Pilot Studies, Information Literacy, and Skill Competencies

Designing and implementing a pilot program has many rewards and challenges.  Elementarily, a pilot initiative is designed to test logistics and gather information prior to the launch of a larger study or program, with the aim of improving the intended program’s quality and efficiency. A pilot study can reveal gaps in design and these can be addressed well before the larger study or program is executed. Conducting a pilot study does not guarantee success of the final program but does increase the likelihood.

Developing a suite of skills and competencies for designing and executing pilot studies and programs can be viewed within a constellation of already acquired skills, transferred to a specific project.  Librarians designing pilot studies have foundational skills, such as:

  • Developing criteria for programs
  • Establishing event, instruction, activity outcomes
  • Designing instruction sessions
  • Estimating variability in outcomes
  • Collecting preliminary data
  • Determining what resources are required for planned study
  • Assessing collected data and feedback
  • Developing a research question and research plan

At the small university campus where I am installed as the branch librarian, faculty and staff support the aims of the University’s Strategic Research Plan and institutional Strategic Plan through the delivery of high quality instruction, programming, and other academic pursuits. The importance and value of developing information, digital, technology, and computer literacy skills for students was recently identified as paramount to student success.  Initiating an integrated skill development program into select courses targeting first year students was designed and the pilot study is currently underway.  I instigated this initiative and have the full support of campus administration, faculty, the Academic Planning and Standards Committee, and my colleagues on the other campus.

Developing this pilot study started with conversations among colleagues and faculty regarding their perceptions of student technology and information literacy levels.  While truly inductive research, these conversations proved revealing and insightful into some issues experienced by instructors in the classroom. For example, many students attending campus for the first time have little or no experience with using computers at the level expected of university students in current higher education learning environments.  Students are expected to know how to logon to networks, login to software and online programs, open and correctly format and use Microsoft Office Suite specifically Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, understand how the Internet works, and be able to identify what is a reliable source and what is not.

In my experience during my first term as the branch librarian, I witnessed students struggling to logon to computers networked to the University’s servers.  Students would ask me what PowerPoint was and how to find it on the computers because their instructors want them to create a presentation.  On more than one occasion, a student would come to my office in tears of frustration because they were unable to figure out how to open a software program and felt inordinately overwhelmed at the prospect of them having to use that software – Word or PowerPoint specifically.  Some students, even second year students, were only using what information they could find on the Internet through a Google search rather than the library’s resources. When questioned, these students would say that they didn’t know how to find the library’s website, they thought the university’s website was all that was available and it didn’t help them, or that they believed that everything required of them could be found on Google (not knowing that Google is a search engine and not the Internet). Some students felt that the widest barrier to their education was solely the technologies required for them to use.  These students had much difficulty navigating the course management system – Moodle or Blackboard.

Exploring the possible reasons why so many students were having difficulty, I learned that living outside the city proper meant that if the student had access to the Internet at home – which many did not and did not own a computer having relied upon their school for access to both computer hardware and software and Internet access, that Internet connection might be dial-up or satellite, never high speed.   Those types of Internet connections thwart most efforts to effectively research topics and precluded access to electronic resources that required authentication.  Downloading one page of a PDF might take 5 or more minutes and experience “timed out” issues due to the server recognizing slow connection speeds as inactivity.

Arriving at university with low computer, technology, digital, and information skills can defeat even the most enthusiastic student.  I felt it imperative to provide an appropriate, responsive, and relevant learning experience for all students and specifically first year students, where they could develop skills in a safe, fun, and encouraging environment.

Starting in the second term, two instructors have volunteered their classes to participate in a pilot designed to deliver basic computer, technology, digital, and information skill development strategies to first year students.

The pilot study is designed to:

  • Identify potential practical problems in delivering a larger scale integrated program
  • Uncover attitudinal perspectives of this suite of literacies
  • Uncover localized interdepartmental problems that would affect the program delivery process
  • Identify resources required for program delivery

This pilot study is designed to delivery basic skill development sessions over a period of 10 weeks in 30 minute blocks, every second week.  The courses in which the study is delivered are a second year Philosophy and first year Math.  I am aware that some of these students would already have had an introduction to information literacy the previous year; however, it became evident at the first session that even those student were still having difficulty with computer logon and software login. Ideally, the IT support staff would have been involved in part of each of the first two sessions but due to scheduling conflicts did not attend.  The IT component was delivered by me. The feedback instrument used is an online survey given to each class at the end of each session, and completed before moving on.

