Category Archives: Non-Anonymous

I generally see library school as a formality

cyndee landrum

Cynthia Landrum has worked in academic, health sciences and public libraries for over 20 years. She is currently both a public library administrator in Illinois, and a doctoral student in the Managerial Leadership in the Information Profession (MLIP) program in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College in Boston. She hires the following types of LIS professionals:

I am directly involved in the hiring of library managers, but may be involved in the hiring of frontline librarians.

Ms. Landrum’s library has 100-200 staff members and is located in an urban area in the Midwestern US.

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ No

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)

3

What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Research Methods
√ Information Behavior
√ Services to Special Populations
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)

Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?

General management
Organizational development
Project management
Assessment & Evaluation

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ No preference–as long as they have the skill, I don’t care how they got it

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

Customer Experience

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation
√ Professional organization involvement

Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?

I’m partial to the iSchools, or programs that have a research component to their programs

Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?

No. I generally see library school as a formality. I look at the candidates overall experience, including their non-library experience.

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

Please take some classes outside of LIS if possible. Take courses in the schools of business, education, or social work. Even if you don’t intend on becoming an administrator or manager as a professional you need to have a fundamental understanding of management principles.

For some context, take a look at the most recently published summary of responses to this survey, or specific analysis of the responses discussing online school, the amount of coursework students should take, and preferences/reluctances for candidates from certain schools.

Do you hire librarians? Tell us your answer to, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!

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Filed under 100-200 staff members, Midwestern US, Non-Anonymous, Public, Urban area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

Don’t get locked into a self-defeatist rut while searching for your first job

aaron dobbs
Aaron W Dobbs is the Scholarly Communications, eResource Development, & Web Librarian at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, a library with 10-50 staff members in a rural area in the Northeastern US. In addition to librarianating, he was elected to two consecutive years as University Curriculum Committee Chair, facilitating development and approval processes supporting the Shippensburg University curriculum. He has served on or led 11 hiring committees over 20 years in academic libraries and has presented on leveraging prior experiences when launching a library career. He hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Instruction and Reference Librarians (with an extra specialty or two). Everyone at MPOW is Instruction and Reference first, plus extra responsibilities as library needs change.

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ Depends on the school/Depends on the candidate

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)

2

What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Cataloging
√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Grant Writing
√Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Programming (Events)
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√Field Work/Internships
√Instruction
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Other: The remaining category choices are also good, if one can fit them in somehow

Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?

For straight through school (UG straight to MLIS) grads, there seems to be some lack of perspective. Perspective meaning experience working a full-time, 35+ hour per week job. To anyone anywhere I would say work a job doing anything manual labor or customer service oriented. Work a crappy job and learn just how crappy it can be – and learn how to succeed on that job. It will suck, but that experience will help when you go for a library job.

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ No preference–as long as the applicant has the skill, and the drive to improve at it, I don’t care how they got it

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

Customer service, treating people well, professional demeanor (not worried about looks so much, but hygiene and respectful/respectable public persona count for a lot). We will be happy to sharpen people skills, but the applicant also needs to bring some basic humanity to the position.

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation
√ Other publication
√ Student organization involvement
√ Professional organization involvement
√ Other: library experience and teaching experience (for academics) is a major bonus

Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?

It’s not so much the school as what the student can demonstrate understanding about and/or experience with through coursework and related experience. There are LIS school rankings available (take them with a grain of salt; “top 10” is more indicative than “number 5” for example). Ditto on coursework delivery mode (f2f vs online); it’s more about the understanding than the delivery mode. The student who is wildly successful at any library school will likely be wildly successful on the job, too.

Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?

I’ve met a billionty graduates from most (if not all) the LIS schools. Those from the “top 10” or upper half have generally been impressive, those from the middle and lower end of the pack have generally been quite good, too. There are exceptions in both directions – duds from top 10 schools and stars from the bottom of the pack. I believe it depends more the individual than the school.

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

Take time to relax and socialize with your peers. Use the local public and your academic library. Join the student ALA chapter and the state library association. Go to the local conferences and the local extracurricular educational trips. Apply for the ALA Student to Staff program which gets you to an ALA Annual in exchange for 10-20 hours of conference-related work. Apply for travel grants from vendors. Work in a library somehow, if you can – internships, practicums, volunteering, job shadowing. Keep track of your class projects and see if they can become something publishable. Anything helps.

Do you have any other comments, for library schools or students, or about the survey?

