Tag Archives: jobhunting

Researcher’s Corner: One of Us: Social Performance in Academic Library Hiring

I’m pleased to be able to share this post by Xan Arch and Isaac Gilman, which looks at an important and under-researched aspect of hiring: the social aspect. Arch and Gilman highlight the ways in which meals and other unstructured social activities create opportunities for unexamined bias to contaminate search processes, and provide recommendations for rethinking and retooling.  

I think you will find this post very interesting. If you’d like to read more, you can find the original article at:

Arch, X., & Gilman, I. (2021). “One of Us: Social Performance in Academic Library Hiring.” In Proceedings of the 2021 Association of College and Research Libraries Conference. https://alair.ala.org/handle/11213/17561 


Context

A recent advice column in The Chronicle of Higher Education declares definitively that “Meals Matter” in the context of academic hiring processes—and goes on to provide advice on how candidates can behave appropriately during meals and similar social activities that are part of their interview day. “Appropriately,” of course, implies that there is a set of socio-cultural norms at every institution that candidates should be mindful not to violate, lest they be deemed not to fit in with their potential colleagues.

This expectation of appropriate social performance is found in academic library hiring processes as well. As recently as 2015, the following advice appeared in an article on maximizing success for library job-seekers: “Your behavior during the meal gives the hiring committee an indication of how you interact socially with others. […] Remember you are being evaluated not only on your qualifications but also to see if you would be a good fit in the library’s culture.”

As academic libraries have become more conscious of potential sources of bias in their hiring processes, many libraries have implemented more structured hiring processes that are intended to ensure candidates are evaluated not on the ill-defined—and un-job-related—idea of “fit,” but rather on the specific skills and knowledge that will make them successful in a position. However, at the same time that the formal criteria on which candidates are evaluated have become more rigorous, the social performance elements of the final interview day—things like meals, meet-n-greets, and even candidate presentations—have been largely left unquestioned, even though they represent the highest risk for introducing both implicit and explicit bias into the hiring process.

As library leaders with a shared goal of making our hiring processes more equitable, and of ensuring that we hire people based on the unique strengths and experiences they bring,, we wanted to explore the ways in which social performance elements might work against those goals and develop recommendations as to how these elements could be designed (or even eliminated) in order to reduce bias and aspirations of ‘fit’ in library hiring.

The Study

Our own experience as hiring managers has shown us that feedback based on candidates’ performance during meals, meet-n-greets, and presentations often includes comments more closely related to candidate self-presentation (affect, style, personality, etc.) than their qualifications related to specific position requirements—and as such, has been more problematic than useful in making hiring decisions. However, we found no critical discussion of this issue in library literature—and little in higher education literature in general—and so before making changes to our local practices, we wanted to understand whether there was value in these social performance elements that we were missing.

To gather information about the function and potential issues with these pieces of the interview day, we sent a brief survey out in February 2021 through two listservs for academic library deans and directors. In the 61 responses we received, we found that social elements like meals were widely used as part of evaluating candidates and that, as expected/feared, the primary purpose was to determine a candidate’s “fit” with the organization. 

Leaders responded that meals in particular would not necessarily be valuable in assessing a candidate’s professional competence, but more so in determining what they were like as people: for example, one respondent stated that the meal “may also encourage the candidates to be more ‘revealing’ of themselves. Sometimes they come prepared for the formal parts, but reveal their ‘truer’ selves in the informal settings.” 

Responses  about the role of job talks or presentations, and the ways in which they contributed to candidate evaluation, were less explicitly focused on the idea of “fit,” but most respondents felt that the purpose of this element was to see how candidates handled communicating in a public forum, emphasized in one response: “The Q&A session is invaluable for observing comfort with the unexpected.”

In general, library leaders who responded to the survey felt that social performance elements are valuable in finding the best candidate for a position. However, if—as our survey seems to indicate—the purpose of these parts of the interview day is to allow potential colleagues and supervisors to provide feedback on how well candidates conform to expected social norms—whether that is in the way they eat or the way they faux-teach—it will inevitably lead to bias against candidates with minoritized identities, candidates who are neurodivergent, and candidates with diverse forms of self-presentation.

