On April 6, 2012 I began the Further Questions feature. Each week, I asked a question to a group of folks who hired library workers, and posted the answer on Friday. Some of the questions I thought up, some were reader questions, and eventually some were thought up by Sarah Keil, who ran the feature from 2014-2016.
Upon returning to the blog in 2022 I gathered my group of folks who hire library workers (some new and some returning) and began asking questions again. If you’re interested in the running list of questions that have been asked, they are linked below. I’ll add each week’s question and link on a semi-regular basis.
If you have a question for people who hire library workers, please let me know! If you are someone who hires library workers who’s interested in a no-pressure way to reflect on your thoughts and processes, let me know!
New School (2022-Present)
Posts December 2nd: Would You Hire Someone with an MLIS for a Paraprofessional Position? (E.g. assistant, clerk, page)? If so, under what circumstances? If not, why not? Bonus: if you have *opinions* about the term paraprofessional, please feel free to air them here.
Who hires librarians? Can you share with us the composition of your most recent search/hiring teams or committees – number of committee members, their roles in the library, etc.? Are there stakeholders in the hiring process who should be involved but are not, or are only involved minimally (i.e. attending a presentation or meal with the candidate)? How is their feedback treated?
Does a candidate’s social media presence ever influence your decisions? Do you Google applicants, or look through Twitter or LinkedIn, etc.? Any hair-raising stories or do you think it’s not something for people to worry about?
- Do you ask for cover letters explicitly in the job ad or do you just expect to receive them?
- In one brief sentence, what is the purpose of a cover letter?
- How many pages should a cover letter be?
- Do you have a preference for format (docx, pdf, etc)?
- If you receive job applications by email, should the cover letter be included in the body of the email, as an attachment, or both?
- Do you expect that a cover letter will be tailored to your job opening?
- Does the Cover letter receive more, equal, or less weight than other parts of the application?
- If your organization has automated application screening, is the automated screening also applied to cover letters?
- What information do you want to see included in the cover letter (and is this specified in the job ad)?
- What kinds of things make cover letters stand out (in good or bad ways)?
- Anything else you want to tell us about cover letters?
If you could survey a bunch of job hunters about their needs and experiences, what questions would you ask (and why)? I’m working on a new Hiring Librarians survey which will be a reboot of the survey of job hunters that ran from December 2012 to January 2016 and gathered 587 responses. This week’s question is designed to help me write it.
- What do you ask for? (how many, format, etc.)
- When do you ask for them?
- Do you make any judgments based on who is or is not included (current supervisor, former direct reports, prestige of institutions, etc.)?
- If you call references, what are some of the questions you ask and how do the answers affect your decision to hire?
- Does your organization follow any practices meant to reduce bias or inequity in the reference check process?
- Do you have any stories about a decision to hire being affected by a reference check?
Do you find any value in LinkedIn Learning certificates? More broadly, do you have any recommendations for ways to display proficiency in areas that aren’t reflected in your work experience?
In addition to the MLIS, what post-secondary certificates, degrees, or coursework is most useful for new hires trying to get into the field? Or is experience more important than any such additional education?
Do you ask candidates to address Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at any point in the hiring process? If so, please tell us a little bit about what the prompt is, when it is asked, and what you are looking for in the response.
Do you think virtual (Zoom, WebEx, etc., or even phone) interviews are effective hiring tools? Where are they most helpful and where do they fall short? Would you be willing to hire someone without any in-person meeting? Finally, do you have tips for candidates who are preparing for a virtual interview?
Do you hire for hustle? “Quiet quitting” (taking a step back from hustling and only working your designated hours) is in the news a lot now. This, and a recent tweet from an interviewee whose question about “greatness” fell flat, lead me to ask: when you hire, are you looking for folks who will hustle and go the extra mile? If an applicant asked about work/life balance in an interview, what would you think?
Does your library/organization value longevity or variety of experiences more? Traditional hiring advice cautions against being a “job hopper.” And yet, switching positions often provides a lot of benefits – broader experience, more connections, better pay, etc. When you hire, are you on the lookout for “job hopping” and if so, what are the signs? Bonus: Can you share a little about your job history (positions/length of time) and rationale for changing positions (or not)?
Should people who don’t meet all of a job’s qualifications still apply? There is a statistic from a 2014 Hewlett Packard internal report, quoted in the book Lean In and many other places, that says women don’t apply to jobs unless they meet 100% of the criteria, whereas men will apply if they meet about 60%. What is your advice for a hypothetical job seeker, looking at one of your organization’s job listings, on parsing the listed requirements? Are any safe to ignore, or to think of in “creative” ways? Bonus question: any stories about people getting jobs when they did not meet all the qualifications?
What’s the worst job search advice you ever heard? Why was it bad? Bonus info: who said it and when/where did you hear it?
Should candidates send thank you cards? Classic interview advice is to send hand-written thank you cards after the interview. Is this actually good advice? What are your recommendations for post-interview etiquette in regards to thank you notes, follow ups via phone/email, providing additional information, etc.? Bonus question: Do you have examples, either from your own interview history or from candidates you have worked with, where conduct after the interview has influenced the hiring decision?
