Tag Archives: Virginia

Hired Librarians: I Could Picture our Clients Relating to Her Very Well

In this feature, Hired Librarians, I interview a recent successful job hunter and the person that hired her.  This week I’m interviewing Mira Geffner, Program Assistant, and the person that hired here, Erika Bell, Manager of Medical Information Services. 

library 2

They work at Breast Cancer Connections, providing medical information services in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Here is how the library is staffed:

We are each here half-time, that’s it for the paid library staff. Other BCC staff and volunteers also help clients in the library when we are not available, and volunteers help with clerical work and special projects.


The Successful Candidate: Mira Geffner

Mira and Erika all dressed up2
Where are you in your career? When did you graduate, and how many years of experience do you have?

I am a career changer and a current MLIS student at San Jose State University. I expect to graduate in December 2014.

Why did this job pique your interest?

It sounded perfect! My professional background is in patient education and advocacy. When I started library school, I was really hoping that I’d be able to continue working directly with the public, but as a librarian instead of an educator or advocate. The BCC Program Assistant job description said they wanted someone who could do research for BCC clients, contribute to the BCC blog, maintain the library collection of books/pamphlets/media, and attend weekly Q&A sessions with area physicians and patients. I had started a blog in my Medical Librarianship class, and I had experience coordinating Q&A conference calls with physicians and patients as part of my previous job. Of course as an LIS student, I do database searching every day, and had gained experience with patient-oriented and academic medical databases through my SLIS courses and an internship at a health library. Other aspects of the job appealed to me too, especially the fact that I would be embedded in a thriving non-profit organization with deep roots in the community. To be honest, the job sounded almost too good to be true.

How many pages was your resume? Cover letter?

My resume was long, nearly 2 pages. I included current academic work and pre-SLIS professional experience. My cover letter was ¾ page.

What research did you do before submitting your application?

I learned about the job from a friend who had interviewed at BCC before I did, so she was able to tell me a lot about BCC’s “personality” in terms of her interview process and the nature of her interview there. After speaking with her, I read as much as I could of BCC’s website. I wanted to familiarize myself with the organization’s programs and services, and understand its mission and history. I also read posts from the BCC blog, to get an idea of how I could contribute to it.

What did you wear?

Black slacks and a colorful top. Black flats. (I had heard from my friend that the place is pretty casual, so didn’t want to overdo it. I was aiming for dressed-for-work rather than dressed-up-for-interview.)

Can you describe your process in preparing for the interview?

I heard about the job at the end of the semester, so I was finishing up classes and an internship, and was getting ready to leave town for a week. In other words, I had less time to prepare for this interview than I would have liked. At least my resume was pretty close to being up to date, since I had applied for internships in other health libraries five months earlier. To prepare, I updated my resume with a few relevant projects I had done in the past few months, updated my cover letter to draw out the connections between my resume and the job description, and rehearsed some standard interview questions. Jill Klees, the SLIS liaison in the SJSU Career Center, was very helpful, both with shortening my resume and practicing interview skills. I also reviewed the databases from my medical librarianship class, and materials from that class’s consumer health unit. I went back to the health/medical research units from my Introduction to Reference class, to make sure I wasn’t forgetting about any important sources there, and reviewed my health literacy outreach blog and other health-related projects I had done at SLIS to refresh my memory about things that might be relevant to the BCC job. And then I spent some time thinking about how my earlier work with rare disease patients might translate to work with breast cancer patients. Finally, I did what I could to learn about breast cancer. At a friend’s suggestion, I reviewed all the terms relating to breast cancer in the National Cancer Institute’s online dictionary of cancer terms. I also read NCI’s basic introduction to breast cancer, because knowledge of breast cancer or other cancers was listed as a job qualification.

What questions did you ask?

