Tag Archives: Interview

Further Questions: How have generational differences affected your organization with hiring?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Generational differences can influence workplace dynamics, but are not often discussed in the context of hiring/interviewing. 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?

I haven’t seen generational differences have a huge impact on interviews. Do they have an impact in the workplace once a person is hired? Absolutely. But, it’s really hard to get much of a feel for those sorts of issues in a short, scripted interview. Age doesn’t always dictate whether a person is mature or sensible or how well they deal with stress or “interesting” co-workers. For me, it really comes down to personality. I like interviewees who aren’t afraid to ask questions, who are engaged, knowledgeable and know when to stop talking (it’s painful when a candidate is either so nervous or socially awkward that they can’t read body language or get broad verbal hints like “OK, great, thanks” and take that as a hint to STOP TALKING). I have found age isn’t really a factor in interviews.

Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

Celia RabinowitzAh – this is an issue I have been thinking about a lot.  In my previous director position a series of retirements led us to hire several new librarians.  The influx of new, and much younger, talent also meant a different generation of librarian.  And we all needed to adjust more than any of us anticipated.  Family needs were different, professional training was different, and in some ways the newer librarians had different ideas about what it means to be a librarian.  A few of the older librarians were still wedded to traditional patterns of staffing our Reference Desk.  The newer library faculty wanted to look at our usage and propose changes in order to take maximum advantage of the work day and benefit from a more flexible schedule.

I am not sure we would have been aware of some of the differences in an interview situation.  And, to be honest, I am not sure the candidate bears any responsibility for mitigating potential generational differences. But it helps for an established staff and for new hires to be aware that generational differences will mean that people are at different career stages.  The profession has changed, the professional needs of our staff members are different, and the way we think about libraries is different.  And that’s a really good thing.  There can be tension.  But ultimately this is how our libraries, and institutions, evolve.
– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

angelynn kingI think generational differences are highly overemphasized in the business literature. If anything, it’s more a question of how much work experience you have, or how long you’ve been in the same job. Some new employees not previously socialized to workplace culture may need mentoring in everything from phone etiquette to the meaning of hierarchy, while others with long tenures may need help overcoming resistance to change and risk.

But everyone is different. There are young fuddy-duddies and rambunctious seniors. In my opinion, the most important attribute in a potential coworker is the ability to learn new things, whether it’s learning a new culture, a new skill, or someone else’s new idea. Putting yourself in a box labeled “Baby Boomer” or “Millennial” hinders your personal development as well as the functioning of the organization.

-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: How do personality types play out in interviews?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

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.

I think personality type can be a factor in hiring decisions, but you don’t necessarily have to be an extrovert to get the job offer. You need to be thorough in your answers to interview questions and give examples that show you are passionate about the work that you do. Pauses in conversation are fine, but you may want to have a list of questions you could ask your dining companions about just in case you run out of things to say.

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Library Learning Services, University of North Texas Libraries

I know that interviewing for a job can be stressful and people are often nervous, so I don’t necessarily judge them on that. When I’m interviewing, I pay attention to what they’re saying, even if they fumble it a bit. The only time I get concerned is if I have to pull an answer out of someone. A person who just says “Yes” or “No” and requires me to lead them towards a more complete answer is someone that gives me pause. You don’t have to weave an elaborate tale, but being able to follow up on questions with your relevant experience (or, if you don’t have relevant experience, admit it but talk about your strengths) is important, no matter how nervous you are. If you’re really shy, try practicing with friends and family until you’re a bit more comfortable talking about your work experience. Most interviews usually have questions along the lines of the following (in some form or another):

  • Why did you apply for this job?
  • What skills can you bring to the organization?
  • What kind of library experience do you have?
  • Where do you see librarianship going in the next ten years?
  • What kind of people do you work best with?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

 

 

If you practice answering those questions, you’ll be more confident during the interview. Also, another tip, be sure to know the job description. Often the questions are directly related to the duties listed in the description, so you can practice answering with that in mind. Oh, and please, try to make eye contact. I know for some people it’s difficult, especially if you’re nervous, but looking down at your lap or staring at the table is not good. Try to look at your committee while you’re answering, it makes you seem more confident (even if you’re secretly quaking in your shoes!). One of the best things a mentor ever told me was to “Fake it until you make it!” Meaning, just pretend you’re confident until you feel confident. It’s worked for me!

