Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Interviewing and Resume Tips for Librarians

I've been on both sides of the interviewing table in public libraries. I've interviewed candidates for professional librarian positions as well as internships, and I certainly interviewed for the job I have now. The following tips are my own opinions, based on my own experience. I'd be interested to hear from others on both sides of the interview table about their experiences, too!


Tip #1
Put the name on your resume that you want to be called. The application form needs to have your real name on it, but the resume and cover letter can show the name you go by. When we call you for an interview, we're going to ask to speak with "Theodore," not "Ted," and we're going to say, "It's nice to meet you, Theodore." It's perfectly fine to put "Ted" on your resume. We're not judging you by your name.

Tip #2
Make your experience relevant to the job description you're applying for. If you are a library school student applying for an internship, you may not have a lot of library-related experience. That's ok, but make the experience you DO have work for the job you are applying for. Instead of a "Library Experience" category, you could list your previous jobs and organizational activities under categories like "Customer Service Experiences" and "Information Gathering Activities" - or any other buzz words used in the job announcement and job description. Would you be responsible for planning programs if you get the job? You may have done just that for the Girl Scout troop you organized. Create a "Programming Experience" category on your resume and list some programs you created for the Girl Scouts!

Tip #3
Keep it simple. I hate to admit it, but if there is a lot of reading involved I probably just won't do it. I need to get the gist of you at a glance. Put keywords in bold print or underline them so that when I'm scanning the page for them I will find them. If I'm hiring a Reference Assistant, I'm going to look for words like "reference" and "customer service." If I'm hiring a Programming Coordinator, I'm going to look for words like "programming" and "events." Don't make me read paragraph after paragraph of your daily work. Hit the highlights that are relevant to the job for which I am hiring. A few bullet points are fine. Same goes for a cover letter. Don't regurgitate your resume. Choose two or three points from the job announcement and job description that match experience you have or accomplishments you are proud of. Remember: the cover letter is sort of a letter of introduction. Who are you? What are you applying for? Why should I care? The resume is supposed to make me want to interview you. What have you done? How is it relevant to the job I need to fill? Why should I care?


Tip #1
Tell me what name you go by!! I will continue to call you Theodore until you tell me you go by something else!! It's easy: "Nice to meet you! Call me Ted!"

Tip #2
Answer the question. I am genuinely interested in your answer to the question, or I wouldn't have asked it. However, I don't really have time for a diatribe on the history of everything connected to the question. Just answer the question. What I am always impressed by are people who answer the question, give a quick example, and then ask a follow-up question so that it turns into a discussion (a discussion that I can control at the necessary pace.) It shows you are interested in the concepts I'm asking about, that you can carry on a conversation, and that you know enough about the concepts I'm asking about to talk about it further. Even better - make your follow-up question relate to MY library.

Here's an example (a made-up example. I've never been asked this question and I've never asked this question in an interview, either):
Me: What automation systems have you used?
You: I have extensively used various modules within Sirsi/Dynix Horizon and Symphony, including serials, cataloging, circulation, and inter-library loan. I am very excited that this position involves helping to choose a new ILS. Have you considered open source?

This tells me that:
1. You have used two automation systems
2. ...extensively
3. ...with examples of modules that show me what you consider "extensively"
4. You have read the job description and job announcement, which state that choosing a new ILS will be a project you are involved with
5. You are enthusiastic about the job for which we are hiring
6. You know enough about automation systems to be able to talk about open source options
7. You are genuinely curious to know if that's a route we would consider (because you undoubtedly have your own bias on that subject...which you - wisely at this point - did not share)
8.You answered the question - no more, no less, no lecture, no history - and can carry on a conversation.

Nice work for a three-sentence answer!

Tip #3
Do not embellish or lie. If you don't know something, aren't aware of it, have no experience with it, or have no clue what I'm talking about, SAY SO! It is much better to admit a weak area of knowledge than to make something up and get caught by a follow-up question that you clearly cannot answer. Showing interest and enthusiasm in knowing more give back a point where lack of knowledge took one.

Tip #4
Make eye contact. Speak to everyone on the panel, not just the person who asked the question. We know you are nervous and will account for that, but confidence and poise are impressive!

What are your resume and interview deal breakers?


  1. I hope they will use this tips and get some benefits through out of this.

  2. My last interview was by telephone. I'm not certain that phone interviews are the best way to figure out what a candidate is all about.

  3. Will be preparing for an interview according your post. Thanks.

  4. Will definitely reference this for my next interview :) Thank you!

  5. Thank you for sharing useful resume tips.

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  7. Well, it's always good to prepare a job specific resume and you required some specific skills for that otherwise you can find a resume writer for preparing a cheap resume for you instead of trying it yourself.