“Librarian” jobs are increasingly hard to find. It’s easier if you can relocate (often to very “out of the way” places or to large urban areas) a couple times. “Librarian” skills are not limited to working in actual libraries – the skill sets are compatible with all sorts of information-industry jobs (which often pay more than library jobs). Don’t get locked into a self-defeatist rut while searching for your first job (I did this and it was really all from my perception of failure from not getting interviews nor offers – it certainly did not help me) the library job market is brutal – more brutal than it was in the mid-1990s which was bad enough.

For some context, take a look at the most recently published summary of responses to this survey, or specific analysis of the responses discussing online school, the amount of coursework students should take, and preferences/reluctance for candidates from certain schools.

Do you hire librarians? Tell us your answer to, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Non-Anonymous, Northeastern US, Rural area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

Get Involved in Student Organizations and National Organizations

Terry Ann LawlerThis interview is with Terry Lawler, who is a Children’s Librarian and and the Assistant Manager at a branch of the Phoenix Public Library, a system with more than 200 staff members in an urban area in the Western US. Ms. Lawler was a 2011 ALA Emerging Leader. She has been a hiring manager and a member of hiring committees.  She was a featured respondent to our original survey, and is a regular contributor to Further Questions.

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ No

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)

3

What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Digital Collections
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Portfolio/ePortfolio
√ Field Work/Internships

Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?

Programming (events), Outreach, Reader’s Advisory, Library Management, Dealing with difficult customers

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ No preference–as long as they have the skill, I don’t care how they got it

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

task prioritization, our website/software/ etc., storytime, class instruction (computers, etc)

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Library work experience
√ Other presentation
√ Student organization involvement

Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?

none

Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?

no

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

you will learn most of what you need on the job, so: intern, volunteer, get involved in student organizations and national organizations, try new things, present, present, present, get a portfolio, learn new things, publish your school papers

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!

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Filed under 200+ staff members, Non-Anonymous, Public, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School, Youth Services

…”I’ve Only Done That in a Class” — Instead Say “I Had the Opportunity to Do That in a Class”

Anne BarnhartThis interview is with Anne Barnhart, a librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee. She is the Head of Instructional Services at the Ingram Library at the University of West Georgia (UWG) an academic library with 10-50 staff members. Librarians at UWG are faculty members and Instructional Services librarians teach a credit-bearing course as well as requested one-shots and workshops.

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Intellectual curiosity
Enthusiasm
Student-centered

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Typos are an instant dealbreaker as are chaotic application materials. Getting the name wrong of the institution will also get an application packet tossed aside.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

I’m tired of seeing generic cover letters in which the applicant does not mention anything about our ad or our institution. So many candidates write something like “I was excited to see this position” or “I am perfect for this job” or “I bring the skills you need” but they never refer to anything specific about us to substantiate that claim. Don’t include random paragraphs telling us about all the other skills you have — leave the skills that aren’t sought for this job in your CV (or resume) and we’ll find them if we need them. The cover letter needs to be tailored for our position, our ad, and our institution.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

It’s hard to have a blanket response for this one. Some people have job-hopped a bit or taken time off and I’d like to see why. If someone took time off to be at home with kids, that should be indicated on the CV or resume with something like “household management”. When I have questions about where someone was for a 2-year period or why they moved so much, I’m inclined to set that person’s packet aside because I usually have enough applicants whom I do not question.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Two is ok, but no more

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ As many as it takes, I want to look at every accomplishment

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ .pdf

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ No

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ As an attachment only

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

We don’t bring people to campus who do not have the required qualifications for the position. When you come to campus, we want to see how you work with others and how you will represent us on campus committees and at national conferences.
Be professional and personable. No one wants to work with someone who is robotically professional with no personality.
Be enthusiastic about the position and what you would be doing.
Show us that you care about students and student learning (I hire instruction librarians).
Ask questions and LISTEN to the answers.
Do your homework and show that you’ve spent some time thinking about and researching the place, your potential colleagues, etc.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Asking no questions. Seriously. I’ve interviewed people who ask no questions in an all-day interview.
PowerPoint Karaoke during the presentation (please do NOT read your slides to me!).
Not sending a post-interview thank-you.
Wearing shoes that you cannot walk in (high heels).
Belittling their experience (“I’ve only done that in a class” — instead say “I had the opportunity to do that in a class”).