Recommendations

While every position and every search are different, we feel confident in saying that every library should review and rethink the ways that social performance elements are incorporated into their hiring processes if they want to create truly equitable, candidate-friendly processes. The following are some general recommendations—described in more detail in our article—for where libraries can start:

1) Educate: Ensure that anyone who is participating in search processes, even people who are attending a presentation or a meal, are educated both about implicit bias and about the scope of candidate feedback that is necessary and appropriate).

2) Structure: The less structured an interview element is in terms of how candidates and other participants are able to participate and provide feedback, the more likely it is that inappropriate, biased evaluations of candidates will be introduced into the search process. There are two general strategies for introducing structure. The first is to add internal structure to an element; for example, establish topics that are on/off limits for meal attendees to discuss with a candidate, or provide structured rubrics through which presentation attendees can provide candidate feedback, rather than open-ended questions. The second strategy is to structurally separate an interview element from candidate evaluation; for example, do not request/allow candidate feedback to be submitted from people who attend a candidate meal.

3) Rethink: While incorporating participant education and carefully structuring social performance elements of an interview process can help mitigate bias risks, the ideal strategy is for libraries to reconsider whether these elements are even necessary at all—and to be very intentional and transparent about when they are or are not using them. For example, our survey respondents shared that part of the reason for social elements is to give candidates a chance to meet future colleagues. While this is important, there are ways of achieving this that don’t simultaneously risk penalizing otherwise well-qualified candidates for being themselves.

Ultimately, we believe that the goal should be for candidates to be evaluated only on requirements clearly articulated in a position description, and not on an implicit set of expectations for how a library worker should fit in with their potential colleagues. Removing or radically rethinking the elements of interviews that require unnecessary social performance will get us closer to that goal.


Xan Arch is Dean of the Clark Library, University of Portland. Xan’s ongoing research interests extend this article’s focus on mitigating bias in academic hiring processes to consider how power and identity function within search committees, as well as the potential role of  search/equity advocates in mediating the influence of individual committee members’ biases in deliberations and decision-making.  


Isaac Gilman is Dean of University Libraries, Pacific University. In that role, Isaac is working to create both more equitable and inclusive staffing structures and service models in academic libraries. Isaac is also currently researching faculty promotion and tenure standards and the ways in which existing standards reinforce white privilege, establish white cultural expectations as the norm, and both directly and indirectly marginalize and harm faculty and students of color.  

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it’s hard to tell who really even would accept the job if offered.

Nella Larsen and others. NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Director

Titles hired include: All of them

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

Direct supervisors get the applications from my office, interview 3-5 candidates, decide who their top candidate is, contact references, reach out to the applicant to confirm they’re still interested, then notify my office to start the (cumbersome) new hire approval process.

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

Genuine enthusiasm

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Not getting the name of the library right on your application materials, badmouthing prior libraries (even if they deserve it, you can talk about that later)

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

How much they actually want to work here. So many are just shotgunning resumes out to every library job, it’s hard to tell who really even would accept the job if offered.

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 bringing anything to write with/on. 

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

Sometimes; we don’t have a travel budget to reimburse interviewees, so out-of-state applicants we will interview virtually. It’s harder to make a strong impression via zoom/Skype, though

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 have the credentials, don’t apologize or be defensive. Just explain why it’s relevant. Bad library experience can be way worse than good non-library experience

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?

Probably not enough. Unofficially, we get so few minority candidates that most of them will get an interview.

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

Whether the role is new or replacing someone, and what processes led to whichever outcome. If new, what’s our vision for it. If replacing someone, do we want a change or more of the same from the role.

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?

√ 51-100

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, 50-100 staff members, Northeastern US, Public, Rural area, Suburban area

We can’t ask follow-ups, so give ALL the info that might be relevant.

Post Graduate Hospital : convalescents and librarian on sun porch, 1923. NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Supervising Librarian

Titles hired include: Librarian 2, Librarian 1, Library Aide, Library Assistant

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

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Written Exam

√ 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:

Applications are initially screened by city HR to determine eligibility for the job classification. Eligible candidates are asked to take either an oral exam, a written exam, or are scored based on supplemental questionnaires. This leads to a ranked list based on score. When the library has vacancies to fill, they are given a list of names from the list for that classification – number of names given determined by number of vacancies to fill.  Those candidates are invited to a departmental interview (aka an interview with the library) which is a panel interview.  Panel presents recommendations to Administration and discusses each candidate. Sometimes candidates may be invited for a second interview that is more casual. 

