Tag Archives: LIS careers

Further Questions:  What’s your most horrifying hiring horror story?

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 your most horrifying hiring horror story? Either as a hirer or hiree. If you have incorporated lessons learned in your current hiring practices, it would be great to hear about that too.


Anonymous: As a hirer, I’ve had a few. One person, during phone interviews (years before Zoom) started her answer to each question, “Well, I don’t really know, but…” then proceeded to ramble on for what seemed like hours. We couldn’t find a way to politely end the interview. I had one candidate who said to me, during the tour of the library the afternoon before her interview, that undergraduates are stupid. We are primarily an undergraduate institution and were even more so back then. I knew she wasn’t going to get the job, but had to continue. We got to dinner to discover that she was a vegetarian and hadn’t said anything and we had scheduled dinner at a restaurant that had no vegetarian option. They made something for her, and I’m sure it was lovely, but definitely lesson learned there!

As a hiree, I have been put in campus housing of some kind for my interview. This has really become a pet peeve for me. The last time, there would have been no way to make coffee (if I hadn’t brought some things for myself) or have breakfast before my interview started at 8:30am. I was the only person there and had no idea about thermostat, wifi, etc. It is really not great for a candidate to feel comfortable and be able to sleep. I looked and felt tired the next day, which was a second day of a gauntlet of meetings with various constituents. I also, very early in my career, had an interviewer ask me about one of my grad school professors. Uuuuuuuuugh, this person was horrible to me and made me cry almost every time I went in his office. I froze and didn’t know what to say. The interviewer (who really was an awesome guy) leaned over and quietly said, “it’s okay. We can’t stand him either.” At my most recent interview, no matter what we did, I could not log in to their guest wifi for my presentation, which was simultaneously in person and via Zoom, with Google slides. After trying and failing and getting help and having to give up, someone brought me a laptop to use. Huge relief. It was all fine, but more stressful than it should have been – and I had even discussed all of these logistics with them in advance!


Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor and Brooklyn Public Library’s Job Information Resource Librarian: My horror story actually happened twice. It was at two different workplaces, but was basically the same story.

I was on the hiring committee both times, but not the hiring manager for either position. In both cases the applicants interviewed very well, but lied about their experience, claiming to have years of specific experience crucial to the position that they did not actually have. Beware the slick applicant who seems “just perfect” for the position!

In one of the positions references were checked but only in a superficial way, and in the other case, references weren’t checked at all.

In both cases it became clear early on that the person hired did not know what they were doing – within weeks. Also in both cases, the new hires made up “best practices” to try to cover for the fact that they did not have the experience they claimed to have, and doubled down when confronted, insisting that the way they were doing things was effective, and the way things should be done.

As you can imagine, this caused a lot of problems as the work they were hired to do was not getting done properly, and their managers struggled to supervise and hold accountable these employees who refused to follow policies and procedures in favor of their own fictional “best practices”.

The moral of this double horror story: always check references and check them thoroughly. Don’t just go by the info on the resume and cover letter, and an impressive performance in the interview. Skipping this step in the hiring process can lead to disaster, endless headaches, and lowered morale among other staff. Ask probing questions of references, to (perhaps) uncover some red flags you would otherwise miss. It is best to contact “unofficial” references too (others beyond just the references provided by the applicant), if it is at all possible. The more info you have about the applicant, the less chance there will be of hiring someone who turns out to be a problem.


Anonymous: We hired a new librarian a number of years ago. The interview went very well and the individual arrived and it was quickly apparent that they had all of the skills and qualities that we were looking for. The person worked well with their library faculty colleagues including team teaching and long overdue work on some collections. I began to get the impression that this person and one other librarian were spending a lot of time together. I am not usually very perceptive about this kind of thing but I had a feeling.
At the end of the most recent hire’s third year, the other librarian came to me to say that they were each leaving their spouses and also taking a separation incentive package from the institution and leaving. I also found out they were pregnant. So this hire resulted in the break-up of two marriages and the departure of two librarians. And both positions were then eliminated. Clearly more of a horror story for me than for them.


Jess Herzog, Director of Adult Services, Spartanburg County Public Libraries: My assistant director and I were interviewing an internal (already in our department) to move up from one role to another, and the head of HR was in the interview as well. The four of us were seated at a round table, and at one point I crossed my legs. I am what most would consider A Large Human, and the table is what most would consider On The Smaller Side, and I whacked my knee pretty hard on the underside of the table. As one often does when one is shocked by a jolt of pain, I forgot where I was, and said “ow, f**k!” 