I was interviewed by a three-person panel, and I asked them to each tell me what they love about working here. I don’t remember all of their answers, but I remember them all smiling at each other when I asked and Erika kind of laughing and saying it was really hard to know where to start because the list of things she loves about the place is so long. Erika’s boss was on the panel as well, and she told me she had been with BCC for more than 10 years, and that she really enjoys having a chance to work with and mentor people who are newer to the organization. They all said they love the women they work with. I can’t remember exactly how I asked, but I’m pretty sure I asked Erika something about how much patient education she does vs. research/providing information. I didn’t have a “right” answer in mind, I just wanted to understand something about where BCC’s Medical Information Services model fits in the world of consumer health librarianship. And I asked something about the typical resources she consults to handle client requests, because I wanted to understand if I would need to be able to search PubMed like a wizard or if she uses lay sources more of the time.

Why do you think you were hired? What set you apart from other candidates?

Well, that’s a hard one to answer. How do we ever know how the world sees us? I felt like the job – which combines library skills with an ability to assimilate and communicate medical information and interact with clients in a non-threatening way – was a great match for my past experience and my coursework at SJSU. And although I did not have the knowledge of breast cancer or another type of cancer the job description called for, my comprehensive knowledge of another disease from my previous job showed that I could learn about breast cancer and would be motivated to do so. I also think my experience providing support and information services to patients at another non-profit showed that I was a good match for the position. Even though I would need to start with the basics in learning about breast cancer, I tried to demonstrate that my perspective working in other non-profits and with other types of patients would make it possible for me to begin contributing quickly at BCC. Throughout the interview, I tried to convey that the job they were offering was exactly the job I wanted. When they asked where I see myself in five years, I said “with a Master’s degree in Library & Information Sciences, working in a consumer health library.” That was actually one of the questions I hadn’t prepared for, but I think it was the answer I gave most quickly and directly. A job like this one in a place like BCC is what I’ve wanted since before I started the program at SLIS. So the job just felt to me like a great fit, and I tried to convey that to the panel.

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why you were chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

These are things your readers probably know, but I’m going to write them anyway: there is soooo much serendipity in the process, so don’t take things that happen in the job search too personally. Do reflect on how you conduct yourself in interviews, and think about things you would like to do differently, but try not to turn things that happen in the job hunt into a judgment of you as a person. I also can’t say enough about the importance of building and tending your networks. I attend local networking/social events when I can and go to conferences. I participate in LIS student and professional groups on Facebook and on LinkedIn, and read the CALIX and CAPHIS mailing lists (and participate very occasionally in both). I also keep in touch with internship supervisors, some faculty, and students I’ve worked with on class projects or otherwise gotten to know. I would never have known about this job but for a phone call from a SLIS friend, and I believe her recommendation influenced BCC’s decision to interview me.

The Hiring Manager: Erika Bell

Library table

What stood out in this applicant’s cover letter?

Mira’s cover letter was very well written and contained specific, concrete examples that demonstrated her professional experience and qualifications.  Her passion for working as a consumer health librarian was evident in the letter.  Mira was honest about her lack of experience in the cancer field, but displayed confidence in her ability to acquire those skills on the job.

Did she meet all of the required qualifications listed in the job ad? How many of the desired qualifications did she meet?

Mira met all but one of the qualifications listed in the job ad.  The job ad listed “knowledge of breast cancer or other cancers” as a qualification, and Mira did not have this specific experience, but she did have professional experience working in other health-related fields.

In comparison to the rest of the pool, did the applicant have more, less, or about the same years of experience?  What about for the other people you interviewed?

Mira had more experience than many of the applicants in the pool and less experience than some others.  A few applicants were actually overqualified, and for that reason the job didn’t seem like a good fit for them.

What was the interview process like?

I first screened resumes and cover letters and selected a dozen or so that I felt were well qualified.  These applicants were phone screened by our human resources volunteer.  Based on feedback from the phone screen, we then invited a subset of the phone-screened applicants to come in to the center for an in-person interview.  We conducted the interview as a team of three which included myself (BCC’s Manger of Medical Information Services), BCC’s Director of Programs and Services and BCC’s Program Associate.  Candidates were asked a series of pre-scripted questions and then given an opportunity to ask questions of us.  A tour was conducted upon the candidate’s request.

After our first of round of in-person interviews, we selected a candidate, who declined the position due to another job offer.  That applicant happened to be a colleague of Mira’s and recommended her for the position.  Because Mira was referred by this person, we did not conduct the initial phone screen in her case, and instead brought her in immediately for an in-person interview.