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

They confidently and thoroughly answered each question. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

inappropriate comments (racist, sexist, transphobic etc). 

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 thoroughly answering the question. We can’t ask follow-ups, so give ALL the info that might be relevant.

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

Yes. We know it’s awkward, but we’ve gotten very used to it!

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?

Share how your experience in other areas (other jobs, volunteering, even school) is relevant.  If you haven’t done something, share what you WOULD do, or how you’ve handled similar things.

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?

We try to frame our questions to ensure candidates are given a chance to share their experience in a way that doesn’t favor any particular candidates. Include questions that get beyond “diversity” and into real inclusion and equity and anti-racism. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: Very rarely for really specific positions.

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+ 

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, Public, Urban area, Western US

The field is saturated. My advice is to continue down their original path and not attempt to enter into the information field.

Langston Hughes signing autographs during a program on the story of jazz held at the Washington Heights Branch of The New York Public Library as part of the Family Night at the Library series. NYPL Digital Collections.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Administration 

Titles hired include: Tech services, access services 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration 

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume 

√ References 

√ 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:

Done by committee, final approval by admin. Applications screened. Applications that are incomplete, lack min qualifications, or include personal headshots/pictures of applicant (inappropriate, can be used to discriminate) are automatically rejected. Others proceed to committee. 

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

Excellent skills and personality. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Lack of experience, links to personal social media or inclusion of personal headshots. Any negative from a reference. Too long of a cover letter or resume.

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

Whether they truly want to be in the field. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √  Two is ok, but no more  

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?

Discussing personal lives or trying to be extra. 

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

Act as if it is 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?

The field is saturated. My advice is to continue down their original path and not attempt to enter into the information field. I would question why they want to make this move. 

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?

We do not consider applicants who provide a headshot or other personal photo. We do not look up their social media. 

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 about professional development opps.

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 

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

Be professional with your cover letter and resume.

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, 50-100 staff members, Academic, Northeastern US, Urban area

About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Nicole Usiondek

Back in 2012/2013 I ran a survey of job hunters (co-authored by Naomi House of INALJ). It had over 500 responses, including 117 people who were at least initially willing to be non-anonymous. In this series, we check in with these respondents to see where they are about a decade later. 

Nicole, who is blonde and wears sunglasses, poses casually in front of the Sphinx

Nicole Usiondek filled out the original survey in 2012 and her answers appeared as Be Very Clear on What the Minimum Requirements are for the Position. We followed up with her in 2013 and learned that after 20 months she had found a law librarian position (and relocated for it). In 2014, she negotiated for a raise and a title change. When I caught up with her recently, I learned that she’s actually in a non-traditional role now! She was kind enough to answer my questions below:

Where are you now? What’s your work situation like, and what path did you take to get where you are?

I’m a Senior Knowledge Manager for Fragomen. It’s a non-traditional library role and I absolutely love it! I work for a global company and work remotely. 

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

I didn’t expect to stay in the legal arena, but I’m so glad I did. 

Looking over your past answers, what pops out at you? Has anything changed?

I am far more comfortable working in a non-traditional library role than I thought I would be and I don’t see myself ever going back to a traditional library setting. 

Have you had a chance to hire anyone? If so, what was that like?

Yes, and it’s challenging. It’s not just about education and experience, but also about a cultural fit to ensure it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. 

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

Don’t be afraid to change your vision of what will make you happy. 

Do you have any advice for people who hire LIS folks?

