Tag Archives: librarians

Further Questions: What is your final piece of advice for Hiring Librarians readers?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

What is your final piece of advice for Hiring Librarians readers?

Laurie PhillipsThe most important piece of advice I have is probably what I answered to the very first question. Answer the ad! Address the specific qualifications that the library is looking for in that position. If you aren’t sure if you directly meet the qualifications, find something that you can say that shows you have the skills to meet that qualification, even if it’s not in a library. Sell the fact that you meet the specifications of the position. If you can’t sell it, don’t apply. I recently applied for an administrative position and, in my phone interview, I asked what interested them about my particular qualifications. I expected something completely different as an answer, but they said, “you fully answered the ad.” Wow, at that level, I would expect it to be obvious. It should be obvious for anyone from recent grads to seasoned professionals.

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

Celia RabinowitzMy final piece of advice for Hiring Librarians has two parts.  First, stay optimistic!!  I know that’s easy to say for someone with a job who is closer to retirement than I am to my first job.  I see how stressful the job search is these days, and how the market is changing, but I want to believe the right job is there for you (or else I have been watching too much “X-Files”).  It might not be the first, or even second, job, but it’s there and everything you do can help you be ready for it.

Second, when that dream job is there on the horizon, be READY!  Write a cover letter that stands out.  Tell your future coworkers what you love about the library and institution, and why you think you are the right candidate for the job.  Take advantage of mentors who offer to read your cover letter and CV.  We want to help!

Good luck.  Being a librarian is the best job ever!!
– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

Jessica OlinLast piece of advice is that you need to remember advice is that old stand by: your mileage may vary. Job hunting is an evolving thing and what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow, but you’ve got to keep on trying. Oh, and don’t forget: always have someone proofread and/or edit your application materials. Good luck!

– Jessica Olin, Director of Parker Library, Wesley College

index_slide01My final piece of advice for hiring is relatively simple, yet I find that MANY applicants don’t practice this approach. AND to make it easier to put this in practice — let me state what the simple answer is and then list those things that provide evidence.
Advice
Convince me that you want me to hire you for the specific position posted….rather than applying for a position because you want ANY position.
That being said – employers realize that not every job is not your perfect match …and when you apply for and get interviews for multiple positions we realize that it would be hard and in some ways dishonest to try to convince employers that all three different jobs are each your dream job! So here’s what you don’t do and what you do!
…..Don’t…….
  • Don’t turn in identical applications for multiple jobs at one time. Make your cover letters unique to each job but be honest and say you are applying for all – want to work for the organization (or the boss or the type of library, etc.) in general  – and you have competencies or experience for each and then state what is unique about “you” for each job.
  • Don’t turn in identical applications for jobs advertised at different times. Organizations can ask you if you want your application kept on file and submitted for any open position and although that is fine to do, you need to make sure you provide some unique information so watch those postings and make sure you refresh each package by – as stated above: making your cover letters unique; being honest and saying you are applying for several positions or that you have applied before and why such as you want to work for the organization (or the boss or the type of library, etc.)
  • Don’t think that people don’t remember answers to questions – that is – be careful how you prepare for package your answers so that you come prepared but not unimaginative or too exact in your answer. It’s also okay to reference one previous interview when answering questions for another…that is – you can say you prepared answers for a “mission statement question” but you have updated your information (read articles, talked to librarians, etc.) and you have now broadened your thoughts and answer.
  • Don’t ask questions like “How fast you can apply for another job when it comes open?” (and yes, I have been asked that) or – nicer but still inappropriate – “How long must someone stay in one job before they apply for another?” or “When another position is available must they apply again or can they transfer into it?”
…..Do……
  • Study the job description. If you don’t know what terms mean or you aren’t sure – make sure you check for definitions and examples – either in general in the professional literature, on other library websites or on the organization’s website.
  • Thoroughly review the organization’s website…and not just the organization’s website but the umbrella institution’s web environment. This search may yield good information (do their mission statements resemble each other) or may offer opportunities to ask questions.
  • Choose a journal from the professional literature that is centric to your specific type-of-library and search once year’s worth of table of contents to get an idea of overarching topics.
  • Choose a journal from the professional literature that is centric to your specific type-of-library and search once year’s worth of editorials and opinion pieces as well as any letters from members…. to get an idea of classic and contemporary issues.
  • Review the programs offered in ALA’s conference programming for this type of library and review the programs offered at the state and/or local or regional level association by type of library. These reviews offer you ideas of trends in this area of the profession.
  • Review social media environments re: this type of library.
  • Review architectural awards at the national level re: this type of library.
  • If you can’t visit the library in advance or if you are applying for a general position and the location isn’t specific – do a general web search of the library.
  • Search the professional literature and the general web for information about the staff (managers, middle managers, librarians, other employees, etc.) to see if there are publications, general PR, association leadership, community leadership, etc.
  • Answer honestly. If you don’t have all of the position requirements and they are interviewing you anyway, they are signaling they can substitute some of your information for what is required. …so you might speculate on what those substitutions are – and if you can – ask in advance what “counts.”
  • Be ready with your questions…bring them in writing.
  • Take quick notes during the interview…. especially if you know you will keep applying to that organization.
And the best of luck!
– Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College