What are your tough interview questions? Are there one or two questions you have routinely asked in interviews that few if any applicants seem to answer successfully? And – of those you identify as “seldom successful” – why aren’t they successful? What’s missing?
Are there basic technology proficiencies you look for? How do you expect candidates to communicate these to you? I realize this may be different for different positions, so please feel free to speak generally or to specify what roles you are speaking to.
Why do candidates have to type information into an application which is already provided on their resume or CV? Does your organization do this? Even if it does not, could you shed a little light on why this might be a common practice? Bonus questions: are there other hiring redundancies in common practice? How much control do you have over the bureaucracy of the process and how much is decided by another part of your organization?
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.
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?
Is it possible to be fair when hiring for a position with internal and external candidates? 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?
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?
Is it possible to do all of your hiring virtually? 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?
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?
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?
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.
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. Another question from Twitter.
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? A question from Twitter.
What are your thoughts on age? A reader asks, “How open or closed are library hiring managers to women over 60?” I’d like to know if you have particular thoughts, observations, or tips for any kinds of folks who are worried about their age (older, younger, or in the middle) affecting their ability to get hired.
How did you learn to hire people? What did you learn through formal training versus through mistakes, mentoring, or some other method? Are there trainings or tools you would recommend?
How has COVID affected hiring and staffing at your organization? Were there any layoffs? Hiring freezes? Did staff participate in “the great resignation”? How many interviewee pets did you get to see on Zoom? Please share whatever you think might be interesting
Old School (2012-2016)
Which outfit is most appropriate to wear to an interview with your organization? Please pick one for women and one for men, and feel free to provide commentary as to why you chose one over the others (or share how you might change an outfit). Bonus question: Can you share any funny stories about horrifying interview outfits?
How should job seekers display their degrees and certifications in documents like resumes or signatures (in cover letters or emails)? Should they put “John Smith, MLS, MIS” at the top of their resume or when signing a cover letter or email, or should that information be included elsewhere, as in an education section, or text in the cover letter? Does etiquette change if the degrees are terminal such as a PhD or JD (or the MLS)? What about librarians who hold other degrees beyond the master’s level such as a subject area PhD, EdD, etc.?
Does your institution require any type of training to be part of a hiring committee? If so, did you find it useful? If not, what sort of training would be beneficial (diversity, human rights, conflict of interest, etc.)? How do you think training (or its absence) affects candidates?
How do you cope with hiring decisions you might not agree with? How might this affect working relationships later on, either with current colleagues or the new hire? If a candidate you think was amazing was not hired, do you have the ability to reach out afterwards to connect them with other libraries/later openings in your organization? Feel free to answer either personally or “for a friend/colleague.”
Do you ask applicants to address diversity as a part of their application materials or during an interview? By diversity, I mean the applicant’s experience with diverse populations, working in diverse situations, etc.? If so, is this strictly racial diversity or does it expand to other categories such as age, sexual orientation, economic, etc.? If you do not explicitly ask these questions, why not? Do you have other ways of evaluating this, do you not find it relevant to your hiring, or something else?
Can you share your recommendations for post-interview etiquette in regards to thank you notes, follow ups via phone/email, providing additional information, etc.? Do you have examples, either from your own interview history or from candidates you have worked with, where conduct after the interview has influenced the hiring decision?
What questions do interviewees ask you during an interview? Have there been any questions you are particularly impressed by, or others that are more inappropriate? Do you evaluate applicants based on the questions they ask? Why or why not?
When scheduling interviews, is there any value in going first, last, or in the middle? Does time of day or day of the week make any difference either? Being ready is obviously crucial, but is there value in the job search advice that encourages interviewees to set the bar, be easiest to remember, not interviewing on a Friday afternoon, etc.? If you are comfortable sharing, do you have any method that you use to schedule candidates (i.e. reach out to strongest first, use application or alphabetical order, etc.) or is it truly random and therefore something that job seekers shouldn’t focus on?
What advice do you have for long-term job seekers, i.e. those who have been looking for over a year (see our stats on Hiring Librarians; about 40% of those who have taken our survey of job hunters have been searching for a new position for over a year, see the second question under the demographics section)? When it is obvious that a job hunter has been looking for awhile (either by graduation date or lack of a current position in the library world, etc.), do you consider this a red flag? How can job hunters stay fresh throughout a long job searching process?
When is it time to leave your first professional job? Does your library/organization value longevity or variety of experiences more? Can you share a little about your job history (position/length of time) and rationale for changing positions (or not)?
How have generational differences affected your organization with hiring at any level–for professional, paraprofessional, or even student workers? Any tips for candidates to mitigate generational differences throughout the application and interview process? Or is this not an issue at all?
Do you include role playing, presentations, or skill demonstration in an interview? What are you looking for? Is content or delivery more important? Do candidates prepare for this ahead of time or are they spontaneous?
Does it matter when in the process an applicant applies? That is, do you accept applications on a rolling basis, select a quota, and work from there? Or are applications set aside until a deadline and reviewed all at once? Do you use the same approach for all positions, or are professional versus paraprofessional treated differently in this regard?