 

If you’re chatty, pay attention to the room. Often times, if you’ve gone on for too long, if you look at your interviewers, you’ll pick up subtle hints that it’s time to move on. If people put down their pens, start shuffling papers or look like they’re trying to speak, finish your thought and let them continue. Don’t interrupt or speak over people. Be thoughtful and concise, don’t ramble.

– Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

Celia RabinowitzOne thing I would not recommend to either personality type is doing anything to draw attention to it such as telling people you are an introvert (or extrovert).  If you tend to be quiet try practicing with friends before the interview.  Go out to eat and just chat about anything.  Make a point to join the conversation or to ask a question.  If people around you are paying attention they may sense that you are quiet and find ways to draw you into a conversation.  But if your dinner companions and talking away and you are not contributing, don’t worry about it too much.  We know you are tired and overwhelmed and it’s OK if you just want to listen for a while.  That’s how you’ll get to know us.  So plan on a balance.  Be quiet rather than say something just for the sake of saying it.  But listen and think about ways you can participate in a conversation.

The same goes for the extrovert.  Practice answering questions in 2-3 minutes rather than 5.  Become more aware of how long you have been talking and find ways to stop so others have a chance.  Think of questions you have since asking them gives other time to talk and might lead to some good back and forth.

Stay within your comfort zone.  Don’t try too hard.  Be yourself, but be interested in the position and your colleagues for the day.

– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: Do employers even look at portfolios?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

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?

Christine Hage - Dark backgroundNot really interested in portfolios.  Sometimes the web pages are interesting, but I haven’t seen anything super impressive.
I’m much more interested in personality.  What kind of work ethic does the person have?  What kind of customer service skills?  Do they have any library experience?  Have they worked anywhere as a volunteer?
– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library

I’ve never been given a portfolio as part of an application. Resumes, yes, but portfolios, no. I’m not sure when it might be useful, unless I was advertising for a very specific job and the portfolio showcased skills needed for that position. But for the kinds positions I’ve hired-general reference or public service librarians, I can’t really think of how a portfolio could be any more helpful than a well-crafted resume and/or solid work experience.

– Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

Julie TodaraI like it when applicants send or bring portfolios to the interview. While it is not practical to think that employers would look at it during the interview, it is great to have someone provide something to review post-interview. Also, it is my opinion that employers understand that recent grads have content from their coursework. With that in mind; however, it is important that people choose class projects that relate to the jobs they want…so if you are applying for work with me at the college and it’s for reference, a portfolio of technical services projects (or visa versa) – while helpful by design and delivery – is less helpful than a reference class project. If that’s all you have for us though…connect the dots for me…that is, indicate what about it contributed to or formed your skill sets…. the instructional design, the webpage success illustrated by metrics, etc.
I also love to get podcasts, streaming video, a CD/DVD of a body of work OR a webpage designed by the applicant. That being said, you need to have been responsible for all of it…so a LibGuide or SubjectsPlus or a teaching or IL presentation should be content ONLY from you.
So they ARE helpful or useful and can be influential (especially when the content relates to the institution you are interviewing with)…YES, we look at them and while the general format answer is “it depends” in today’s market you can prepare something in print but I would have a e-component to it.
– Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College

I have found portfolios to be very helpful, especially when hiring librarians for children’s work. And for a position in Graphics, it was essential.

– Kaye Grabb, Lake Forest Library

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: What value do you place on the post-interview email or mailed thank you note?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

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?

