Tag Archives: jobhunting

Nobody cares how long you sit at your desk, you are judged by what you accomplish

An older white man with an interesting striped coat sits in front of a book. A picture of a woman and vase of flowers are behind him.
Joseph C. Rowell, retired librarian of University of California. From UC Berkeley Library Archives

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Professor

Titles hired include: Subject specialist librarian (assistant prof rank)

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

√ Employees at the position’s same level (on a panel or otherwise)

√ Other: the committee may include a faculty member from the area the librarian will be supporting

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

√ Other: Prior to a formal job offer, the proof of degree is just a copy of unofficial (free) transcripts. Official transcripts are only required from the person who gets the job offer. We also require a presentation, but not in the form of a demonstration

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: We use an online system, but we haven’t been approved to hire since we got it. I think that’s an option not a requirement.

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

My role depends on the committee, which depends on the position we’re hiring for. We also haven’t had a position approved since the pandemic started. If we get approved, we will explore virtual options to replace the on-campus interviews.  

A committee is formed, generally consisting of 5 people, including 2-4 people from the department the position is in, one staff member, and maybe one faculty member from another discipline, as appropriate for the role. The hiring committee drafts the job ad, including requirements, and gets approval from the dean. And then the ad is posted to various job sites and email lists. After the deadline, we review applications and select 6-9 candidates for a round of phone interviews. Of those, we select 3 candidates to invite for on-campus interviews, which are full day interviews. The candidate usually flies in the day before and rents a car to drive to the area (1 hour from the airport), which gives them more freedom to explore the area. The interview day was grueling for all of us, starting around 8 or 8:30am, and ending with dinner around 5:30 or 6 – how that conversation went determined how late it would be when the candidate would be dropped off back at their hotel. And then the candidate traveled home the following day. 

After all interviews, the committee would discuss the candidates and agree on who to make the offer to and how to proceed if that person turned the offer down (would we be happy with another candidate as the second choice or would it become a failed search?). If the supervisor is NOT on the committee, then the committee outlines its decision to the supervisor. The supervisor conveys the committee decision to the dean, who then gets whatever higher approvals are needed. And then the supervisor calls the candidate to make an offer. 

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

In the last search I chaired, there was one candidate who really wowed us on paper and on the phone. Honestly, I don’t remember why, though. There was another candidate who looked good on paper, but seemed a bit awkward in the phone interview – timing was off since nobody could see body language. Both were invited to on-campus interviews. The first candidate was good with the short answers and small talk, but the second candidate stood out as really thoughtful, asking questions that showed they were really listening to what we said and putting pieces together, and thinking strategically about things. We made the offer to that second candidate. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

poor understanding of how structural oppression works; poor treatment of anyone “below” the rank they’ll be hired into; microaggressive behaviors

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

I can’t think of anything now

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more  

Resume: √ We don’t ask for this  

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant 

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Failing to interview us as well

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

We haven’t, but we plan to explore this in the future

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

The complaint I hear most about people transitioning from parapro work to faculty positions is that they don’t really understand the difference between the two. It may not be as significant in academic libraries where librarians are staff, but here we are tenure track faculty, which entails a lot more self-motivated work on your own schedule. Nobody cares how long you sit at your desk, you are judged by what you accomplish, including publications and conference presentations, serving on committees at all levels (university, system, prof org), in addition to core functions within the library. 

For a position as a subject librarian in my department, experience as a school teacher is more visibly relevant than work at a circulation desk. So what did you do at that circulation desk that connects with what we do? Did you answer reference questions? Did you take initiative to build your knowledge of resources available to support students in particular subject areas? How did that prepare you to build relationships as an equal (not providing a service to them but collaborating as a peer) with faculty across campus? 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

I’ve written too much and am running out of time! We attend conference presentations and keep up on current literature on best practices to reduce bias as much as possible. 

