Do you have any questions for us?

One of the most important parts of an interview comes at the end. Most committees you interview with will ask “do you have any questions for us” and how you answer can make a difference. There is also a discussion going on on LinkedIn on this topic here: INALJ LinkedIn page

My tips are:

  1. Always have at least two questions ready. I always ask about the dress code at every single job interview and I take that opportunity to explain that I have worked at various libraries whose dress codes ranged from casual to business casual to what I called ‘librarians in heals’ in which business dress was required. This question lets me showcase my range once again while emphasizing my comfort in each situation.
  2. Ask a question that shows you have dug deeper than the homepage on their website. At one interview I mentioned that I had searched their website extensively and used search engines such as Google to search within the website and found no mention of the library. This showed I had been thorough and let the library tell me a bit about why they have no web presence.
  3. Take notes during the interview so that you will have follow up questions at the ready. It also shows you have been paying attention.
  4. Ask a long term question. This shows you are not just using the job as a stepping stone but actually want to grow within the company. For example ask about training and career development.

One aspect of the whole interview process I cannot emphasize enough is that you only can control you. Sometimes the reason you are not chosen says more about the committee and its members than you or your qualifications. I have heard stories from people who have served on search committees telling me that their favorite candidate wasn’t chosen and the one that was chosen a)did not ask questions, or b)under-dressed for the interview, or c)fit a criteria that wasn’t necessary for the job (language skills in one case I heard of) while better candidates were turned down.

The reality is going into the interview all you can do is do your best- you can’t control the committee. By doing your best to be prepared, have questions, smile, be engaged and truly be interested in the job you can at least breathe easy that you did your part to the best of your ability. And don’t forget the thank you notes! I wish this sounded less like a finishing school lesson and more like the key to interviewing success but there are no hard and fast rules you can apply to always get the job.

Interviewing isn’t at all like baking where if you are precise and follow the recipe exactly as you are told it means you’ll get the result you want, in this case the job. It is much more like cooking without the aide of any measuring instruments. You do your best, follow common sense, take the tips that resonate with you and apply them and hope for the best.

Other Resources

  • Fantastic resource from Mr. Library Dude called “Nailing the Interview”
  • A great combined posting from the bloggers at In the Library with the Lead Pipe called “What Not to Do when Applying for Library Jobs”
  • Great conversation including interviewing tips for Law Librarians on LLRX.com
  • A great list of resources on interviewing from ALA Joblist
  • Another great Law Librarian resource- “The Zen of Law Librarian Job Interviews: How to Interview for a Job and How to Interview the Job” by Jennifer S. Murray
  • Some great tips within SLA’s Future Ready 365 blog posting “Accidental Advisors: There’s GOT to Be a Better Way!
  • Virginia Tech has a nice resource guide called “Questions to ask employers during interviews.”
  • Lifehacker also has a great list of questions at their posting, “Seven Great Questions to Ask at a Job Interview.”
  • Naomi House

    Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list INALJ.com (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, Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ.com. In just over a year and a half she’s had over 6 Million page hits and helped over 1,500 librarians 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 has also written for the 2011, 2012 & 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro. She presents whenever she can, most recently thrice at the American Library Association's Annual Conference as well as breakout talk presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa and as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting, at the National Press Club, McGill University, the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has relocated to New Orleans, LA. She runs her husband’s moving labor website, KhanMoving.com, fixes and sells old houses and assists her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food as well. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 

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