Silence.

And then the head of HR and I both turned beet red while my two staff began cackling. Oops! I apologized profusely and counted my lucky stars that everyone in the room was internal. Lesson learned: keep the legs crossed at the ankle, Herzog.


Anonymous: While it isn’t universally evident, oftentimes a workplace suffering from a toxic culture is unable to hide that discontent from candidates. The most obvious example of this I experienced as a candidate was at a parochial institution. About four or five minutes into the interview the search chair referenced a day of particular importance within the organization’s founding religion and noted, casually, that they had always wondered why this event was celebrated on that specific calendar day. Another member of the search committee, one whose aggression and disdain had made me question if I wanted to continue in the search at the phone interview level, immediately snapped and shamed the search chair (who was also their boss!) for not knowing the reason behind the date and, further, remarking that it was amazing the search chair had ever been hired into their position given their “ignorance.” From that point on, I knew I was basically only in town for a free lunch. However, I did continue to pay close attention to the aggressive committee member’s interactions throughout the day. It quickly became apparent that this individual had been with the organization the longest and had a long, long history of being moved from department to department as they wore out their welcome in each unit. They had left a significant, multi-year (multi-decade?) trail of carnage in their wake because multiple leaders were unwilling to take on the admittedly gruelling and often thankless job of documenting and terminating this employee. It further became evident that this person was the primary source of the organization’s current toxic culture as people either suffered their abuse or tried desperately to avoid their attention, even if that meant throwing someone else under the bus. Obviously I didn’t take the job, but I think about it often as a lesson in the harm of not confronting a problem early and, if needed, definitely. 


Anonymous: I was hired for an administrative position over an internal candidate. They informed me on my first day that every single library employee objected so strongly to my hiring that they were actively seeking employment elsewhere. That was when I started perfecting my neutral, flat-affect “oookaaay,” which has come in handy many times since.


Alan Smith, Director, Florence County, SC Library System: This may not be truly horrifying, but as a hiree (in previous positions long ago) I have had experiences where the organizational culture was not at all what it seemed during the interview and recruitment. In interviews now I try to give an accurate picture of what it’s like to work here, both in the questions I ask and also just describing it outright. If a candidate decides it’s not for them I’d rather them do so during the hiring process, not after the first day on the job!

As a hirer, I won’t go into specifics about horror stories, but I have learned that the most likable, charismatic interviewees do not automatically become the best employees. After an interview that feels more like a fun conversation, or reuniting with a long-lost friend, it’s helpful to ask, ‘do I want to hire this person to do a job, or do I want to be their friend?’ Having whatever social charm or spark to make an interview enjoyable does not necessarily mean the candidate has the necessary skills or alignment with the library’s mission. And in a worst-case scenario, a person who breezes through interviews on charisma alone will do the same thing on the job, getting by on likability rather than competence — and that can make disciplinary action as well as co-worker relationships a lot more difficult.


Anonymous: During the hiring process, there are things that don’t always come out because they are things you can’t ask and the person wouldn’t be able to answer you honestly, anyway. Most jerks are unaware of their jerk status. And, while you can ask some questions and watch for signs of jerkiness, it is sometimes undetectable until it is too late. In my experience, “plays too well with others” has never been a concern, however, “does not play well with others” can have some lasting and pretty devastating consequences.

On the hiree side of things, it can be a challenge to see just how dysfunctional a place is until you are on the inside. There is being honest and then there is “airing dirty laundry”. You don’t get to smell the laundry until you are there for a while. I used to have an “ideal” workplace with people who worked together in perfect harmony as a goal. I am an adult now and know that you are better off if you recognize the “odd ducks” for who they are just as you recognize the toxic bullies for who they are. And deal with each appropriately.

As an interviewee, I had the privilege of interviewing for a position I was excited about virtually. For the most part, everyone was very professional. Being completely virtual was a unique experience and, in much the same way a person might be “assigned” to help with the transitions between sessions, they assigned someone to help make sure everything was set up and working properly and there was some friendly chit chat during that time.

Obviously, we all have very different spaces and Zoom can provide a bigger glimpse into someone’s life than one would ordinarily share. I was surprised that there was a giant box of adult diapers featured prominently on the screen the entire day. I was also surprised when I popped into a Zoom room after a break to find this person having a bit of an argument with a family member. Full sound and all of the details. I tried to make my presence known, but it took a while.

It was more than I had signed up for.