Do you think it is possible for applicants to be too qualified to succeed in a position? At what point do you determine over qualification–application/CV/cover letter, phone interview, in person interview? Do you ever include a maximum amount of experience that you will accept in your (internal) rubrics? What are the possible pros and cons of hiring an individual who is too qualified?
What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made while job searching? And what (if anything) led you to those things, and how did you figure out you should do things differently?
How do you determine what questions to ask in an interview? Is there a standardized set of questions for each candidate, or are questions personalized? Does your organization have policies on this to create fairness and equity in the hiring process, or is this not a consideration?
How can a resume or CV be used to demonstrate subjective skills (e.g. leadership, written communication, presentations, problem solving, work ethic, motivation)? Or is it more appropriate to leave it to examples in cover letters and/or recommendation letters? Additionally, how do employers recognize those skills?
What is the best way for someone to get promoted in your organization? Are there any particular indicators that show you when a staff member is ready for more responsibility? Do internal candidates have to follow the same application procedures as external candidates? Any other advice for succeeding when you’re already an employee?
What would your advice be for part time job applicants looking to use the job to gain experience and a foot in the door? In a tough job market, flexibility is important for applicants. Many LIS blogs/websites suggest exploring part time work, even post grad school, as a way to gain experience and enter the library world. Sometimes this means multiple part time jobs. Do you have MLS degree holders in part time positions (professional or paraprofessional) in your library? Would you hire MLS degree holders for part time positions? How would you advise applicants for full time jobs to sell any part time experience they may have?
What is the most productive way to spend your pre-employment unemployment? What can recent grads do to make themselves more appealing to employers?
Legalities aside, should applicants address a noticeable physical condition in an interview? The applicant certainly does not have a legal obligation to discuss anything of a medical nature, particularly if it would not hinder job performance and would not require accommodation. How would you wish (or how have you seen) this handled?
When contacting applicants for interviews, how long will you wait for a reply before moving on in the process? When do you expect a reply, and does it differ by position? Do you have issues with applicants not replying in a timely fashion? Of course, this is very circumstance-dependent, but if an applicant does not reply within a week, or two, and you have moved on, is there anything they can do to salvage the relationship for this position or a potential open position in the future?
How do you balance job searching with… ____ life? Another job? School? Reader response requested!
Any tips for out-of-area applicants? How much does the geographic location of the applicant matter to you?
Approximately what percentage of people who applied for your last open position would you say were hirable? Can you also share how you define hirable? This is a question asked on Hiring Librarians 2015 Job Market survey.
Is negotiation expected when candidates are extended a job offer? If so, on what matters–salary, time off, other benefits, etc.? Have you ever had a rescind an offer after negotiations? This can be a tricky process, so any advice you could give on facilitating this process with politeness and grace would be appreciated.
Does your library/institution have a probationary period for new hires? If so, can you tell us the typical length of this time and how employees are evaluated during probation? If not, are there other ways new hires are evaluated during the early days of their employment (first three to twelve months or so)? Generally, do you think probationary periods necessary for professional positions–why or why not? Feel free to provide answers for other types of library positions, if relevant.
What soft skills do you look for in job candidates within librarianship? How can candidates naturally demonstrate these skills to you? Is it ever appropriate to include them on resumes/CVs? How do you evaluate soft skills?
Who hires librarians and what do they do? Can you share with us the composition of the most recent search/hiring committees – number of committee members, their roles in the library, etc.? Are there stakeholders in the hiring process who should be involved but are not, or are only involved minimally (i.e. attending a presentation or meal with the candidate)? How is their feedback treated?
What tips do you have for job seekers attending conferences? How do you suggest they balance networking, attending sessions, and/or interview or informational sessions? Any special tips for first-time conference attendees?
Broadly, what does “or equivalent” really mean in a job announcement? And more specifically, could a paraprofessional position ever stand in for librarian experience, if it included some librarian duties such as staffing the reference desk? Can you describe any instances where someone with “equivalent” experience was hired at your organization?
How should interviewees answer tricky questions, such as “what is your dream job?” or other similar questions about weaknesses, strengths, ambitions, etc.? If you can talk a little about preparation for these sort of questions too, that would be helpful.
What do you a) love about libraries, and b) what do you love about the hiring process? As you likely know, it’s National Library Week. Therefore, instead of having a question centered around (what often is) a source of stress for many job seekers, let’s celebrate libraries on Further Questions this week.
Conventional job searching tips suggest informational interviews or job shadowing as a tactic to make connections and get your foot in the door with employers. Are these strategies used in your library? Does your library ever receive requests for this? Would you recommend these for job seekers–why or why not?
How do personality types play out in interviews? Librarians tend to be stereotyped as introverts–so what tips do you have for quiet, shy, and/or timid individuals to sell themselves and ace the interview? Are moments of silence/pauses in conversations, particularly during the more informal periods of an interview day (such as a meal) taboo? So as to not leave anyone out, feel free to provide insight into how more extroverted individuals can succeed in interviews as well.
What is your perspective on portfolios, especially if they are mostly comprised of class projects? Some library schools build them into coursework as a graduation requirement. Are they useful or influential in the hiring process? Do employers even look at them? If so, does format (electronic vs. print) matter?