Two sessions of the study have been completed and I am optimistic that what we learn from it will inform the scope and mechanics of a program to be delivered in the Fall 2014 term.  I am also rather confident that I will have developed another level of competencies in the context of the use of technology in the classroom, short session delivery practices, establishing realistic outcomes, analyzing data, and developing a robust integrated literacy skills development program.

Pilot Information Computer Digital Literacy Weeks 1-10

Information, computer, and technology literacy skills help faculty, staff, students, and instructors find, access, evaluate, and use information appropriately, effectively, and ethically. Developing foundational literacy skills improves the quality and relevancy of users’ (faculty, staff, student, and instructor) teaching and learning experience. This pilot program aims to introduce students to these literacy skills over a 10-week period with each session assessed by participants.

Integrating Information, Technology, and Other Literacies in Classes and Courses

Providing an integrated program delivering selected information, technology, and computer literacy skills throughout an academic term provides strategic support for students, faculty, staff, and instructors. The program is designed to deliver technology and computer literacy basics at the beginning of each term and shift focus to information literacies and research support as the term progresses.


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Shifting Competencies

Web 2.0 has significantly altered how academic librarians develop collections, assist researchers, present findings, and engage and communicate with users. The scope of change is not quantifiable and is often impossible to grasp. We shift to digital and electronic collections, set up social sites for researchers to collaborate, cultivate online digital institutional repositories, create infographics to present results and findings, and use Twitter, blogs, and wikis in course designs and information literacy instruction sessions. We seem to be rather courageous as we fearlessly adopt social media, networking, and software to engage our users, ignite their interest in engaged and active learning, and support both the individual’s success and that of the institution. It is essential in our profession to identify the changes in how librarians interact with users, evaluate our core competencies, and create strategies for improving competencies while acquiring new skills.

Herramientas web 2.0

While the reference interaction may hold its supporting framework as established by Reference and User Services Association (RUSA, changes in how those interactions are executed and delivered are real, obvious, and perhaps seemingly unmanageable.  Some librarians are intimidated by the use of social media in research, at an institutional level, and particularly in providing reference services to users.  Others claim that social media is a fad and should not be given much sway.  Regardless of an individual librarian’s attitude toward social media, its use has had immediate and direct effect on librarians’ reference experiences and taxes our levels of competence in the context of social media use.

Librarians’ reference interactions support and aid in the development of our users’ search skills; however, transferring ownership of the search to the user is critical. No, we do not find the answer to a user’s assignment question. We have developed a suite of competencies that unpack research strategies that make sense for the users in a heavily populated social media environment. To do this smoothly and seamlessly, we must now have basic working knowledge of the institutional IT infrastructure as well as the library’s electronic licensing stipulations to trouble shoot an enormously large number of technological anomalies that occur that create barriers to access. We instruct users on database interfaces, mobile applications, and e-learning platforms (Moodle, Blackboard). We continually tailor electronic resources to meet our users’ needs.  We evangelically publicize through social media the availability of electronic resources. We create videos to upload on YouTube. We have private Twitter accounts to communicate real-time, two-way, and ongoing information with classes. Librarians build portals where resources for subject matter are localized and focused (LibGuides).  Librarians build systems that have the ability to retrieve applicable data in timely intervals and disseminate to users by leveraging social media custom alert options.  Librarians know and use knowledge sharing technologies (tag clouds, Web 2.0 & 3.0, wikis, blogs, SMS, Twitter).