A person in an important role that I was looking forward to meeting was a no-show at my first opportunity to meet them. Later, when we were supposed to meet one on one, the person had to be called to be reminded to join the Zoom. While awkward, it didn’t seem “out of the ordinary” to the person who had to make that call. When they “arrived” they were very apologetic but very clearly had been asleep. They volunteered that they did not want to return to campus due to the distinct benefits of being at home (naps, apparently). During the entire interaction, this person referred to me in an overly familiar way. I played along, but was taken aback at how overly casual and candid the conversation was.

I felt like I was playing a game called “Tell Me I Don’t Want This Job Without Telling Me I Don’t Want This Job”.


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or whispered on the wind. 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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Facility with language

New Dorp, Seated librarian with costumed children at story hour. From the New York Public Library

This interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Senior Librarian

Titles hired: Librarian, Clerk, Specialist, Supervisor, Page

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

I participate in panels as SME in children’s services.

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

Facility with language.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Yes

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

Attitude

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this

Resume: √ We don’t ask for this

CV: √ We don’t ask for this

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

Assume they can do things alone, not ask for help.

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

Yes.

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?

Make connections with experience to new position.

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?

Reach out to national library associations

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

What teams are like

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US

What’s your region like?

√ Other: Half rural half suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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

Unable to articulate what they will bring to the job

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

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Assistant Director

Titles hired: Librarian, Library Assistant, Supervisor

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

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

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

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

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Lack of required skills, experience, or education.

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

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

How many pages should each of these documents be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100

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

And we are still hiring mostly white candidates for all positions.

Librarian Augusta Baker showing a copy of Ellen Tarry’s “Janie Belle” to a young girl at the library. From the New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Branch Manager

Titles hired include: Library assistant, senior library assistant, principal library assistant, librarian, branch manager

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Other: County administration, library commission (governing board)

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

√ Online application

√ References

√ Proof of degree 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

I work in a medium urban/suburban county public system. Application required. Typically one interview with a panel of three, the supervisor and two staff at same or higher titles. Successful candidate approved by library commission and county administration. Can take 4-6 weeks to notify candidates. 

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

Expressed empathy, no direct library experience (was for a library assistant job) but demonstrated strategic thinking, problem solving, ability to help patrons figure out our systems 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

I tend to pick out a “most important question” in the interview that really gets to the heart of what’s important for this person for this role. For my branch, it’s the question about what challenges an urban library faces, and how the candidate might address them on a personal and professional level. A weak answer on that question is hard to overcome. 

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

Even though we only require an application, at least a cover letter is so helpful. Please practice responses to likely questions ahead of time. If you’re an internal candidate, pretend we don’t know you. Ask at least one good question of us, and not just “when can I expect to hear back.” 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this  

Resume: √ We don’t ask for this  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Their only question for us is “when will I hear back.” It’s a fair question! But we’d love to answer more.

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

Yes. Nothing really – I think we all recognize we’re all doing the best we can with this. Some colleagues expect candidates to have video on but I wish we could come to a consensus that this isn’t necessary – we shouldn’t ask about or discriminate based on internet bandwidth. 

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?

Candidates with retail and food service experience are amazing! Talking about how you provided good service in these challenging jobs is the best – please don’t hold back. 

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?

Insist we write down candidate answers word for word as much as possible. We are instructed to base hiring justifications on interview answers and applications, nothing else. I still see age related bias, on both the younger and older ends of the spectrum. The thing about insisting cameras be on for virtual interviews is no good. And we are still hiring mostly white candidates for all positions. 

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

What’s a typical day like, how are staff supported by supervisors, do you feel this is a healthy workplace. Our organization in general does its best, but due to the political climate salaries and vacation for new hires are egregiously low and we have long, long vacancies when people leave. Everyone, especially managers, are stretched very thin. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US  

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: Only remote for most meetings and interviews

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, Northeastern US, Public, Suburban area, Urban area

Job Hunter’s Web Guide: Library Returners

In the previous iteration of Hiring Librarians, I did periodic features on websites that supported LIS job hunters. You can take a look at the list here. I am planning to do updates on some of those listed, and I’m also hoping to feature new (or new to me) sites.

I’m really pleased to be able to feature Library Returners. It’s an excellent and much-needed resource for those returning to work after a break. This is a topic I had heard about a lot from readers; in fact we did a series on it back in 2013. In the COVID era, I think it’s even more relevant. 

Home page of Library Returners website: background image is a bookshelf and title of site is: Library Returners: A site for those returning to Librarianship after a career break

What is it?  Please give us your elevator speech!