How should applicants address gaps in their employment history? Does it matter if applicants have a long gap for personal reasons (moving for a partner’s career, raising children, illness or injury, etc.) or because the job market is tough? Should gaps be addressed in the cover letter or the resume/CV, or both?
What is the likelihood for interviewing/hiring a candidate from out of state for a position in your library? Legally, applications likely need to be accepted, but in practical terms, how are distance candidates viewed? Is it necessary to disclose in the cover letter a willingness to relocate? What factors influence your institution’s stance?
What value do you place on the post-interview email or mailed thank you note? What advice do you have for individuals interviewing with large committees–do they contact everyone they meet? Or what about other libraries that may not make email addresses easily accessible online–should candidates call and ask for an email address? In short, does sending a note (or not sending one) make or break a candidate’s chances?
Do you Google job candidates? Or look for them on social media, in your library system records (if local), or any other type of informal/formal background check? Have you ever done this and regretted it, or not done this and wished you had? When in the process would you be an online detective and why?
What “hot topics” would you ask candidates about in an interview right now (i.e. the new information literacy framework)? 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?
Would you hire someone who has been fired in the past? Would it matter if they were fired for cause or if their position was simply eliminated? What tips do you have for job seekers in this position?
How does your organization value or consider membership/involvement in professional organizations during the hiring process? Is there a difference when hiring for an entry level role vs. a position requiring more experience?
How much does your institution consider ALA accreditation status in the hiring process? If a school was accredited when a candidate graduated, is that good enough to fulfill any accreditation requirements? What if the school loses accreditation or is granted conditional status? How does that reflect on graduates? Does that affect a job seeker’s chances of being hired?
One challenging aspect of job searching is knowing how to balance professionalism with personality, especially since personality can be intertwined with determining “fit.” What aspects of the job searching process, in your opinion, allow for a candidate to exhibit more personality–CV/resume, cover letter, interview, interview attire, etc.? What is your advice for candidates struggling with this issue, and how do you strike the balance from the other side of the table?
Can we talk about feedback? Is your organization able to provide feedback to applicants who are not hired (after they have been interviewed–not ones who never make the cut)? Why or why not? Oftentimes applicants ask why they did not receive the job only to receive vague answers or be told that the information is confidential. This can be frustrating but there are many reasons why this occurs, so learning about the process might help. On a related note, if feedback cannot be provided what is your advice to job seekers wishing to become stronger candidates in the future?
Can we talk about internal hiring? What is the process for promotions in your organization? Are there any particular indicators that show you when a staff member is ready for more responsibility? Do internal candidates have to follow the same application procedures as external candidates? Any other advice for succeeding when you’re already an employee?
What value do you place on references? When in the process do you contact references, if you contact them at all? Who do you expect to see on the reference list and does it vary based on where an applicant is in their career? What are some of the questions you ask of references and how do the answers influence your decision to hire?
I applied for a position a month ago and it was relisted today with the same job description. Is it appropriate to reach out to the organization and ask for feedback on my application materials so I can know why I wasn’t a strong candidate? Would reapplying with a different cover letter make a difference?
What would transferable skills look like from an individual transitioning into librarianship from an unrelated job field? This job field could be anything from working in a daycare, to sales, to nonprofit management, etc. Any advice you could provide to adults seeking a career change by going back to school to get their MLS/MLIS/MIS would be appreciated.
Would you hire someone with a MLIS for a paraprofessional position (e.g. assistant, clerk, page)? If so, under what circumstances? If not why not?
Do you have any etiquette tips for candidates who have received an offer? How quickly would you expect a response? Do you expect candidates to negotiate things like pay and benefits? Can a candidate decline your offer without burning a bridge with you?
Does volunteering or completing an internship at your organization help candidates secure a position of any level (professional, part time, or anything in between) at your organization? Many times library school students assume that experience at a specific institution leads to an “in” when jobs open up there, but have you found this to be true? How might you advise candidates looking to secure employment at the specific organizations or locations where they volunteer or intern?
What are the different hiring stages at your organization and how long does each typically take? What are the factors that can lengthen the process? Is there ever a point in time when a candidate should attempt to check the status of an application? Keeping these factors and your area of librarianship in mind, how long do think job seekers should expect to be searching for a position?
Should a candidate ever try to connect with you on a social media/networking service? Is it ever appropriate for a candidate to try to connect with you through social media (i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LibraryThing, your blog…)? If so, which ones and under what circumstances? What about in person (at a conference, etc)? Please feel free to include any additional insight you have on networking etiquette.
What are your favorite questions to ask in interviews? And why? If you can talk a little about the difference between what you ask over the phone versus in-person, that would be very helpful.
Since it’s impossible to address everything in a cover letter, what portions of the ads should be focused on? What tips do you have for breaking down large ads? Job advertisements are often long, especially in academia, and often contain a lot of information including a position description, qualifications (desired or required), salary, schedule, etc. Feel free to bring in examples from past job ads.
Does your institution require job applicants to submit their SSN on online job applications? How should applicants handle this if they wish to keep that information private until later on in the process?
