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
One 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
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