Library Returners is a site aimed at those returning to work in libraries after a career break. It contains a range of advice, guest posts and career break stories, that will also be of value to those changing track, sector, thinking of taking some time out, or just reassessing where they are in their career.

When and why was it started?

I entered the world of career breaks many years ago. But I didn’t find the information I needed or wanted when I wanted to re-join the profession and return to work. The blog was started to fill what I felt was a gap in career resources available for librarians who had taken time away from the formal workplace.

It went live in April 2018 but it really started with the release of a blog post written in September 16, 2018 called Getting back into the game: how to restart your library career after a break – Library returners This post provides a rather neat summary of some of things someone who in on a period of extended leave can do to kickstart their library job search. However, it was also a good ‘vision post’, setting out what the blog was really all about. I received such a great response to this post and people started to subscribe.

Now, I post a mixture of articles that I write myself or that are written by fabulous librarians working in the field with experience of career breaks or from wonderful library career and industry experts offering career advice. I am always interested to hear what topics readers would like to see tackled on the blog. I started to write about the things I wanted to hear more about, but as the site developed, ideas for articles have also come from readers directly, using the Dear Ms Library Returner, – Library returners box or via direct messages. The personal stories, like Guest post: Jessie – Library returners have a real and deep connection with people and I would certainly like to develop this in the future. Some are from librarians who have successfully returned to working at the level they want, while others are from people still working their first return to work job or ‘bridge job’. I am deeply grateful to everyone who has contributed because they’ve all given me their precious time for free. 

Who runs it? Please tell us a bit about your background. 

Library returners is run by Susan Mends from Wales, UK.

I have what might be described as a portfolio career!

I started in libraries in the early 1990s, initially working full-time in public libraries and then working full-time in teaching and developing open, distance and e-learning masters programmes (an early career highlight was setting up the Masters in Library and Information Studies by distance learning in Aberystwyth University Throughout this time I maintained a genuine interest in career education, guidance and planning to enhance employability.

I took a career break in 2013 after my third child was born. Around the same time, I was also engaged in caregiving to an elderly member of the family. Four years later I started my library returner journey, returning to work on a flexible basis and taking on a ‘bridge job’ with part-time hours in a public library as entry back into the profession.

I still work in the public library sector while also providing freelance writing services to a university department and have, for example, recently completed revising an open, distance and e-learning module in Children’s Librarianship. 

Who is your target audience?

Librarians, aspiring librarians, library workers, returners and relaunchers and anyone who wants and needs to connect and interact.

The biggest audience are people taking a break from the workplace for a variety of reasons and finding ways to return. However, it is also read by other readers, e.g., those who are interested in part-time, flexible, professional remote work. I’ve been surprised by the number of new library professionals who’ve told me they access the site. A new development are readers preparing for their retirement.

It is accessed in many different parts of the world. Changes in the workplace and the wider profession in response to the coronavirus pandemic mean that everyone is considering their future.

What’s the best way to use your site?   

Readers can check it out as needed. New blog posts are released around every two months. The bibliography and other pages will be updated on an ad hoc basis. 

Does your site provide:

Answers to reader questions

Interviews

Articles/literature

Links

Research

The opportunity for interaction

Advice on:

Cover Letters

Resumes

Interviewing

 Networking

Other: Flexible working / Job applications / Career coaching / Mindfulness/Portfolio careers / Job shadowing / Volunteering/ Lack of work experience / Job skills / LinkedIn / 

Should readers also look for you on social media? Or is your content available in other formats? Please include links, subscription information, or other details if pertinent

Twitter: @Libraryreturner 

LinkedIn: Susan Mends

Facebook 

Do you charge for anything on your site?

No

Can you share any stories about job hunters that found positions after using your site?

The library returners blog is building a collection of real-life career break stories from people who have taken time away from libraries for all sorts of reasons. People on a career break find real value in reading other people’s stories, whether they record a return to the same field of librarianship or a career adjustment or change. They can be particularly helpful to read during a long, tough job hunt, the type of difficult search process being experienced by many at the moment. I am always looking for new stories as people find these really useful.

The stories collected so far can be found here Your voices: LIS career break stories 

You can find my story Real-life Returners: the challenges of returning to work in the library and information sector on another website! 

Anything else you’d like to share with my readers about your site in particular, or about library hiring/job hunting in general?

The hardest thing for a library returner to overcome is the perception that you’ve become stale and lost your professional skillset while you’ve been on extended leave. 

