Tag Archives: Hiring

Hired Librarians: A Strong Sense of Who I Was and What I Wanted to Do

Here is our next installment in the feature Hired Librarians, where I interview a successful candidate and the librarian that hired her.  This post features Recent Hire, Youth Librarian Brooke Rasche, and Hiring Librarian Marge Loch-Wouters, who is  the Youth Services Coordinator at La Crosse Public Library and a regular contributor to Further Questions.  

La Crosse Public Library

La Crosse Public Library is in the Midwest, and has 85 staff members.


The Successful Candidate: Brooke Rasche

Brooke Rasche

Where are you in your career? When did you graduate, and how many years of experience do you have?

I am still very new to the library world. I graduated in 2011 from Indiana University. I had a job offer before I completed my degree and moved to Virginia right after I graduated. I worked as a Children’s Librarian for about 10 months before I was promoted to Children’s Coordinator for the library system. Then, I applied and was chosen for this job in early 2013.

Why did this job pique your interest?

I was very homesick and really wanted relocate back to the Midwest. However, I also wanted to make sure that I was going into a library where I really fit and I didn’t just apply for everything out there. I wanted to find a library that shared my vision and passions for youth services. This job fit every aspect I was looking for.

How many pages was your resume? Cover letter?

Then were both one page.

What research did you do before submitting your application?

When I was in graduate school I took the “apply to everything” approach. While this worked in my favor and I found a job, I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. I looked at information about the city and the surrounding area. I made sure I could afford to live in the city with the salary they were offering. I checked the library website and looked at every department’s page. I also went through probably years of blog posts on both Marge’s blog and another coworker’s blog Sarah Bryce. Librarians are very honest in their blogs and I wanted to make sure I had a good feel for the work culture before I threw my hat in the ring.

What did you wear?

I wore a black skirt suit and heels. I would always prefer to be overdressed than under, so I was happy with my decision.

Can you describe your process in preparing for the interview?

The interview process was a long one– about 3 months from start to finish. So I was very invested in getting this job by the time the in-person interview happened. I was also traveling over 1000 miles on my dime, so I wanted to give myself the best possible chance I could.

I went through Marge’s blog and read as much as I could about the library and her philosophies. It was also a great opportunity for me to find out things that really mattered to Marge as a manager and as a youth services advocate. I also went though Sara Bryce’s blog and found out about all of the programs that were being done for school age children. I wanted to make sure I went into the interview with knowledge about the programming being offered for all ages.

Then, I made a portfolio that highlighted some of my previous library work. I also included 4 sample programs I thought would be successful with their service population. Since I was only going to be in front of the hiring committee for an hour, I wanted to make sure they left with a strong sense of who I was and what I wanted to do.

What questions did you ask?

I asked questions about the community and library culture.

I also asked “What is your favorite thing about this library? What is the most challenging thing about working in this library?” This question is one of the easiest ways to find out how the hiring committee really feels about their job.

Why do you think you were hired? What set you apart from other candidates?

I think it was my passion and overall flexibility. I was willing to move 1,000 miles and told them specific reasons why. I am very open to change and new experiences and I think it really came through in my interview.

Plus, I am a very outgoing person. I know it is hard for people who are more introverted, but you have to be as outgoing as possible in your interview, especially if you are looking to work with children. The hiring committee is looking for someone to represent their specific department and the library as a whole, so you need to prove that you are going to be a good choice for them.

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why you were chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

Do some research before you apply to every library job you see. Five minutes of googling the library/area could save you an hour of applying for a job you wouldn’t take anyway.

Also, if you are applying for a job that would require you to move- acknowledge it in the cover letter! I have moved over 1,000 miles for both of my professional jobs. I believe I made it past the initial review round because I specifically stated in the cover letter that I was looking to relocate to their area.

The Hiring Librarian: Marge Loch-Wouters

Marge Loch Wouters

What stood out in this applicant’s cover letter?

Brooke highlighted information that specifically related to our posting; she answered the playfulness of our ad with playfulness in her response and her cover letter didn’t repeat what was in the resume but rather added depth and clarity to that document. She also explained why she would be willing to move halfway across the country to work for us.

Did she meet all of the required qualifications listed in the job ad? How many of the desired qualifications did she meet?

Brooke hit every qualification. In addition to that, she brought some strength in other areas that indicated to me that she would be bringing us even more than we asked for in our ad.

In comparison to the rest of the pool, did the applicant have more, less, or about the same years of experience? 

She had one year of experience. This put her slightly ahead of the new grads but we had people with more experience also throwing their hats in the ring. I would say her experience put her at the slightly “ less” end of the spectrum.

What was the interview process like?

