Getting an interview for a position you are interested in is super exciting, but also can be pretty scary because many times you only have one chance to make a great impression. After 8 years of hiring for youth services positions at all levels, here are some of my tips for rocking your job interview.
- Be prepared to share your experience and successes. This seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised by the amount of candidates I’ve interviewed that struggled with effectively sharing their qualifications. Before the interview, review your resume and think about how your previous experience has prepared you to succeed at this position. What are the highlights you want to be sure you share? Are there any programs, partnerships, or initiatives you helped to develop, implement, or improve? If there are any specific qualifications or skills that this position calls for, like understanding childhood development, be ready to talk about these topics, too. Don’t assume that the panel knows all about you from your resume and make sure to reiterate what you’d like them to know in the interview itself. Strong interviewees can sum up their experience concisely while showing how their background, experience, and skills make them the best candidate for the position.
- Know about the library to which you’re applying. We know that candidates are often applying to many positions at once and sometimes just really need A job, and that’s totally fine. However, it will help to distinguish you during the interview if you are able to share with the panel why you’d really like THIS job. Be prepared to tell the panel what interests you about this particular position. Check out the library’s website and see what sorts of programming and services already exist. If they have a strategic plan, look to see if you can learn what the library’s goals and values are. If possible, visit the location to which you’re applying and chat with some of the staff. Learning about what’s working now and what goals the library and front-line staff would like to achieve, and then sharing how you can contribute in these areas, can really give you an edge in your interview.
- Think about your soft skills. In addition to questions about “hard skills” like experience, most interviews now have questions related to “soft skills,” or interpersonal skills such as communication, teamwork, and critical thinking. Before your interview, look online for some typical interview questions on soft skills and brainstorm how you would answer them. A candidate’s soft skills are extremely important when hiring. If someone has great hard skills and experience, but does not seem able to work successfully with a team and within their chain of command, I would not offer them the position. Some questions I use frequently are:
- Describe a time you had a conflict with a coworker. How did you work to resolve this situation? How do you maintain good working relationships with your team?
- Describe your communication style. How do you ensure your coworkers and supervisor stay up-to-date about on-going projects, new initiatives, and issues?
- Tell us about a time you made an exception to a policy in order to assist a patron. Why did you choose to do this, and, upon reflection, would you have done anything differently?
- How do you manage your time and decide which tasks to prioritize? What tools and resources do you use to ensure you accomplish your goals and meet deadlines?
- Make sure you are answering the entire question. A lot of interview questions have multiple parts. Many libraries, including mine, will give candidates the questions in advance or provide them with the questions at the time of the interview so they can refer to them throughout. However, if you are interviewing with a library that does not do this, please ask the panel to repeat a question if you are not sure if you have answered it in its entirety. You will likely be scored on answering all parts, so it’s critical you have answered the entire question to the best of your ability. Also, if you aren’t sure what the question is asking, or don’t understand a term or acronym, you should ask the panel to clarify the question.
- Prepare questions to ask the panel. At the end of the interview, we give the candidate time to ask us questions. I’m always impressed when a candidate has prepared thoughtful questions to ask as interviews are a good time for both parties to make sure the position will be a good fit. Asking library-specific questions here is a great idea, but there are some more general questions you might want to ask as well, such as:
- Can you describe a typical day or week in this position?
- What does a successful first year for the person hired for this position look like to you?
- What are some challenges the person hired for this position will face in the first few months on the job?
- What are some of the library’s key programs or initiatives? How does this position contribute to these measures?
- How has the library responded to the COVID-19 pandemic? What steps have been taken to ensure staff and patron safety during this time?
- How does the library respond to requests to remove materials from the collection? Does the library have a collection development policy?
Good luck on your next interview! Interviewing is stressful and it’s okay to be nervous during an interview and need time to decompress and do self-care afterwards. However, you should feel comfortable asking for any accommodations you may need, and feel respected by the panel. Libraries should want all candidates to be successful in the interviewing process and be invested in showing candidates why they are a great place to work. If you get red flags during the interview process, before accepting an offer, take the time to reconsider if that library is a good fit for you.
Today’s blog post was written by Diana Price, Central Library Manager at Alexandria Library in Alexandria, Virginia, on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This blog relates to the ALSC Core Competencies: VI Administration and Management Skills; VII Professionalism and Professional Development