If you can:

  • Seek out networking opportunities while you are still on your career break – how can you connect, attend a conference, a virtual webinar?
  • Keep your skills up to date – can you take a course?
  • Maintain your LinkedIn profile – it is tempting to close it down but far better to hold it open and say why you are not available. Now it’s ready to update when you are! 

The job search process can be daunting and anything you can do to make this a bit easier will help. But if you switched off completely during your break, don’t worry. Visit libraryreturners.com for more advice!  

Thank you!

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Consistent use of STAR technique

Image: Hudson Park, Picture book hour, Miss Cutler, children’s librarian. From the New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Titles hired: Regional manager, Librarian, public service assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Resume

√ References

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes

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

Pre screen panel of 3 interviewers, 3 questions, 10 minutes to answer. If selected to move on, 1 hour interview with 5 member panel

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

Consistent use of STAR technique, involvement in professional associations, and ability to articulate concepts from self guided professional development

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

No

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

Not providing specific examples to support answers

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

Yes.

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?

Hype up customer service skills

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?

Pre and post bias discussion. Diverse hiring panel

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

I’d like them to ask more about our strategic mission and the culture between admin and branch level. What is the role of Librarian in the organization. How do you see it changing in the next 5 years.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: Occasional WFH opportunities. Generally discouraged for non management

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+

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

Further Questions: Is it possible to do all of your hiring virtually?

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.

Today’s question is from someone who hires library workers:

Some managers are saying that they feel comfortable designing a 100% virtual hiring process for all of their vacant positions. Others are saying that only certain positions can be hired from 100% virtual and that some positions need a hybrid process. So…post-pandemic – IS it really possible to substitute 100% of in person hiring with 100% online/virtual hiring for librarian positions? If yes, can we say that about all positions we hire in libraries? Paraprofessional? Professional/Technical? Hourly?

There are a couple answers below and even more discussion on Twitter:


headshot of jess herzog

Jess Herzog, Director of Adult Services, Spartanburg County Public Libraries: I hire exclusively public service staff, primarily paraprofessional, and one of the things I find most important to assess in an interview is body language, because this is the kind of non-verbal behavior that will be exhibited in front of patrons. Are there abrupt or rapid movements that may overwhelm or distract patrons? Does the interviewer exhibit defensive or protective body language about a certain topic? Is the interviewee capable of making eye contact?

I don’t hang the entire interview on body language, but patrons in a public library assess body language in many many ways, and we often have to use body language to our advantage to convey messaging to patrons. It’s almost impossible to read full body language–and in most cases anything from the shoulders down–when interviewing virtually. I think a first interview could be done virtually, but for positions I hire, I’d really want to meet a prospective employee in person first and have some sort of interaction with them.


Headshot of Laurie Phillips

Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: Since COVID, we’ve done a few hires completely virtual, both a librarian and two staff members. I think it has gone really well and I don’t think we missed out on anything. I do think it’s important for there to be some one-on-one interaction with candidates, rather than big committee meetings on Zoom. For staff, we do a pre-screening before they ever meet with the committee. For a faculty search, I don’t remember if we did two rounds on Zoom, but it worked out very well. It’s a little harder to bring out skills, etc., but I’m not sure what would entirely be gained by meeting someone in person, unless it’s for an administrator, who really needs to see the building and the campus and meet the people in person.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: Because of where we live – Austin – and not who we are, frankly – pre-pandemic applicants for many of our classified positions were from out-of-state. Why? To state the obvious (and identify things that many wonderful cities have)…many people move to Austin because a partner, spouse, friend, etc. is going to be going to the graduate library program in town or they themselves are OR their significant other has gotten a job in Austin (industry, tech, the music business, etc.) or they themselves are a musician or – again – their partner is OR because they love music and want to be near the city’s music scene.

I list these out because – and obviously for the classified positions – they need an income while they go to school, work, play, etc. and here we are! So we don’t flatter ourselves that we are that sought after at the senior library assistant or library assistant level but we do have good benefits and we have a variety of locations as well as managers with libraries with long hours so flexibility has always been our focus.

With that in mind, bringing people in from out-of-state- especially at the initial level of weeding out a pool of finalists – is not affordable or possible and certainly a candidate would not always choose to pay their own way. SO – many years ago we were the first department in the college to ask our HR department if we could interview online to assess the first round of applicants. Although they said yes, it meant that – for full parity – all initial finalists had to interview online and – yes – we even interviewed our internal applicants online for the first round. Of course, we quickly realized that the best outcome of this was far more than saving money or seeking a breadth of experience, etc. rather it greatly increased the pool in general and we were able to visit with candidates from vastly different settings, educational backgrounds and interests. With all of these aspects and opportunities in mind for the classified positions, we began to narrow down our faculty librarian applicant pools in the same way and we definitely had a bigger, richer pool to interview and thus narrowed down the longer list to five or six finalists to bring in/see in person.

