Tag Archives: Public Libraries

I did a virtual interview this year where the candidate was playing a video game at the same time

Librarian stands at bookshelves talking to a teen
Image: Librarian with young reader in Browsing Room of the Nathan Strauss Branch for Young People From The New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Library Administrator

Titles hired include:

Librarian, Library Assistant, Clerk, Access Services Assistant, Security Manager, Library Administrator 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

Recruitment – alternating between internal and external, screened for minimum quals, randomly selected pool of about 20 at a time sent to interview panel (3-5 people), panel interview creates a list of ranked candidates based on score, names are referred out to hiring manager based on score and location/FTE preference, second interview is done at local level (3-4 people usually), selection is made. 

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

demonstrated leadership in answers,  complete answers, good sense of humor, thoughtful and prepared (we send questions at least 24 hrs ahead of time)

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Because we send questions ahead of time, someone who is obviously unprepared (doesn’t have an answer) is kind of a deal breaker. I did a virtual interview this year where the candidate was playing a video game at the same time. Poor answers to diversity and equity questions. 

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

references, and sometimes resume – only the initial hiring panel who makes the list sees the resume generally 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this 

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

incomplete question answers, answers that are too SHORT. If you have 30 minutes for the interview and you are done in 10, you need to rethink the details in your answers. 

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

yes. Don’t be afraid to communicate issues you have – poor internet connection or equipment, etc.  Otherwise, just relax. We are mostly taking notes and sometimes don’t even have you on our main screen, 

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?

It doesn’t take a lot to convince me. Candidates who can show parallels are actually my favorite because it takes skill to show how you have the skills without having worked in a library before. I try to have some questions to encourage this as well – ie. Tell me about a time you had to teach yourself something complicated, how did you go about it? What did you learn? What would you do differently? – Advice – have an awareness of how the library is part of a larger system, its own type of environment – think about public access on a bigger picture level. Say more than “I love the library” – tell us what a library means to you.  ASK IF THE PERSON HAS SEEN YOUR RESUME.  I tell people if we haven’t, which isn’t uncommon, but others might not think to tell you that before the interview starts. When you answer questions, answer every part – an incomplete answer is the easiest way to rank someone lower in a large candidate pool. When you are finished with your answer, go back and summarize your answer as it pertains to each part of the question – make there be no doubt.  

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

√ It’s part of the information provided at the interview

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

√ Other…

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

random selection pool of applicants, training on bias. Where bias still exists – in my org it does not exist as much for race, sexual orientation, or gender – but it’s very prevalent with older age and weight. 

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

Ask what an average day looks like, how promotions occur (although sometimes asking about this can give a bad impression that you don’t want the job you’re interviewing for so be careful about your wording). Most people ask what we like about working at the library. This is an ok question. Ask what our challenges are as a system or branch. Ask what success looks like for someone in this position after 6 months. Ask what type of employee the manager finds the easiest to manage and the staff the easiest to work with.. Benefits questions are best asked to HR. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+

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

Again – answer COMPLETELY.  Talk about teamwork, problem solving, and highlight your previous work experience. We do love to hear that you love the library, but make your answer larger than that – why? What does it mean to you? What do you think it means to the public or country at large?  If there’s something specific you need – ask about it – but also be careful. For example, we sometimes have people asking about very specific schedule needs around other responsibilities (school, children, etc). Weekends and evenings are part of public library life and jobs that don’t include one or both are few – so be prepared for that. 

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

Power Point is dead and shows how behind the times you are.

Astor Market - Demonstrating CoffeeThis anonymous interview is with an public librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Adult, Teen, Youth and Cataloging Librarians.

This librarian works at a library in a rural area in the Western US.

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

√ 25 or fewer

Approximately what percentage of those would you say were hirable?

√ 25% or less

And how would you define “hirable”?

They had more than 2 years experience and had their MLS or MLIS.

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

HR screens for the minimum qualification, sends the apps to the hiring committee and then usually 5-10 applicants are chosen for interviews.

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

They do not have their MLS.

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

√ No

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

Be up on the latest technology and library trends

I want to hire someone who is


How many staff members are at your library/organization?

√ 10-50

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

√ 5-6

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

√ 3-4

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

√ There are more positions

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

√ No

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

√ Yes

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

Yes, it is a requirement.

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ No

Why or why not?

Younger librarians, i.e. Millennials, tend to be more technologically savvy and innovative. They aren’t afraid of change, initiating change or coming up with new programs to pull in new users. Those librarians who value continuing education will grow in their profession regardless of age and will mentor Millennials through management and coaching.

Do you have any other comments, for job hunters or about the survey?

Bring examples of your work, for example in Prezi or Animoto presentation style. Power Point is dead and shows how behind the times you are.

Do you hire librarians?  Take this survey: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibjobmarketsurvey or take other Hiring Librarians surveys.

For some context, look at the most recent summary of responses.


Filed under Public, Rural area, State of the Job Market 2015, Western US

If They Are Going to Weed Out Potential Employees by Their Resumes Anyway, Don’t Expect Every Applicant to Write a Paper or Essay

Rabbit hunting on the Otago Central Railway, ca 1900This anonymous interview is with a job hunter who is currently employed (even if part-time or in an unrelated field), has not been hired within the last two months, and has been looking for a new position for More than 18 months. This person is looking in Academic libraries, Public libraries, and School libraries at the following levels: Requiring at least two years of experience. S/he is in a city/town in the Southern US and is not willing to move.

What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?

Opportunity for growth

Where do you look for open positions?

Local sites

Do you expect to see salary range listed in a job ad?

√ Yes, and it’s a red flag when it’s not

What’s your routine for preparing an application packet? How much time do you spend on it?

4 hours

Have you ever stretched the truth, exaggerated, or lied on your resume, or at some other point during the hiring process?

√ No

When would you like employers to contact you?

√ To acknowledge my application
√ To tell me if I have or have not been selected to move on to the interview stage
√ Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me

How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?

√ Email

Which events during the interview/visit are most important to your assessment of the position (i.e. deciding if you want the job)?

√ Meeting department members/potential co-workers

What should employers do to make the hiring process less painful?

If they are going to weed out potential employees by their resumes anyway, don’t expect every applicant to write a paper or essay if you are not going to use them. It really wastes a lot of time for applicants. Please ask for those additional items only from people who make it past the first cut.

What do you think is the secret to getting hired?

Knowing someone

This survey was co-authored by Naomi House from I Need A Library Job – Do you need one?  Check it out!

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Filed under Academic, Job hunter's survey, Southern US, Special