In my 10+ years of hiring, I’ve only received thank you notes twice and they didn’t have any bearing on my decision-mostly because the decision was already made by the time I got the note. When we interview here, we usually interview all the candidates on the same day and make the decision quickly. For me, the deciding factor is the interview. A note is nice, but not as nice as a good, solid interview. Say thank you and shake hands at the end, that’s sufficient for me. I think I’m detecting a theme in all my replies to these Hiring Librarian questions: interview well. It’s not an easy skill to acquire, especially if you get nervous or flustered easily, but I can’t stress it enough.

– Margaret Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

Laurie Phillips

If you don’t catch all of the names, it’s perfectly okay to email the chair of the committee – especially if the chair is the one with whom you’ve been communicating. I personally prefer email, but if you don’t have an email address, it’s fine to mail. Keep in mind, though, depending on where you are in the process, we might have already made a decision about your candidacy before we get a mailed thank you note. I like getting follow-up notes from candidates myself. That said, I had one candidate who shot himself in the foot in his thank you note to me. He was fairly aggressive in recommending a course of action with a project we identified for the position and he continued to make recommendations in his thank you note. He knew very little about our situation and, honestly, it wasn’t that we didn’t know how to handle the project. We just needed someone to do it. So I would say, yes, send one, but don’t be obnoxious in your note.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

angelynn kingA thank-you note is good business etiquette. One copy is sufficient — the committee members should be able to pass it around. If no e-mail address is available, write a paper letter.

It’s not make or break, but it will be noticed. It’s one of those things you should do regardless of whether or not it “gets you the job.”

 

-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

Marleah AugustineI think sending a note (whether by mail or email) is thoughtful and a nice gesture, but it in no way makes or breaks a candidate’s chances. Usually I’ve made a decision based on the content of the interview, application, and information from references.

 

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Samantha Thompson-FranklinI think that it’s important for a candidate to send a thank you note to the members of a search committee after their interview, but whether it’s sent by email or regular mail does not matter. I’ve been on committees where I have received both and either has been fine with me. If you are interviewing with a large committee, I think that it would be appropriate to send one note to the search committee chair and extend it to the other members of the search committee. If email addresses are not readily available, then I would advise to call and ask for the email address of the search committee chair and send a note to that person. They could then forward that email on to the other committee members. Sending a note or not sending a note does not make or break a candidate’s chances at a job but it shows respect and appreciation to the committee for taking the time to meet with you.

– Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College Library

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: Traveling for interviews: who pays?

This week we asked people who hire librarians:

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.?

Laurie PhillipsWe pay all of our candidates’ travel expenses. We book them in a hotel that the university has a relationship with, so they don’t see a bill at all. We will also book their plane ticket for them on the library’s credit card, if they would like us to do that, but will also reimburse if that works better. We are well aware that some candidates who are in graduate school may not have credit card space for their travel expenses – especially when they’re booking for a trip that’s somewhat last minute (booked only a week or two in advance). We reimburse for extra meals, mileage and airport parking. No, we have not changed anything due to the economy. We are faculty so we do national searches and will sometimes have local candidates, but that’s not a priority. We are permitted to interview 4 candidates on campus rather than 3 if one or more are local (costing less to the university), but we rarely do that because of the extra time commitment. We want to narrow to our three best possibilities.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Petra MauerhoffAt our organization, we reimburse travel expenses for the successful candidate. We conduct the first round of interviews via Skype and then invite a very limited number of shortlisted candidates for a 2nd in-person interview. Travel expenses in our case include everything, from mileage to meals to accommodation.
We have been fortunate that candidates have no come from too far away.
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System

Marleah AugustineIn recent years, we have not had the opportunity to pay for travel for candidates, nor do we have a policy in place. We have had candidates travel through on their own and visit the library when they submitted their application, and we have had candidates Skype or do phone interviews with us. We try to make those interviews as much like in-person interviews as we can.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Celia RabinowitzWe have always paid all travel, lodging, food, and incidental expenses for candidates regardless of their location. We pay for airline tickets up front and make hotel reservations so the candidate does not have to pay out of pocket. We can make rental car reservations but not pay for them so we reimburse for that, mileage, parking, etc.