Obviously these initial interviews online were only question and answer sessions, but as technology availability and ease of access grew, it became easier to imagine a full faculty librarian interview with not only questions and answers but also guided conversations or question and answer follow up, possible meet and greets as well as teaching presentations. After all, our growing distance learning program have – in fact – as all are, curriculum delivered both synchronously and asynchronously and we provide online reference and both hybrid (digital pre-learning and synchronous) and synchronous instruction for a class as well as online Zoom sessions for research assistance and curriculum design using library subscription resources, OPEN resources, etc. for not only students but classroom faculty.

It wasn’t such a stretch; then, as soon as the pandemic began, for us to decide the critical issue was to continue hiring and how we did that was less important than the fact that we were allowed to do it and needed to continue to fill positions. We expanded our reach, then, by moving all interviews online and continued to review our questions for currency with a focus on EDI issues as well as added with even more emphasis the assessment of the candidates design and delivery of online content. We have been very pleased with our “pandemic hires” although they interviewed only virtually AND were hired, oriented and trained virtually and – literally – in one case, did not step foot on a campus for months.

So what do we want to keep as we slowly move into Pandemic Stage 3? My guess is my managers all have distinctly different opinions – which is as it should be – but for my purposes, I very much like the virtual narrowing down of the larger pools for all levels of staff, but oddly feel more strongly about the second round for classified being either a hybrid or in-person session where we bring people in while the faculty librarian position could – in fact I think – remain online. I am not quite sure why I feel that way but because I think I should figure that out (!) I thought about it taking a look back at the last 18 months, read a little on online interviewing etc. and have decided on this list of “why.”

Why do we need to bring in senior assistant and library assistant candidates for at least part of an interview?

  • Classified staff – obviously – work alone at the public service or assistance desk/in assistance areas but overall operate as members of teams and – as such – train together, support the teams general and specific duties and often partner for not only projects but for public service…I see it critical then – if at all possible and especially for those not serving on the selection committees – get the chance to meet with candidates.
  • Many circulation desk roles and responsibilities are not stand-alone roles, rather a project or task or job responsibility is completed by the team – often stepping in at different times – therefore – timing, relationships, observation with the team (if possible) are key.
  • Classified staff work in fewer locations -that is – they have responsibilities for roles and responsibilities at their public service desk possibly, an administrative assistants desk – and one other location – specifically the workroom or work stations for work cubicles and now – they must also work in shared locations or on shared technology. Given the number of hours – literally- classified staff work in fewer, smaller spaces, it is important for them to see their work environment…windows or not? space to call their own or not? opportunities for more quiet or not? “protected” from the general public or not? opportunities – on the job – for privacy or not? People have to make their own decisions about where they might feel comfortable working and whether or not they feel as if they can be successful in work settings. That best happens with onsite visits and – if possible – observation of people working in spaces.
  • Classified roles and responsibilities might but aren’t necessarily “self-starter” in nature, but certainly once in play, staff need to be self-directed. Rather than – if at all possible – finding out if applicants can be or are self-starters through questions alone – it is important to show/illustrate workflow for teams so that applicants can be more aware of position expectations in general and so that interviews can ask questions following tours to determine awareness of/interest in and commitment to self-starting tasks and responsibilities.

Why is the actual in-person visit not as necessary – in some environments – for librarians as applicants?

So first the disclaimer, many environments do NOT have adequate workroom, office, or cubicle space for professionals – much less their classified staff. Professionals; however, have more flexible schedules typically as well as more locations where work happens and possibly (and certainly now typically) both on and off site. And the odds are professionals might have on site or in the building or general proximity, offices, more opportunities for privacy and “heads down” concentration and focus as well as individual – rather than team – roles and responsibilities. If your environment for your professionals is one where space is shared (offices, hardware/tech, space for supporting resources, etc.) it is incumbent upon interviews that you communicate that to all applicants. Much like the difficult answers that are typically given to “What is your support for staff development?” applicants must be told what they have and what they don’t have either through verbal discussion or through lists of resources available for new professionals including office/work space information.

Smart applicants ask questions such as “What does a typical workday look like for a librarian?” “Please describe workspaces for librarians beyond the public service desk.” “What support do instructors have in classrooms?” “What storage is there for maker resources (or children’s materials for programming, or parent support resources?” “What is the performance or programming space for my primary audience, my seniors?”

