What do you do when you get the call to interview for a librarian job? Well, friends. Let me share with you what I did when I interviewed for the librarian job I have: web services librarian!
The moment I got the call for an interview, I immediately asked my partner to help me prepare. We sat down at a table, I dressed up in my power suit, and he asked me questions you can almost guarantee will be asked at any library interview:
- Why are you the right person for this job?
- Describe a good/bad interaction you had with a patron and describe how you managed it.
- Tell us a bit about what you know about this library.
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- What are your goals for this job?
- Why do you want to be a librarian?
Get Your Answers on Paper
The mock interview we set up wasn’t a one-time deal. We repeated it several times. He asked me a question, and I responded.
When I got flustered, I would write down my responses. Although my responses usually started as paragraphs, I whittled them down to keywords or short sentences. These words served as triggers for more thoughtful responses. For example:
- Q: Why do you want to be a librarian?
- My trigger word: Impact
- A: “I want to be a librarian to make a positive impact on my community … “
I refined my responses to the fundamental points I wanted to make. Eventually, I could nail the answers I wanted to give without the “um”s and “uh”s that normally trip me up.
Read or Watch What You’re Given
Before the interview, the library gave me several articles to read based on responsive design and coding. I didn’t just read them. I printed them out, highlighted important passages, wrote notes in the margins, and memorized key points I felt would be brought up in the interview. You’re not given articles for kicks – the interviewers want you to read them and prepare for the key facets of the job.
Practice Your Skills
In many cases, the interview will be more than sitting at a table answering questions. You will be given a task to complete. It could be a presentation based on a question (teach a lesson to 5th graders on credible web sources), a class focused on a particular audience, or a coding challenge. You won’t be asked to go in blind.
A few days before my interview, my interviewers gave me the coding challenge to complete at the interview. I practiced it over and over, knowing they would throw in a curve or two. During the actual interview, the curve threw me, and I made a mistake. But because I had practiced, I corrected the issue right away, and my speed and accuracy impressed my interviewers.
Learn About the Library
You need to learn as much as possible about the library before you interview. It isn’t a matter of impressing the interviewers on your knowledge. You want to gain as much insight into the workings of the library as possible.
In the end, you want to be sure their goals and policies align with yours. Learn about the:
- Events and programs they run
- People you might be working with
- Boss you might be working for
- Culture of the library
And remember to visit the damn place! I mean it. Go to the library. Walk around. Observe the staff and patrons. How you feel about a place will impact how much satisfaction you’ll get on the job.
Be Nervous, but Confident
That’s right! It’s okay to be nervous. Just remember to be confident, too. you’ve got this and you know your stuff. You were asked to interview for a reason. Being nervous is normal for anyone applying for any position in any profession. It shows you care about the job, you want it, and you are willing to work hard to get it. But remember:
“I know what I’m doing.”
Repeat that to yourself when you’re about to interview for that first (or any) library job you want. You sent in your resume and polished up your portfolio. You’re qualified.
As a new librarian who just went through the interview process: I am just as nervous, confused, and overwhelmed as everyone said I would be. One thing I can say with confidence is that the library hired me because I am a qualified and capable librarian.
You won’t get an interview for every application you submit to a librarian job opening. But as a famous hockey player once said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Even if you interview but don’t get the job, you were qualified enough to get a shot at the position. So give yourself a hand! That’s no small feat in the hyper-competitive world of librarian jobs.
So submit your resume, prepare yourself, and blow the interviewers (and yourself) away!
This post was originally published for the Syracuse iSchool InfoSpace Blog.