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

Read up on suggestions for questions to learn about the climate (is this a toxic workspace?). And think about all the info you get thru the day in order to ask questions that show you’re thinking strategically about how you fit and how you could succeed in this role. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Rural

√ Other: About an hour from a good sized city, many faculty commute, but the uni is in a small town.

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50 

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Academic, Rural area, Southeastern US

Salary discussion is handled by the recruiter

Two men and a women use a machine with large sheets of paper
[Librarians feeding large sheets of paper through a machine at the Card Section of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.] From the Library of Congress

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for:

√ Other: Graduate Medical Education

Title: Director, Knowledge Management & Scholarly Communications 

Titles hired include: Research Publications Coordinator, Education & Digital Initiatives Specialist, Medical Writer, Medicare Editor

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor 

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ CV

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ More than one round of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

Create job description, send to compensation, send to recruiter, review applicants meeting requirements, interview applicants, extend offer to prefer candidate via recruiter

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

So very knowledgeable about information systems and architecture

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

No energy, doesn’t ask questions

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

How they got along with co-workers

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this  

Resume: √ Only One! 

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant 

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Not asking questions

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

Yes.  It is really no different than an in-person meeting

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Provide examples of happy clients and successful projects.  Have a good answer to “Why should I hire you”?

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: Salary discussion is handled by the recruiter

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

Lots of training, practice interviews

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

Leadership/management style,  culture, team and individual expectations

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

 Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 200+ staff members, Other Organization or Library Type, Southeastern US, Urban area

Many libraries are installing men almost routinely into the highest roles, including men without even a library background or the ALA degree

Three white men, two who are in military uniform, stand by a shelf of books
ALA Camp Kearny library Left to right: J.H. Quire, Camp Librarian, Fr. Herbert Putnam, Gen’l. Director, Library War Service, I.N. Lawson, Jr. Assistant Librarian From the Library of Congress.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Special Library 

Title: Regional Manager, Library Services

Titles hired include: Library Technician, Librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel 

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

Fill out position request forms, get approval, obtain funding, post job, review resumes, convene hiring panel, interview (w. HR rep present), make offer, get salary benchmarking, formalize offer by letter, receive signed offer letter back from employee. 

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

Researched the role, even brings notes (that is fine!); could give clear structured answers to questions (Describe a situation related to question; what actions they took, or things they had to consider, and the outcomes. Demonstration of practical experience in this way is helpful, and answers matter even if they are not directly related to the field (Eg a newly graduated librarian might given an example from another job and that would be okay provided it was well structured around the process they use in a given scenario). 3 minutes long is usually okay for each question, better to be a bit longer than not detailed. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Short interview answers with no details. Resumes that don’t list a speficif work duty and output or outcome related to it. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One! 

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant  

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

I don’t think anyone ever intends to make mistakes, we are human, people sometimes seem overconfident, but it’s nerves; or they seem nervous, but they steadfastly answer the questions, no one is perfect and my hope is that every qualified candidate understands that sometimes they only don’t get the job because they made it to the interview as 1 of 2 or 3 highly qualified candidates. It’s not often a lack of anything, just competitive markets sometimes. 

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

Yes. Job hunters – when asked to attend a virtual interview – should ask about the process: will someone be there navigating the virtual interview, introducing each panel member, reminding folks to take breaks, or pause to listen, checking to make sure the technology is working properly etc. It is the most unstructured interview environment otherwise. Another question is, how many will be on the panel for the virtual meeting?  I once attended an academic panel interview virtually that I was dropped into from the “lobby” with 14 faces staring at me and they said “Well, in the interest of time, we will just get going, I am so and so and here’s my question.” By the 5th interviewer question, I was lost on the screen, had not had a chance to set my Zoom side to speaker view only, etc, and every time someone spoke, they shifted on the screen. As a hiring manager now, I would make sure everyone is ready, comfortable and relaxed and technologically set up for the interview first. If someone says you will be facing a 7 to 12 person panel online, consider carefully what that flow will feel like for you, and what you need as the interviewee. 