With the advent of streaming media, phones with cameras, inexpensive filming devices, etc.and taking great care to not provide TOO much information on recommendation of safety and security experts for environments, it is easy to not only create virtual visits for users to post on websites, social media, etc. but also to provide short media pieces for candidates showing public and behind-the-scenes workspaces (cubicles, offices), user environments, programming venues, and even supporting resource storage. In addition, those interviewing virtually should identify individual technology support in general and specifically (higher end computers, laptop availability, device distribution for staff, more memory given roles and responsibilities, etc.) as well as updates and ongoing maintenance and overall support for hardware and software. And while these elements have always been important it is even more important as we welcome people back to the workplace who may have VERY different working spaces in the past two years.


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or via carrier pigeon. 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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In an interview – quietly confident. 

A librarian in a red shirt looks at books of fruit and vegetable images
Image: Special Collections librarian Sara B. Lee selecting fruit and vegetable images from the Rare Book Collection. USDA Photo by Peggy Greb.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ School Library

Title: Library Coordinator

Titles hired include: Library Attendant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ The position’s supervisor 

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ CV

√ References

√ Other: written key selection criteria

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

Written applications submitted online; shortlisting; interview (usually with some practical component); second interview

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

On paper – thorough KSC answers, had researched our organisation, good attention to detail. In an interview – quietly confident. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Lots of spelling errors in application; or completes application process incorrectly. Shows poor attention to detail!

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

How much guidance / detailed instructions they will need on the job and in training – something you generally pick up on in their first few projects 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

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

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

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

Not answering questions directly; not thinking about what the panel needs to find out about them

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

Honestly very similar to in-person interviews in my experience 

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?

We definitely take transferrable skills into consideration, so outline all those experiences. Show some knowledge of libraries too though – particularly the sort of work involved and what sort of organisations they are, not just an idealised view saying “I love reading so I want to work in a library!” 

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?

It very much depends on the individuals involved

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

Asking questions about their specific areas of interest, what projects they’d be interested to get involved in etc, helps because it helps the panel get to know them. 

It’s very popular to ask ‘what’s the culture like’ but I personally don’t think this is useful for either party – of course a hiring manager is going to give some generic positive spiel; if you have specific questions about professional development, flexibility etc – just ask that! 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Australia/New Zealand

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Australia/New Zealand, School, Suburban area

Stats and Graphs: When does your organization first provide salary information?

It’s Staturday!

Welcome to a Stats and Graphs post, in which I examine survey responses through stats and graphs!

The survey that I am calling Return to Hiring Librarians opened on March 25th, 2022. As of today, May 14th, 2022, we have 180 responses. There are 23 questions in the survey. 13 are open-ended and 10 are closed-ended. Of the closed-ended questions, only one measures an opinion (it’s a grid which asks: How many pages should a cover letter/resume/CV be?). The others are primarily demographics but do also ask for things like when salary information is first shared and what materials/tasks are asked for in the application and interview process.

The survey is still open. If you hire library workers, please consider filling it out.

In the past, I’ve posted the stats for all questions. I’m going to try just looking at one question at a time, plus demographics.


I’m starting with the question “When does your organization first provide salary information?” The recent post Currently, we’re over 300% turnover since 2016 and cannot attract candidates garnered some discussion which blamed the lack of candidates on not telling folks salary info until after they’d made an offer. While I think that the responses indicated much larger problems than that, I thought I’d take a look at the answers to the salary information question in aggregate.

The good news is that the majority (70%) provide salary information as part of the job ad. In addition, many folks who chose “other” described their desire to make this information available up front, and talked about either successfully lobbying for the change or feeling stymied by their organization’s refusal.

This survey does not use representative sampling, so it would not be appropriate to generalize for our larger population of LIS organizations. However, if your organization does not currently provide this information up front, it might be worth opening a discussion with your administration about the message it sends to candidates when salary is hidden.

