So, you have an interview?

So, you have an interview?

by Amy Steinbauer, Senior Assistant, INALJ California


I am having a bit of an interview streak. In the past month, I have been on 8 job interviews, and they have all been extremely different. Hopefully, one will pan out into a real job! The following examples mostly pertain to a public library interview process.

Types of Interviews

Phone Screening: If there are a lot of qualified applicants, they may want to screen the candidates before the oral exam round. It’s a quick 15-minute or less interview, so you need to have succinct answers. Think of it as a highlight reel of your career. I have used this guide from SJSU.

Oral Exam: This round usually has me flashing back to my oral exams in graduate school! It sounds so formal, but it’s usually some behavioral type of questions.

  • Tell me about a time….?
  • Describe how you would handle…?
  • Brush up on the STAR method: the situation, the task, the action that you took, and the result.
  • Keep it positive!
  • It may also include some questions specific to general library duties, like reference, technologies, marketing, and programs.
  • May last 25-30 minutes
  • Panel of 2-3 people, usually not workers from the actual library- may be community members or librarians from other towns.

Depending on the level of HR involvement they utilize, the questions may be predetermined, and out of ethical fairness they can’t allow one candidate to have an edge over the other by asking more questions.

I like this infographic for interview story ideas from

In Person Interview: Time to show off! Interviews make me nervous, but a library manager recently told me some great advice—learn to love them! No one knows your skills better than you do, now is the time to show them off! Once I started adapting that ideology, it made me look forward to them! I love being a librarian! I am awesome, and I can show you just how I rock!

Phone vs. In Person:

Phone Interviews:

  • They can be tricky because you miss out on social cues. I have delivered some hysterical jokes, only to hear silence! Awkward!
  • Necessary if your job is out of state, out of region, or you don’t have the time or money to travel.
  • If you get selected for an interview and have some of the above constraints, feel free to ask the HR person for a phone or Skype interview. They don’t always allow it, but I have had some really kind HR people finagle things for me.
  • Act as if you are in a face-to-face interview. Be professional!

In Person:

See my hacks below for some tricks, but first you need to relax.

  • You’ve done your homework on the employer, right? (Yes!).
  • You know the job description, and can talk about how you meet the job objectives, right? (Yes!).
  • You had a good meal before, and then brushed your teeth or chewed some gum.
  • You allowed yourself enough time to get there.
  • Smile and relax, it’s time to dazzle!

Interview Hacks:

  • Confidence!!! It’s not exactly a hack, but take stock of your value and skills! Write them down if you need to, or better yet, add them to the job ad description—are they looking for a team player? How can you show that you are one? Better yet, have an example ready! Think of your high school English teacher telling you to build up your writing by showing versus telling! Have your examples ready—you will need them!
  • Practice— This is both my weirdest and best hack… talk to yourself! On my drive home, I answer typical interview questions and practice my answers. You don’t want to sound robotic in your interviews, but it is helpful to hear your answers out loud.
  • Interviewing is like telling stories about your work and your professional self. Prepare your stories!
  • Props—This may be a bit related to being a children’s librarian… but I bring my puppets, some learning materials, flyers, a simple craft if I am presenting a storytime, marketing flyers, etc. My coworker swears on bringing a scrapbook of events you were at, or times you were mentioned in the paper. I also mention my e-Portfolio/ website as something else about myself. It shows off my tech skills, some of my crafts, and professional accomplishments.

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