 

Emily WeakSo, I don’t really hire librarians, although I’ve been on a few interview panels.  But I did spend the last few years interviewing hundreds of people who hire librarians.  Part of the reason I did so was because I was tired of hearing very authoritative hiring advice from single voices – the truth of the matter is that there are all kinds of people who hire librarians, and they have all kinds of opinions on what candidates should or should not do.

My main advice is: if the advice you’re receiving doesn’t let you be you, then disregard it.  If it feels weird, disregard it.  If the person dispensing it seems to be a pompous d-bag, disregard it.  There is no such thing as an authority on library hiring.  Feel free to ignore every piece of advice you receive.  People get jobs in all kinds of ways.   And there are all kinds of jobs. Find the ones that are best for you and try to articulate as clearly as possible why you would do real well in them.  Go for quality of applications rather than quantity.

One of the most insidious tyrannies in library hiring advice is the concept of professionalism.  Professional is a totally subjective and almost entirely meaningless concept.  It means “wear a suit” to one hiring librarian and “make sure your jeans are clean” to another.  And in a more sinister aspect, it is a code that is a real barrier to diversifying our monocultural field (yes, I mean white white white.  And female. And middle class. And ableist.)   Is an afro encompassed in professional dress?  A sari?  Or to think about something other than clothes, what if you have a learning disability that means you often misspell things in emails?  Is that “unprofessional”?  What if you didn’t get a chance to grow up with professional parents correcting your behavior and etiquette and molding you into an acceptably “professional” human being?  Professional is just a language.  Learn it, but you don’t need to live it. And stamp all over it when you can.

The other problematic concept is “fit”.  On one hand, “fit” is a great concept for figuring out if someone will do well within the specific culture of a workplace.  On the other hand, if

“fit” means “just like everybody else who works here,”  then there we are with our monocultural profession again.  In 2014, 87.1% of ALA members were white.  How can we hope to provide inclusive service to all the members of our community if people of color are so spectacularly under-represented behind the reference desk? This is my advice to people hiring: move beyond fit.  Cast your net wider.  Allow the center of your organization to shift as you invite different kinds of people in.  Is librarianship a dying profession?  It might be, if we continue to be a brigade of nice white ladies.

My final bit of advice, to job hunters and hiring librarians, is to be kind to yourselves and each other.  Job hunting and hiring are stressful.  Kindness goes a long way.  Set yourself up for small successes, and celebrate them.  Take breaks.  Get out in the sunshine.  Enjoy life beyond hiring librarians.

– Emily Weak, Ex-Blogger, Hiring Librarians
Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight!

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

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You need the hands on practical experience to compliment your studies, it makes your education that much more meaningful and solidifies what you are learning.

Civic library, Newcastle, 1957, Hood collectionThis anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a hiring manager (you are hiring people that you will directly or indirectly supervise).  This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Interns, secondary school librarians and librarian assistants, teacher librarians, catalogers

This librarian works at a School Library with 0-10 staff members in an Urban area in Asia.

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ Depends on the school/Depends on the candidate

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)

3

What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Cataloging

√ Budgeting/Accounting

√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Collection Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Research Methods
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Marketing
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)

Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?