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

My biggest problem with libraries hiring library staff is this presumption that every library is so different. They are not. Organizations all have their people, budget, facility and online pain points. Soft skills and innovative thinking, program planning, etc is all transferable. My advice here for librarians in particular is to stop talking about being relevant as a library, and start talking about the profession and it’s components – it is information technology (from relational database work to tech management to teaching IT skills), it is information classification, it is community development (which transfer to any library, special, academic or otherwise, stakeholder, community, it’s all interchangeable), it is program planning, budget management, engagement work, adult education, etc. Everyone thinks they know what a library worker does – they truly do not. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer 

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

This is something that needs serious addressing and as a hiring manager, I have been advocating for changes in this area, including naming the biases when I see them. This is serious work and it requires more than just a policy to change it and personally, I do not think my organization can even see it’s extensive hiring biases. What I see happening in Canadian library job markets is this: Library headhunters, especially those tasked by boards to hire at the highest levels of college, university and public libraries in Canada particularly continue to do a terrible job of seeking out diverse candidates. Of late, in Western Canada, many libraries are installing men almost routinely into the highest roles, including men without even a library background or the ALA degree – and male librarians have never been held back from leading in libraries in the first place. For example, in 2021, Calgary Public Library hired it’s first woman librarian CEO in its 109 year tenure  – that screams bias that it took so long and sadly, I see that bias against woman leadership in libraries continuing without any critique into 2022.  I can safely say that no woman has run a library in my province without all the required qualifications and then some. We hold men and women and people from diverse backgrounds to different standards for performance and it needs to stop. 

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

Candidates may want to ask a question to assess their own fit to the organization. For example, the candidate might say “In the past, I’ve enjoyed working in collaborative teams where ideas are respected and methods to act upon ideas are in place, how do you promote collaboration, respect and new ideas and innovation in your organization?” 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Canada

What’s your region like?

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ Other: 7000 (special library inside larger organization)

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? 

I applaud this survey. I am wholeheartedly disheartened as a Canadian librarian that in my 20 years of library work, the strong guard of female and diverse mentors is reverting back to the traditional male library leader with a stay at home wife or not kids. It’s troubling in a way I cannot even express and I do believe hiring firms contracted by library boards or academic institutions are truly doing a terrible job and have no idea about the issues in feminized professions and continue to have processes that favour men, mostly white men, but generally men.  

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 200+ staff members, Canada, Rural area, Special

Someone with expertise in an area we don’t have is usually attractive – something like e-resource management, coding and technical skills, archives, etc.

Rose Bush. From the UC Berkeley Library Digital Collection

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Director

Titles hired include: Reference and Instruction Librarian, Circulation Assistant, Circulation Staff, ILL Staff

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

√ Employees at the position’s same level (on a panel or otherwise)

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

The library staff write the position description for approval by HR.  We create a selection committee of 3-5 people (usually supervisor, a coworker, and someone from outside the library).  We have access to applications and review candidates, and choose 5-8 for interviews.  For most positions, after interviews, we choose a candidate and do reference checks (our HR requires two, one of which must be supervisory), then HR approves the hire and calls to make the offer.  For any MLS required position, there may be a second interview with administration above the library director.

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

Candidates that are attractive have specific experience that fills a hole in my library.  We are a staff of 5, so someone with expertise in an area we don’t have is usually attractive – something like e-resource management, coding and technical skills, archives, etc.  It’s also impressive when candidates are able to answer interview questions with relevant examples that demonstrate their experience – many candidates try to do this, but are often too vague.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

If someone didn’t follow the directions in the posting, they usually don’t make my interview list, unless there aren’t many candidates.

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

As a very small community college in a rural area in the midwest, I’m always curious why people from out of state are applying, or why people very over qualified for the position are applying.  Answering those questions in a cover letter could be helpful.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more  

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

In situational questions, saying “I don’t know how I would handle that” or “I’ve never been in that situation before” without speculating about how they would handle it.  In general, just being short with answers and not providing details or not connecting their experience to the question.