After our initial closing date we had 76 applicants,. We selected the top 20 to choose two of three essay questions to answer. From that pool, we selected 10 finalists for a Skype interview. After that step we decided on our final four to invite in for an interview with our panel. At that interview, the candidate answered questions, and had a tour of the department.

It took about three months.

What stood out in this applicant’s interview?

Brooke had researched the community; made a cogent case on why she would re-locate; blew us away with her command of the issues and knowledge about the service population; and laughed and talked easily. Since time with the public is such an important part of the job that really put her over the top.

Were there any flags or questions you had about this person’s abilities, and how did they resolve them?

No

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why this candidate was chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

We had an extremely strong field of candidates. Brooke was able to “play’ in response to our playful ad and make the case that she had the experience we were looking for. She came to the interview prepared and articulate with a binder full of examples of her work that related to our job (and not just a collection of everything but just what was germane to our needs).


If you’re part of a recent hiree/hiring manager pair who’d be willing to be interviewed for this feature, please contact me.  Or please pass along this request!
Thanks so much to Elisabeth Doucett for suggesting this series. Check out her blog, The Irreverent Librarian

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Filed under 50-100 staff members, City/town, Hired Librarians, Midwestern US, Public, Youth Services

Make Me Believe You Will Keep That Enthusiasm for at Least a Few Years

Cornelia Maria Clapp (1849-1934)

 

 

This anonymous interview is with a librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee. This person works at an academic library with 10-50 staff members. 
What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Enthusiasm
Positive personality
Profesionalism

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

Sloppy application
Cockiness
Lethargy

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

…references available upon request…
…unique combination of my education and work experience…

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

Yes, the reason why they want the job they are applying for.

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?

√ 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?

√ I don’t care

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

Show me that you really want this job and make me believe you will keep that enthusiasm for at least a few years.

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

That MLS and Undergraduate Degree, Everyone Has One

Librarian's_grave_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1232991

This anonymous interview is with a librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee. This person works at a public library with more than 200 staff members.

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

match of knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for the specific job
interpersonal skills
passion for people

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

 This depends on the job and on what the candidate says. For example, a cataloging job would cause me to look very closely at details of the application. A candidate who says “detail-oriented”, better be just that.

In the interview: more than 15 minutes late (though I can easily understand emergencies–in that case, the candidate should ask to re-schedule), obvious lack of knowledge about or interest in the employer and/or the specific position.

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

Objectives. Why? We all know you want a job.

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

Generally, librarians do a great job. What people should remember though is that *every single candidate* meets the minimum qualifications. So, that MLS and undergraduate degree, everyone has one. What makes you different? What do you bring that other candidates don’t? How might you be a better fit for the job? Once, a candidate neglected to mention on her resume that she had been the treasurer of a touring choir (based in her church, but acting as a 501(c)3) in an interview for a job that required budgeting skills. She did mention this in the interview, but almost didn’t get considered (she got the job, by the way).

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, but keep it short and sweet

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?

√  Both as an attachment and in the body of the email

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

Be prompt, know about the job, use humor appropriately, be yourself (not a plastic version of a librarian). Pay attention to the questions. Don’t be afraid to challenge the logic of the questions. Ask a few questions yourself.

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

 Generic answers.

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

In each organization where I’ve had a hiring role, I’ve moved to include more peers and immediate supervisors in the hiring process.

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Filed under 200+ staff members, Original Survey, Public

We Do Not Pay Enough to Have Someone Relocate

Librarian's_Desk, Bancroft Library

 

This anonymous interview is with a non-librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee. This person works at a public library with 0-10 staff members. 

 

 

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

Personality
Experience
Communication skills

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

In the interview process, the inablility to answer a question or rather the inability to communicate well either the answer or to communicate any other response.
Distance from our library…we do not pay enough to have someone relocate.
Lack of experience

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

That they know something about the town, or the library itself…that they have done some home work so that they have some idea about population and some other issues.

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?

√ .pdf

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ I don’t care

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?

Dress appropriately. Look the interviewers in the eye and respond directly to questions. Have some kind of portfolio of work or work experience to prove one’s claims.

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

For us, not knowing anything about the community….or the job…before hand. Thinking that because we are a small town, we are pushovers for claims of expertise that are clearly over the top. For instance, the person who says he or she was a head librarian at a prestigious university…tnen we have to ask ourselves…why come to a small town library. We also don’t appreciate being preached to….that the applicant can save us because as a small town we probably don’t know what we are doing.

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

We have a process now.

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

Honesty is important. It is better to say that you don’t know something…than lie..and it is better to say that while you don’t know a process, you are willing to be trained. Everyone on a new job has to be a learner, and every manager has to be willing to be a trainer or a teacher.