Policy writing and the legal aspects of careers in libraries. It’s so important to protect yourself, your staff and patrons from legal situations that can be prevented with proper policies being written up.

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ Yes–I value skills gained through a student job more highly

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

Practical skills related to tasks can be learned on the job, such as book repair, book processing (i.e. new books, donations), office and desk organization and management (essential when working with a team), specific software skills (there are so many new types of software coming out it is not reasonable to expect this to be taught in library school).

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Library work experience

√ Professional organization involvement

√ Teaching assistant/Other instructional experience

Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?

ALA accredited institutions, they have high standards. Library Schools from Europe, North America, or Australia. I would have to research certificates or degrees coming from lesser known institutions in Asia, Africa or South America.

Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?

Chinese institutions – Sadly, I have a hard time trusting that the standards of skills are a good fit for what I want candidates to be able to do in a North American style library. Many of the websites are in Chinese with no English option so I cannot verify what skills candidates have been taught, nor can I guarantee that the certificate is genuine.

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

Work or volunteer in a library at the same time! If you can’t get a library job, at least volunteer in one. You need the hands on practical experience to compliment your studies, it makes your education that much more meaningful and solidifies what you are learning.

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, School, Urban area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

our communities might not fully understand what we do

Nevins Memorial Library First Librarians c. 1900This anonymous interview is with a academic librarian who has been aA member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Both librarians and staff

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in an urban area in the Western US.

Approximately how many people applied for the last librarian (or other professional level) job at your workplace?

√25-75

Approximately what percentage of those would you say were hirable?

√ 25% or less

And how would you define “hirable”?

Skills and experience were clearly defined and highlighted in the cover letter and CV to demonstrate the candidate was a good match for the needs of the position, whether through formal or informal experience.

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

Applications used to be first screened by HR but now each search committee has access to all applications and does the first weeding of applications. There is a rubric and the search committee then ranks applicants to determine who will be invited to each stage of the interview process.

What is the most common reason for disqualifying an applicant without an interview?

They are not qualified for the position, which can be determined through enough information provided pointing to this, or by omission of information. When candidates don’t develop their application materials for the specific job they’re applying for, they can appear as not as qualified as others if they leave information out that the specific job posting asks for.Do you (or does your library) give candidates feedback about applications or interview performance?

Do you (or does your library) give candidates feedback about applications or interview performance?

√ Yes, if the candidate requests it

What is the most important thing for a job hunter to do in order to improve his/her/their hirability?

Be honest and thoughtful. Don’t try to hide information or puff up skills more than they are, the search committee will see through this. Candidates have scored extra points with me when they’ve honestly addressed gaps in employment, lack of experience in a certain area, or were straightforward about something they need to work on. The problem isn’t that someone is human, search committees realize things happen or maybe someone got more experience in one area than another–it’s when a candidate is insincere, and that sends a red flag.

I want to hire someone who is

open-minded

How many staff members are at your library/organization?

√ 100-200

How many permanent, full time librarian (or other professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ 3-4

How many permanent, full time para-professional (or other non-professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ 3-4

Can you tell us how the number of permanent, full-time librarian positions at your workplace has changed over the past decade?

√ There are fewer positions

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with part-time or hourly workers over the past decade?

√ No

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with para-professional workers over the past decade?

√ Other: The work defining a librarian position has changed over the years, so yes and no

Does your workplace require experience for entry-level professional positions? If so, is it an official requirement or just what happens in practice?

No, we truly consider candidates with no experience when we say something is entry-level.

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ No

Why or why not?

Librarianship is a changing field and we are just as important as ever to our communities. The problem is not that we have “no identity” or are “replaceable” (according to a previous interviewee on this site), it’s that our communities might not fully understand what we do. There is so much information in the world that our students need to navigate, and that our faculty need for research. Our expertise is essential to organize this information, teach how to navigate this information, and connect our communities with the information they need.

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Filed under Academic, State of the Job Market 2015, Urban area, Western US

Eye Contact, Confidence, and exceptional knowledge and understanding of the task at hand.

Librarian working at the Pointe Coupee Parish Parish library in New Roads Louisiana in 1936This anonymous interview is not with a librarian who has been a Recruiter. This person works at a Government Organization with 0-10 staff members.
What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?
A Master’s Degree in Library Science, Cataloging experience, and experience in an Academic or Federal Government environment.
Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?
The Master’s Degree in this particular instance is a deal breaker.
What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?
Hobbies.