LIS folks have great soft skills, curiosity and the ability to pivot – this is in addition to many other transferable skills.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I’m currently on holiday in Egypt! 🙂

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Across 20 different independent libraries there are over 300 people employed

Isabel Miller hugging a librarian as Barbara Gittings looks on. NYPL Digital Collections.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: District Consultant Librarian

Titles hired include: Director; Youth Services District Consultant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

√ Other: Library Board

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume 

√ References 

√ 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:

I assist public libraries and their boards in my district on the hiring of library directors and other personnel. I also assist the district administrator in hiring positions for the district, such as the YS district consultant

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

passion, job knowledge, knowledge of library and area they were interviewing for (they did their research)  

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

misspellings on resumes, condescending attitude toward interview team, bad talking/dissing previous employers 

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 doing their homework to know about the organization and its role in the community it serves

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

yes; I always say somewhere toward the beginning of the interview that it’s the most awkward conversation anyone ever has, made worse by zoom/teams/etc. We’re all nervous and out of element, so relax as much as you can

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?

show (not tell – words can be extremely descriptive) how their experience translates. If they’re going for their degree, show (see above) how the background in the theory of our profession grounds them for the real world applications of that theory.

I am a big proponent of ML(I)S degrees but completely understand how they don’t really prepare you for real library work. Therefore, practical experience of many kinds (customer service is a big plus) can and does translate well into libraryland.

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?

working on this. we recently raised minimum wages to $15 hour and our state allows for provisional hiring for 45 days while waiting for clearances. 

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

culture, a day in the life of the position, outreach, biggest challenges facing the org, biggest opportunities (basically a SWOT analysis)

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern 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?

√ Other: across 20 different independent libraries there are over 300 people employed 

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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Baristas, retail, restaurant experience is relevant to dealing with difficult behaviors

Traveling Libraries, Prince George’s County Memorial Library. National Archives

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: archivist

Titles hired include: Information Services Librarian, Reference Librarian (full time and substitutes), Assistant Director, Library Assistant, Paralibrarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration 

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc) 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

MLS level are by committee with the director having final say.  Paralibrarian and substitute level are done by the department head and peers.  We have asked for a live teaching demo or story time or they can submit a recorded one or link to something in a previous position.  

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

enthusiastic, innovative ideas, creative

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

people who answer why did you became a librarian  or your favorite thing about public libraries with I like to read.  People who answer questions about working with diverse populations are just about race ignoring age, gender, religion, culture, sexual identity, economics, education, family/household definitions

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

customer service, think quick on feet/in the moment, public service commitment,

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?

they have not even visited the about us page on our website and know nothing about our collections

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

as a screening/first round for upper level positions and for all stages/levels during the pandemic

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?

include any and all experience related to people and customer service.  Baristas, retail, restaurant experience is relevant to dealing with difficult behaviors 

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?

our community is 75% white and we are working hard on this 

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

management style, supervision style, board and staff relationship

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

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, Northeastern US, Public, Suburban area

Folks looking to break in, you must know how the libraries really work.

Retirement of supervising librarian Leah Lewison of 115th Street Branch. Left to right: Regina Andrews, Carolyn Trumpass, Rosa Zubilaga Montera, Leah Lewison, an unidentified woman and Tiffany (?) NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Head of Childrens and Teens

Titles hired include: Library assistants, Children’s and teen librarians 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Personable, chatty, had good experience. Almost finished degree. Made you feel like they would be fun to work with.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Very short answers are not enough. Please take your time and elaborate. 

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

Their work ethic; how much energy and enthusiasm they have. Whether or not they initiate projects or just wait around until they are assigned something.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ Only One!  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

When people are too brief. We want to hear you talk a bit with each response.

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

We do not conduct virtual interviews.

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?

Folks looking to break in, you must know how the libraries really work. Study up on wherever you are applying. Have good follow up questions. Run a program, volunteer with any group of people. Find a way to relate normal activities to the library world. Talk about customer service from both viewpoints.

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?

Nothing that I am aware of.

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

Ask about the most important qualities for the candidate. Ask about library climate.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

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, Northeastern US, Public, Suburban area

About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Greg Bem

Back in 2012/2013 I ran a survey of job hunters (co-authored by Naomi House of INALJ). It had over 500 responses, including 117 people who were at least initially willing to be non-anonymous. In this series, we check in with these respondents to see where they are about a decade later. 

Greg Bem filled out the original survey in 2014 and his answers appeared as Full time schedule, room for innovation, digital responsibilities. At the time, he was working as a coordinator for a student media center at a college in Washington and looking for work as a librarian or digital preservationist. We followed up with him in early 2016 and learned he had moved to a part-time librarian faculty position.  

I was interested to learn he’s still at the same institution, but now with full-time work. He was kind enough to answer my questions below:

Where are you now? What’s your work situation like, and what path did you take to get where you are?