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, Original Survey, Public

The Bigger Problem is Too Much on the Resume That’s Unrelated to the Position

Main_Reading_Room,_State_Library_of_NSW,_Sydney_(NSW)_(7173836598)

 

This anonymous interview is with a librarian who has been a member of a hiring committee. This person works at an academic library with 10-50 staff members.

 

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

Intelligence
Enthusiasm
Sincerity

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

Poor grammar is always a deal breaker for me followed closely by short and uninformative cover letters.

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

Objectives are a waste of time. I know your objective is to get whatever job your taking the time to apply to. It’s just wasted space.

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

I don’t see this as too much of a problem, the bigger problem is too much on the resume that’s unrelated to the position.

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?

√ 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?

√ I don’t care

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

Be genuine, have a sense of humor, and show that you’ve done a little research about our organization. If you’ve explored our website at all you should be in good shape.

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

Yes, a day long interview is stressful but remember that you weren’t brought in unless we felt pretty confident that you could do the job. At this point it’s more about whether people can work with you. I’ve seen (more than once) where the candidate who was hired was not necessarily the strongest librarian of the group but was the most likeable and easygoing.

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

The only real change I’ve noticed is that postings close more quickly, particularly entry level positions. We just get so many applicants that we have to cut if off quickly or we’ll be overwhelmed.

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

READ the job description. I cannot emphasize this enough. Competition is fierce so you need to address every single part of the job description in your cover letter/CV to realistically land an interview. If something is listed as a requirement and you don’t have that skill/knowledge/certification/ don’t bother applying. You don’t need to have every preferred qualification but the more of them you can fulfill, the more likely you are to land an interview. There are just too many applicants who will meet all or most of the standards, you’re just wasting your time (and mine) if you don’t have a strong case.

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

Someone Who is Not Crazy

Librarian working at the Pointe Coupee Parish Parish library in New Roads Louisiana in 1936This anonymous interview is with a person who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee. This person hires at a

business that hires archivists/librarians

with 0-10 staff members. When asked “Are you a librarian?” this person chose the “it’s complicated” option.
What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

1)The ability to perform essential functions outlined in the job posting
2)An independent thinker
3)Someone who is not crazy

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

The only instant deal breaker I have is the interviewee with a bad attitude. In this economy, you may wind up interviewing for jobs that you are over qualified for. This doesn’t mean you will automatically be hired; if you act like the position is beneath you, there is no chance we will hire you.

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

Typos. Please read things before you submit them. It looks like you didn’t learn anything in grad school if you still don’t know the difference between “two” and “too”

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

I wish people would elaborate on their relevant volunteer experience. I know, it wasn’t paid, but it is usually relevant experience that can make a candidate seem much more qualified.

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?

√ I don’t care

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?

Show the interviewers that you are capable of doing the job. Remember to bring your best self to the interview.

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

Not asking questions. I am aware that you did research ahead of time, but there is no possible way that you could know everything about a position ahead of time. I don’t ask the typical “so tell me what you know about our organization” questions because I know you visited our website and social media before the interview. But I do ask if you have any questions because I know that we don’t post everything.

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

We have become more selective.

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

1)Don’t ask for a significantly higher salary in the interview
2)Be aware of what type of position you are applying for. If it is entry level, don’t come in expecting to be running the organization in six months
3)Don’t insult and interviewer. If you don’t like something they have produced, the interview isn’t the time to have a debate. Don’t tell them they have done anything wrong until after you have been hired.

As crazy as it sounds, we’ve had all three of the above happen.

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, Original Survey, Other Organization or Library Type

Have You Voted? Courtney Young Talks about Hiring Librarians

It’s election time!  ALA presidential candidate Courtney Young has graciously agreed answer a few questions about their thoughts on ALA’s role in library hiring. Voting is open now through April 26th. Visit this page for more details.

courtney young

 Courtney Young is currently the Head Librarian and Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at Pennsylvania State University’s, Greater Allegheny Campus.  She earned her MLIS from Simmons in 1997. Ms. Young has demonstrated her leadership and commitment to the profession as a current member of ALA council, past president of the NMRT, and as one of Library Journal’s Movers and Shakers.  Her focus, if elected ALA president, would particularly be on diversity, career development, and engagement & outreach.  As for her thoughts on Hiring Librarians, I’ll let her tell you in her own words:

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

This is a challenging, but crucial and frequently asked question. ALA works to attract people to the profession by getting scholarship sponsors for programs like Spectrum and by accrediting LIS programs so that students are graduating with the skills they need to be competitive. ALA advocates for libraries, and those advocacy activities ensure we will have libraries of all types to employ librarians. Informally, but perhaps, most importantly, it provides tremendous networking opportunities for those who actively participate in the work of the association. That, right there, is worth the price of admission. There are some things ALA cannot do–the association is not a job creator although it does employ many librarians. Something I would like to see more of from ALA: more training and other HR support for managers who are hiring, such as how to apply guidelines and best practices for creating job descriptions, advertising positions and conducting interviews. The association does some of this but could do more. 