Now might also be a good time to mention – this blog collects salary information from currently employed folks. You can contribute yours here. These links, along with the Interview Questions Repository, are always available in the sidebar over on the right there ——–>

When does your organization first provide salary information

Chart of responses to When does your organization first provide salary information

180 responses

It’s part of the job ad 126 (70%)

We only discuss after we’ve made an offer 19 (10.6%)

It’s part of the information provided at the interview 10 (5.6%)

Other 25 (13.88%)

  • I usually bring it up at the beginning of our phone interview. As in, this is when I need you to work and this is the salary range, does that work and would you like to proceed? Our pre-screen from HR asks for a range, we can usually meet or beat it.
  • Salary discussion is handled by the recruiter
  • It depends, but at my current place of work, we now put it in the ad.
  • Only when we make an offer, but I am hoping to change this.
  • I always list it when I hire, but the library board usually lists none or a range when hiring a director.
  • For most jobs it’s part of the ad, at least for the department I manage. There are some in the library who don’t want to include it, but I think it is an absolutely essential piece and I won’t post an ad for this department without one.
  • Our department lists the salaries in the job ad. It is inconsistent across the institution.
  • We list a range in the job ad, and that’s all I can speak to at the interview. HR determines their salary based on education and experience, and discusses specifics in the offer.
  • A range is usually provided during initial HR screening.
  • Pushing to put it in the ad, but it’s not always done
  • My institution does not allow us to post salary information. For staff hires, I provide salary and works schedules at the interview. For librarian (faculty) positions, it can be awkward to have that conversation during the interview with the committee present. I typically do a follow-up to the first interview with candidates we’re interested in bringing to campus that opens the door to discuss salary 1-1 before moving forward as a candidate.
  • We often mention in the ad that we need the states salary guidelines.
  • Only brought up when there’s an offer or is asked during the interview. Would prefer to put
  • We just started providing ranges or minimums in ads this year
  • It’s usually part of the online job description. Faculty are members of a bargaining unit so starting salaries are set in the CBA, but can also be negotiated.
  • The minimum is posted in the job ad (not a range) but is not discussed in detail until an offer is made.
  • It’s a separate phone call with HR that occurs between the first and second round interviews — I hate this system, but we don’t have any say in it.
  • the range is on the job ad, we can answer general questions, then HR makes their final after vetting
  • Desired salary is a question in the HR screening interview and the HR rep can provide the salary range
  • The salary range is provided as part of the interview and negotiated after the offer.
  • Our institution does not post salary information in job ads (which I cannot get them to budge on). So I provide it as soon as I reach out to schedule interviews.
  • Salary Range in job ad, specific salary with job offer
  • As of April 2022, it’s part of the job ad
  • For me, I didn’t find out salary until the interview. Since I started, the pay info is included in the job ad. we finally got our campus to share. As a state institution, there is one solid number. But it is uneven.

Demographics

What type of organization(s) do you hire for? (Check all that apply)

Chart of What type of organizations do you hire for?

180 responses

Academic Library 55 (30.6%)

Archives 16 (8.9%)

Public Library 96 (53.3%)

School Library 2 (1.1%)

Special Library 16 (8.9%)

Other 14 (7.77%)

What part of the world are you in?

Chart showing replies to "what part of the world are you in?"

179 Responses

Midwestern US 38 (21.2%)

Northeastern US 42 (23.5%)

Southeastern US 32 (17.9%)

Western US 28 (15.6%)

Southwestern US 17 (9.5%)

Australia/New Zealand 5 (2.8%)

Canada 8 (4.5%)

UK 1 (0.6%)

Texas 1 (0.6%)

Other 7 (3.91%)

What’s your region like? (Check all that apply)

Chart of responses to What's your region like?

179 Responses

Urban 79 (44.1%)

Suburban 86 (48%)

Rural 43 (24%)

Other 16 (8.93%)

How many staff members are at your organization?

177 responses

0-10 23 (13%)

11-50 65 (36.7%)

51-100 29 (16.4%)

101-200 26 (14.7%)

201+ 27 (15.3%)

Other 9 (5.08%)


I hope you have found, and will continue to find, the statistics and the individual responses interesting and useful. I’m very interested in any feedback or observations you might have. You can communicate with me here via comment, on Twitter @HiringLib, or by email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Stats and Graphs

Currently, we’re over 300% turnover since 2016 and cannot attract candidates.

A white woman sits at a desk covered in books, using a typewriter
Image: Anita Ozols works at typewriter in Chubb Library Cataloging Department, shortly before move to the new Alden Library by Ohio University Libraries on Flickr

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library

Title: Head of Cataloging

Titles hired: Reference Librarian, acquisitions, circulation

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

It’s a disaster. A committee makes and recommendation and the director ignores it.

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

Currently, we’re over 300% turnover since 2016 and cannot attract candidates.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

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

we have for COVID but are starting to perform on campus interviews

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

technical skills

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

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

We have a DEI statement that is ignored

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

What happened to the the last three people that had this job?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southwestern 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?

√ 11-50

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Southwestern US, Urban area