What stood out in Mira’s interview?

BCC’s mission is to provide services to women touched by breast and ovarian cancer in an atmosphere of warmth and compassion.  Mira’s warm and compassionate demeanor stood out in the interview.  She was down-to-earth and easy to talk to, and I could picture our clients relating to her very well.  I could tell during the interview that her personality would be a good fit for the organization, and that we would work well together to accomplish the department’s goals.  I was also impressed by the research Mira had done prior to the interview.  She was familiar with BCC’s history, our programs and services, and our mission, and she expressed a clear and genuine interest in contributing to that mission.  After the interview Mira followed-up with a hand-written thank you note, which was a nice touch.

Were there any flags or questions you had about this person’s abilities, and how did they resolve them?

Perhaps the only concern I had about Mira was the fact that she is currently a graduate student, and I wondered if she would be able to successfully juggle school and work. To address this concern, Mira and I discussed a potential work schedule and I gave her the option to reduce her hours when school is in session, if necessary.  We agreed upon a minimum number of hours that would be essential for her to work to get the job done.

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why this candidate was chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

Mira’s skill set and experience got her the interview, but it was really her personality that won her the job.  We interviewed several other candidates with similar or more experience, who definitely could have done the job, but we did not select them because they didn’t connect with us in a way that Mira did.  We really got the sense during Mira’s interview that she would be able to set clients at ease, listen to their needs and concerns, and then be able to find them relevant information to address those needs


If you’re part of a recent hiree/hiring manager pair who’d be willing to be interviewed for this feature, please contact me.  Or please pass along this request!

Leave a comment

Filed under 0-10 staff members, Hired Librarians, Special, Western US

Hired Librarians: She Said She Had a “Crush” on Us

Here’s the next post in our Hired Librarians feature, where I interview a recent successful job hunter and the librarian that hired her.  This week I’m interviewing Nicole Tekulve, Information Commons Librarian, and Virginia Cairns, Chair of Search Committee/Head of Reference & Instruction.  Ms. Tekulve and Ms. Cairns are Academic Librarians.

UTC Library

They work at the Lupton Library at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, which is in the Southern US and has 31 staff members.


The Successful Candidate: Nicole Tekulve

Nicole@RefDesk

Where are you in your career?  When did you graduate, and how many years of experience do you have?

I am an early career librarian who graduated in spring of 2011. I have a little under two years of professional experience and about 5 years of paraprofessional experience in public and academic libraries.  

Why did this job pique your interest?

This was actually one of the first questions I was asked in my interview! To begin with, I knew about the UTC Library’s reputation, the innovative projects they worked on, and the type of librarians they employed. I wanted to be a part of team where I would be challenged both intellectually and creatively. I also loved that I would be doing a variety of things- from teaching classes to planning workshops and programs to managing student workers.

How many pages was your resume? Cover letter?

My CV was 3 pages long and my cover letter clocked in at a full page.

What research did you do before submitting your application?

For starters, I did some general research about the library, campus, and community. One of the greatest things about this library is that they are very transparent. The library maintains a wiki with tons of information about the organizational structure and past, current, and future projects. I made sure to pour over that information thoroughly.

I also did more specific research related to information commons. I reviewed books, journal articles, and looked at the webpages of many information commons throughout the country. This helped me define my vision of an information commons.

What did you wear (or – do you have a photo of your outfit)?

I don’t have a photo but here’s a recreation. It’s not the typical pantsuit but I wasn’t interviewing at a place that I considered typical.

 

Can you describe your process in preparing for the interview?

A major part of the interview process was developing and presenting my ideas for programs and services that would further the Information Common’s mission to serve as a collaborative hub for the library and on campus. I spent about a week developing the presentation and then at least two or three days refining and practicing. I even went so far as to record myself giving the presentation on my iPhone and listened to it over and over again while making the 4 hour trek to Chattanooga (I realize this is a little crazy).

I also read through this list of interview questions and thought about some potential answers. There’s no way to know what a search committee will ask but even developing sample answers will help you think quicker on your feet when the interview time comes.

What questions did you ask?