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

 People often times leave off the “Skills” section of a resume. This can be used to easily showcase skills or experience that are relevant to each position. It’s a way to quickly tailor a resume.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

  • Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

  • As many as it takes, but keep it short and sweet

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

  •  .doc

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

  • No

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

  • In the body of the email only
What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?
Eye Contact, Confidence, and exceptional knowledge and understanding of the task at hand.
What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?
I think nerves often times come across as attitude or disinterest.
How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?
Degrees are of much more importance than they once were.

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, Original Survey

I have a form that I follow to ensure fairness to candidates by checking off various aspects

 Interior of Townsville library, ca. 1948 This anonymous interview is with a librarian who has been a hiring manager (you are hiring people that you will directly or indirectly supervise). This person works at a a school library with 0-10 staff members.
What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?
1) Positive Attitude – a candidate that will be a pleasure to work with, one that won’t spread negativity around the workplace, things happen that we can’t prevent and having a positive attitude helps everyone work together to solve it
2) Life Long Learners – I want to hire someone that I feel is going to want to be challenged and not stagnate. Today’s world is changing rapidly, new technologies are emerging, the economy is changing. Libraries are always at risk of budget cuts, therefore I want a team that is going to strive to adapt to these changes, stay current with trends and ensure the survival of our library. Working with people who do not feel the desire to learn more, in my experience can be crippling. They tend to resist change and be satisfied with the library staying the exact same for decades. This is not what I’m interested in at all. I want a team that wants challenge.
3) Experience – This may be in the form of an educational background, volunteering, working, etc. whatever the case may be I don’t automatically dismiss candidates if they do not meet the educational requirements of a job. I want to look at the whole picture, what workshops, professional developments, webinars, and experiences do they bring? There are many free options available online that can help develop library and information resource skills. Formal education is an asset and definitely is something that I would consider absolutely essential for starter positions. Candidates may be in the process of completing their degree, so I know that they will bring the newest information to the job and that they are hard-workers if they’re tackling a new job as well as formal education. This is something I would definitely consider and look for in candidates.
Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?
 Late to the interview, messy and disorganized looking, poor English language skills, swearing, etc. I think all the usual warning signs that this candidate isn’t going to be a good fit for a customer oriented position. Additionally, candidates that haven’t updated any of the skills in a long time. There are so many free resources online to learn about what’s new out there, to me, it’s inexcusable to not participate in any of these learning opportunities. Libraries are constantly under threats of budget cuts, and becoming obsolete. I don’t want to hire a staff member that is going to contribute to that.
What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?
Listing your required tasks and duties on resumes – list your achievements and highlight the unique or challenging aspects of your previous jobs and volunteer experiences
Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?
I wish people would put more information about what latest technology and software they are experienced at using i.e. library management software, newest apps, educational resources, etc.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

  • Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

  •  As many as it takes, but keep it short and sweet

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

  • .docx

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

  • Yes

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

  •  I don’t care
What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?
Do your homework – know about what’s going on at our library Be personable and genuine – it’s going to lead to trouble sooner or later if a candidate is being dishonest about qualifications, skills or competencies

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

Being dishonest – Don’t tell me about skills you have or places that you have worked that aren’t true. I network constantly with librarians and educators in my field. It doesn’t take much effort for me to pick up the phone or send off an email to verify if what a candidate is saying is true. I’ve sadly caught candidates being dishonest about work experience, and qualifications this way. This will black list candidates in my books forever, how can I ever trust that person in the future?
How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?
Extensively – I am the only one who does the hiring Previously there was no formal process for making candidate selections. Now I have a form that I follow to ensure fairness to candidates by checking off various aspects that we want to have covered
Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?
Be on time, be professional looking (overdressing is MUCH better than underdressing), share what exciting projects or tasks you’re working on currently (even if it’s not directly related to the job). I want to see your energy, what makes you excited and want to work hard.
Are there any other questions you think we should add to this survey?
Perhaps a question about the future of the library could be added, such as: Do you ask the candidate any questions related to what they see the library achieving in the future? I just think it’s so important to hire staff members that share goals with what your library is working towards accomplishing.

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, Original Survey

We are a Federal government GSA Contractor.

Librarian by Flickr user Super Furry LibrarianThis anonymous interview is with a hiring manager. This person works at a Federal Government Library with 0-10 staff members.

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

Experience, experience, experience

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

No.

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

NA

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

NA

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√Preferably two, but no more than three and only when absolutely necessary.

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√.pdf

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√I don’t care

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√I don’t care

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

NA

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

NA

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

NA

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

We are a Federal government GSA Contractor.

For some context, take a look at the most recently published summary of responses to this survey.

If you’re someone who has participated in hiring library workers, take this survey and share your viewpoint.

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, Original Survey

Further Questions: What Should Candidates Wear?

Edited on January 29, 2016 to add…

Wow, lots of discussion about this post! While there is much that could be said in response to the dialogue of race, gender, privilege, etc. and all associated expectations in the library world, I want to make this note brief. I am sorry that the wording and/or images on this post caused some bad feelings. That was not the intention, and it does not necessarily reflect the opinions of this blog’s creator and volunteers.

When the question about interview attire was posted in 2012, responses generated good discussion (and even some about non-Western/ethnic dress, so check that out too). When this question was posed recently, it was copied verbatim. Since 2012, we have learned a lot about assumptions and gender and dress. Due to my workload and personal circumstances, I did not stop to fully consider how such phrasing may be received in 2016. Similarly, time constraints (as well as copyright notices on websites with images I initially wanted to use) did influence the image choices.

Are there better images that could have been used? Yes. Do I wish that diversity (of all types) was more apparent? Yes. However, as with all questions and replies on Further Questions, time and other constraints render it nearly impossible to fit every scenario or address every consideration fairly. This is true for the blog’s creator and volunteers, as well as the panelists and all who have filled out a survey on Hiring Librarians over the years. Panelists rarely answer every aspect of a question, so I would have been surprised if each image was equally addressed. Regardless of how this post was received, I’m happy to see Hiring Librarians causing discussion all the way to the end! If you wish to dialogue further, please email me at hiringlibrariansquestions@ gmail.com. I would love to chat with you and share more than can be said in a short blog post! Thanks for reading! –Sarah

—–

This week we asked people who hire librarians a question that was asked previously, and still remains popular on Hiring Librarians… the inevitable “What should I wear?!?!” question that nearly ALL job seekers struggle with during the job interview process.

Which outfit is most appropriate to wear to an interview with your organization? Please pick one for women and one for men, and feel free to provide commentary as to why you chose one over the others (or share how you might change an outfit). Bonus question:  Can you share any funny stories about horrifying interview outfits?

Female A : What Should Candidates Wear?

Female A. Source: Rotary Club of Clayton-Ladue, click on image for original.

Female B: What Should Candidates Wear?

Female B. Source: Accurate Court Reporting, click on image for original.

Female C: What Should Candidates Wear?

Female C. Source: J’s Everyday Fashion, LLC, click on image for original.

Female D: What Should Candidates Wear?

Female D. Source: Plus Size Outfits, click on image for original.

Male A: What Should Candidates Wear?

Male A. Source: The Denver Post, click on image for original.

Male B: What Should Candidates Wear?

Male B. Source: The Fashionisto, click on image for original.

Male C: What Should Candidates Wear?

Male C. Source: The Working Wardrobe, click on image for original.

Male D: What Should Candidates Wear?

Male D. Source: Epaulet New York, click on image for original.

Christine Hage songstressBased on attire only I would hire any of the first three women with a slight preference for the first woman. She looks like people in my community. I’m not sure how long the second woman would make at one of our services desks in those heels!
I’d feel comfortable with the guy in the suit and the guy in the shirt and tie, with a preference for the shirt and tie. He looks relaxed yet appropriately dress for work.
It also depends on the job the person is applying for. Reference? Youth services? Outreach? Library director? Bookmobile librarian?
I do look at how a person is dressed and figure this is the best they will look when they come on the job.
Clothing fit is important. I once interviewed a fellow that looked like a kid wearing his dad’s dress shirt. I appreciated his effort, but questioned whether he looked in the mirror before he came to the interview.