The economy has not had an impact on faculty searches which are always advertised nationally. We have been lucky to be able to continue to search broadly and support candidates’ visits so that we can focus on hiring the best people.

– Celia Rabinowitz, Director of the Library, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Stats and Graphs: 246 Responses on What Candidates Should Wear

The last time we looked at stats and graphs for what candidates should wear was October 2012.  We’ve had a few more responses trickle in, but mostly I just want to revisit these stats.

number of responses

I also want to add my standard disclaimer that I’m using Google forms, and the charts it generates cut off some of the answer choices.  It takes me a while to do a post like this, and even longer to make it prettier in Excel, so I’ll ask you to please just excuse how sloppy it looks.  This is a labor of love, and I’m a busy lady.

Also I don’t use probability sampling, so what happens in the survey can’t be assumed to be what happens in the larger population.  And this survey mashes together the responses of academic, public, special, school and other library organizations (although you’ll see that the majority of responses are from Academic librarians).

These responses have been collected between the survey’s launch, on 9/3/2012 and 11/30/2013.  We are still collecting responses!  If you want to take the survey, go to: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibOUTFITsurvey 

The survey was co-written by Jill from Librarian Hire Fashion.  Want to talk more about interview outfits?  That’s the Tumblr to do it on!

And now the

RESULTS!

What Candidates Should Wear

Should the candidate wear a suit to the interview?

wear a suit

Yes, absolutely! It shows respect and professionalism 48   20%
Probably, yes (but it’s ok if the candidate wears something a little less formal) 132   54%
Probably not (but it’s ok if the candidate does wear one) 36   15%
No way! It shows a lack of understanding about my library and/or the nature of librarianship 2    1%
I don’t care 12    5%
Other 16    7%

 

An outfit with a coordinated blazer and trousers:

blazer trousers

Counts as a suit 181   74%
Is totally different 22    9%
I do not know and/or care 30   12%
Other 13    5%

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

bare arms

True 99   40%
False 66   27%
I don’t care 46   19%
Other 35   14%

 

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

pantyhose

Never, pantyhose is for my grandmother 10    4%
No, but it’s not a dealbreaker 84   34%
Either pantyhose or tights. Bare legs are inappropriate 49   20%
Yes, true professionals always wear pantyhose 11    4%
Other 92   37%

Women should wear make-up to an interview: 

make up

Always 13    5%
I don’t care, as long as it’s not over-the-top 108   44%
I don’t care what’s on the face, it’s what’s in the brain that counts 103   42%
Never 0    0%
Other 22    9%

 

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

formality

Yes, the higher the position, the more formal I expect the candidate to dress 190   77%
No 38   15%
I don’t care 9    4%
Other 9    4%

 

Which jewelry may candidates wear:

jewelry

Single, simple necklace, bracelet, and/or ring 181   75%
A few simple necklaces, bracelets, and/or rings 177   73%
All of the simple necklaces, bracelets, and rings he or she can load on 43   18%
Arty or more elaborate necklaces, bracelets, or rings 139   57%
Nose Ring (nostril) 86   36%
Eyebrow Ring, Monroe piercing, septum piercing, or other face piercing 61   25%
Earrings 188   78%
Multiple Ear Piercings 136   56%
Large gauge ear jewelry (stretched ears) 49   20%
Other 76   31%
People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

hair colors

All of them, even pink 129   52%
Natural colors (black, brown, red, blonde, gray) 89   36%
Other 28   11%

 

The way a candidate dresses should:

neutral or personality

Show personality 60   24%
Be fairly neutral 99   40%
I don’t really care how a candidate dresses 26   11%
Other 61   25%