Librarians are blogging.  Yes, we blog somewhat vigorously on a myriad of topics.  My colleagues research and write blogs on topics such as running, biking, and yoga in the context of personal development and interests.  Others are wickedly good foodies, blogging about cafes, recipes, and unlikely food combinations.  However interested I might be in such blogs, I really have to limit how many blogs I read and have decided to focus only on those covering issues in my profession. Here are a few blogs that I enjoy and follow, and that are written by librarians:

I am a shameless voyeur into the world of these librarian bloggers. Such varied perspectives, broad scope of interest, and tremendous depth of expertise found in our profession is evidenced by these very blogs.  Many academic libraries use blogs and wikis to communicate with their users effectively, efficiently, and with good results.

The University of British Columbia has embraced social media and created a centralized blog portal.  UBC Blogs encourages both students and faculty to participate in the blogging culture as a tool to support teaching and learning. They also promote the use of social software such as Flickr, podcasting, and tagging.   Explore their site Educational Technologies: blogs and wikis. UBC Library participates vigorously in blogging.

Dalhousie University presents blogging and social media as a unified platform for information sharing, collaboration, and engagement to “add unique voices to their web presence”.  Dalhousie University Library blogs, too.

What does blogging, virtual reference, Twitter, and using various other social media mean to librarian in the context of competencies?  It translates into a strong need to develop a suite of skills for writing html and CSS, creating videos and tutorials using online programs, tweeting using hashtag in instructional sessions, critically evaluating more online resources, screen casting reference interactions, curating topics, bookmarking, and working with faculty and students to archive their research, data sets, and bibliographies.

It means we are change agents, willing to explore technologies to better serve our users, and keen to pilot Web 2.o initiatives.

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Competing Priorities: Trust

TRU’s newest building and built under the LEED Gold certification program. The library is situated on the 3rd floor and reference located at the Learning Commons on the 1st floor. Some librarians and staff have offices in this building and others at the original library (Main); however, all but 3 library staff work in both buildings.

It astonishes me how little we know about what each of us does at the library.  In my experience, technical services staff and librarians are often separated by doors and walls and corridors, situated well away from one another, partitioned in such a way that seeing each other is limited and working together near to impossible. I want to know about the work my colleagues are doing and what projects they are interested in pursuing. I want to know about their work minutiae because they might have a technique, a skill, a strategy to approach a problem, task, or project that I can learn and use.  We should be sharing what we are doing, more readily, too, creating possibilities for collaboration no matter how small the project.   I think we could benefit from promoting a culture of sharing and openness in our daily work.  We share our finished work and projects, but opening up and being a little more comfortable in revealing what you are doing could draw more people to offer their expertise, become interested in your work, or think about asking you to work with them on their next project.

 Just under two weeks from the launch date of LibQual+ at our library, a 4-person team met to lay out the strategy, plan communication, and ensure the back-end technical requirements were met and working.  I was thrilled to be on that team because opportunities to participate on teams and in projects are limited and rare for part-time, sessional librarians.

The timeline was excruciatingly short to prepare for LibQual+, excite the university community to participate, and heighten awareness among library staff of the importance of the survey.  I was given the task of creating some buzz by organizing an event aimed to encourage users to complete the survey – for a reward.

The LibQual+ team determined to have two events to bookend the survey period – one during the first week and another in the last week of the survey.  Creating a time and place where students could complete the survey and enter and chance to win movie tickets AND get a free piece of pizza was my project.  To do this would require help from many of my colleagues – librarians and technicians – with whom I have never shared my work, asked about their job, nor participated on a team.

Various steps were taken to get the project going, including:

  • Sending email to all who staff the reference desk outlining the event and expected outcomes, and asking for volunteers
  • Charting tasks on a timeline (book space with facilities, create graphic elements and collateral, reserve laptops, decide on pizza place)
  • Defining scope of event

My organizational skills are well defined and sharp, so I was not concerned about leading this project, but I was apprehensive because I did not know the interest level nor skill sets of those who had volunteered to help.

Then I found myself with competing or conflicting priorities, only I didn’t know it.  I was heading away from campus for 4 – 6 days, arriving back the day before this do-the-survey-get-a-pizza event, a rather critical time to be away when I was project lead.  It was during an interview for a position in which I am keenly interested that one of the selection committee members pointed it out.  I was startled.  I had not thought that leading the project AND preparing for and participating in a tremendously important interview was conflicting.  Yet, it was.

I reflected on that position.