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

Yes we do.  Make sure you’re in a quiet location with a generally not-distracting background, with a functional camera and mic.  Make eye contact with the camera, and be as engaging as you would be in person.

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Focus on skills – someone with k-12 education experience knows a lot about curriculum and organization and deadlines.  Someone with retail experience has skills in dealing with patrons and answering phones, and potentially social media and marketing or inventory management.  Those are all things we’re looking for, so just make sure to take the time to explain the tasks that you have done and how they are similar to what we do in libraries.  With my small staff, I’m often looking for someone comfortable making decisions on their own and responsible enough to work alone sometimes – highlight those kinds of skills, it doesn’t matter what the decision was about.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: We list a range in the job ad, and that’s all I can speak to at the interview.  HR determines their salary based on education and experience, and discusses specifics in the offer.

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

We have required EDI training before being placed on a selection committee.  All committees have a person of color serving on them, and ideally a mix of genders as well.  HR also reviews interview selections, and sometimes adds additional candidates to ensure diversity.  Because of the size of our institution, the same people keep getting asked to be on interview committees, which is not a fair ask.  

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

I just want them to ask something.  I don’t mind if they ask about salary or benefits, but like it when they ask something about the library or the job too.  Questions about management style, daily work and responsibilities, interaction with other departments, the college or library in general – all of that is good.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10 

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Midwestern US, Rural area

Unable to articulate what they will bring to the job

View of researchers using the Schomburg Collection From the New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Assistant Director

Titles hired: Librarian, Library Assistant, Supervisor

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

We post the job ad, review resumes, conduct interviews with 3 to 5 candidates, possibly conduct second interviews with two or three candidates, select one.

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

Well-written cover letter that addresses the specific job, well formatted résumé, solid relevant job experience. Understanding of library work.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Lack of required skills, experience, or education.

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

Whether they plan to stay long term or if this position is just until something better comes along.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Being late, unable to articulate what they will bring to the job.

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

We have, due to Covid. They should be sure to check out their technology before the interview starts to make sure it is working properly.

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

What I look for in this situation is that they have solid customer service experience, such as retail, restaurants, and the like. Showing us that you understand that Library work is fundamentally customer service-based is important.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: We often mention in the ad that we need the states salary guidelines.

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

We are currently working with a DEI consulting firm to improve in this area.

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

They should ask what a typical day looks like, and what the management style of their supervisor is.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 50-100 staff members, Northeastern US, Urban area

It is always better if your reason for making such a transition is that you are moving toward something you want

Ellen Mehling's face. She is wearing a cloth mask

Ellen Mehling has been assisting job seekers, both librarians/info pros and the public, for over 15 years. She has worked in academic libraries, special libraries, and archives, for an organization that serves libraries, as director of a library school program, and works currently as a job search advisor/instructor and for Brooklyn Public Library’s Business & Career Center. She is founder/writer/editor of BPL’s Work Life blog. 

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

Serve as hiring manager and/or on hiring committees, reviewing resumes, on interview panels (at current and past workplaces)

Titles hired include: Librarian, Archivist, Marketing Manager

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR 

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

√ Employees at the position’s same level (on a panel or otherwise) 

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume 

√ References

√ Proof of degree 

√ Other: interview (usually a panel)

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

An archivist hired at a past job – she had done her homework about the organization, and presented herself as calm, confident, and professional, in her interview. She turned out to be a great employee.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Dishonesty, including exaggeration of skills and experience.

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

What really happened at a past job, the real reason someone left a past position, and how things went with former supervisors and colleagues. Applicants are not always honest about these things(!), and if references aren’t checked properly and thoroughly, you can end up with a big problem. I have seen this happen more than once.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Not preparing and practicing! This includes doing some research about the employer. Also, applicants trying to take over the interview and steer the conversation to what they want to talk about and things they want to share. The interviewer(s) is/are conducting the interview – I have learned that it is a huge red flag when an applicant is pushy and tries to take over the interview. AND dishonesty! (did I mention that already?)