Be prepared for that moment when the search committee asks “do you have any questions?”! The night before the interview I jotted down about ten questions and grouped them according to the different interviews. I had different questions for each of the different groups I was meeting with. Some of the more general questions were things like “What is the biggest challenge facing the library in the coming year?” and “Why do love working at Lupton Library?”. I also made sure to stay engaged throughout the day and ask questions during the more informal moments like the coffee break and lunch.

Why do you think you were hired?  What set you apart from other candidates?

I think it was combination of experience and personality. I had a year’s worth of professional experience under my belt and I could highlight past projects and accomplishments that I felt would appeal to the search committee. I also tried to make sure that I was myself throughout the process. I mentioned Honey Boo Boo in my cover letter to clue them in on my love of pop culture. For my presentation, I included funny pictures (like dogs walking on tightropes) because I wanted to convey my lighthearted side.

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why you were chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

As far as general advice, I would  strongly recommend that you have someone review your application materials. It doesn’t have to necessarily be another librarian. My sister comes from the corporate world and has helped me immensely with proofreading and formatting.

I also would suggest that you tailor each cover letter and CV to the position that you are applying for. No two jobs are exactly alike so you’ll want to make sure that you are highlighting how you fit for each position.

The job hunting process is time consuming. When I was applying for a slew of jobs leading up to graduation, I treated it as a part-time job. I would come home from work and search for jobs, draft application materials, and follow-up on applied jobs for at least two hours a day. Be willing to invest time in the process to ensure a positive outcome.

The Hiring Librarian: Virginia Cairns

Virginia Cairns

What stood out in this applicant’s cover letter?

Nicole wrote an excellent cover letter that covered all the bases (highlighted specifics of how she met the requirements of the job). She also indicated that she knew of our library and the work we have been doing (she said she had a “crush” on us). The crowning detail was a reference to Honey Boo Boo. I had to speak with this person after reading her letter. That’s what a good cover letter should do – make me want to meet you, discuss things further and learn more about you.

Did she meet all of the required qualifications listed in the job ad? How many of the desired qualifications did she meet?

Yes. Nicole pretty much met all of them. She was doing a very similar job at another school. Her CV did a great job of outlining the varied duties she was performing in her prior job that matched up with what we were looking for.

In comparison to the rest of the pool, did the applicant have more, less, or about the same years of experience?  What about for the other people you interviewed?

Nicole was right at the top of our pool of candidates. We had probably 3 who shared similar levels of relevant experience and desirable skills.

What was the interview process like?

We phone interview about 10 finalists and then bring anywhere from 2-4 to campus depending. The interview itself is dinner the evening before with the Dean, and then a full day of meetings, a formal presentation, a social hour with the library staff and faculty, campus and library tours, and we close out with a wrap up with the Dean.

What stood out in this applicant’s interview?

Nicole was articulate, she came prepared with questions, she had good examples of projects she had completed and groups she had worked with. She described herself as having a “yes: mentality, which goes a long way in our culture here at UTC. Her presentation was solid and she was clearly comfortable in front of a classroom. She enjoyed interviewing us as much as we enjoyed interviewing her. She established rapport with us very well and had done her homework (she knew who we all were,  by name).

Were there any flags or questions you had about this person’s abilities, and how did they resolve them?

No, Nicole was clearly qualified for the job. And she fits well with our existing team in the instruction department and library-wide.

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why this candidate was chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

A good cover letter is the key to making it through the initial onslaught of applicants (in some cases 175+) and landing an interview. Make the letter reflect not only your skills and experience but your personality as well. Get help polishing up both your resume and your cover letter if you feel you need it.

Once you land an interview, do your homework. Learn as much as you can about the library, its services and its people. In the interview, be prepared to treat the day as a two-way conversation – ask us questions just as we are asking you questions. Practice your presentation thoroughly so you’ll be confident and comfortable delivering it. Express your continued interest in the position to the Dean or hiring manager as you wrap up the interview. If possible, follow up with an email or note to the search committee after you get home from the interview, just to cement it as a positive experience and reinforce your interest in the position.


If you’re part of a recent hiree/hiring manager pair who’d be willing to be interviewed for this feature, please contact me.  Or please pass along this request!

Leave a comment

Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Hired Librarians, Information Literacy Instruction, Southern US