This is what I found.

Yes, it was a situation of competing priorities.

No, it did not feel like a conflict.


I had the support of my colleagues to actively seek rewarding, full-time, and permanent library work.  This gave me great confidence and assurance as I prepared for the interview, taking time away to travel and research.

Even though I had not a good understanding of the skills of those who were helping with this event, I realised that I trusted them without reservation.  It was that foundational trust that reduced the potentially prickly conflict in priorities. Before I left the campus, we had agreed that all work could be uploaded to a file in the organizational drive on the server where I could see the work progress and contribute to documents and creative pieces.  Email was the easiest mode of communication knowing that I would not be checking nor responding during for a couple of days. When I returned to campus the day before the event, all of the draft work was completed, facilities booked, pizzas ordered, and volunteers scheduled.

Competing or conflicting priorities were managed in part because I trusted my colleagues.  The event ran smoothly, the interview was rewarding, and I learned much about my colleague’s skills, interests, talents, and willingness to contribute.

I sent out a Survey Monkey for feedback from everyone who volunteered to help with this event.  Assessing the project in the context of resources used, scope, set-up and tear down logistics, and communication proved valuable as the next event is less than a month away.  I will use the feedback and revamp the process for organizing and executing the event.

A few of the volunteers working closest to me on the project casually discussed the experience offering me additional insights.  They found that having a leader who accepts the varying levels of participation from the team fostered trust.  They trusted me to accept their contributions no matter how small.  I realised that my interpretation and managing of these competing priorities struck a balance in the context of trust.  I trusted my colleagues to happily participate at their own pace with varying levels of interest and expertise and they trusted that I would be encouraging, supporting, and accepting.

The next time I have a project, I am confident my colleagues will participate to the best of their abilities and I trust the outcome will be aligned with expectations.  Why am I confident?  Because I will ask for help and show my colleagues on what I am working.

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Academic Libraries and Infographics

Presenting library services, instructional materials, information, data, or announcements in innovative formats catches the attention of users, improves information retention, and increases opportunities for libraries to engage their constituents.

I follow several academic libraries on Pinterest specifically as part of my research on information seeking processes and how Pinterest is used to extend the library beyond its physical walls presenting information in alternative formats in the context of Web 2.0 social media.

In this blog entry, I present examples of infographics on a variety of topics. My research on Pinterest and Academic Libraries is nearing completion with a blog entry expected in the next few months. But first . . .

WordPress created a virtual infographic at the end of 2012 providing its subscribers with data to review. Here is the one produced for this blog and in the style of that which academic libraries can produce to present data and other information to their audiences.

Click here to see the complete report.

In my experience, few librarians have the skills or interest to create appropriate and well designed promotional materials. A sign produced on 8″ x 11″ paper, consisting of all-caps, bold text filling the entire page, is easily dismissed or overlooked, lacks professionalism, and is counter to any brand-recognition marketing program established by most libraries. Some well-financed universities and colleges provide in-house creative and marketing services where the library can coordinate production of infographics and other signage but for those without such services, fostering graphic design and transliteracy competencies among librarians can be challenging. I am fortunate to have a background in graphic arts, design, and marketing and a continued interest to present information creatively, appropriately, and aligned with established institutional policy, and I am happy to bring that expertise to my workplace.

Social media and Web 2.0 tools are converging and how academic librarians are responding is startlingly varied. That variance is largely due to resources available and existing levels of the necessary skills and competencies to produce good quality materials. Designing and creating infographics requires those librarians involved to develop transliteracy competencies. What is your library doing to present data, events, and materials as social media converges? Does your library have a team with a cross-section of capabilities and skills to create materials in innovative formats? Is promotion using Web 2.0 embedded in a strategic plan? If not, perhaps it is time to consider how to integrate infographics into current outreach, marketing, and promotion initiatives.

Infographics:Libraries, Colleges, and Universities

Reading professors like an open facebook, or how teachers use social media
Courtesy of: Schools.com

Source: educause.edu via Julie on Pinterest

Digital devices to replace textbooks
Courtesy of: Schools.com

University adoption of social media
Courtesy of: Schools.com

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Infographics & Information Literacy

Information Literacy InfographicPresenting information, data, or library instruction content, in appealing and innovative formats offers librarians opportunities to engage students and library users in services, resources, and instruction.