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

Yes. Practice so you are comfortable on camera, and remember that “eye contact” = looking at the camera, not at the people on your screen. Being interviewed via Zoom or Teams or whatever is very different than just attending a meeting or presentation. Make sure the light source in the room is in front of you so you are not a faceless silhouette.

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Think of which skills you have already that can be applied to a different kind of work (transferable skills). Figure out what skills you may need to improve or acquire, and how you can do that. NETWORK NETWORK NETWORK! Explain (briefly) anything that needs explanation, in your cover letter and interview. It is always better if your reason for making such a transition is that you are moving toward something you want, rather than running away from something you don’t want (or a bad situation in current position).

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad  

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

How is success measured in this position? What are the first things they will need to get up to speed on if they are hired? They should know the job description thoroughly and know about the organization too. Their knowledge of the organization doesn’t have to be comprehensive but knowing nothing is a bad look.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+ 

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? 

I am so happy Hiring Librarians has returned. It is such a helpful resource!

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 200+ staff members, Northeastern US, Public, Urban area

It’s a good process, no complaints

Robert Stanley Dollar, Jr., Robert Stanley Dollar, Sr., and Jeanne Nichols, Librarian at Capt. Robert Dollar World Trade Library. From UC Berkeley Library Digital Collections.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Campus Librarian

Titles hired include: Reference & Instruction Librarian, Campus Librarian, Dean of Library Services

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

√ Employees at the position’s same level (on a panel or otherwise)

√ Other: VP of Academics & President of College

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

Hiring committee of peers & Dean of Libraries

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

They were confident, knowledgeable, and direct/professional with their answers

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

If they’re confused easily, stress out over simple questions, or say something racist/sexist in the interview

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

it’s a good process, no complaints

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant 

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

underestimating the job responsibilities

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

Yes. Speak clearly, repeat the question to make sure you’re answering correctly, other than that… good luck. Virtual interviews all suck.

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

If you sound like you don’t have any idea what we do, you’re not getting the job. If you sound like you understand what you’re in for, any application of your personal experience can help you.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

HR reviews the first round of on-paper candidates and requires certain protected-status candidates to get an initial interview in the 2nd round.

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

Relevant questions that are unexpected are always good. Asking about the working relationships & culture is good too

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 200+ staff members, Academic, Southeastern US, Suburban area

It makes the interviewers uncomfortable.

The Librarian, U.S. Naval Academy. From the Library of Congress.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Other: Military Base Library

Title: Director

Titles hired include: Library Technician

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor 

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ References

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

We conduct interviews with a panel. If it’s my employee, it’s ultimately my decision. We have to have two positive references to hire.

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

Maturity, understanding of the work, job experience

What are your instant dealbreakers?

Anything that implies that the library is a quiet, easy place to work, someone who is eligible for a card and doesn’t have one, doesn’t live in the area, availability 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this 

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Not knowing anything about the place they are interviewing for

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

Yes,  please practice with the technology. Also learn it, don’t insist that interviewers is a different one

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Customer service and understanding people is key

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

When can I expect an answer, what does a typical day look like

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? 

People have started asking in interviews, “is there anything that would keep you from hiring me?” Don’t do that. It makes the interviewers uncomfortable. Ask after the selection is made.

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Special, Suburban area, Western US

Further Questions: Should Candidates Address Gaps in Employment?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week I profiled The Library Returners website, which is a great resource for people returning to work after a break. In keeping with that theme, the question is:

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?


Randall Schroeder, Director, Retired: My fear is that employment gaps mean more than they should to some decision makers.

For me, I almost always assume that a candidate’s gap is for a good reason, especially during whatever stage of the pandemic we are at now. I am reminded of what my mentor said a few decades ago at a small, private college library in Illinois, “everybody’s got a story.” Especially librarians. In 30 years, I have only met one librarian who went straight from high school to undergrad to graduate school to the profession. Everybody else, including me, has had a stop or two along the way.