What the Library Wears

On a scale of  1 to 5, where one is too dressed up for your workplace, khakis and a polo shirt are:

khakis and a polo

1 –
Too dressed up for my workplace
1    0%
2 4    2%
3 177   72%
4 37   15%
5 –
Too casual for my workplace
15    6%

 

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

dress code

Business formal 8    3%
Business casual 146   59%
Casual 51   21%
I don’t even know what any of that means 2    1%
Other 39   16%

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

forbidden items

Jeans 65   28%
Flip flops 113   49%
Visible Tattoos 28   12%
Short skirts/shorts 94   41%
Tank tops 98   42%
Logos/band insignia/slogans 78   34%
Sneakers/trainers 36   16%
N/A: We wear what we want! 50   22%
Other 135   58%
People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

Librarians at your organization wear:

Name tags 102   61%
Badges 46   27%
Uniforms 1    1%
Shirt, waistcoat/vest, or other single piece of clothing issued by the library 6    4%
Other 57   34%
People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

Demographics

What type of institution do you hire for?

type

Academic Library 134   54%
Public Library 80   33%
School Library 2    1%
Special Library 12    5%
Archives 9    4%
Other 9    4%

Where are you?

region

 

Northeastern US 61   25%
Midwestern US 65   26%
Southern US 60   24%
Western US 37   15%
Canada 9    4%
UK 5    2%
Australia/New Zealand 1    0%
Other 8    3%

Where are you?

urbanity

 

Urban area 80   33%
Suburban area 56   23%
City/town 74   30%
Rural area 31   13%
Other 5    2%

How many staff members are at your library?

numbers of staff

 

0-10 61   25%
10-50 115   47%
50-100 31   13%
100-200 22    9%
200+ 15    6%

Are you a librarian?

r u lib

 

Yes 222   90%
No 6    2%
It’s complicated 18    7%

Are you now or have you ever been:

r u now

a hiring manager (you are hiring people that you will directly or indirectly supervise) 179   74%
a member of a hiring or search committee 207   85%
human resources 8    3%
Other 6    2%
People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

What do you think?  What should we have asked?  I realize we don’t talk about religious garb, or neckties… what else did we miss? Please comment below or email hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Hired Librarians: I Could Picture our Clients Relating to Her Very Well

In this feature, Hired Librarians, I interview a recent successful job hunter and the person that hired her.  This week I’m interviewing Mira Geffner, Program Assistant, and the person that hired here, Erika Bell, Manager of Medical Information Services. 

library 2

They work at Breast Cancer Connections, providing medical information services in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Here is how the library is staffed:

We are each here half-time, that’s it for the paid library staff. Other BCC staff and volunteers also help clients in the library when we are not available, and volunteers help with clerical work and special projects.


The Successful Candidate: Mira Geffner

Mira and Erika all dressed up2
Where are you in your career? When did you graduate, and how many years of experience do you have?

I am a career changer and a current MLIS student at San Jose State University. I expect to graduate in December 2014.

Why did this job pique your interest?

It sounded perfect! My professional background is in patient education and advocacy. When I started library school, I was really hoping that I’d be able to continue working directly with the public, but as a librarian instead of an educator or advocate. The BCC Program Assistant job description said they wanted someone who could do research for BCC clients, contribute to the BCC blog, maintain the library collection of books/pamphlets/media, and attend weekly Q&A sessions with area physicians and patients. I had started a blog in my Medical Librarianship class, and I had experience coordinating Q&A conference calls with physicians and patients as part of my previous job. Of course as an LIS student, I do database searching every day, and had gained experience with patient-oriented and academic medical databases through my SLIS courses and an internship at a health library. Other aspects of the job appealed to me too, especially the fact that I would be embedded in a thriving non-profit organization with deep roots in the community. To be honest, the job sounded almost too good to be true.

How many pages was your resume? Cover letter?

My resume was long, nearly 2 pages. I included current academic work and pre-SLIS professional experience. My cover letter was ¾ page.