Years ago a library director colleague friend of mine got a complaint from a parent about a youth services librarian. The librarian had VERY high end designer tastes. The parent felt the librarian was dressed like a hooker, because she had a mini skirt on with high heeled leather boots on the came over the to of her knees. 

Neat, clean, well groomed, good smile and an upbeat personality go a long way with me, especially the smile. Does the person look approachable? Will they make our customers feel welcome?  Will they fit into our community?  Does their attire look like the used common sense putting their look together?

– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library

Laurie PhillipsFor a woman, I think A and B are most appropriate. Honestly, I don’t care if someone if wearing a matching suit jacket and pants or skirt. Candidates should be dressed professionally and a notch more formal than you would normally wear to work. Female C is not inappropriate, *however* the blouse is a bit sheer. I have had a young female faculty librarian wear a similar blouse to work with a hot pink/coral bra under it and wearing a jacket that matched the bra. That’s just a no-no. Cute but not work appropriate. So I would say C would entirely depend on how you wear it. A jacket or cardigan could make it look more appropriate, but I’d skip the sheer blouse. I’ve seen women wearing a dress and jacket that looked more garden party than job interview. Be careful about that. Male A is the obvious choice. He’s wearing a suit with a solid shirt and tie and appropriate dress shoes. B and C are way too casual. Those shoes on B are not dress shoes. D would be ok if he was wearing socks and a jacket. I don’t mind personality or print. We don’t expect to have you completely strip away your personality. Show personality in your accessories! I don’t really have any funny stories, although I did have a friend who had a candidate who was trying to remove a knot from his shoelace with his teeth. Probably not a smart choice.

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

Jessica OlinSince gender isn’t a binary, I say you wear whatever you feel is appropriate to the level for which you’re applying. In general, dress just a little bit nicer than you think you would dress if you got the job. If you feel unsure, check with a friend/contact who already has a job in the kind of library where you are interviewing. Don’t know anyone? Feel free to reach out to me and I’ll get you in touch with someone who can help.
– Jessica Olin, Director of Parker Library, Wesley College

MargaretI know you asked us to pick one for each gender, but honestly, I don’t have opinions on any of the outfits, even the more casual ones. They all seem fine. I might judge a man in an extremely ill-fitting suit, like David Byrne in the 80’s, or something that’s completely unflattering (“that pattern…girl…., whose couch did you have to kill for that?”), but even that won’t have much weight on my decision. As long as they’re clean, fully clothed and give a good interview, a person’s professional fashion sense is not really a deal-killer for me. Now, if you had put up pictures of people in ripped jeans and t-shirts or a tank top and flip flops, we’d be having a different conversation. Also, the City I work for has a rule about visible tattoos, wild hair colors and visible non-ear piercings (like nose) so those are issues that are usually brought up if someone is offered a job. I wonder, is this a generational thing? I’m at the tail end of Gen-X. We thought flannel and baby-doll dresses were a good idea.

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

I work at a public research flagship institution in New England. Generally, business formal or one step down is going to be the best bet here because candidates will probably interact with the director, associate director, and department heads during their interviews, and half the staff at that level dress in business formal attire, while others generally dress in business casual attire. Candidates for department head and coordinator positions should definitely wear a suit or the equivalent for women. The fit and state of the outfit also matter; some candidates wear clothing that is too large or small, and they just look uncomfortable. I have also seen wrinkly or stained clothing and that can be a little distracting. Candidates will often take a tour of the library and will walk across campus for lunch, so comfortable shoes are important.

 

For a woman, outfit A, B, and C would all be appropriate, but in my opinion, it looks dated when the shirt collar comes over the jacket (as in image A).

 

For a man, outfit A would be appropriate, and outfit D would also be appropriate if accompanied by a jacket. Here is an article explaining why.

– Anonymous

 

Jason GrubbI feel the position you are interviewing for and the location of the position determine what you should wear. In Wyoming, any of these outfits would be appropriate. Male A and Female B may be too much if interviewing for a non management position, but better to be over dressed than under. We are flexible and casual. As a consequence, nothing surprises us, so no funny stories to share. Be yourself and wear what you are comfortable in.

– Jason Grubb, Director, Sweetwater County Library System

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com. Special thanks to the websites providing the images. Please click on the image to be linked to the original.

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