For me, an application need not be a personal confession every time. If I have a question, I’ll ask it during the interview. In many instances, the resume gap may be an indicator of a life experience that will help a candidate’s case in my mind.

Your mileage may vary.


Jess Herzog, Director of Adult Services, Spartanburg County Public Libraries: On our external applications, we ask for reasons behind gaps of more than six months. I think that’s a solid period of time to expect an explanation for (or longer). I think it’s most sensible to address it on a line item within the resume, for example: “July 2017-January 2018, unemployed while recovering from an injury” or something similar. I don’t want or need a lot of detail, but I’ve worked with others in the past who find it very suspicious when there’s a gap in someone’s work history that is left completely unaddressed. It’s smart to be proactive about explaining your work history with the lumps and bumps, and to me that indicates that you own the fact that your work history is imperfect, just like every other work history out there.

A note on one of these breaks from “work”: if you’ve taken a break to raise children or be a caregiver for a family member, I would LOVE seeing that listed as a job on a resume. That’s a job in and of itself, and the amount of work you do and things you learn and manage is absolutely worth highlighting, and there are often significant transferable skills, especially soft skills like strong communication, time management, and creative thinking. Nothing teaches you to think outside the box quite like a kid, that’s for sure, and nothing teaches you empathy like caring for another family member going through health difficulties.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: My initial and quick response is to admit that I often notice and wonder about employment gaps. At the same time, I am not really sure I believe that people should have to explain them. I have noticed that candidates will sometimes refer specifically to gaps that result from staying home to raise families (mostly, but not always, from women). There are plenty of reasons why a person may have employment gaps and I am increasingly of the opinion that a candidate should not feel obligated to explain a gap. For some reason, either within the candidate’s control or not, they have chosen or been unable to work.

We read into these kinds of things all the time. An academic librarian seeking a new position in what is their 6th or 7th year at another academic library is someone who hasn’t received tenure, right? Maybe. Or perhaps they realize that they don’t want tenure at their current job and will have a hard time finding another once they have it. Or something else. What about someone who changes jobs every two-three years. Bad choices? Difficulty holding a job? Military spouse?

I think it is more important to ascertain whether the candidate has the skills and other assets needed to do the job or to learn to do the job, particularly in a field that changes as quickly as ours can. Candidates often provide explanations for the gaps which is fine but I would like to move away from guessing, asking, or even making a candidate feel some pressure or obligation to explain.


Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System: While an applicant may not need to address a gap in their employment history, the applicant must have a rational explanation for the gap. The reason for the gap might be alluded to in a cover letter or application.

There are many reasons for a gap in employment. It is reasonable to expect that an applicant has had a job where “it just didn’t work out.” It is reasonable for an employer to wonder about a gap and inquire about it in an interview. A question about an employment gap may be framed as a behavior interview question, giving the interview committee some insight into the applicant’s future performance.

When it come to the length of time an applicant has not worked in the field and it matters, it varies from job to job. An IT manager with a 10 year gap in employment may well matter more to an employer than the same gap for a circulation desk employee. Knowledge and skills have a shelf life. The IT manager candidate needs to explain the gap and demonstrate current IT knowledge.


Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College:

I personally would be inclined to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt and assume that a gap in employment was for a good reason that was none of my business. If their work history shows a number of gaps, however, I would prefer that they volunteer an explanation. Otherwise, the committee is likely to assume that past performance is predictive.


Headshot of Jaime Corris Hammond

Jaime Corris Hammond, Director of Library Services, Max R. Traurig Library, Naugatuck Valley Community College: I don’t feel any need to know what applicants did during employment gaps, nor would I ask anyone to explain one. That is in part because I understand that many employment gaps pertain to personal circumstances that are none of my business, and in part because our interview questions are standardized and pre-approved so a question about someone’s particular resume would not be on our list.

