by Daniel Geary, Graduate Assistant at Princeton Theological Seminary, Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies, and Rutgers Alexander Library
previously published 11/19/2014
Get Practice Doing the Other Type of Interviewing
Practicing interviewing is a no-brainer. You spent so much effort crafting a stand-out resume and cover letter being ready for an interview is important. Rehearsing answers and ironing out the kinks with supervisors, co-workers, and fellow job seekers is a great way to prepare. And of course, you always want to make sure you look your best. But, there is another to practice interviewing and that is from the interviewer’s rather than the interviewee’s perspective.
Evaluating your ideas from the interviewer’s perspective is a wonderful thought experiment. What would you look for in a worker? How would they dress? What quarks would they have? Would they be energetic or calm? Would they use complex sentences and vocabulary like Faulkner or simple and straightforward remarks like Hemingway? How would your ideal candidate articulate the answers to your questions?
Contemplating these types of questions can be useful for two reasons. First, it informs how you should try to act. After imagining your perfect candidate, you have something to aspire to in your interview or maybe even something to do before an interview. You might not be there now, but if you put in the effort you can become your dream candidate.
Second, thinking about the other type of interviewing prepares you for the “do you have any questions for us?” part of the interview. Remember, the interview is not just about the library choosing if you are a good fit, but about whether or not you feel you are a good fit for the library. Your perfect candidate will also reflect the ideals you hold most dear in your job search. If you want to project confidence and self-motivate, then you are probably looking for co-workers that do the same. Holding a mirror up to your ideal candidate could unveil your ideal employer.
However, while thoroughly meditating on the scenario is undoubtedly revealing, the best option is real-life experience. Try acting as a library search committee interview your friends or family. They may provide great answers you had never thought of or make a statement that sounded good in your head, but sounds unpolished when you hear it aloud. If you are currently working at an internship or low-level position, but looking to move forward, then ask your supervisors if you can sit in on an interview or two and maybe even ask some questions. I had an opportunity to do just that and being on the other side of the desk is illuminating.
We asked a prospective candidate, “why should we hire you?” A typical interview question. A typical response would be them launching into a recitation of their resume or discussing how they would like to work somewhere like this. But, this candidate gave neither of these answers. Instead they said, “Because I want to work here.” Not because they were a great candidate or because they wanted experience or because they wanted to work in an academic library as opposed to a public library, but because they wanted to work there and not anywhere else. It was a powerful answer that never occurred to be before.
This experience shows how being the interviewer can shed new light on the way you practice interviews. You might hear a great answer to a question you never considered, see how body language plays a pivotal part in the process, or start to feel the power of authenticity versus somewhere fleetingly interested in the job. So, as with most skills, experience can help a great deal. But, while practicing interviewing, as a potential candidate, is informative do not forget to practice interviewing, as a potential employer. In other words, get practice doing the other type of interviewing.
Danny Geary is a last semester MLIS student at Rutgers University. He is currently a reference assistant at Rutgers University – Alexander Library, library assistant at Rutgers University – Center of Alcohol Studies Library, and special collections assistant at Princeton Theological Seminary. He has also had an internship at the Rutgers University – Digital Curation and Research Center. In 2012, he graduated with a Masters in World History from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. In 2011, he graduated with a BA in History Education from the College of New Jersey. He hopes his career will offer a variety of challenges and looks forward to finding new career opportunities in 2015.