What education or experience requirements do you have for paraprofessional positions in your library? Of course, these will vary by position but what would you say is important for those pursuing paraprofessional roles, either for their career or while in library school?
From your perspective, how has library school changed in the past decade (or since you graduated, whichever you prefer to consider)? What areas of knowledge or experience do you see lacking in recent graduates applying for positions in your organization? Is there a difference between applicants from traditional and online programs? As a new crop of librarians-to-be start classes this fall, your advice can help them plan and prepare for the future.
How often does your library communicate with applicants throughout the process–from notification of receipt of application onwards? A common refrain in job seeker surveys on Hiring Librarians is that job seekers want more communication throughout the hiring process (i.e. at each stage). Is this realistic? Why or why not? An insight into your processes may give job seekers better expectations for what to expect.
Do you like hyperlinks included in resumes for sample or demonstration purposes? How have you seen this done well (or poorly)?
Beyond conferences, what are your favorite sources for professional development opportunities? This could include anything from technology resources, e-classes, books, blogs, webinars, and beyond, with a preference for free or frugal opportunities for the job seeker wishing to stay current. These can be resources you personally use OR resources you (hope) that applicants for positions at your institution are using. No matter how basic, please share!
How many people have been hired by your organization in the last fiscal year? What is the breakdown of roles (i.e. librarians, paraprofessionals, student/hourly, etc.)? Subjectively, is this figure standard or does it fluctuate year to year?
Traveling for interviews: who pays? Does your library pay for the interview expenses of a candidate such as airfare, hotel, meals, or mileage? Are candidates reimbursed or do you pay up front? Has anything changed in this realm due to the economy, such as a focus on local candidates, paying for travel but not meals, etc.?
Does your organization have educational requirements aside from the MLS/MIS for professional positions? If so, what are they and how were they determined? If not, why? These educational requirements may include things like: specific undergraduate degrees, a second master’s degree, a doctorate, etc. Obviously specific positions may require certain degrees but is there a baseline for all positions, either at the time of hiring, after X number of years, for tenure, etc.?
How might a candidate overcome a bad first impression? Job searching advice always says to be early, prepare for the unexpected, and research everything ahead of time, but social faux pas can still happen. Can a candidate still advance in the process or land the job if they make a mistake, particularly in an in person interview? Why or why not? Bonus points if you have any related stories, personally or from your libraries.
Would a candidate’s travel plans be a dealbreaker? For example, a reader has a seventeen day trip planned in three months. Would this be a negative factor in your decision? Would you prefer to learn about it during the interview, or is it ok if the candidate waits to reveal until a job offer has been made?
Does word really get around? The idea of someone’s reputation comes up fairly regularly in career discussions. Does it really matter? Has there ever been a case where you haven’t hired someone because of something you heard (or vice-versa)? And how is this information about reputation transmitted?
What if candidates are interested in obtaining another degree? Is it a turn-on or turn-off when applicants mention their desire to obtain a further degree which is not strictly library science, but is tangentially related? (For example: a degree in education, management, etc)
Is salary range included in your job postings? Do you include a salary range in your job postings? Why or why not? Who makes that decision?
Would you hire someone for a librarian position if s/he had no library experience? If yes, under what circumstances? If not, why not?
Is becoming a librarian still a reasonable dream? What advice would you give to someone who’s been searching for a librarian job for two years? Is it still a reasonable dream?
If you hire interns, do you pay them? Why or why not?
Should internships go under employment experience or in a separate section? On resumes, should internships go under employment experience or in a separate section?
What “hot topic” would you include if you were currently interviewing candidates? Or what “hot topic” have you recently included? For example, in an interview about six months ago, I was asked for my opinions on “Bookgate”. What are the current library issues that you think candidates should be aware of?
What’s the Best Way to Practice for Interviews? It seems a bit wrong to apply and go through the interview process when not interested in a job, but how else can one get practice interviewing? Toastmasters and public speaking classes are helpful but not quite the same skills required for a presentation and interview – talking about oneself, and thinking on one’s feet. Any suggestions for gaining the skills to really impress you in an interview?
How many librarian positions are there at your library? Can you tell us a bit about how has this number has changed over time (e.g. higher or lower than last year, five years ago, ten years ago, etc.)? How has your service population changed over those same time periods? Please let us know if your answer is ballpark or exact. Bonus information: are there unfilled positions that will be left unfilled for a substantial period of time?
Does participation in the ALA Think Tank Facebook group hurt a candidate’s chances? Would participation in ALA Think Tank hurt a candidate’s chances with you? Why or why not?
Is it standard practice for your institution to ask to contact the candidate’s current supervisor as a reference? At what point do you do this? How do you handle it if the candidate has not told her current supervisor she is job hunting, or does not want to give you this information for some other reason? Are they still considered for the position?
Should a candidate list a previous subordinate as a reference? How would you feel about a candidate that lists his or her previous subordinate as a reference? Would it make a difference if the candidate was apply for a position that had an equivalent or more amount of staff oversight, or for a job that had less or no staff oversight?