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

Our interview process includes collaborative exercises during the day so we can see how well the candidate works with other people. This is a huge change over previous hiring practices. We also do not include a fake library instruction session as part of the interview process.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

You should be looking for a place where you want to work, doing a job you want to do. Don’t just look for anyone who will pay you. I know the market is tight and the thought of unemployment (especially for recent grads) is terrifying. However, make sure you think about whether you want the job before you apply. If you decide you do want it, why? Communicate with the search committee why you want that job. Start that communication in your tailored cover letter. Then, if you get a phone interview, continue to impress them with your personality and experience. Ask questions. Make sure you still want the job. Then, when you are invited to campus, remember that you are also interviewing them. The “fit” needs to go both ways.

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Non-Anonymous, Original Survey

Skirt or Dress, Jacket–I Dress Nicely

Cheryl BeckerThis interview is with Cheryl Becker, who is a retired/free-lance library consultant.  Ms. Becker is proud to be able to advise and assist others in the profession, from her work consulting and presenting workshops (sample list here: http://cherylbecker.wordpress.com/workshops/ ) to advising individual job-seekers with things like resume revision and interview tips. She has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee, primarily in public libraries in an urban area of the Midwestern US.

What Candidates Should Wear

Should the candidate wear a suit to the interview?

√ Yes, absolutely! It shows respect and professionalism

An outfit with a coordinated blazer and trousers:

√ Counts as a suit

Bare arms are inappropriate in an interview, even in the summer.

√ True

If a woman wears a skirt to an interview, should she also wear pantyhose?

√ Either pantyhose or tights. Bare legs are inappropriate

Women should wear make-up to an interview:

√ Always

Do you expect different levels of formality of dress, depending on the position you’re hiring for?

√ No

Which jewelry may candidates wear: (Please select all that are acceptable)

√ Single, simple necklace, bracelet, and/or ring

√ A few simple necklaces, bracelets, and/or rings

√ Earrings

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

√ Natural colors (black, brown, red, blonde, gray)

The way a candidate dresses should:

√ Be fairly neutral

What This Library Wears

How do you dress when you are going to conduct an interview?

Skirt or dress, jacket–I dress nicely.

On a scale of one (too dressed up for my workplace) to five (too casual), khakis and a polo shirt are:

3

What’s the dress code at your library/organization?

√ Other: I am retired so n/a

Are there any specific items of clothing, etc. that are forbidden by your dress code? Please check all that apply

√ Other: see above

Librarians at your organization wear: Please check all that apply:

√ Other: none of the above

This survey was co-authored by Jill of Librarian Hire Fashion – submit your interview outfit to her blog!

3 Comments

Filed under Midwestern US, Non-Anonymous, Public, Urban area, What Should Candidates Wear?

Californians, Have you voted? Julie Farnsworth on Hiring Librarians

Voting is currently open for the California Library Association’s 2012 election.  If you’re a member, cast your ballot by October 15th.
This interview is with Julie Farnsworth, who is a candidate for President-Elect. Ms Farnsworth began her library career as a page at the age of 15. She has worked as a public library director at various systems in Utah, as County Librarian for Santa Clara, and since 2003 has been the Director of the Pleasanton Public Library (which is in the 50-100 staff members category). She has also been both a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee.

Questions about CLA:

In broad strokes, what do you think the CLA’s role is in library hiring and employment?

CLA exists to help its member libraries and librarians.  Hiring and employment is one of the most important and most popular roles of the organization.  Whether through the actual job listings or through the opportunity to network and work together, CLA is a very useful tool for job seekers.

The most important role of CLA is library advocacy which, when successful, means more funds for libraries and more available jobs.

How can the CLA serve unemployed or underemployed librarians?  Please name specific programs or services that exist, or that you would like to see enacted.

CLA offers mentoring – both long-term and short-term – for new librarians, an online job listing service, job advertising and interview services at the annual conference, programs designed for aspiring job seekers and opportunities for networking.

How can the CLA support library students in order to help them be best situated for future employment?  Please name specific programs or services that exist, or that you would like to see enacted.

CLA offers resume evaluation at each conference as well as programs on how to enhance job seeking skills and knowledge.  CLA was instrumental in starting the Eureka Leadership training which has assisted many librarians to progress in their careers.

I would like to see more programs or individualized feedback on interview skills and self-presentation.  I would like CLA to facilitate paid and unpaid internships by collating the opportunities and distributing the information to job seekers.  CLA could also create a best practices internship plan and train librarians on giving interns the best, most useful experience.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about CLA or your candidacy?

It can feel as though the job search is hopeless or you have no control or influence over your future.  It isn’t true – there are always ways to improve your future prospects. Getting involved with CLA or any other professional or non-profit group can grow your skills, give you experience you can use to illustrate your talents in interviews, teach you about advocacy and introduce you to many other professionals would can assist your efforts to build a career.

