Tag Archives: LIS interviews

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.


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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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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Ask about a typical day, ask what opportunities exist for advancement

Ryan McCrory is a historian of European Intellectual History with over 20 years of library experience in academic and public libraries, as far-flung as the University of Washington Libraries, Seattle Public Library, and Lititz Public Library.  

He is active in a variety of library organizations, and also serves on the Board of Directors of Hosting Solutions and Library Consulting.

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

Post job ad, receive and read applications, contact prospective candidates for interviews, interview and evaluate, make job offer. I do or assign each of these steps.

Titles hired include: Circulation Supervisor, Circulation Clerk, Maintenance

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Other: Executive Director

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

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ References

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

Clearly articulated why they were interested in this particular job and had a clear understanding of what the job actually was.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?


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

Does their work match their words

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

CV: √ We don’t ask for this

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

Try to say what they think is wanted, instead of just speaking honestly.

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

We could, but we haven’t had the need. Make sure they test out the audio before the interview. If I can’t hear them effectively, I’m not going to remain engaged well enough to give them a proper interview

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

Make me understand that they have people skills, can work with many types of people, are adaptable when necessary, and can think on their feet effectively.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

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

We are in a pretty homogenous area, so we don’t attract a lot of diversity. I think even prospective employees would have a hard time seeing themselves as working for us – we probably don’t appear as inclusive as we are. I don’t have an easy answer to fix that, but do try and make sure that our programming and collections give the sense that we are open to all.

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

Ask about a typical day, ask what opportunities exist for advancement. Ask how we would view someone not looking for advancement. Ask questions that would let them know what they are in for.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: Not really. There may be occasions for it, but very few

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Northeastern US, Other Organization or Library Type, Rural area, Suburban area