Does HR screen applications before they even get to you? If so, do they use a program that screens for keywords or do they use some other method? Do you give them any instructions on what you are looking for?
How do you count part time work? How is part time work counted, when looking to see if a candidate meets a requirement for a certain number of years of experience? For example, if a position requires two years of experience as an adult services librarian, and the librarian has worked 20 hours a week as an adult services librarian for two years, should she go ahead and apply? What about if she had worked even fewer hours? Any insight is appreciated!
How are job postings written? How does your institution write job postings? Do you have any input, or does HR do it? Do you list salary? Are you allowed to add things like “strong internal candidate”? Do you include any language about being an Equal Opportunity Employer, or do you encourage any specific demographic groups to apply?
How are oral boards or search/hiring committees formed?When hiring, what committees are formed at your library? Do you use an oral board, a search committee, and/or a hiring committee? How are the members chosen? What do they do and who are they accountable to?
Do you use interns/volunteers? Does your library use interns or volunteers? What tasks do they do? How are volunteers and interns chosen? What qualities are you looking for in potential volunteers/interns?
How can new hires start off right? After hiring, are your new hires put through any sort of probation period? Have any of them been unable to make it through this period? Do you have any general tips for new employees, to help them start off on the right foot?
How can a candidate get an accurate understanding of the workplace atmosphere? Any tips/tricks/methods for a job seeker for seeing through the “Company Behavior” that goes on during an interview, to get a sense of what the “everyday” atmosphere at a library is like? I’ve heard way too many horror stories about people feeling like everything clicked in an interview, accepting a position, and only then discovering that it was a really toxic environment.
Should an applicant include more than one reference from the same job? Do hiring managers prefer to see 3 references from the same library job, or do all 3 references need to be from different jobs, even if some of those are non-library?
How can candidates changing library types, or fields, best present their skills? Have you hired someone whose previous work was at another type of library, or in another field altogether? What made them a good candidate?
Where and how does your library advertise its open positions? Please name specific sites or listservs, where possible.
Would your library consider hiring ex-felons? These individuals have been working as inmate library clerks. They have the skill-set for circulation desk and book shelving duties. Also they have entered new book titles into the library’s catalog database and managed circulation records. They have been dependable staff members. Would your library consider hiring ex-felons?
Do you have any tips for internal candidates? Can you share any stories about successful or unsuccessful candidacies by internal candidates? What are the pitfalls to avoid?
Do You Prefer Long or Short Resumes/CVs? Do you generally ask for resumes or CVs? Do you prefer long or short ones and why? How many pages should it be?
Do you require any sort of presentation or demonstration of skill? Do you require any sort of presentation or demonstration of skill during the hiring process? What are you looking for? Is content or delivery more important?
Will You Tell Us About Your Last Job Hunt? What was your last job hunt like? What was your biggest anxiety, and what did you learn? Did having been a hiring manager influence you to employ any new strategies?
How and when should a candidate decline an interview? What’s the best way to decline an interview without burning any bridges? Under what circumstances should a candidate decline an interview?
What’s a Skype Interview Like? Have you interviewed candidates via Skype or another videoconferencing platform? How do these interviews differ than in-person interviews? Any tips for candidates about to do a Skype interview?
Reader Response Requested: How Do You Stay in Touch after a Conference? This week you are the experts. Do you have any tips for staying in touch with new contacts, for example potential future employers you might have met at a very large library conference? What should you do, and how frequently? Please post your answer in the comments.
Does Library Support Staff Certification Give Candidates an Edge? What value do you see in the Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC) program? Would it give an edge to candidates? Have you ever hired someone with this certification?
The Tattooed Librarian Should tattooed candidates make any attempt to hide their ink? Would tattoos make you think twice about hiring someone? How tattooed is too tattooed? (Part of a series that also includes: Stats and Graphs: The Tattooed Librarian Part II and Reader Response Requested: The Tattooed Librarian Part III How tattooed are you? What types of libraries have you interviewed at? Did you cover your tattoos? Share your answers (and tats!) in the comments.)
How Can a Candidate Ace Dinner with the Search Committee? Do you have any tips for acing dinner with the search committee? If you do not work for an organization that includes a meal as part of the interview process, do you have any tips do for the more informal, social aspect of mingling or making small talk with your interviewers?
What Was the Last Position You Hired? What and when was the last position you hired? How many applicants did you get, roughly? How many did you interview?
Does Personal Branding Help? Personal branding has become one of the tools recommended by those dispensing job hunting advice. Have you ever hired a librarian who uses this strategy – developing and managing a personal brand in order to shape the image he or she presents on the job hunt and professionally? Do you have any thoughts about this trend? (If you want to read more about branding before answering this question, there’s a recent-ish American Libraries article here.)
Could You Hire Two Probationary Workers? In filling a position, could you hire two probationary workers, maybe each half time, and then decide a couple months later who got the job? Why or Why not?
Do You Do Any Sort of Pre-Employment Testing? Do applicants have to take a multiple choice test, or provide a writing sample, or do a presentation/sample lesson? Why does your workplace do this, and how can candidates prepare?