Let CLA help you while you search for a job.  It will be useful.

Questions from the survey:

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Good judgment – the ability to assess a situation and respond wisely in the best interest of the organization and staff

Dedication to customer service with real respect for the work we do and the people we work to help

Balance – the ability to see beyond the emotion of the moment to the bigger picture, often using humor, self-acceptance, a sense of the absurd and/or acknowledgement of the faulty nature of all humans, including yourself

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Yes.  Wanting to censor what we have in the collection in order to “protect” the community.  Being offensive about patrons of a particular age or national origin or disability or any other group status.  Making multiple derogatory comments about different co-workers and bosses.  Stating that you want to leave your current public library job because you are afraid of the patrons.  Criticizing the receptionist in a loud and angry manner for not telling you about the traffic that made you late.

Yes, these are all from my personal experience.  See, you are a better interviewer than you thought!

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

Nothing, really.  They are pretty utilitarian and appropriately so.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

I’d love to see something they particularly liked or learned in each experience, but that wouldn’t be typical.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ As many as it takes, but keep it short and sweet

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ Other: Yes, so long as it is true/real and relevant to the position

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ I don’t care

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Be comfortable with yourself (not the situation, no one is really comfortable in an interview), open and accepting of your strengths and weaknesses.  Be calm.  Be honest about yourself, your hopes, your interests.  Do you really want a job where they are looking for the person you faked being in the interview or a job where they want the real you?  See the people across the table as people and take an interest in what they care about, what they might be feeling and how you can help them be more comfortable.  Understand that an interview is not the measure of your worth, just a chance for those with a job opening to learn more about you while you learn about them.  Do your homework on the organization – it shows preparation and thoughtfulness.  Think what the interviewers might be proud of and bring it up.  You can always call and ask the staff what changes they have made lately that have been successful.

For me personally – hey, I always like people who laugh at my jokes.  😉

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Most common of all, they get so nervous that their personality and skills are obliterated.  Interviews are important for functional reasons, not for referendum on the worth of your soul reasons – so learn whatever skills you need to be calm!

Another very common mistake is to focus so much on the perfect answer to the questions that you lose track of the people in the room.  Communication is more about body language and tone than words and that’s very much true in an interview.

The third mistake I see is not engaging your audience.  Ask questions.  Ask follow up questions to their answers.  It’s often said that whoever talks least in any interview wins.  This isn’t so true in an oral board, of course, but in the personal interviews its a big mistake to do nothing but answer.

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

Not at all in the mechanics.  Those are dictated by the organization and the public hiring legalities.

We’ve done a better job on getting the word out and certainly I’m fond of my hires and think they are the bees knees, but no functional differences.

Of course, we’ve been doing NO hiring for years and only now allowed to replace key positions.  So I guess that’s a change.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

Don’t give up!  Being a librarian is a great career that I highly recommend and I do believe that jobs will come back.

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Filed under 50-100 staff members, Elections/Candidates, Non-Anonymous, Public

Retail Experience is Underrated

Jacob BergThis interview is with Jacob Berg, who is the Director of Library Services at Trinity Washington University.   The Sister Helen Sheehan Library has fewer than ten staff members, and supports the diverse community at Trinity with materials and instruction, nurturing lifelong learning skills and intellectual freedom.  Mr.Berg has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee.  He blogs at Beerbrarian, or you can follow him on Twitter at @jacobsberg

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Initiative – Has a candidate identified a problem, found something lacking, and then worked on a solution?

An ability to learn – Has a candidate found her/himself in unfamiliar situations, then adapted or evolved and flourished.

Personality – A sense of who the candidate is. The job search, including resumes and cover letters, can be a very dehumanizing process. If a candidate can somehow rise above that, it’s a plus. It allows us, the hiring committee, to picture the candidate in our organization.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Typos and poor grammar, people who take the process too casually. I was once on a hiring committee that interviewed a candidate for library director who wore a t-shirt. Don’t do that. I want applicants to very badly want a particular job.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

Platitudes about enthusiasm, hard work, and teamwork. Everyone writes this, which is in many ways the same as nobody writing it. Show, don’t tell, and please don’t use those words, especially the first one.

I am not a fan of passive voice, either.


Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

Retail experience is underrated. Librarianship is about customer service, so prior experience in a retail or a service industry is a plus as I see it.