I am currently the library coordinator at Lake Washington Institute of Technology, in addition to being tenured faculty. Since I last responded, I moved from part-time to full-time (annual renewable), and then entered the tenure-track process. The former library coordinator left the college and I inherited the role. 

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

Everything has been unexpected. I didn’t think I would be in academic librarianship after a year or two. The journey has been rewarding. Every year I look back and think about how much my commitment to the role and the library I serve has also supported my growth and development.

Looking over your past answers, what pops out at you? Has anything changed? 

I think I was very optimistic given my circumstances, but had little perspective on the flow of the job market. Now that I have been in the profession for almost a decade, I know how little changes across the most coveted (and best paid) positions in librarianship. It is a very challenging time for folks who want to enter the job market and get positions, both entry-level or otherwise. 

Have you had a chance to hire anyone? If so, what was that like?

We have hired five people since I’ve been at the college and two were during my time as coordinator. It’s an engaging and important experience, one that asks a lot of everyone on the committee.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

Volunteer, and try to get as much experience in customer service, technology, or education before it’s time to enter libraries. These skills translate directly and, in many cases, will put you above the rest. 

Do you have any advice for people who hire LIS folks?

Be open to folks who are coming from non-library backgrounds. Be open to folks who bring new and fresh perspectives. Radical change is usually necessary in libraries. If you aren’t adopting that lens to improve services for your community, then you are missing out. 

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I hope that job-seekers continue to think about where libraries and library work is headed and find the challenges worthwhile. We are far from a golden age when it comes to fiscal support for libraries and library workers, but I think we will get there. Stay positive and keep growing!

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Further Questions: Does a candidate’s social media presence ever influence your hiring decisions?

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.

A lot of the interaction I get with blog readers nowadays has been on Twitter, and with all the upheaval (in other words, the terrible new owner) I’m exploring other options such as Mastodon. This leads me to this week’s question:

Does a candidate’s social media presence ever influence your hiring decisions? Do you Google applicants, or look through Twitter or LinkedIn, etc? Any hair-raising stories or do you think it’s not something for people to worry about?


Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System: Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, TikTok, and other social media sites have allowed us to, in a sense, share ourselves freely with the world. By making such information readily available to the public, you should expect it to be examined as part of the hiring process.

Social media technology has allowed all of us to share ourselves with others in ways not possible a few decades ago. There is no ethical dilemma I can see as the information was made available by the candidate for anyone to see. The burden is on the candidate to control their social media presence and content.

What you discover in a search could solidify your decision to interview or not interview a candidate. You never know what you will discover about a candidate.

A candidate for a high level position in a library I worked for submitted an application in which the candidate indicated current employment in a particular management position. When a routine look at that library’s website revealed the individual was not employed by that library, a red flag was raised. Further investigation, via a Google search, revealed a single reference noting this individual was employed in the top leadership role in a library in the recent past. That job was not included on the applicant’s application or resume. A second, and more serious, red flag was raised.

Because that candidate had all the proper credentials on paper, an interview was offered. Knowing about the previous, unnoted job going into the interview, the candidate was asked some questions in such a way the candidate realized we knew of the job. The candidate then admitted that as we knew about the short stint, six months, at that job, “this is what happened.” When the candidate’s references were called, it was revealed the candidate wasn’t totally candid.

The lesson learned here was, “yes, sometimes jobs just don’t work out.” Many have gone into a job only to leave after a short time, going on to success in another job. My advice to a candidate is don’t try to hide a previous job, hobby, activity, or belief in this age of Google and social media because it will likely be discovered and come out in an interview resulting in an awkward moment when you have to explain it on the fly. Interview situations like this do no end well for the candidate.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: The HR department at my college is very clear in instructing search committees not to look for job candidates’ social media presence. Obviously that doesn’t mean people don’t ignore the instructions and check anyway. I’ll admit that I don’t think I have ever checked on the Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other social media presence of a candidate. I’m just not that interested. Of those, a peek at Twitter might be the most tempting. It (for now) is the most open. People opt in to follow without any gatekeeping so anyone with an account knows they can be read or followed by anyone they don’t block. But really I’m not sure it’s the best use of my time when considering candidates.