Do You Read Hiring Librarians? If so, have you been surprised by anything, or have you changed your mind about any aspect of the hiring process? (I really won’t mind if you say no – this is not a vanity question!)
Reader Response Requested: Who Are You Anyway? I’d like to know who you are and why you’re here. If you haven’t already filled out the polls, won’t you do so? Any brave souls are welcome to introduce themselves in the comments!
When and how should candidates check-in after an interview (if at all)? Have you ever told someone you’d get back to them by a certain time, and then not been able to do so?
When and How Should an Applicant Check-In? After submitting an application, when and how is it appropriate for the applicant to check in with you? If they haven’t heard back within a week? Two weeks? Should they call? Email? Drop in?
What can recent grads do to make themselves more appealing to employers? What is the most productive way to spend your pre-employment unemployment?
Does Where You Go to School Matter? Would attending a for-profit school count against a candidate? Do you hire for any positions that require a second Masters? If so, do you give more weight to candidates from prestigious schools?
Do You Google Job Candidates? Or look for them on social media, or do any other sort of online sleuthing/informal background check/personal curiosity assuaging?
Reader Response Requested: Is it the Worst Time Ever to be a New Librarian? This week you are the experts. Economically speaking, is it the worst time ever to be a newly graduated library job hunter? If not, when was worse? Please leave your answer in the comments!
Further Answers: How Did Prop 13 Affect You? Can you describe how you were affected by Prop 13? Were you laid off or did you have hours reduced? How long did it take to return to work? Did you return to the same level and hours as before you left? Can you see any similarities or differences between what it was like then, and what the library job market is like today?
Are Gaps in a Resume Really a Red Flag? Have you ever hired someone who has been unemployed for an extended period of time? If so, can you provide any details about how this person discussed his/her absence on a resume or cover letter, or in an interview? (part of a series – companion post Further Answers: What happened when you decided to return to the workforce?What happened when you decided to return to the workforce? How did you frame your absence? How long did it take to get rehired? Was the position you found similar to the one you had before you left?)
How Can Someone on an Extended Leave of Absence Stay Professionally Relevant? What do you recommend that a person on an extended leave of absence do in order to stay professionally relevant? (part of a series – companion post Further Answers: What did you do to stay professionally relevant during your leave? )
Any Tips for out-of-area applicants? How much does the geographic location of the applicant matter to you?
How important is knowledge of specific tools? As archivists and librarians, the tools we learn are a bit of a crapshoot. How important is that an applicant have previous knowledge in the specific tools or system that your library uses? Is it very important, we will not consider an applicant without that experience/ideal, but we will consider someone with training as a substitute (example: took EAD course but did not use EAD in a job), it’s more important that someone is willing to learn new technology and tools (perhaps demonstrated by the other tools they already know), or something else entirely?
Can You Tell Us About Successful Cover Letter “Hooks”? What is something that an applicant stated in a cover letter that prompted you to give him/her an interview?
When Shouldn’t Candidates Apply? When should someone NOT apply for a position?
Does Current Employment Status Matter to You? How much does current employment status matter to you?
How does the initial selection work? Who does your first round of sorting/selecting applicants for interviews (a computer/an HR professional/you/someone else…)? Is there generally a fixed number of applicants selected for the initial round or does it depend on the position, the pool of applicants, or something else entirely?
Reader Response Requested: Tales of Tackiness and Horror This week you are the experts. What is the tackiest response to a job interview/resume you ever received? Please post your ghastly horror stories in the comments!
Reader Response Requested: What Do You Read for Career Advice? This week you are the experts. Is there a particular publication (book, blog, column, magazine, journal, podcast, etc. etc.) that you regularly read for career advice? How did you hear about this resource and what makes it so valuable to you? Please post your answer in the comments.
Is there a Person Whose Career Advice You Seek?Do you have a peer, mentor, or other person (or group) that you seek out for career advice? How did you meet this person? What makes his/her advice so valuable to you?
How are Library Directors Hired? Can you please give us brief run-down of the process of hiring a library director? What are some of the questions that candidates are asked? What are the most important qualities candidates can demonstrate? Any other advice for hopeful directors?
Are You Looking for Candidates That Speak More Than One Language? Does your organization/library give any additional weight to candidates who can speak more than one language? If so, what languages are you looking for and how do you determine proficiency?
What is the most important “soft” skill? What is the most important “soft” skill for a candidate to have, and how can it be demonstrated in an application packet (if it can)?
Does Your Library Do Background Checks? Does your organization do background checks? If it does, what exactly is checked? Credit rating, conviction history, job or education history, etc.? What kinds of things would keep a candidate from getting hired?
Advice for “older” job hunters Just as younger librarians worry about being perceived as inexperienced and skipped over, older librarians worry about stereotypes preventing them from finding work. Can you dispel some of this worry by sharing a story about hiring an “older” librarian? Any particular advice for this type of job hunter? And finally, just for fun, which do you think is a bigger disadvantage in a job hunt: youth or age?
How Has the Economy Affected Hiring at Your Library? Have there been freezes? Have positions gone unfilled? Are applicant pools larger? Please let us know what’s changed! And have you noticed any thawing lately?