People also skimp on the computer skills. If a candidate knows html, or even their way around a database, say so. Even applicants light on library experience have been a consumer, a patron, a customer of libraries before, right? Put that to work, though it probably works better in a cover letter.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ As many as it takes, but shorter is better

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√  As many as it takes, but keep it short and sweet

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ .pdf

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ Other: No. I do not understand objectives at all. If you’re applying for a job where I work, isn’t your objective a job with my organization?

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√  Other: I definitely want an attachment, but putting it in the body of the email in addition is fine.

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Be confident, come in prepared, and have a sense of humor.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Too many applicants come in unprepared. They haven’t done, or haven’t articulated that they’ve done, background research on the library, on the institution. Please please please go to our website and poke around. Tell us what you liked, what works, as well as what doesn’t.

Look at the mission of the institution; it’s something we take very seriously, and there are hard days when that mission, those goals, seems like all we have. Let us know how you can help us with that mission, and achieve those goals.

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

We’re looking more for “fit” now. We’re a small library, and we’re looking for people who can learn, bonus points if it’s quickly, and get along with us. I think in the past we’ve been more focused on skills, but many of those can be taught, and experience happens along the way. This isn’t to say we don’t want strong personalities, or people who are the opposite of us, but we want a good mix. Much more of the interview is now about finding that fit.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

The jobs are out there. I know the market stinks, and it might take longer than you’d like, but please do stay positive. I just had two part-time staff members leave to become school media specialists, which is why they got MLISs in the first place. It took them many months, but they got there. On the other hand, I had another part-time staff member leave librarianship to teach English. It happens. But overall, keep the faith. Please.

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, Academic, Non-Anonymous, Original Survey

Not Only Do You Need to Have the Ability to Sell and Market Your Own Expertise … You Need to Do That for the Department That is Going to Hire You Too.

 

This interview is with Darron Chapman, who has been a recruiter for over 20 years. He is the managing director of TFPL, which is:

a global market leader in recruitment, training and consulting for the knowledge, information and data industries. We work right across the private, public, and third sectors.

Mr. Chapman is also the 2012 president of SLA Europe. You can follow him on Twitter at @DPCHA

Questions about Recruitment:

Can you give us a brief run-down of how a recruitment firm works?

All recruitment firms operate slightly differently but essentially a recruitment firm’s purpose is to find and qualify new employees for their client’s organisations.
TFPL provides the following services: Rapid Response – Temporary and Contract, Interim, Programme, Project and Change Management Professions, Managed Services, Contingent Permanent Recruitment Solutions Search, Selection & Talent Management, Benchmarking, Research, Metrics & Surveys, Advisory Services, Partnerships and acquisitions, and Communities of Practice.
Recruitment firms are only paid a fee on a successful placement of a candidate introduced to the client company.  A good recruiter however, acts in the interest of both parties as an intermediary between the client company and the client candidate.  The recruiter ensures that the individual looking for work finds a suitable opportunity that helps them grow and develop and builds on the person’s expertise and experience.  They also commit to find the best talent that meets the needs of the client organisation.

What types of vacancies are you most frequently placing candidates in?  In what types of organizations?

TFPL recruits a broad range of information related specialisms, including Knowledge and information management, insight and intelligence, records management and publishing and content. Our clients range from professional services firms, financial institutions, central government and charitable organisations  to large publishing companies.  We are noticing a lot of activity in the legal sector, strategy consultancies, information publishers and not for profit sectors.

What should candidates do differently when applying to a recruitment firm?  Is there anything they should be sure to include with you that they wouldn’t tell a direct-hire job, etc.?

With a recruitment firm you are more likely to have a general conversation about the job market and discuss a broad range of opportunities.  You may also discuss how to position yourself for various job roles and what you can do with your current skill set and identify skill gaps to develop.
You will need a general CV no longer than two pages with relevant key words so you are identified in any database searches, proof of identification and names and addresses of two good referees.  If you want to work in some public sector roles, you will also need to have a security or CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check.
When applying directly to an organisation your CV needs to reflect the skills that the role requires.  Your covering letter needs to highlight why you are right for the role and why you are applying for the job.  Other than that honesty is always the best policy!

Are there particular qualities or experiences that will give a candidate an edge in being considered for positions you are trying to fill?

On many occasions I have seen less experienced candidates get selected over and above better skilled candidates purely down to having the right attitude.  Clients are more willing to train and grow less experienced candidates if they fit the culture of the organisation over a skilled person that doesn’t.
Communication skills, a can-do attitude, creativity,  enthusiasm, passion, resilience, flexibility, being able to adapt to changes and challenges are at the forefront of a hirers thinking.  Not only do you need to have the ability to sell and market your own expertise but to survive these days, you need to do that for the department that is going to hire you too.

