phone interviews although I am not sure we have done that for the in-person interview. I think about this the same way I think about giving students exam questions in advance. Any kind of assessment should not be an attempt to find out what people don’t know, or ask questions which are a surprise. With limited time we should be interested in doing our best to learn about candidates through thoughtful responses to questions. I’m guessing most, if not all, readers have been a candidate and have experienced that silence that seems like hours when you are frantically trying to think of an example or other response to a question from a search committee. Having time to think and prepare may improve the performance of most candidates (which is a good thing, right?). But students who have exam questions in advance don’t all get an “A” on the exam, and candidates will still vary in their overall performance.

I would want to give questions to candidates at least a few days in advance. A week is a good lead time, but sometimes a search is moving quickly enough that we want to schedule the first phase of interviews as quickly as possible. I think supplying questions in advance is very helpful for the phone/video interview and can make what is often a very stressful and awkward experience a little more comfortable and productive for everyone involved. There would be no reason, in my opinion, to evaluate candidates differently when given questions in advance.


Ben Van Gorp, Manager, IT & Digital Experience, East Gwillimbury Public Library: Our library currently offers two questions for each interview candidate. If I had my way I would give the full interview list. It’s an accessibility issue, especially for people who suffer from anxiety.

I would much rather have people coming in with confidence, able to fully show of the abilities they would bring to their role, than just the nerves that comes with job hunting.


Christian Zabriskie, Executive Director, Onondaga County Public Library: My answer is…it depends entirely on the job. For frontline staff I don’t do this since I am looking to see what skills they bring to the positions that we have that are honestly not all that flexible. Sure, I love it when reference librarians come up with new stuff, but it is not a daily requirement of the job. When I am interviewing people for “C Suite” jobs on my personal admin team I absolutely give them the questions ahead of time. Often this will entail doing a presentation or addressing a specific issue. This is another place where I can check for emotional intelligence. For a recent interview for our head of facilities I asked “You have been handed a plan for a redesigned library that you can tell will absolutely not work. Your boss (that’s me), loves it. How do you convince them (me) that this is a terrible idea”. The person who got the job had a great answer that showed her ability to “manage up” and she’s been an incredible asset to the org ever since.


Randall Schroeder, Director, Retired:

I have never as a supervisor sent the questions ahead, nor as a job seeker have I ever received the questions ahead of time. The only mild exception is if we expected, or I was expected, for a presentation to be given for an audience. Interesting question though.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: What an interesting question! When I read it I first thought of the current Instagram meme of “hard no” or “absolutely not” superimposed over an animal, usually a dog…and said repeatedly! So the simple answer IS a hard no for my organization’s hiring today, but the concept brought back my days teaching in Library School Graduate Education – specifically “Management” in Library School. My general curriculum included a unit on hiring with a major emphasis on the interview itself and part of this was a collection of “ways to handle interviews” including ways for organizations to interview as well as ways for interviewees to prepare. In those days (too many to count) there were many more ways to interview than now but times have changed. Practices have morphed, processes have been automated and federal, state, local and organizational guidelines, rules and regulations have been infused with much needed equity, diversity and inclusion content, with measurement and assessment metrics embedded in processes. So while there are libraries with freedom in interviewing and hiring, there are many more who need to and should conform to a process that is consistent and provides a standard platform for applicants to engage with interviewers.

So why send them out in advance? Standardized questions present the library’s values. Questions in advance allow the applicant to focus on what the expectations are for specific positions in the organization. Questions in advance can emphasize organizational priorities such as customer service relationships, teamwork, flexibility, etc. Questions in advance provide interviewers a standard for comparing answers to organizational expectations.

And what are the prevailing views for NOT distributing questions in advance? Interviewers ask the same questions of each applicant NOT to determine if the applicant “got the answer right” but instead to try to determine what the applicants’ thought processes are, what critical thinking skills they might have, and to find out if applicants DID prepare for the interview. Other reasons for not distributing them can include: do applicant’s bring experience or education to the interview or both? Are they succinct in answers? Can they speak extemporaneously? Do their answers to questions match their resume? What gaps are there in their overall application process, that is, does their resume match the answers to questions but not their resume?

Final thoughts on not sending questions out in advance really focus on the need for more data for a comparison process. There are so many self-help environments for interviewing (beginning with this excellent web environment) applicants often show up with pat answers and generalities while interviewees are left to seek as much data as possible on applicants in trying to determine how applicant one is a better match to the position than applicant two is.


Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject…

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