If someone wanted to address an employment gap with me, they could always bring it up in one of their answers or at the end, when I ask if there’s anything else they would like to share.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: Yes, It is my opinion that it is VERY important for candidates to address gaps and especially in some circumstances (keep reading) in their employment history. There are some more perfect proactive approaches by applicants as well as perfect questions for interviewers.

Why should gaps be addressed?

For the majority of positions we fill it takes a great deal of time. In fact, it takes time to just fill the position but that it is just beginning and is soon followed by the time it takes to orient, train, develop and maintain new employees – even when the candidate is internal or has worked for the institution before. And by stating the obvious “time is money,” the amount of money invested in new employees is astronomical once you add up pre, during and the first few months of hire. And at many institutions, it takes much longer than a few months to have a fully prepared employee – often at least a year. So – getting back to the topic at hand, selecting the right people is one of a manager’s most important roles and as much information as possible is critical to this expensive decision. Most managers; therefore, pour over resumes, cover letters, search social media and web content and compare applicants to the needs of the organization and the position description. And although we have to be fair and careful in asking questions and seeking clarifications, finding opportunities to reconcile timelines, etc. is valuable and can include:

  • seeking information from software networking platforms (Linked In, etc.)
  • accessing explanatory content from online job seeker platforms (Indeed, Monster, company, association and agency employment, etc.)
  • reviewing interview questions for opportunities to ask followup questions (carefully done to retain parity in asking all applicants the same initial questions)

What “gap” circumstances make it even more important for gaps to be addressed?

While one gap is probably not of major import, multiple gaps between employment, longer gaps than usual for typical job seekers unemployed and trying to find work, patterns of concern (gaps occurring when positions repeatedly end at the end of probations) as well as gaps that don’t match the employment dates/timelines offered on official applications. And the reality is what the interviewer is being told might not be learning anything such as – the answer might be vague or generalized (family illness, a bad economy, nothing was a good fit, didn’t meet my needs, there was no match for my education or training, etc.) or avoided by the candidate (I’m sorry, I don’t feel comfortable discussing that.) 

Where and when and what might applicants say and when should they say it?

  • The gap might be addressed in the cover letter rather than on the application form in general (where there probably isn’t space.)
  • The gap might be addressed in the cover letter rather than on the application form with specific information.
  • The cover letter could say “if I am selected as a finalist for this position, I would be more than happy to answer questions about xxxx.” (Much as applicants often do if references say “do not contact.”)
  • An applicant could state “I have a gap after the position where I had the most reference experience, due to the need to recover from an accident.” (It’s personal so keep it brief and interviewers should NOT ask for any specific follow ups.)
  • Applicants should focus on accomplishments achieved during the gap. (Although it took me almost a year to find a position that was the best fit, I took that time to learn x software, or take x courses online or fine tune my time management and organization skills.)
  • Applicants should – if the gap was for fun – which is perfectly okay – identify their fun time but emphasize their work ethic and return to work and benefit and impact of the “gap” period.
  • Applicants should consider bringing in extraneous but closely involved people such as “My partner had another 8 months in school so I spent this time working on my x certification.”

What might interviewers say and when should they say it?

  • “As a follow up to your summary of the x position, could you address the employment years from x to x (and include the unaccounted for time period.)”
  • Interviews could have candidates instructed by mail, support staff contact with “please be prepared to offer the committee a 15 presentation,” or “the committee will be – for a 30 minute period – your teen book group, please be prepared to lead a discussion on a popular teen title.” or “During questions and answers on required job experience, candidates may be asked to provide rationale for moving among types of libraries, gaps in employment or frequent job changes as well as identify the positions and roles and responsibilities that best prepared you for the position for which you are interviewing.”

What should be avoided in the “gap” issue?

During interviews – as managers know – all questions should be tailored to the position at hand, should be compared against the organization’s HR recommended questions and should be compared against legal and illegal question lists. To avoid tangents or the absence of parity in asking candidates the same questions, gap questions should be raised as follow up questions to answers from the standard questions or as follow up to statements made by candidates. In addition, HIPAA laws should be followed to avoid asking inappropriate questions on health or treatments, candidates should avoid complaining about organizations or past supervisors, or environments that may have been involved in creating “gap” situations. 