Should Coursework Go on a Resume? Under what circumstances, if any, would you want to see coursework listed on a resume?
How Long Did it Take to Get Your First Library Job? How long did it take for you to get your first professional, full-time job in the library field? Would you please tell us a little bit about your search for that job?
What’s the Best Piece of Career Advice You Ever Received? And who gave it to you?
Do You Notify Rejected Applicants? What notifications do you (or your library) send to applicants? Do you acknowledge applications? Share your timeline? Notify rejected candidates? If you do, is it over the phone, via email, or by mail? Do you think employers have any obligation to do this? Or are there practical considerations that make it impossible?
Is Having Been Fired a Deal Breaker? Have you ever hired someone who had been fired from a previous position? Is having been fired a deal breaker, or are there understandable circumstances? Is there anything in your application process which would reveal that a candidate had been fired?
What are the most important “tech skills”? Everyone says it’s important for candidates to have “tech skills”. Can you please explain what, exactly, tech skills are? I realize it varies depending on position, but what would you say are the most important programs and proficiencies for candidates, and why?
What does “or equivalent” mean? Broadly,what does “or equivalent” really mean in a job announcement? And more specifically, could a paraprofessional position ever stand in for librarian experience, if it included some librarian duties such as staffing the reference desk? Can you describe any instances where someone with “equivalent” experience was hired at your organization?
Turning the Tables We all know that candidates have loads of questions for people who hire. But do you have the same kinds of questions for candidates? Do you wonder what they’re thinking about your job announcements, for example, or are you uncertain about the clothes you should wear to interview someone? What questions would you ask of job hunters?
What Should Candidates Wear? Which outfit is most appropriate to wear to an interview with your organization? Why or why not? Please pick one for women and one for men. Bonus question: Can you share any funny stories about horrifying interview outfits? (photo-based question! See also What Should Candidates Wear survey answers.)
Should Candidates Apply for More Than One Job at the Same Organization? Can a candidate apply for two different positions in your organization without seeming desperate? Are there any specific steps s/he should take in this situation? Have you ever hired someone who has done this?
When Should Library Students Start Applying? Have you interviewed or hired a candidate who is still in school for a librarian position? How early is too early for a student to start applying? Do you take into consideration the particular school a candidate has attended? Has a candidate’s GPA ever affected your decision to hire or interview a candidate?
Would You Hire a Person Who Has an Autistic Spectrum Disorder For a Reference Librarian Position? Would you hire a person who has an autistic spectrum disorder for a reference librarian position? Would you prefer if someone with an autistic spectrum disorder discloses that they have one during an interview? Would you as a reference department manager allow a librarian with an autistic spectrum disorder to have a trial period in which they could demonstrate their skills before fully hiring them? Have you ever had someone self-identify as an individual with a disability during the hiring process? How did it change things?
What’s the Best Way for Someone to Get Promoted in Your Organization? What is the best way for someone to get promoted in your organization? Are there any particular indicators that show you when a staff member is ready for more responsibility? Do internal candidates have to follow the same application procedures as external candidates? Any other advice for succeeding when you’re already an employee?
Can We Talk About References? Do you make any judgments based on who is on the list before even talking to the references? Do you expect to see the current supervisor on the reference list? If you call references, what are some of the questions you ask and how do the answers effect your decision to hire?
Can You Explain What “Fit” Is? And why it is important in hiring a new employee?
Are there any extra or “non-traditional” materials candidates can provide to improve their chances? If a candidate provides a link to an e-portfolio, do you peruse it? Would you like to see a visual resume? Should a candidate bring examples of his/her work to the interview?
Would You Hire Someone with a MLIS for a Paraprofessional Position? (E.g. assistant, clerk, page)? If so, under what circumstances? If not why not?
Do you have any etiquette tips for candidates who have received an offer? How quickly would you expect a response? Do you expect candidates to negotiate things like pay and benefits? Can a candidate decline your offer without burning a bridge with you?
Does Volunteering Help a Candidate’s Chances? What kinds of volunteer or internship experiences (if any) help a candidate’s chances with you and your organization?
Why Is It Taking So Long? What are the different hiring stages at your organization and how long does each typically take? What are the factors that can lengthen the process? Is there ever a point in time when a candidate should attempt to check the status of an application?
Should a candidate ever try to connect with you on a social networking service? Is it ever appropriate for a candidate to try to connect with you on a social networking service (i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, LibraryThing…)? If so, which ones and under what circumstances? What about in person (at a conference, etc)? Please feel free to include any additional insight you have on networking etiquette.
What are Your Favorite Questions to Ask in an Interview? And why? If you can talk a little about the difference between what you ask over the phone versus in-person, that would be very helpful.
Would you Hire Someone Without Library Experience for a Librarian Position? If yes, under what circumstances? If not, why not?
Whew! That’s a lotta questions! Now here’s one for you: Which of these would you like to see revisited? My list of “people who hire librarians” has grown and changed since I asked the first question in April of 2012, and the hiring climate is always changing. Should I re-ask anything?
Photo: By DuMont Television/Rosen Studios, New York-photographer. Uploaded by We hope at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons