Tag Archives: library hiring

Further Questions: Should people who don’t meet all the job qualifications still apply?

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.

There is a statistic from a 2014 Hewlett Packard internal report, quoted in the book Lean In and many other places, that says women don’t apply to jobs unless they meet 100% of the criteria, whereas men will apply if they meet about 60%. This week’s question is:

Should people who don’t meet all the job qualifications still apply? What is your advice for a hypothetical job seeker, looking at one of your organization’s job listings, on parsing the listed requirements? Are any safe to ignore, or to think of in “creative” ways? Bonus question: any stories about people getting jobs when they did not meet all the qualifications?


Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor and Brooklyn Public Library’s Job Information Resource Librarian: First I would pay attention to the job requirements vs. the preferences in the job posting. Don’t think that every job description is just the “wish list” you want it to be – the employer may be 100% serious that each of the requirements is, you know, required. If you meet most (like 80-90% or more) of the requirements, I would go for it. You might not get an interview if the missing requirement(s) are crucial to the position, and it may be a harder sell if you do get an interview. Emphasize what you do have to offer, based on the job posting, and include any additional skills you have that are relevant to the job; they may help you to get an interview. If you are a quick learner and enjoy acquiring new skills I would include that info too.

What you definitely should not do is lie and say, or imply, that you meet all the requirements if you don’t. Employers don’t want employees they can’t trust.


Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College: I wouldn’t recommend applying for any job for which you don’t have the required qualifications. It just wastes everyone’s time. 

Desired qualifications are a different matter. You can be hired without any of them, although you are less likely to make it to the interview stage in a strong pool of candidates. Be aware that if the employer puts them in the ad, they’re part of the job, and you should be prepared to address how you would gain those skills.  

It’s been my impression that men do tend to overmatch while woman undermatch, although it’s by no means universal. I don’t know if it’s socialization, economics, or something else. For my part, I value job security very highly and wouldn’t take the risk of moving my family for a job I wasn’t confident I could do well.  


Kathryn Levenson, Librarian, Piedmont High School: If you think there is a chance you might get the job, why not try?

I cannot even count how many resumes I have put out into the world over the years. I tailor each resume to the job. I look for keywords in the announcement and use those in the application or resume.

I have a document I can cut and paste my skills from into the application or resume.

List all your skills: sales, logistics, accounting with examples of what you did, what kinds of software you can use, language skills, etc. But, only pick the skills relevant to the job listing to add there. If you are applying to be a library assistant, any jobs where you worked with children would be relevant. If you speak Spanish or other languages, that would be helpful in school settings. 

Learn something about restorative justice and conflict resolution, even if it is reading some articles on these subjects.


Amy Tureen (she/her/hers), Head, Library Liaison Program, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas: Absolutely! In a perfect world, organizations would be intentional and honest about the true “requirements” for a position. These are things the selected candidate must have, day one, to be successful in the role and do not include skill sets that can be learned on the job without causing harm to the organization. For example, in my department (subject liaisons), we have reduced our required qualifications to two in almost every case: 1) an earned Master’s Degree in library or information science from an American Library Association accredited program by the date of appointment and 2) competence and sensitivity in working with individuals who are highly diverse regarding many facets of identity, including but not limited to gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, ability, income, level of educational attainment, and religion. Anything else we can teach you. Sadly, we have yet to achieve universal perfection, so ads are often rife with “requirements” that are really preferences. As such, candidates should never view requirement lists as truly black and white.


Hilary Kraus, Research Services Librarian, UConn Library: Speaking from my experience in academic libraries, rules about required qualifications can be strict. This is especially true at public institutions. Hiring committees frequently use a matrix of the required and preferred qualifications from the job ad, confirming which of these each candidate meets based on their application materials. In these circumstances, required qualifications are typically deal-breakers. Anyone who doesn’t meet those cannot be interviewed.

The matrix is a great tool for reducing bias and encouraging objectivity in the search process. That said, it lacks flexibility. As a candidate, it’s your responsibility to find a way to demonstrate that you meet, in some capacity, all the required qualifications. In your cover letter and resume/CV, make this as clear as possible so it’s easy for the hiring committee to check those boxes. If your experience is more adjacent than exact, explain why what you know or have done is a sufficient match to that item in the job ad. And of course, you should also try to include how you meet as many of the preferred qualifications as possible, to stand out amongst other candidates.


Gemma Doyle, Collection Development Manager, EBSCO: Whether or not an employer is going to demand all of the job ad qualifications be met is something no job candidate can tell from the outside, so they definitely shouldn’t limit themselves to job where they met 100% of the qualifications.  Aim high!  You never know who else is in the candidate pool, and your experience may be more relevant and helpful than you might think from the outside.  However, and there is a however – some people might tell you that if a job interests you, you should apply, no matter what qualifications you’re missing, because the most they can do is not interview you; there’s no harm done.  I caution against that a little.  There is a point at which the gulf between an applicant’s experience and the required qualifications is just too large, and applying is going to make an applicant look like they don’t understand what the job is. If they’re applying for a higher-level job and have no experience at all, it pulls their judgment into question in a way employers are going to remember. 

It’s hard to pin down a percentage of job posting qualifications you need to hit that makes sense.  It really depends on the job, your experience and the qualifications you don’t have.  I think about it in terms of skills vs. experience.  If most of what you lack are things that can be learned on the job – the specific ILS, software, etc., then that’s one thing, and you can talk about the software skills you do have as a way of showing that you are able to pick up new skills.  But if you’re missing key experience, if the job is asking for 5 or more years of supervisory experience, and you have one or two (or none!) that can be a hard thing to overcome. 

If you think that might be the case for you, one thing you can do is reach out to the hiring manager – after the job is closed, so there’s no question that you’re trying to get a backdoor interview – and ask for an informational interview about what the role and what kinds of things they’re really looking for (beyond what’s in the job posting) and what kinds of things you can do to get that experience.  A lot of hiring managers are more than happy to talk about these things, and are thrilled people are interested in their jobs, even if they aren’t ready to apply to them yet. After we did our last hire at the beginning of the summer, I did a series of informational interviews with people who were interested in joining our team or a similar role someplace else someday, and I think they were helpful for everyone, including me. 


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: The shorter answers are: It depends, be careful, and be very careful about “getting creative.” The longer answers begin with Barbra Streisand (Fanny) in Funny Girl or Matt LeBlanc (Joey) on Friends where Fanny responds to Follies open audition requests by assuring casting staff that she can “roller skate” and Joey shows up to a commercial audition with his “twin” and swears at a movie audition that he does NOT have a certain physical “situation.” And all of these lies or “getting creative” with their truth are designed to get the job. So while it ends up going relatively well for Barbra, it does not end well for Joey, so for us – the answers lie somewhere in between.

Should people who don’t meet all the job qualifications still apply?

If the qualifications are identified as “required” and specific, my answer is no, they shouldn’t spend valuable job search time on an application that may not even make it out of an HR or Library vetting practice. I have this opinion for a number of reasons but – frankly – in many areas of the profession there are standards above the institution governing levels of achievement in general or to gain a specific salary and those requirements may well be in place because of accreditation requirements; state, regional or national standards; and, possibly workforce or municipality or governing board standards.

A general statement is – if the job description has both a required and preferred section, then when should one – reading a required section – ask questions?

  • If the education is both specific and vague such as “A master’s degree is required.” might yield the questions -Which master’s degree? What type of accreditation must accompany that master’s degree?
  • If the educational statement says or implies that years of experience might substitute for education one can consider an application. I have seen this approach come and go over the years, but it has now landed back on the acceptable list and many organizations are being more specific and saying – for example – two years of experience can substitute or count for one year of college education.
  • If the required years are a range such as 5 to 7 years, this might beg the question “Is this time counted in months?” or “I have 4.5 years – will that suffice?”
  • If the application timing is an issue, one should ask “I am finishing my master’s in May ’22, but it is now March ’22. Can I still apply with the expectation I would not start until my master’s is completed?”

The preferred section of the job description lists just that – what is preferred and I wholeheartedly say people should apply if they have all (obviously), some, some similar, or none of those elements preferred. In addition if the job description lists education, experience, competencies, expectations, etc. but there are no labels of preferred or required – interested applicants can either apply anyway or check with institutions first to ask if any of the listed areas ARE required or preferred. (One can always also ask, are these description areas prioritized?)

As to “getting creative” I say no….if you don’t have anything like it then don’t – again – spend valuable job search time on the application. BUT if titles mentioned are similar – if educational requirements aren’t clear or if job description terms simply don’t match the institution you came from or the educational program you attended, you can either call to clarify or apply and provide an honest crosswalk between what you have and what they have identified on the job description.

I do not have any stories of people who got jobs where they didn’t meet the qualifications. I do have more stories of people who embellish their self-assessment and identify themselves as “tech savvy” when they simply aren’t. And – although most organizations don’t “test” or assess before hiring to see if – in fact – you ARE tech savvy, most organizations have reinstituted the probationary period and also build into training some pre-assessment to determine where the new employee (still in the probationary period) might “be” in the skills and abilities and knowledge spectrum.

What I also think is perfectly acceptable – if you find you don’t have the preferred qualifications or the competencies or attributes listed on the job application – is to identify – for example – a tech level where you currently are – then your willingness to learn, the identification of a (possibly) self-training plan you feel could bring you up to the level or credential needed and – for example – a statement on how you learn and the speed with which you learn. Applicants might also provide examples of what they have done and – to provide validity to that – match up who in your references might know that information about you first hand. Then invite the potential manager with an invitation to contact the reference and ask about something specific to the skills and abilities or knowledge area to assure a potential supervisor that you are part of but not all of the way there, but you can “get there from here.”


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: The answer to this week’s question is “it depends”. I think, more and more, many of us work in organizations where the application process is more automated and often managed by a Human Resources department that belongs to the institution (in my case, a college) and not directly to the library. When we identify required qualifications for a position we are required to verify that all candidates meet them in order to move forward in the search process. At the same time, many job ads indicate that “an acceptable combination of education and experience” may meet the requirements. So this is the opportunity for a candidate who does not meet the specific requirements to make their case.
Online application forms make it very difficult to ignore required or preferred elements of an ad. But here is one reason I like to see a submitted CV or resume as well as the online form (question from a few weeks ago). Use the resume to provide enough detail on experience or education that you want to create a compelling argument for your candidacy. And make good use of your cover letter to tell the search committee why the job interests you and what you would bring to the position. Give clear evidence of how you meet the qualifications – projects you have worked on or managed, skills you have, etc. Remember, when we say 2-4 years prior experience or doing a specific job like supervising, we really to mean 2-4 years. If you are close to the two years you meet the requirement. Don’t assume the hiring committee will privilege the candidates with 4 years’ experience. We are looking for a collection of experiences, education, and ideas from candidates. If we are working together thoughtfully we should look carefully at how each candidate presents themself.
My advice is not to apply for a job that you are clearly not qualified for. Your application may not advance past an initial review by staff other than in the library. If it does, it probably won’t advance once the search committee sees it, which is not a good use of anyone’s time. If you are interested in a job and think you are qualified, take the time to make that argument. Read the job description and show the search committee how your education and experience make you a qualified candidate.


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or in whale song. 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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Job Hunter’s Web Guide: Sites of Yore

In the first iteration of Hiring Librarians I started a feature called Job Hunter’s Web Guide, where I profiled websites that provided LIS career advice, job listings, or other forms of support for job seekers. I’ve been working through updates for the sites that are still active, but several are on pause, no longer being updated, or have been taken down entirely. This post will provide a look at the sites of yore, including a site that was started in 1995 and ran for 20 years.


Career QandA with the Library Career People

Career Q & A with the Library Career People:

The site was an online advice column for LIS job seekers. The site at the URL in the profile no longer exists. The Library Career People joined forces with Ellen Mehling and started the site Your Library Career, which included blog posts as well as advice. It stopped being updated during COVID. Ellen now writes Brooklyn Library’s Work Life blog.

Infonista

Infonista:

Run by Kim Dority, this site “is a blog that focuses on all the different ways LIS professionals can deploy their information skills, in both traditional and nontraditional environments.” I profiled it in February 2013. Infonista is currently on pause, last updated in January 2020. I reached out to Kim and she shared that she is currently focusing on client projects, her work with Kent state and managing an illness in the family. She does plan to return to updating Infonista at some point in the future.

The Library Career Centre:

Nicola Franklin provided recruitment and career coaching services for library and information professionals. The site, which I profiled in December 2012, centered around a blog but also included information about Nicola’s services. I reached out to her and she said, “I’ve relocated to the US and initially moved into in-house recruiting at USC and then onto my current company, the L.A. Times, where over the past 5 years my role has expanded to lead talent management, which encompasses recruiting, learning & development, performance management and other ‘talent’ related areas.

I don’t actively work in recruiting library or information professional staff any more, and only maintain the Library Career Center to do career coaching (resume advice, etc) for any UK or US based folk who request it.”

Librarian Hire Fashion

Librarian Hire Fashion:

This Tumblr shared pictures of interview outfits worn by library workers  who had received a job offer. It was last updated in 2015. I profiled the site in December 2012  and also worked with its author, Jill, to put together the most controversial/regrettable of the Hiring Librarians surveys, What Should Candidates Wear. I checked in with Jill and she said, “I stopped posting because I unexpectedly became a library director and was uncertain about how FOIA applied. However, helping people get the jobs they want is a passion and I’ve hired 11 times since 2015, that I can remember. Fashion and clothing choices are still an interest, too.

Library Job Postings on the Internet:

Started back in 1995 by Sarah Johnson, this site sunsetted in 2015, after 20 years of indexing library employment sites from all over the world – when I did a profile in December 2012, there were more than 400 sites. She has a great good-bye note up on the site. It includes the explanation, “My professional interests have expanded into other areas, and regretfully, I don’t have the time to keep up with this site as it deserves.  For the past two decades, I’ve run this site on my own, on a volunteer basis.  Rather than continue to maintain a site with outdated links, these pages were taken down in November 2015, after a three-month advance alert that I’d be doing so.”

Sarah is still online and regularly blogs about historical fiction at Reading the Past (Twitter @readingthepast).

LisList:

This was a REALLY BIG list of US jobs. The site doesn’t exist any longer. It was run by Amadee Ricketts and her husband James Orndorf from around 2014-2016. She said, “ It was fun but as our circumstances changed, and especially once I got a new job with a steep learning curve, it made sense to let it go.”

Open Cover Letters

Open Cover Letters:

Stephen X. Flynn started Open Cover Letters about six months before I started Hiring Librarians and I’ll always be grateful to him for how friendly he was. He’s the one that advised me to buy the domain, he spoke with me in a webinar, and he even forwarded me a job listing when I was looking for work. I profiled Open Cover Letters in March 2013.The site shared redacted Cover Letters that had been written by successful LIS job hunters and earned him a spot as a 2012 LJ Mover and Shaker. He stopped updating the site in 2016. He said, “I left the academic library field and became a middle school teacher that year, so my priorities have changed and updating the site has not been a priority. I actually still have some submissions that I never uploaded and it’s something I’d like to do, just get those last ones up there. On the other hand, I have committed to keeping the site online and will continue to pay for hosting and the domain for the foreseeable future.”

I also profiled the following sites, but was unable to get updates. 

Academic Library Jobs:

This site was a curated list of Academic library job postings. It no longer exists, and I was unable to reach the author.

Careers in Federal Libraries:

Last updated in 2020, this site provided a blog and links to virtual and in-person events. I profiled it in February 2013. I was unable to find out what happened. There was some reorganization in ALA which may have affected it: In 2018 the Federal and Armed Forces Libraries Round Table (FAFLRT) merged with the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies to form a new division: The Association of Specialized, Government and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASGCLA). Then the ASGCLA was dissolved in 2020 and its interest groups were picked up by other divisions. 

MLA Deal

MLA Deal:

The Maryland Library Association’s Development of Emerging and Aspiring Librarians was an interest group for new professionals. Their site included a blog as well as job listings and advice. It no longer exists, and I was unable to get more information from the Maryland library association. It looks like the interest group itself also no longer exists.

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Stats and Graphs: How many pages should a resume/CV/cover letter be?

It’s Staturday!

In the old survey, this was two questions, “How many pages should a cover letter be?” and “How many pages should a resume/CV be?” Invariably, people wanted to explain that the second question was invalid and resumes and CVs were *not* the same thing, and the question was *terrible.* And those people were basically right, but at that point I had already published the question and couldn’t think of a way to make it better anyway.

So when I was testing the current survey I was so blown away when Marleah Augustine suggested I should just make it a matrix question. What a simple and elegant solution.

The question is:

Question from survey. Text reads 11. How many pages should each of these documents be? Choices on the Y axis are Cover Letter, Resume and CV. Choices on X axis are We don't ask for this, Only One!, Two is ok but no more, As many as it takes but keep it reasonable and relevant, and As many as it takes I love reading.

As of August 4, 2022, 182 people have responded to this survey. Their answers to this question are:

Bar chart of question answers. Chart explained in text that follows this.

For Cover Letters

We don’t ask for this | 23 (12.6%)

Only One! | 90 (49.5%)

Two is ok, but no more | 54 (29.7%)

As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant | 17 (9.3%)

As many as it takes, I love reading | 0 (0%)

For Resumes

We don’t ask for this | 14 (7.7%)

Only One! | 19 (10.4%)

Two is ok, but no more | 68 (37.4%)

As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant | 76 (41.8%)

As many as it takes, I love reading | 2 (1%)

For CVs

We don’t ask for this | 79 (43.4%)

Only One! | 4 (2.2%)

Two is ok, but no more | 12 (6.6%)

As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant | 76 (41.8%)

As many as it takes, I love reading | 4 (2.2%)


This is one of the few questions that doesn’t include a write in option. But, I’d still love to know what you think! Comment or tweet at me, and don’t forget to like and subscribe to this YouTube channel.

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Further Questions: What’s the Worst Job Search Advice You Ever Heard?

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’s question is:

What’s the worst job search advice you ever heard? Why was it bad? Bonus info: who said it and when/where did you hear it?


Jaime Taylor, Discovery & Resource Management Systems Coordinator, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts: Literally anything and everything from my mom, who tried to give me advice when I was a new librarian struggling to find a job in 2009-2010. She hadn’t job searched since the early 1980s & everything she said was out of date & useless. (No, mom, no one keeps a file of promising resumes that they will pull out later, so sending mine to orgs that weren’t hiring – on paper, no less – wasn’t going to go anywhere but the trash.) So – the worst advice comes from anyone who has neither job searched nor hired lately, doubly so if they have never worked in your field and are therefore unaware with the field’s norms. That person might care about you and want you to succeed, but that doesn’t mean they have good advice.

(Yes, you can put my name on it.)


Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor and Brooklyn Public Library’s Job Information Resource Librarian: The worst job search advice I’ve ever heard is that you should lie or mislead others in order to get a job, and that includes presenting a resume or cover letter that someone else wrote as if it is your own work. Employers don’t want to hire people who are dishonest and/or desperate, and who don’t actually have the required experience and skills for the job, or for the job search(!)

Anyone who gives this advice is telling you that they are dishonest and they are comfortable enough with lying that they recommend it to other people. If they are employed they probably lied in order to get their job. I would keep that information in mind as you interact with them. 


Randall Schroeder, Director, Retired: The worst piece of career advice I received was cumulative. Too many suggested that if you stay in one place and one position, your career is static and you could become irrelevant. I knew of one small college director who claimed when hiring a new librarian, the new librarian was expected to move on after three years and that after five, the library would start working to make them want to move. I hesitate to think what they might have looked like.

Sometimes, you are, in fact, where you need to be. Some of the happiest people I have known in academe knew early on that where they landed with their first or second jobs was where their bliss was. Not participating in campus politics or professional politics to climb to the next level was of no interest. They seemed to be very happy.

Don’t be ambitious if it doesn’t feel authentic to you. I felt pressured to move to the next levels and I regretted it. Where I was in my first and second jobs was where I wanted to be and I was good at it. Don’t let outside pressure sacrifice you from your authentic happiness to your misery. To me, the object of the game is to serve your community, patrons, clients, or students, not your ego.

“What do you want to be when you grow up, Linus?

Outrageously happy.,” – Peanuts


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: I have friends (who don’t know libraries) trying to get me to apply for every job that’s out there, not really understanding how library jobs at my level are so siloed (public universities vs private/small vs. large/collections and systems and access vs. Learning Commons or teaching, etc.) My experience is varied, so I have a little more leeway, but it’s a total waste of time for me to apply to jobs outside my niche and expertise. If you don’t meet the qualifications and can’t even make your experience work, don’t bother. It’s a waste of time for you and the people who have to review applications. Academic applications take a tremendous amount of time to put together, if you do it right. I’m very careful about choosing jobs that are a good fit. Also, job openings run on a cycle for most academic libraries, especially at the higher levels. Fiscal years start on July 1 or August 1. Deciding to apply for everything in the fall isn’t really going to get you very far. 


Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College:

I have heard people recommend trying to negotiate your starting salary, but most of the places I’ve worked have had a static chart based on qualifications and years of experience with no room for variation.

If you try to bargain at a place like that, you will probably come across as arrogant and entitled. 


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: Let me start with the last “bonus” question “Who said it and when/where did you hear it?” In short, the bad answers I am including are coming from years of reading articles, books and blogs on both commercial and non commercial content to determine not only specific paths (the best EDI questions, recommended organization of the room, online-only interviews, etc.) but also best practices for overall HR hiring practices. The worst advice includes “ask this question” and “give this answer” typically but also includes advice for length of resumes. 

I have two bad questions: “Where do you want to be in five years?” and “Please identify three of your strengths and three of your weaknesses.”

The first or “five year” question is a no-win for everyone. There IS no right or genuine answer. If someone outlines their retirement you don’t want to invest time in them only to leave. If the applicant says “I want to be in your job” it doesn’t show “your vision for the future” or the fact that you want to assume a leadership position and it certainly doesn’t signal ambition the way some think. If the organization wants to determine if an applicant is interested in moving up eventually or if they are trying to determine if the applicant will – for example – hopping from job to job there are better and more direct questions to determine an applicants next role or if they are possible successors or have an interest in succession planning.

The second question of strengths and weaknesses is – obviously – an opportunity for applicant self-assessment. As the first question – it doesn’t typically produce authentic answers but instead – if applicants have thought about it – strengths identified might be valuable, but weaknesses are strengths re-positioned such as “I pay too much attention to detail.” If the organization needs to know specific elements they should instead – list some strengths and list some weaknesses and ask applicants to rank these as they pertain to their potential roles and responsibilities. 

Finally some ideas not recommended include:

  • Don’t feel obligated to squeeze your resume into one page or less as we often hear. Clearly a lengthy resume is too much but it is better to be accurate, organized and specific to the position being advertised and that is seldom able to be reduced to one page.
  • Resumes that lead with a single job goal quickly become out-of-date. It is best to state areas of work interested in and map education, experience and competencies and attributes against job descriptions/job advertisements identified in cover letters or in attached documents such as a statement of professionalism or a values statement.

and finally and most importantly

Job seekers should be very, very careful about the content a search firm or professional employment consultant creates to represent you on a resume or document packet or specific position or job search. Specifically – positions held, job titles, specific roles and responsibilities, length of employment professional goals, values, promotions or job trajectory in one or more organizations, or products produced as exemplary of education or experience. 

Why? I can recall more than one situation where documents didn’t parallel, answers to questions didn’t jive, job titles were similar but inflated, reference check information wasn’t the same as applicant paperwork had implied and – literally – the applicant’s narrative about their work life was simply not accurate. It is also obvious to say that with today’s alternate avenues for finding out about applicants through web resources and often an applicant’s own web-published content – great care must be taken to be accurate, to be proactive about possible discrepancies and to be forthcoming about addressing appropriate interview questions. Simply put, advice to inflate or better represent oneself or to stretch the truth is never good advice.


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or in the faint burbling of a mountain stream. 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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Further Questions: Should candidates send thank you cards?

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’s question is:

Classic interview advice is to send hand-written thank you cards after the interview. Is this actually good advice? What are your recommendations for post-interview etiquette in regards to thank you notes, follow ups via phone/email, providing additional information, etc.? Bonus question: Do you have examples, either from your own interview history or from candidates you have worked with, where conduct after the interview has influenced the hiring decision?


Amy Tureen (she/her/hers), Head, Library Liaison Program, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas: I believe sending thank you notes following an interview is a good practice, but not a requirement. A handwritten note is always nice and will be received with pleasure, but an email thank you will be remembered just as fondly as well. Given recent changes in mail processing speeds and depending on the recruitment schedule, it’s entirely possible a written thank you note will arrive well after a decision has been made, so the arrival or non-arrival of a card really should not have a role in the decision process. Some folks bring thank you notes, envelopes, and stamps with them to interview so they can drop their cards in the local mail system before they leave town. This is a good example of thinking ahead but, again, not required. Thank you notes (virtual or physical) generally only leave the impression that the candidate is polite and/or acculturated to white American corporate working norms. It is never a deciding factor in my experience. That being said, I have been told more than once by new employers that I was the only person who sent a thank you note (suggesting it is indeed noticed, even if it is not a deciding factor). I have also been on one search committee that was very excited to receive handmade, handwritten thank you cards incorporating art the candidate had made of the library following their visit. We were already excited about the candidate in question, but we were also pleased to see an example of the artistic skills and craftiness of the candidate who was, at that time, applying for a position which sought those specific skills.


Jaime Taylor, Discovery & Resource Management Systems Coordinator, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts: You probably should not be sending hand-written thank-you notes at this point! I certainly do not expect them, and I don’t think I’ve received any in the approximately five years I’ve been working on hiring. Current etiquette dictates that you could send an email thank you. For one thing, it will get to the people you are thanking much quicker and more reliably than snail mail. For another, the entire application and interview process up to that point has likely been paperless or near so – which would make email totally appropriate.