Once an initial placement has been made, what should a candidate do to keep on good terms with your agency (in order to ensure future placements)?

In the information sector there are many networks and events to attend and more often than not you will bump into a recruiter.  The market will continue to develop which will impact the types of role that emerge and your recruiter will be a great source of information on these emerging roles and skill sets.   They will also be able to help you benchmark your salary if you are up for a review.   TFPL runs networks and training course both free and paid for so you can always keep abreast of what is hot in the market place.   We would also love to help hire new staff when required so keeping a good relationship is vital.


Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know about recruitment agencies or TFPL?

Do not underestimate the value of the time spent with your recruitment consultant because the more care spent on that relationship the more likely you are to find an opportunity that is suitable for you.  Also, impressions formed by a recruitment consultant will naturally influence their assessment of you and vice versa.

Questions from the survey:

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

  • Communications skills
  • Marketability – can we promote you with confidence
  • Good at dealing with stakeholders

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Dishonesty, not answering questions properly, question avoidance and poor eye contact. As a service industry we do get our share of folk who think it is OK to abuse their relationship with staff. It isn’t, no matter what the problem is to be solved together.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

Typos!

CVs that are not outcome or evidence based

Profiles that cannot be backed up- subjective comments

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

More outcomes rather than a list of duties.  How they made a difference to their organisation.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ Two is ok, but no more

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√  No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ Yes

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√  In the body of the email only

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Smile!  Be informed, be prepared and be interested! Demonstrate that you want to work for that employer and why.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Lack of homework and preparation

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

Selection has moved from chronological analysis, to competency based analysis to evidence based recruitment

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

Don’t come with a list of stuff you don’t want – think about what contribution you can bring to an organisation and where you could apply it.  Before you embark on a job search, take some time to prepare what you want to say about your competencies and what you are good at, and would like to do more of. Thinking about this in advance, makes the consulting part of recruitment much quicker, and helps us sell your attributes better. Don’t wait until we meet you to start to thinking about it.

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Filed under Non-Anonymous, Original Survey, Other Organization or Library Type, Recruiters

We Were All in Your Position Once, Too — None of Us Got Our Jobs by Being Born into Them

 

 

This interview is with Rich Murray, who is the Metadata Librarian in the Digital Collections Program at Duke University. Duke has more than 200 staff members (not all in digital collections of course), and Mr. Murray has been a member of hiring committees.  He is also an editor of LIScareer and the book A Day in the Life: Career Options in Library and Information Science,  as well as an author of What Do Employers Want? A Guide for Library Science Students.

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

-Experience

-Thoughtfulness/curiosity

-Personality (preferably a pleasant one)

Do you have any instant deal breakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Application packet: Generic cover letters that haven’t been tailored to our vacant position at all. Excessive typos. Missing the application deadline.

Interview process: Saying bad things about your current employer (“I want out because they are toxic”; “I want to leave because they don’t know what they’re doing here”). Insincere schmoozing (“I really want to join an outstanding team like yours!” thirty seconds after meeting us).

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

Meaningless objective statements (obviously your objective is to get hired, so don’t waste valuable real estate at the top of the resume by saying that in flowery language).

Recent grads who haven’t done anything other than graduate. An MLS is the absolute bare minimum: what jobs have you had, what conferences/webinars have you attended, what have you written, what committees have you been on? It is possible to do these things while you’re a student!

Resume/cover letter padding. If you only need one page, only use one page. If your job was shelving books, that’s fine (we have probably done that too), but don’t use 12 bullet points to tell us that.

In your cover letter, tell us why you are the best person for our job, not just that you are a great person in general. You should write every cover letter from scratch with the job ad in front of you. Yes, this takes time, but it’s crucial. We don’t want a generic cover letter that you have sent to 20 other libraries.

Don’t make us guess what you are talking about or how what you are telling us relates to our job, to our library, or to anything else. Have others read your application packet before you send it to us and see if they understand what you’re saying!

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

Give us dates you were at your job(s). Don’t make us try to reassemble your work history from fragments, or try to hide gaps by not giving us any dates.

If you wrote a master’s paper/thesis, tell us the title. We want to know what you’re interested in!

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√  Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√  As many as it takes, but keep it short and sweet

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ No

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ As an attachment only

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Show me you’ve done a little research about our institution, the job, the community we serve … we want to feel like you’ve done something more than just show up.

Ask intelligent questions. If we ask you “Do you have any questions for us?”, don’t answer “No” unless you’ve decided you don’t want the job and want us to know it.

Smile. Make eye contact. Introduce yourself.

Be positive.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Not making eye contact. Not asking questions when given the opportunity. If doing a presentation, going over the allotted time, or talking right up to the last second and not leaving time for Q&A.

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

We try to move faster than we used to, but searches still drag on for a long time. Trust us, we don’t like it, either!

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

Sometimes job-seekers view the process as an “us vs them” thing. It’s not — we’re on your side! We want you to do well and be successful. We’re rooting for you. We were all in your position once, too — none of us got our jobs by being born into them.

If we invite you for an in-person interview, it’s because we believe there’s a good chance you could do the job. We don’t bring you in just so we can reject you. Have confidence in yourself (but don’t come across as smug or cocky).

Please get experience while you are a student. We don’t expect you to come out of library school having been the Librarian of Congress, but we do want somebody who has some experience, even if it’s a volunteer position, a part-time assistantship, whatever.

Remember, you are interviewing us, too. Think about whether we seem like people you want to work with, and whether the job is something you think you would enjoy.

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Filed under 200+ staff members, Academic, MLIS Students, Non-Anonymous, Original Survey

If an Agency Sends You a Role You Aren’t Interested in It is Better to Reply and Explain the Reasons Why Not, So the Agency Can Get a Closer Match Next Time

This interview is with independent recruiter Nicola Franklin. Her firm, The Library Career Centre, provides recruitment services for employers as well as for-pay candidate services such as CV / resume writing and interview coaching. Ms. Franklin has been in the library recruitment field for 20 years.  Prior to striking out on her own, she worked with Manpower pls, Sue Hill Recruitment, and then the international firm, Fabric.  She is a fellow of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation and member of the Special Libraries Association.

Questions about Recruitment:

Can you give us a brief run-down of how a recruitment firm works? 

When you send your CV or resume to register with a recruitment firm, they will generally invite you for an interview (phone/skype or in person depending on distance, etc) and your CV/resume will be added to a database.  Your file on the database will usually also have notes of your interview and some codes or classification tags added, covering basic categories such as locations, salary bands, qualifications, industry sectors and skills.

When a recruiter gets a new vacancy from a client, they will use the codes to search the database, to gather a ‘long list’ of potential candidates.  In most library firms, the consultant will then look through the resumes and interview notes for each of those candidates, matching more closely between the job requirements and each candidate’s’ skills and requirements.

This weeding process will create a slightly shorter long-list, and it is those people who will be contacted  (either by a mail-merge email or on the phone, depending on how many potentially suitable people make the list).  Some of those contacted will either not reply at all, or will decline to apply for the role, leaving a short-list.  It is important for candidates to realise that their response (or non response) will be recorded; if an agency sends you a role you aren’t interested in it is better to reply and explain the reasons why not, so the agency can get a closer match next time, rather than to ignore it.  On the one hand, the agency will be no wiser as to what would interest you, and on the other (after several tries at contacting you) the agency may assume you’re no longer looking and archive your file.

In some cases all of those on the short-list will be submitted to the client, in other cases the consultant will sift the list further to reduce the numbers – a consultant would generally want to send between 3 and 10 resumes to their client, depending on what’s been agreed.  In most cases, the consultant will either also submit a report on each candidate, explaining why they’re a good fit for the role, or call or visit the client to present each candidate verbally.  This is really where the value of having a recruiter work for you shows through, as you have someone rooting for you and trying to persuade the hirer to interview you!

What types of vacancies are you most frequently placing candidates in?  In what types of organizations?

I cover all part of the wider information industry, including traditional library roles in public or academic settings, information or knowledge management in government and the private sector, and records management across  all kinds of organisations.

Increasingly there has been a merger of these different disciplines, especially at more senior levels.  In the UK there has been a marked decrease in roles in the public sector over the past two or three years, while the private sector declined earlier than that and has since been recovering (albeit slowly).

The main problem caused by the recession has been a dearth of mid-level roles. There have been some entry-level roles still being recruited, and organisations have generally replaced senior or very specialist  roles, but they often seem to feel they can ‘make do’ with fewer Assistant Librarians or Information Officers.  This has made career development very difficult for many people, especially as this situation has persisted since 2008.

What should candidates do differently when applying to a recruitment firm?  Is there anything they should be sure to include with you that they wouldn’t tell a direct-hire job, etc.?

