On the Other Side of the Table: Interviewing

by Amanda Viana, Head Editor, INALJ Massachusetts

On the Other Side of the Table: Interviewing

photo (2)Not very long after starting my current position I assisted the Library Director in interviewing candidates for a Circulation Supervisor position. It was my first time on the “other side” of the table, and I found the process very informative. To prepare we looked though hundreds of questions: the following are my top five. You may never be asked these questions, but I think they’re worthwhile issues to consider before meeting with a potential employer.

  • What is your favorite part of your current (or most recent) position?
    No matter how confident you are going for a job interview can make you nervous. People are often portraying their most professional self; for the interviewer it’s important to get a feel for a candidate’s personality. Asking about a positive aspect of their current work can relax a candidate and talking about something they’re passionate about can bring out their best side.
  • Based on the job description, which of the duties do you feel most comfortable with, and which do you feel may take some time to learn?
    This is a better version of “name some of your strengths and weaknesses”. Be sure to review the job description before the interview and have a copy in front of you if possible. This question can get to the heart of how a candidate’s skills can translate to the job being discussed. The interviewers may also have an idea of which duties will have immediate priority and which will have time for a learning curve.
  • What would you most like to accomplish if you had this job?
    As a candidate the goal at the forefront of my mind was landing the job. You may not be able to fully answer this question until you have some time under your belt, but it shows the interviewer that you’re imagining yourself in the position just as they are; that you can demonstrate some knowledge of the institution, its mission and its goals; and that you have a philosophy of librarianship.
  • When, in the past, have you found it important to disagree with your boss? How did you approach them and what was the result?
    Most of the time spent in an interview is largely positive but in the real world, conflicts happen. A carefully considered answer to this question will tell the potential employer your threshold for conflict, what type of issues you may be passionate about, and how you handle conflict. If unprepared this may seem a trap but it can be a way for you to show yourself in a positive light.
  • How does this position fit into the career path you’ve set for yourself?
    Not every job is a forever job, and employers understand this. If you’re overqualified (which many candidates in this economy are) be sure to acknowledge this and have a good explanation as for why you would still be a strong candidate for the position. If you have just finished or are still finishing your degree and you’re applying for a job that doesn’t require it, employers may wonder if you see the job as a stepping stone. Also be aware that libraries often have vastly different rates of turnover: it may be years before a part-time position could provide a chance at full-time. Admit that you have a plan for your career, but try not to seem like you have one foot out the door.

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular LIS jobs resource INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job). Founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard, INALJ’s social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ.com. INALJ has had over 20 Million page views and helped thousands of librarians and LIS folk find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in a month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this many new jobs published daily. She was a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and has served on the University of Maryland iSchool Board from 2014-2017. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and now lives part time in Western NY and Budapest, Hungary. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 

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