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

ALA has a real opportunity when it comes to unemployed and underemployed librarians and should continue to be mission-focused in this area. A category of personal membership includes “Non-Salaried or Unemployed Regular Members” at a rate of $46 per year. This category “[i]ncludes librarians earning less than $25,000 per year or not currently employed.  In a difficult economy this dues category can be helpful for those in career transition or for those just beginning their careers.” We want those who are struggling and seeking employment to stay active and engaged members, especially given the increased opportunities for professional development online. 

The mission of ALA’s Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment (HRDR) is to “facilitate the development of librarianship as a profession.” HRDR’s programmatic priorities and services include training and development, career development, selection and staffing, recruitment for library & information sciences careers, organizational development, and human resource management. HRDR has the potential to develop more strategic initiatives in these areas, which fits into my proposed presidential initiative related to career development. I’m excited about what we can do together.  

An ALA member contacted me in 2011 about writing a resolution to do something for librarians who were furloughed or permanently unemployed. As we corresponded it became clear to me that what we really needed was to highlight resources and services already available from the Association as well as the need for more creative and collaborative thinking around an ALA-wide resource for members who are job seekers. Finally, ALA could collaborate more with state and local library associations to provide resources and advocacy for unemployed and underemployed librarians. 

How can ALA 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.

This is where ALA absolutely shines! New Members Round Table (NMRT) is a vital piece of ALA for those new to the field.  NMRT offers the Resume Review Service (on-site at Midwinter and Annual for all ALA members; year-round via email for NMRT members), conference mentoring, and career mentoring. NMRT also provides opportunities for library school students to attend conference through the Student Chapter of the Year Award and hosting the Student Chapter Reception during the Annual Conference. It’s also, arguably, one of the strongest units for networking and models how to effectively work in an organization. 

I have to put in a plug for the ALA Chapter Relations Office and Don Wood’s role with the Student Chapters listserv. Don does a fantastic job in communicating with affiliated student groups and ensures that they feel like real ALA members. The ALA Student-to-Staff program is another great initiative. Forty library school students are selected to work with ALA staff during the Annual Conference. Program participants receive free conference registration, housing, and a per diem for meals. The Association also provides numerous scholarships for students, most notably, Spectrum. 

What do you think is the secret to getting hired by a library? 

I do not think there are secrets per se. Keep your resume up-to-date. Make use of mentoring opportunities provided by ALA, its divisions and round tables. Use contacts you make within ALA as part of your professional network. Networking can be vital to getting hired, especially when it comes to selecting appropriate professionals to serve as a reference. Following directions in the application process goes a long way. I always suggest applying for the jobs you really want, rather than applying for every advertised position. Spend more time on fewer cover letters or packets to produce a better, targeted application. One thing I have found is that our profession is smaller than you think. Little things in the application process like sending a thank you note (either handwritten or via email), whether or not you are the successful candidate, can be to your benefit in the future. Most of all, be confident. 

Any advice for people who are currently job hunting – whether for their first job, or just for the next step in their career? 

Hang in there! You will be successful. I encourage every librarian and library school student I mentor to stay optimistic. Be patient both with the job hunt process and with yourself. Most importantly, remember that you are not alone in this process. Use your network to get the help and support you need. This includes working with a career mentor or two, telling people you are looking for a job, and taking advantage of face-to-face and online career development opportunities through ALA, your state library association, even your library school. 

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

Even though my primary role is as a library manager, I am still very much a front-line librarian; still very much in touch, on a real and daily basis, with issues that are both dear and typical to many members. 

One of the great joys of my position involves my work with the University of Pittsburgh’s Partners Program. Through the program, I interview, hire, and mentor a library school student for three semesters. Last year I successfully advocated for the internship stipend to be doubled, because we value the contribution of these students and are committed to giving back to the profession.

Career development is a major component of my platform. Keeping librarians current and equipped to serve their communities is one of the key roles of the association. Toward fulfilling this role, ALA must strive to be a leader in providing high quality, affordable, timely, and accessible professional development opportunities. I also envision ALA as a major hub that supports and facilitates substantive interactions: networking, conversation, collaboration, and learning.

I’d like to thank Ms. Young for taking the time to answer my questions! I encourage you to visit her website, or to use the comments section to ask any questions you might have. Most of all though, I encourage you to make your voice heard and VOTE!

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Filed under Elections/Candidates