What research did you do before submitting your application?

I learned about the job from a friend who had interviewed at BCC before I did, so she was able to tell me a lot about BCC’s “personality” in terms of her interview process and the nature of her interview there. After speaking with her, I read as much as I could of BCC’s website. I wanted to familiarize myself with the organization’s programs and services, and understand its mission and history. I also read posts from the BCC blog, to get an idea of how I could contribute to it.

What did you wear?

Black slacks and a colorful top. Black flats. (I had heard from my friend that the place is pretty casual, so didn’t want to overdo it. I was aiming for dressed-for-work rather than dressed-up-for-interview.)

Can you describe your process in preparing for the interview?

I heard about the job at the end of the semester, so I was finishing up classes and an internship, and was getting ready to leave town for a week. In other words, I had less time to prepare for this interview than I would have liked. At least my resume was pretty close to being up to date, since I had applied for internships in other health libraries five months earlier. To prepare, I updated my resume with a few relevant projects I had done in the past few months, updated my cover letter to draw out the connections between my resume and the job description, and rehearsed some standard interview questions. Jill Klees, the SLIS liaison in the SJSU Career Center, was very helpful, both with shortening my resume and practicing interview skills. I also reviewed the databases from my medical librarianship class, and materials from that class’s consumer health unit. I went back to the health/medical research units from my Introduction to Reference class, to make sure I wasn’t forgetting about any important sources there, and reviewed my health literacy outreach blog and other health-related projects I had done at SLIS to refresh my memory about things that might be relevant to the BCC job. And then I spent some time thinking about how my earlier work with rare disease patients might translate to work with breast cancer patients. Finally, I did what I could to learn about breast cancer. At a friend’s suggestion, I reviewed all the terms relating to breast cancer in the National Cancer Institute’s online dictionary of cancer terms. I also read NCI’s basic introduction to breast cancer, because knowledge of breast cancer or other cancers was listed as a job qualification.

What questions did you ask?

I was interviewed by a three-person panel, and I asked them to each tell me what they love about working here. I don’t remember all of their answers, but I remember them all smiling at each other when I asked and Erika kind of laughing and saying it was really hard to know where to start because the list of things she loves about the place is so long. Erika’s boss was on the panel as well, and she told me she had been with BCC for more than 10 years, and that she really enjoys having a chance to work with and mentor people who are newer to the organization. They all said they love the women they work with. I can’t remember exactly how I asked, but I’m pretty sure I asked Erika something about how much patient education she does vs. research/providing information. I didn’t have a “right” answer in mind, I just wanted to understand something about where BCC’s Medical Information Services model fits in the world of consumer health librarianship. And I asked something about the typical resources she consults to handle client requests, because I wanted to understand if I would need to be able to search PubMed like a wizard or if she uses lay sources more of the time.

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

Well, that’s a hard one to answer. How do we ever know how the world sees us? I felt like the job – which combines library skills with an ability to assimilate and communicate medical information and interact with clients in a non-threatening way – was a great match for my past experience and my coursework at SJSU. And although I did not have the knowledge of breast cancer or another type of cancer the job description called for, my comprehensive knowledge of another disease from my previous job showed that I could learn about breast cancer and would be motivated to do so. I also think my experience providing support and information services to patients at another non-profit showed that I was a good match for the position. Even though I would need to start with the basics in learning about breast cancer, I tried to demonstrate that my perspective working in other non-profits and with other types of patients would make it possible for me to begin contributing quickly at BCC. Throughout the interview, I tried to convey that the job they were offering was exactly the job I wanted. When they asked where I see myself in five years, I said “with a Master’s degree in Library & Information Sciences, working in a consumer health library.” That was actually one of the questions I hadn’t prepared for, but I think it was the answer I gave most quickly and directly. A job like this one in a place like BCC is what I’ve wanted since before I started the program at SLIS. So the job just felt to me like a great fit, and I tried to convey that to the panel.