A resume or CV for a recruitment firm should be slightly longer and more detailed than when sending it direct to a hirer.  In the latter case you are tailoring it specifically for that role, while for an agency there may be several types of role you’d like to be considered for and so your resume needs to reflect a broader range of your skills and experiences.  Also remember that some agency databases can search CVs for keywords, so make sure the ‘jargon’ keywords or acronyms are included (something I’d be advising against for a CV to be sent directly to a hirer).

At the interview stage with an agency, be sure to tell your recruiter honestly about any gaps or any issues you have had (eg a personality clash with a colleague or manager).  They will be able to advise you on how to best present things at an employer interview.

Are there particular qualities or experiences that will give a candidate an edge in being considered for positions you are trying to fill?

The main quality to display is enthusiasm.  Librarianship isn’t a role most people get into for the monetary rewards, and hirers expect candidates to be passionate about what they’re doing.  Coming across as fed up, bored or even worse hostile, is a sure way to make a consultant think twice when deciding whether to put you forward to their client.  You need to make sure they will feel confident representing you.

Secondly, candidates who have a realistic appreciation of their skills and aptitudes, and clear career goals, are easier for both recruiters and hirers to assess and fit into their open vacancies.  Spending time doing an audit of your skills and reflecting on what you have to offer, and also where you want your career to go, will pay off dividends later.

Once an initial placement has been made, what should a candidate do to keep on good terms with your agency (in order to ensure future placements)?

It’s good to keep in touch with your recruitment agency, from an initial call or email to let them know how you’re settling into your new role to an update later on.  You never know when you might need their services again!  I attend many library and information sector specialist group’s networking events and seminars, and it’s always nice when candidates come up and say hi.  Recruiters are used to being discrete, so don’t be afraid one will say ‘are you looking again’ or anything embarrassing while your boss is nearby!

Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know about recruitment agencies or the Library Career Centre?

I set up The Library Career Centre so that I could offer services over and above the standard recruitment process described above.  During my 20 years in the library recruitment sector, I had noticed that candidates often needed guidance on improving their resume, or their interview technique could do with some tweaking, or they simply had difficulty articulating what skills they had to offer or what their career goals were.

During a recruitment agency registration interview there is only about half an hour to gather all the information the consultant needs on career history and future goals – which doesn’t leave much time to give advice.  The Library Career Centre therefore offers support and advice directly to candidates on all these areas, in a more relaxed atmosphere where we can take time to explore issues more carefully.  This support is offered via 1-1 coaching as well as workshops and seminars.   The 1-1 services are designed on a modular basis, so a job seeker can pick and chose to get help on just those areas they are struggling with, or can put together a programme of support to suit their own needs.

I also use social media a great deal to keep up to date with issues and in touch with people – @NicolaFranklin on Twitter or http://uk.linkedin.com/in/nicolafranklin on LinkedIn, and I make regular posts on my blog.

Questions from the survey:

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Relevant experience and skills for the role in question

Open minded and keen to continue learning

Enthusiasm and energy

Do you have any instant deal breakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Body language or answers which contradict claims made on the resume/application form, eg; ‘great interpersonal sills’ on the resume coupled with awkward/introverted body language, or ‘excellent ICT skills’ on the resume coupled with obvious inability to use tabs or other formatting tools in Word.  Quite apart from the skills that were claimed which may be lacking, the mere fact of making exaggerated or untrue claims show either (at best) poor self awareness or (at worst) dishonesty.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

Profile statements which are clearly regurgitated cliches, and don’t show any correlation between the applicants touted attributes and those required for the job.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

Achievements – most resumes recount experiences or duties, some add in skills or attributes, very few include achievements (ie, how did the organisation benefit from having hired the applicant).

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ Two is ok, but no more

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ Yes

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ I don’t care

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Be engaged with the role and organisation; demonstrate that you’ve done (good quality) research about the organisation, understand the role requirements and have put some thought into how your skills match up to the tasks in the job.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Not having done enough preparation, even for obvious questions like ‘why would you be good for this role’ or ‘where do you want your career to be in 5 years’.

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

Over the past 20 years library recruitment has shifted emphasis away from a need to have used all the specific databases/cataloguing standards/etc of the hiring organisation, and towards more generic aptitude and ability to learn packages and systems.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

Make sure you have plenty of questions to ask the interviewer too!  An interview should be a two way communication, as you need to know whether you’d like to work in this place, if you are fortunate to receive an offer.  Also, having no questions to ask when invited to do so is a sure way of saying ‘I’m not really interested in this job’ to the interviewer.

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Filed under Non-Anonymous, Original Survey, Other Organization or Library Type, Recruiter Spotlight, Recruiters, Special