I’d like to be able to say it’s not something people should be concerned about but I am not sure that’s true. Which is why it is probably a good idea to have a policy or practice in place of not checking social media for candidates. I don’t want to read their diary and I’m really not interested in what they had for dinner last night or where they went to party last weekend.


Anonymous: As a library director, I almost never checked somebody’s casual social media presence unless there was something really in my face. We all make mistakes when talking to friends and I never felt it was relevant. I would, from time to time, look at a Linked-In profile in case there was a detail that might be illustrative. It never, to my memory, disqualified anybody.

There was one time, however, that was outside of librarianship. I am on the Alumni Board of my Alma Mater. We had voted to give a “Young Alumni Citation” to  who we thought was a deserving recent grad. I hadn’t heard of this gentleman and I wasn’t on the committee for that award. So I did a quick Google Search to satisfy my curiosity. I was certain that I would read of great things that would be a credit to our college. That day there were headlines in the local paper that he had been arrested for defrauding the city he worked for. We quickly withdrew the award. At least he hadn’t been notified of the award yet.

Protip: Don’t steal from your employer.


Anonymous: I don’t think a person’s social media presence (unless it has some murder-y, rape-y, or blatantly hateful stuff to it) should matter or influence anyone’s hiring decision. This all looks good in writing, but who is to say that I wouldn’t look someone up on Linkedin or FB/Insta/Tweeter/TikTok/ETC.

I mean if one is posting to social media and their accounts are not private, I say it is totally acceptable.

At my first library job someone discovered that I was in a bunch of rock bands. I was not hiding it, nor had I left it behind; it just wasn’t something I wanted to bring up to my new colleagues. Some folks gave me grief about it.  There is nothing on social media that I am aware of that I care if people see. I think that to use social media (even LinkedIn) one must have their thesis statement, thought process, intention, whatever you want to call so that the way you are represented works for them. My kid is very sophisticated with the way they use social media. Nothing is put up without consideration and they are very aware of what they support or criticize. I was in college when FB became a thing and I watched people expose themselves to this faceless platform and share painful and embarrassing secrets to whomever they had “friended.” 

If there is something upsetting about the candidate then maybe it does matter. But maybe it doesn’t matter if there is a drunk photo of them at a college party from 9 years ago. 

Personally a candidates social media presence has never been an issue, even the (over) 40 student workers that I have hired in my tenure as a librarian. 


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: 

Does a candidate’s social media presence ever influence your hiring decisions? 

Speaking as a Dean and as a college manager who abides by the college’s hiring guidelines, we do not include a social media search be conducted in the vetting process or during the committee process as part of the vetting or hiring decisions. AND – a social media presence absolutely does NOT and has not – for me as Dean or for me as an individual committee member – contributed to any final decisions.

Do you Google applicants, or look through Twitter or LinkedIn, etc? 

I do review the application and resume content closely (obviously)… AND if I have questions I can’t answer, I will do a more thorough web search to find answers if at all possible. Examples:

  • I visit any links on the applicant’s resume or application (ex. blog, websites, an organization’s website they may reference.)
  • I compare titles if they are unclear – by going to – if there is one – their current place of employment.
  • I try to – if there is a question in my mind and I require supervision for the position – see if anything is in the resume, etc. specifically says the person/their position supervises people and – if possible – how many. (If I can’t tell, and it is required, we will email to ask a possible candidate if and if so how many people they supervised (ex. signed timesheets.)
  • If a candidate’s email address does not indicate their name in any way, I will try to match the email addresses to make sure the content I am looking at is for the specific candidate. 
  • Although professional association activity is not required, it might be important for aspects of our position such as leadership experience, project management, training, etc. so I might look to see if a membership also includes activity.
  • Although publication is not required, I will read any publications based on citations or links on an applicant’s resume. 

If selection committee members wish to share information about an applicant with me or the committee, I typically ask them to wait until we are through with our first round of interviews. I also ask them to – if at possible – limit their information to content that will help us match a candidate to the job. 

Any hair-raising stories or do you think it’s not something for people to worry about?

Not for our hiring processes, no!  


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, over at Mastodon @hiringlibrarians@glammr.us, on Twitter @HiringLib, or via old fashioned postal mail. 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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