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?

These are things your readers probably know, but I’m going to write them anyway: there is soooo much serendipity in the process, so don’t take things that happen in the job search too personally. Do reflect on how you conduct yourself in interviews, and think about things you would like to do differently, but try not to turn things that happen in the job hunt into a judgment of you as a person. I also can’t say enough about the importance of building and tending your networks. I attend local networking/social events when I can and go to conferences. I participate in LIS student and professional groups on Facebook and on LinkedIn, and read the CALIX and CAPHIS mailing lists (and participate very occasionally in both). I also keep in touch with internship supervisors, some faculty, and students I’ve worked with on class projects or otherwise gotten to know. I would never have known about this job but for a phone call from a SLIS friend, and I believe her recommendation influenced BCC’s decision to interview me.

The Hiring Manager: Erika Bell

Library table

What stood out in this applicant’s cover letter?

Mira’s cover letter was very well written and contained specific, concrete examples that demonstrated her professional experience and qualifications.  Her passion for working as a consumer health librarian was evident in the letter.  Mira was honest about her lack of experience in the cancer field, but displayed confidence in her ability to acquire those skills on the job.

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

Mira met all but one of the qualifications listed in the job ad.  The job ad listed “knowledge of breast cancer or other cancers” as a qualification, and Mira did not have this specific experience, but she did have professional experience working in other health-related fields.

In comparison to the rest of the pool, did the applicant have more, less, or about the same years of experience?  What about for the other people you interviewed?

Mira had more experience than many of the applicants in the pool and less experience than some others.  A few applicants were actually overqualified, and for that reason the job didn’t seem like a good fit for them.

What was the interview process like?

I first screened resumes and cover letters and selected a dozen or so that I felt were well qualified.  These applicants were phone screened by our human resources volunteer.  Based on feedback from the phone screen, we then invited a subset of the phone-screened applicants to come in to the center for an in-person interview.  We conducted the interview as a team of three which included myself (BCC’s Manger of Medical Information Services), BCC’s Director of Programs and Services and BCC’s Program Associate.  Candidates were asked a series of pre-scripted questions and then given an opportunity to ask questions of us.  A tour was conducted upon the candidate’s request.

After our first of round of in-person interviews, we selected a candidate, who declined the position due to another job offer.  That applicant happened to be a colleague of Mira’s and recommended her for the position.  Because Mira was referred by this person, we did not conduct the initial phone screen in her case, and instead brought her in immediately for an in-person interview.

What stood out in Mira’s interview?

BCC’s mission is to provide services to women touched by breast and ovarian cancer in an atmosphere of warmth and compassion.  Mira’s warm and compassionate demeanor stood out in the interview.  She was down-to-earth and easy to talk to, and I could picture our clients relating to her very well.  I could tell during the interview that her personality would be a good fit for the organization, and that we would work well together to accomplish the department’s goals.  I was also impressed by the research Mira had done prior to the interview.  She was familiar with BCC’s history, our programs and services, and our mission, and she expressed a clear and genuine interest in contributing to that mission.  After the interview Mira followed-up with a hand-written thank you note, which was a nice touch.

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

Perhaps the only concern I had about Mira was the fact that she is currently a graduate student, and I wondered if she would be able to successfully juggle school and work. To address this concern, Mira and I discussed a potential work schedule and I gave her the option to reduce her hours when school is in session, if necessary.  We agreed upon a minimum number of hours that would be essential for her to work to get the job done.

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?

Mira’s skill set and experience got her the interview, but it was really her personality that won her the job.  We interviewed several other candidates with similar or more experience, who definitely could have done the job, but we did not select them because they didn’t connect with us in a way that Mira did.  We really got the sense during Mira’s interview that she would be able to set clients at ease, listen to their needs and concerns, and then be able to find them relevant information to address those 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!

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, Hired Librarians, Special, Western US