If you want to send a note, the details are not terribly important. You could send on email to the entire hiring committee, separate emails to each person, or an email to the chair of the committee asking to pass your regards to the committee. Keep it short and sweet – no more than a paragraph. Mention something that was discussed in the interview and your continued enthusiasm for the position or institution. If there’s additional material you’d like to send to the committee, you could say something like, “I’ve attached the slide deck I mentioned from my presentation last year/the article I wrote about the thing we discussed” and then include the file or a link to it. If you are going to send a note, send it within 48 hours of the interview.

That all said, receiving or not receiving a thank you note, email or otherwise, has no bearing on my hiring process. About half of the candidates I interview send them, possibly a little less, and I do not think it’s necessary. We evaluate candidates on their ability to do the job they are applying for, as laid out in the job description, and a thank you note has no bearing on that.


Larry Eames, Instruction Librarian, Kraemer Family Library, University of Colorado Colorado Springs: The advice to send a hand-written thank you note makes essentially zero sense in today’s day and age. I’ve never received one as a search committee member and I would never expect one. That said, I’m always chuffed to get a thank you email. It’s never consciously influenced my decision making—to me sending a thank you note is one of those corporate shibboleths that people may or may not have been taught and therefore shouldn’t be used to make actual choices—but it is a nice thing to do.

If you’re going to send one, I recommend tailoring it to the interview. The formula I use is “Thank you for taking the time to interview me [today/yesterday]. I particularly enjoyed hearing about [thing you talked about]. I would be excited to join your team for [reason]. Please let me know if I can provide any additional information or documents.” I’ve never been asked for additional information nor have I ever sent any, but I suppose the thank you note could be a chance to include a detail you forgot to mention or didn’t get a chance to mention in the interview.


Gemma Doyle, Collection Development Manager, EBSCO: Thank you notes can be such a divisive topic.  I have worked with hiring managers who would automatically discard candidates who didn’t send them, which I think is a terrible practice.  As a hiring manager, you want the best candidate for the job, not necessarily the one that sends the most effusive thank you note, or any thank you note at all, but the fact that some people take it so seriously means that candidates really do need to send them. 

That being said, I would definitely encourage candidates to email instead of writing a handwritten thank you note.  Email is more immediate and more likely to get to the hiring manager more quickly, and if you have any questions in your note, it’s so much easier for them to just hit reply and answer them.  Hiring, at least in my experience, is a time-consuming process that I have to fit in at the edges of doing my actual day-to-day work, so anything you can do that makes things easier for me is appreciated. For that reason, a lot of post-interview follow up from candidates can be challenging.  I always give candidates an idea of what the hiring timeline looks like, but things can happen on our side that stretch it out unexpectedly.  Obviously, if you have questions or are missing information that I mentioned sending to you on anything you’d need to make a decision about the job, please follow up and ask for it.  But I think a lot of advice out there tells candidates to follow up to keep themselves in the hiring manager’s mind, which is completely unnecessary.  If we want to offer you a position, I promise we won’t forget about you! 


Alison M. Armstrong, Collection Management Librarian, Radford University: Handwritten cards can be a way to set yourself apart from other candidates but the timing is a challenge with the speed of some hiring decisions (following in-person interviews, anyway, it can feel glacial during the process) and the pace of the postal service. I know some search committees schedule candidate interviews in quick succession and have a meeting to choose the candidate the day following the last interview. Short of handing the notes to them in person, they may not reach them until after a decision has been made.

Instead, or in addition, I recommend sending an email to the people you met during your interview as a way to ensure they receive it before a decision is made. I also recommend making it as personal as possible – something that tells them that you remember them and the interaction you had.

In terms of further communication, they will reach out to you if they need additional information. If you think the process is dragging and you haven’t heard anything for a while, there are multiple things that may be happening. More than likely, you have not been selected however, it is best to let the process play out since you never know. But, it may be time to move on to the next job opening.

If you interviewed, you should hear something in a reasonable amount of time but, as with all things human relations related, there are different perceptions about who can do what in which situation which means that the search committee members may not feel comfortable reaching out to candidates. This may mean you hear from them later than you would think reasonable.


Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor and Brooklyn Public Library’s Job Information Resource Librarian: I recommend sending a thank you email, not a handwritten note. It should be short and sweet (one paragraph is fine) and personalized – if you were interviewed by a panel, send each person who interviewed you a separate message.

Strictly speaking the “thank you” is not required. The fact that you’re sending the thank you message is almost more important than its content. It shows courtesy and respect, and professionalism. It’s true that some interviewers don’t care about thank yous, but others do, and not sending one may be a point against you with them, so it is best to just send it.

You can and should mention something that came up during the interview, and you can give new information if you forgot to mention something you want the recipient(s) to know about, but understand that your chance at selling yourself was during the interview, so you shouldn’t think of the “thank you” as a way to share any substantial info about yourself. If the hiring manager / committee was not going to have you move forward in the hiring process after the interview, your thank you message is not likely to change their minds no matter what you write.

Most of the time when post-interview conduct affects a hiring decision is when the conduct is negative in some way – like aggressive, repeated follow-up or any other kind of pushy, entitled behavior. It is a good idea to ask at the end of the interview “What is the next step in the hiring process? What is the best way for me to follow up?” and then follow those instructions, or if you didn’t ask about that and received no info about when you would be hearing from the employer, I would follow up only once, maybe a week or two later, via email. After that you’ve done everything you could re: getting that job, and if you continue to contact the employer it will hurt your chances rather than help.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: I don’t ever remember being taught much about interviewing in any of my graduate school experiences. So the thing about writing a thank-you note wasn’t something I did at first. I’ll have to admit that I can take it or leave it. I understand that it is an opportunity for a candidate to acknowledge being grateful for the interview (which, in fact, they earned, it was not a gift). I have never viewed it as required. And these days I do not mind at all receiving an email expressing thanks which has happened. Would I change my opinion of a candidate if I did not receive a thank-you? I don’t think so.
I always want to conclude an interview by letting the candidate know the approximate timeline. Given that a search committee doesn’t always control all the moving pieces of a search, including making offers and negotiating, the timeline is always a bit uncertain. I would recommend that candidates not contact the search chair for follow-up unless (a) their situation has changed or they might not be reachable for a while), or (b) it is after the interval when the search chair indicated work would be ongoing. I would also recommend that a search chair reach out to candidates if there is going to be a delay that will affect all candidates.If, during the interview, something came up and a candidate feels the search committee would benefit from additional information then I think it’s fine for that person to reach out to the search chair (who can see that others receive it if relevant). It can get awkward if a candidate sends on unsolicited information which might lead to a chair needing to contact other candidates so there is consistency and equity. I don’t think this happens often but I strongly encourage erring on the side of not offering up unsolicited materials.


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Kathryn Levenson, Librarian, Piedmont High School: Thank you notes are something that I think many people feel are passé. I was raised to always write a paper thank you note. Lately, people seem just as happy to get a quick “Thank you for taking time to interview me” via email. I do think that it can be a way to get that last bit of marketing in. Maybe there was something short that the candidate did not get to say at the interview. So, maybe the candidates forgot to say. For example, responding to a question about resolving issues with a group of students, perhaps the candidate writes, “I forgot to say at the interview that I was a camp counselor for three summers with children from 8 to 12 years old. During that time, I was able to learn techniques from other counselors and to resolve some issues successfully on my own.”

So the short answer is that if I get a thank you note, I think, that was really nice, but it probably would not influence my hiring decision.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: Applicants can’t guarantee – in many organizations – and especially in today’s workplaces – if “handwritten notes” or any U.S. mail will come to them in a timely manner. Basically this is due to slow downs in postal deliveries (fewer staff) as well as fewer staff in organizations tasked with receiving and redistributing mail. Also – and hopefully this is temporary- hybrid schedules, all online interviews and reduced hours and closed locations means that a letter may sit somewhere that – prior to current times – received and processed information twice a day.  In fact, I was part of an online discussion recently where several vendors were talking about their print/paper/mailout budget vs. their online advertising (look and technique) and what they were moving for marketing and advertising. The discussion was spot on in focusing on speed and avenues of distribution as well as “look” that is, did people want their online catalogs to “look” like their print/paper ones or not – as well as – librarians have marked up, annotated, posted notes and communicated through print/paper catalogs at work (round robin, posted information, etc.) for decades…so how do they highlight, annotate or mark up online publisher’s catalogs? or aggregator lists? or email announcements? 
With that said, I will say don’t hand write a thank you but send follow up communication as such:
Best format?

  • Email to the chair and each committee member – or
  • Email to the chair and ask them to distribute as they see fit – or
  • Email to the Administrative Assistant in the process and ask them to distribute
  • Create any of these emails as formal letters including content within the email
  • Create a thank you note as an attachment and attach it to the email to any of the first three emails addressed first in this list

Why send?

  • You may want to correct something you may have said incorrectly in the interview (Ex – (I left out an example of education I would like to share in this follow up, etc.” or “I realize my resume reflects this while I share this….”)
  • Consider expanding a question you might now feel you have more valuable information on after reflection or self assessment. (Ex – I indicated my proficiency level was intermediate but in reflection and realization that I have both in-depth education and experience, I know my level of expertise is advanced and I welcome the opportunity to discuss if that is needed. Also, I have attached the outcomes/summary of my most recent certification in this area as well.”)
  • Send a second example of a product (They may have requested original work and you are now sending or linking them to additional original work or original instructional design AND content or pictures of you giving that program and the audience responding or even a video clip of you at work giving a book talk or storytime.”) 
  • Provide any information they asked for such as “timeline for starting the position” “willingness regarding salary discussion,” etc.

and – of course – the usual – “Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview.” but make it more robust …include:

  • a reiteration of how much you want the position – or
  • a reaffirmation of your fit for the organization – or
  • your enthusiasm for a possible acceptance – or

Finally – am I aware of any minds being changed? Not specifically for the good, but interestingly, I have had people point out why they made the mistakes they made …or why they chose to emphasize this rather than that. This insight is good but hasn’t moved any “don’t hire” to the “hire list.”


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or via impromptu web conference. 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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Reminder: Interview Questions Repository & Salary Info

Have you been on a library interview recently? Or are you prepping for one?

Sounds like you could use The Interview Questions Repository!

This resource holds questions that people were asked in interviews from more than 500 respondents over nearly a decade.

Click on the upside down triangle to the right of the question in the header row to sort by things like interview type, position, etc.

Please help this resource grow! Share the link widely with your friends and colleagues and if you’ve had a library interview recently, report the questions you were asked.


Interested in viewing Salary Info from more than 270 LIS workers? The second page of the Interview Questions Repository shares that data. If you are interested in adding your own salary info, please use this form.

If you have feedback, I’d love to hear it. Please feel free to email me or use the contact form.

Please note: The links should give you everything you need – please use and share those rather than requesting access through Google Drive. You can always find these links in the toolbar to the right —> and in the static pages listed in the tabs up top (Interview Questions and Salary Info)

yellow compact shelving
A View of the Yellow Repository. The National Archives (UK), CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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We ALL feel a lot, your level of maturity is reflected in the library-twitter world you inhabit.

Exterior of the University of Exeter Library, with students entering and exiting the building
The University of Exeter Main Library, Benjamin Evans, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Dean & Director

Titles hired include: All of the library faculty and staff in our university library

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor 

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions 

√ Other: DEI Statement

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Depends if it is faculty or staff. We have search committees, DEI expectations, training and meetings before the job description can be approved by HR. We have a very strong procedure to ensure that we are fair and accommodating to all applicants.  

Faculty run the faculty search, but the dean makes the final decision (provost must give approval)

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

They had a strong sense of self and understood the value they would bring to the workplace. An openness to experience and to joining an academic environment. An understanding of our student-centric campus ethos.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Yes! You can be the smartest person in the room but if you have a low EQ and can’t work with others the hire will not be successful.

One must come with a well formulated concept of self in regards to DEI work and evidence of support/knowledge for our campus population. As a majority under-represented campus, we require a DEI lens/mindset.

If your priority is to work 100% at home. We allow telecommuting, but we are a F2F campus and that requires equal focus on site.

Negative angry-twitter postings. We ALL feel a lot, your level of maturity is reflected in the library-twitter world you inhabit. You do not have to say everything you think. It is called being a grown up

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

what their career goals are. I consider growing people my responsibility and knowing what people want re: knowledge acquisition would be useful

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?

They don’t consider their fit with the campus. Do your homework. 

Sell what you bring to us. 

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

We have. Practice a solid presentation. Two years into COVID/online work there is NO EXCUSE for a lousy presentation. Make sure the lighting is good, sound, your entire face!  I just had an interview for an instruction position and one candidate only had 1/3 of her face visible.

Bring the energy – it is more difficult for us to get to know you. Show interest and excitement.

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?

Connect the dots. I hired a Home Depot manager who strongly connected her skills to running a service desk. She’s awesome

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: we finally got our campus to share. As a state institution, there is one solid number. But it is uneven.

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

So much. 

All search committees have training and overview by the Inclusive Excellence office. HR and the Dean looks to highlight and be aware of all diversities.

1) pre-search mtg

2) mid-way through mtg

3) post-work mtg

We have standard questions and a strong process that enforces an open mind and process

We have rubrics so that we are rating the same skills

We have changed our minimum standards of requirements

We try to present a diverse search committee, 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?

What DEI work are we engaged in?

What is the strategic plan and how is it incorporated into regular work? It is great to have values and goals, but are they important enough to accomplish!

What new, exciting projects is the library involved in?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western 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? 

Have hope, empower yourself, align your priorities/goals with the institution. There are many good jobs and some bad ones. Be picky even when it feels like you can’t be. 

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, Urban area, Western US

Always share that you speak another language

headshot of Rachel Schmidt

Rachel Schmidt loves all the facets of being a librarian. In her current role, she serves as the Supervising Youth Services Librarian for the Santa Clara City Library. Growing school and local education partnerships, leading story times and providing access to learning opportunities for ages 0-18 are her main priorities. 

Rachel also loves to collaborate with other librarians. Feel free to reach out!

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

1. Application submissions

2. Oral Board (Outside Panel)

3. Interview (Library Staff Panel)

4. Ref check

5. Possible 3rd Interview

Titles hired: Librarian I, Librarian II, Library Assistant, Intern Consultant

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

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

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?

1. Passion and love of serving community

2. Demonstrated Problem solving and leadership

3. Excited to learn and demonstrate flexibility

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

1. Bad story time demo

2. Not friendly

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

Their compassion for all walks of life.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

CV: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

Not preparing. Not studying the organization. A little nod to the organiztion goes a long way. Like “ I really love how your Library uses social media to connect with your community” or “One of the main reasons that I applied for this position is that I found that EDI Is deeply embedded into the organiztions strategic plan”. 

Practicing general interview strategies beforehand can really help a candidate warm up for the interview. I suggest revisiting LinkedIn for Learning or any other basic interview courses to get a reminder on the basics. When I am gearing up for an interview, I tend to practice answering questions in my car during my commute so that I can make my answers sound more succinct and I can avoid too much repetition in my experiences/statements. 

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

You need to have a strong internet connection and be able to show friendliness and professionalism. Zoom interviews are very difficult. Also, make sure to take notes and ask a few thoughtful questions after the interview to get more engagement with the panel. 

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?

Great customer service is great customer service and we can learn that anywhere. Demonstrate how they go above and beyond and serve with equity. Being welcoming. Skills and job processes can be learned.

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?

Use a rubric and have multiple interviews

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

Work culture. What is a regular work day like? What are your organizational goals? Strategic plan? What would you like to see accomplished in 5 years? How does your Library support professional development? How do staff have fun and bond at work? 

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?

√ 51-100

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

You need to show a confident version of yourself! Show passion. And it’s always great to demonstrate how you have built relationships in your work with partner organizations. Always SHARE THAT YOU SPEAK ANOTHER LANGUAGE…this always gets overlooked.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 50-100 staff members, Public, Suburban area, Western US

Further Questions: What are your tough interview questions?

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’s question is from someone who hires library workers:

Are there one or two questions you have routinely asked in interviews that few if any applicants seem to answer successfully? And – of those you identify as “seldom successful” – why aren’t they successful? What’s missing?

There was an outpouring of anti “tough question” sentiment when I asked this on Twitter – particularly in the quote Tweets.

Please join in the conversation – from either side of the interviewing table – there or in the comments.


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: I would say probably not, at this point. We have had interview questions, over the years, that were not successful, so we took those questions out and found different ways to get at what we wanted to know. We used to ask people about their most rewarding experience as a teacher or trainer and people who didn’t have direct experience found it difficult to extrapolate to informal teaching or training that they had done. We also used to ask how a person would handle giving feedback to another employee doing work for them who was not a direct report. Many people didn’t understand what we were trying to get at with this question, which was mainly what you would do if you supervised the Learning Commons Desk and someone from another department was staffing the desk.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: I like to ask a question that provides the opportunity for a candidate to explore a project or idea that did not conclude as planned. It could something the person labels a “failure,” or just something that went in an unexpected direction. I don’t always even feel the need to include a request to explain how they might do it differently because I think there is a great likelihood that they would follow the same path regardless (depending on how terrible the outcome actually was).

My experience is that this type of question really takes some thought and that is time that we don’t always make room for in an interview. I don’t think candidates are always being disingenuous when they say they can’t think of anything, particularly because they know we are not looking for a specific incidence of a mistake, but something a bit more complex. I think what I am usually interested in is the reflection and in the conversation a candidate can have with search committee members. So I am always considering how to include a question like that without feeling as if we are putting the candidate on the spot.

Another question I like but I think is a bit tough because people tend to be very careful when talking about their jobs is to ask people what they especially like and don’t like about their work. I’m pretty sure no one likes every single aspect of their work. But describing what you don’t like to do to a group of relative strangers you are trying to convince to hire you is tough. So sometimes I think it’s better just to stick with asking people what they like. This question is more revealing than you might think. Some candidates are really very thoughtful with their responses.


Kathryn Levenson, Librarian, Piedmont High School: We give them a scenario involving student discipline but because they haven’t worked in our school environment and community, they have trouble answering it. My successful candidate had been a para in our elementary schools for 16 years. He is super interacting with the kids.


Alan Smith, Director, Florence County, SC Library System: To me, a successful interview question is one that gives me useful information about a candidate, and gives the candidate useful information about our library — not a question that always gets the “right answer.” I especially dislike “gotcha” questions that seem designed to stump the candidate and often don’t have any connection to the work itself. Even if they come up with a clever answer, it makes the interview adversarial instead of collaborative. So with that in mind, if I had a question that was seldom answered correctly, I would rephrase it, add context, or otherwise ask differently until it started giving me useful information. 

That said, there are questions that do have right and wrong answers, and I’m sometimes surprised which ones trip people up. We often ask some variation of, “What do you tell a patron who objects to a certain book in the collection?” A lot of people describe how they would try to explain that the library is for everyone, so they should just ignore it, or even try to debate the merits of the book with the patron in hopes of changing their mind. Someone who has never worked in a library may not know about libraries’ established procedures for reconsideration of materials, but a Librarian or internal candidate definitely should, yet a lot of them still miss this component of the answer. 

Finally, there are positions where technical knowledge is an important factor in hiring: IT, cataloging, etc. Those interviews will involve more specific, detailed questions with definite right and wrong answers (or at least right and wrong approaches). But even in those cases, a question that everyone “gets wrong” would make me re-evaluate some things — Is the job description and job posting accurate? Am I choosing the right people to interview? Am I expecting people to have knowledge of internal procedures that they can only gain on the job? etc.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: Interestingly, we have three questions that continue to be very hard for candidates. Two questions we ask of all candidates and one we typically ask only librarians at this time. 
1. The first that could be for anyone is “What is the mission of community colleges?” (Note: in essence this should be thought of as “why work here?) This – of the difficult questions – is the one that DOES have more success with many candidates – and often more classified and professional technical are more successful and talk about their own education, friendliness, atmosphere, if the organization is smaller – the opportunity to be closer to students and that they love to be part of a service that might actually make a difference in people’s lives. 
For librarian searches, we ask this first question slightly differently by adding – for example – how do community college libraries or should community college libraries differ from other libraries in higher ed? or in other educational settings such as public libraries or school libraries?” While many of the classified or professional technical provide experiences and possibly very authentic answers, librarians may certainly articulate the mission of libraries – the challenge for librarians seems to lie in the differences between or among library settings. 

Luckily, this is easily solved for librarians.

  • Spending time on community college websites reviewing their mission and then comparing not only mission statements but vision and values statements to other mission, vision and values statements. 
  • Visit the college’s library website/pages and if they have a separate mission, vision and values compare those as well. 
  • Visit state or national association division and section web content where differences and similarities are often covered.
  • Review agendas of conferences to note current programming by type of library. Clearly these are NOT all the same and offerings and differences are telling.

and obviously 

  • Explore research and opinion in the professional literature on differences and similarities. Interestingly – inserting “change” and “changing” into the research process such as “what is the changing role of community colleges” yields much research and opinion. 

Applicants should also consider including similarities and differences between students and faculty, ‘

student support’ and ‘student success,’ ‘information literacy,’ or ‘evidence-based research’ or ‘digital fluency research’ skills – taking the opportunity to bring in basic vs. advanced skills sets, diverse assignments, etc. 

2. The second harder question for librarians is “What is the difference between management and leadership? and “Please provide examples of your education or experience with each.” And while we certainly ask this when interviewing for management positions, it is important for non-managerial librarians to know about their preferences or how they might prefer to be managed. As to asking non-managerial librarians about leadership – we find leadership at all levels in the organization including leading teams, projects, leading in the community and the community of users, etc. 
3. The third question includes content focused on an applicants’ attitudes toward equity, diversity and inclusion and – more importantly – knowledge of its value and role in work life and most important of all – application of techniques to ensure integration into the business of the institution – not only for staff but for all users. Answers to questions that are very open-ended are telling, of course – but more successful ones are:

  • Give two examples of how you have integrated EDI into user education, information literacy or teaching and learning. 
  • What three techniques might be integrated into the reference interview to ensure equitable customer service for this critical service?
  • Have you assessed a library (or other setting) for how welcoming it is to diverse patrons?  If you haven’t, what do you think is important when welcoming diverse users to a library?

Why can’t applicants answer these questions?

These questions aren’t easy if someone has not prepared, but they are easily researched and it is logical that they would be part of an interview. Also, if they are difficult it isn’t because the candidates don’t value missions, styles and techniques or EDI. Rather it is often hard to articulate specific examples – in simple discussions – much less interviews! 
So in thinking about these three areas:
1. All applicants should expect that organizations want to make sure applicants understand the general purpose of the organization and while overall missions are easy to articulate in general, distinguishing among or between mission statements and identifying what those differences are IS difficult for any type of library applicant. But now more than ever, institutions are building in values to mission and vision statements. In addition, position roles and responsibilities should reflect the institution’s mission statements and it is important that employees need to be aware of expectations of the organization. 
2. In looking at human resources research and statistics on why people leave jobs or move more quickly than expected from one job to another – performance is an issue as well as like or dislike of work – but often the primary reason is that people do not like or get along with their supervisor. The management vs. leadership question attempts to determine if applicants have thought about what is important to them in working for a specific style or type of manager and practiced self-reflection on how they might fit into the organization. Also the leadership addition provides an opportunity to discuss opportunities within the organization for people to experience what might be more than their primary job as well as competency building opportunities. Organizations may be looking for not only existing managers or leaders as well as future and potential managers and leaders – and at the very least are seeking people who have sincerely thought about what makes them choose one environment over another.
3. Clearly not only is concern for and commitment to EDI present in society today, it is critical that awareness of the importance of and willingness to integrate into the workplace is a part of performance expectations. Interview questions set expectations but answers seek knowledge of application of techniques to focus on true integration. In addition, applicants need to know that expectations translate to measurement and assessment of requirements for the position as well as roles and responsibilities. This question provides the opportunity for interviewers to point out revised mission, vision and value statements, organizational and individual outcomes as well as the organization’s  changes to content such as advertising focus for openings, revised position descriptions, job evaluations and overall development and training required. Finally, this question allows an organization to talk about not only the importance of EDI but the PRACTICE of EDI.


We’re looking for more people who hire LIS workers! If you’d like a no-commitment opportunity to reflect on your hiring practices, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail. You’ll get a weekly email which you can ignore or answer (anonymously even). You’ll get to help LIS job seekers & people who hire in LIS fields understand the process better. And I’ll be your best friend!

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Filed under Further Questions

In the many years that I have interviewed and selected a new employee, I tend to select on the person’s attitude, staying on point to the questions asked, experience.

Nederlands: Collectie Fotoburo de Boer. Houts, Nils van (UP de Boer), CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Library Branch Manager

Titles hired include: Library Assistant, Library Services Supervisor, and Library Information Services Specialist.

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor 

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

√ Online application

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Written Exam

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: Not sure

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

Receive and review applications, conduct interview and make selection.

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

Even though the position is mostly a paraprofessional, the amount of experience in a library setting was very good such as working at a bookstore, volunteer at a library and/or past public library experience. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

If the person does not show much interest in the interview and or is expecting to be selected because of a family member working with our organization.

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

DOB

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?

Disinterest.

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

This year alone we have conducted virtual interviews.

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?

In the many years that I have interviewed and selected a new employee, I tend to select on the person’s attitude, staying on point to the questions asked, experience.

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

Dress code and possibilities for promotion.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual? 

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 101-200

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, 100-200 staff members, Public, Southwestern US, Suburban area