Last week I was part of a panel of librarians that reviewed resumes and cover letters for the North Carolina Central University Chapter of the Special Libraries Association. We went after Shannon Jones, Associate Director, Research and Education at the Tompkins-McCaw Library. Shannon provided a great presentation on getting noticed to get get the job. I may be an oddball because I love looking a resumes and cover letters, but either way, it inspired this post.
For the Interviewee
Nothing I say here should be earth shattering. There are many great articles on the law library interview available to you. Read them!
- Interview Tips from the SEAALL Placement Committee This tip sheet links to many great resources for the newbie and experienced librarians.
- AALL also has a great Bibliography available.
- Have an attractive resume that highlights your library experience. In this tight job market, it is especially beneficial to show you have experience working in a library, as you will most likely be competing against seasoned librarians for positions.
- Not all people will carefully read your cover letter, but you should have a good one, especially if it is being uploaded to an HR database that may be looking for buzz words to decide whether or not your information will be forwarded to the library. Your cover letter should reflect relevant information found in the job description. By the way, read the job description! Read it before you apply, read it again if you get a phone interview, and read it again if you get an on campus interview. Know the difference between required and preferred skills/experience. A library is hiring based on needs, not your wants. They may already have someone in your "dream job" position, so know that the job description isn't usually negotiable for the main parts of the job.
- Now that you have a great resume, cover letter, and you know the job description, the next step is the Phone Interview. As corny as it sounds, you need to practice answering questions out loud. A quick Google search will provide you with commonly asked questions and answers so you can be prepared. Another question you can expect is "why this library". A thoughtful prepared answer will be much more impressive than "my nana lived there". If you are being offered a phone interview, it is time to research the library and the school so that you will be knowledgeable and prepared. Additionally, be concise! It is hard to know when to stop talking because you cannot see your interviewers, but you should err on the side of brevity and the interviewer will ask a follow up question if they need more information.
- When you get an invited to a full-day interview, dress professionally for the occasion. Business casual is appropriate for the dinner the day before your interview. A suit is the best bet for the day of your interview. This cannot be emphasized enough! Look professional. How the rest of your day will go will vary by institution and if you are interviewing for a staff position or a tenured track position, but in general, expect to answer a lot of questions. You may even be asked the same question more than once by different interviewers. Always answer it as if it is the first time you were asked the question, as they may be comparing notes later.
- If you are interviewing for a reference position, you will most likely have a presentation. The library may give you your topic (broad or specific) or they may give you creative license. Either way, be knowledgeable on your topic and be prepared to answer questions. If you do not know the answer, get the persons name and email and follow up with them shortly after the interview.
- Thank you notes/emails show a sign of respect, thoughtfulness, and consideration. You want to be those things!
- Have a plan B. For example, if a candidate's plane is delayed, that could prevent your current employee from being able to pick up the candidate due to other commitments. Have someone else in place or be prepared reimburse your candidate for taxi fare.
- Don't over schedule your candidate. They are human and will need breaks. Build in breaks into their schedule.
- When to schedule presentation has been a question for many people. The presentation is usually the most nerve-racking piece of the interview process. Having been a candidate, my personal preference is in the morning. This gets it out of the way so that the candidate can focus more on the people during the process instead of freaking out about the presentation. It also prevents the post-lunch time crash that happens and allows the interviewer to see the candidate at full energy. Some put the presentation with lunch. If you do this, be considerate that the candidate may want to present prior to eating.
- Speaking of eating, ask your candidate if they have any food allergies or foods they avoid. This helps with planning and prevents any awkwardness at meal time because a candidate cannot find anything on the menu that works with their dietary restrictions.
- It can be hard to communicate with every potential candidate that applies for your position, but communicate with the ones from the phone process on.