Finally, it is unrealistic – especially looking back at the last two years and certainly to negative economic or employment time periods – to assume that the most successful candidates should have NO evidence of gap time in employment history. 


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or on a threatening letter where the words have been cut out of newspapers. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Filed under Further Questions

We often have tight scheduling for interviews and wasting 10 mins while an applicant gets their microphone to work is problematic

A white lady in sunglasses and 1980s sweater smiles
Esther Johnson. Arbor Day Celebration – 1984. Photo by Norden H. (Dan) Cheatham From UC Berkeley Library Digital Collections.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: User Experience Librarian/Head of Access Services

Titles hired include: Library Assistant, Student Assistant, Research & Instruction Librarian, Systems Librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

√ Employees at the position’s same level (on a panel or otherwise) 

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

HR posts the job and all members of the hiring committee can see applicants. We use a rubric/metrics tailored to the job to assess all applicants and then meet to sort them into categories including yes, no, maybe. Depending on the job we will either have one round of on-campus interviews (assistants) or for librarians we will have two rounds including a first round phone interview. My role depends on whether or not I am head of the search committee, if I am head then I work with HR to post and market the position, create the rubric and interview questions, and do all of the work to contact and arrange interviews and follow-up references and then submit the decision and paperwork for approval. If I am a member of the committee I complete the necessary reviews and take part in the interviews as directed and then attend meetings to discuss applicants. 

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

Their cover letter was perfectly tailored to our position. Every requirement we listed they specifically addressed how they met it or how they might meet it. During the interview they were very articulate and had a student-centered view of instruction. They also didn’t shy away from discussing tough topics surrounding inclusion and social justice. Additionally, they asked very thoughtful questions about our institution that showed they had done some prior research. All combined, it gave the sense that they really wanted this specific position. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Not necessarily, if someone has the wrong library listed in their cover letter I tend to put them into the “no” pile and that does happen in our library assistant searches fairly frequently. 

I am also hesitant of PhD holders and former faculty members who are seeking to switch into libraries as their cover letters don’t often show a full understanding of the work that libraries do. 

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

While this can change as people develop, I wish I had a better sense of what candidates are looking for long-term. Is this position a stepping stone to something else? Do they really want to work in public libraries and are just applying to everything that comes along? 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more 

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Not owning up to something that they aren’t familiar with and instead having a rambling non-answer to a question. I appreciate a person saying that they don’t have a ton of experience with a specific product or situation and asking for clarification about how we would handle something. 

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

Yes we do. I think testing the technology ahead of time is a good idea. We often have tight scheduling for interviews and wasting 10 mins while an applicant gets their microphone to work is problematic. Also, if cameras are on they should be looking at the screen the same way we would expect them to be making eye contact with us in an in-person interview. 

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

For library assistant positions, we’re looking for people who have customer services and supervisory skills. Library experience is helpful but we’d prioritize a person who knows how to manage people and handle a fast paced environment. The same is true when we hire Systems or Technology positions, the systems might be different but if you can demonstrate that you have competence in managing data or working in networks, then we assume that you can extend those to library products. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

HR collects demographic information and will specifically tell us if there are certain candidates that they would like us to reconsider based on this information. We also send applicants copies of our questions ahead of time to reduce any issues for those who need more time to process information. We try our best to overlook simple grammatical and spelling errors that could be attributed to language barriers but we could stand to improve on that. 

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

I usually like for them to ask what a typical day/week is like. I want them to ask what we like about working for the library. Questions about the tenure process are usually helpful. I think that they should know about where we are geographically and how that impacts the types of students we encounter. I think they should have a sense of how large (or small) our staff is and what the work environment is like. I also think they should know about our tenure process and the criteria that they will be evaluated on. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50  

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Academic, Northeastern US, Rural area, Suburban area