An infographic is a visual representation of information, data, or ideas through images. Think visual storytelling.  Mike Smiciklas recently authored “The Power of Infographics: Using Pictures to Communicate and Connect With Your Audiences” reviewing the history of the infographic and guiding readers through design elements, the science of visualization, and many uses of visual storytelling.

I create infographics to present material covered during information literacy sessions. Subject faculty can load the graphic into course management programs (Moodle, BlackBoard) where students can easily access materials pertaining to library instruction and resources.  While infograhics can be printed, they are intended for viewing online where embedded objects and hyperlnks can be opened.

We are bombarded by slick images every minute of everyday.  The aim of an infographic is to parse what might be perceived as an overwhelming amount of information into manageable bites or small nuggets that transform text into memorable images and meaning.

However, creating an infographic is not easy nor a project to be undertaken by the nervous, timid, design-challenged, style-deficient, or technology-phobic person. Plan.  Prepare. Revise. Re-revise. You must consider images, size and orientation, icons, information flow, colour schemes, links, references, font styles and sizes, audience, and output.

There are many free online programs now available offering templates for creating infographics. Try any one of these to get started:

The authors of another WordPress Blog, Seo Optimization Articles , have compliled a list of what they believe are the top 10 infographic online tools. Furthermore, they have written some instructions and ideas to consider when creating an infographic.

This is an example of using an infographic to present learning outcomes and topics presented in a library instruction session for first year university students:  STSS Follow up Feb 2 2013 (PDF). The infographic is 30 cm x 55 cm.

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Twitter: Successful for Information Literacy Instruction

As a social media platform, Twitter is extremely easy to use and quick to adopt. Users distribute short snippets of information in a dynamic stream that is accessed on a desktop or mobile device. Twitter’s format options allow for a variety of ways to communicate. Users demonstrate transliteracy skills when composing tweets using #hashtags, @messaging, RT (retweets), micro-blogging, and link shortening and distribution.Twitter logo

Twitter has evolved from a simple message delivery system where users shared odd and seemingly meaningless information. For example, in the early days of Twitter users often shared trite thoughts such as what they ate for dinner, or that they just saw a bird in the sky, or that they had a sore tooth. That is no longer the norm nor is it tolerated. Now users can follow political parties and politicians, national radio such as CBC or Jian Ghomeshi, a CBC radio personality. Professional associations tweet links to policy updates, job opportunities, or upcoming events. Health organization tweet alerts and service announcements. Sports organization like the Giants baseball team use Twitter to connect fans with upcoming game dates, individual athletes, statistics, and real-time game coverage.

Formal Information Instruction Sessions

Twitter’s social media platform is used by millions by choice. It is an organic tool devoid of stiff and formal demands. Learners are engaged in structures, patterns, and language that are familiar and of their own authorship.

Content Specific
Twitter content generated by learners in the classroom is original, real-time, real-world, diverse and highly-dynamic content. Twitter offers collections of digital content that learners then parse, evaluate, and synthesize into new knowledge.

Passive or Active Engagement
Creating a #hashtag for a session allows Twitter to be used as a passive or active learning tool. Learners can engage, view, evaluate, tweet, connect, and produce during and after the session. The librarian instructor designs pedagogical structures for a variety of roles and activities for the learner by task or group. For example: the class can be divided into two groups assigned different #hashtags. Each group is given a specific activity and individuals contribute to the backchannel conversation by tweeting their successes, observations, links to information, answers to tasks, and/or peer-to-peer conversations. At the end of activity, each group can review the #hashtag conversation created by the other.

In-Depth Analytics
Twitter analytics are available from Twitter and a few, 3rd party applications. These have powerful real-time monitoring tools that encourage complex problem-solving, audience analytics, and trend transparency that can work for learners in any course, topic, classroom, or grade level.

Twitter Web Analytics

Twitter is familiar. Though there might be some pushback from one or two students who, on principle, do not want to use Twitter, most are more than too eager to use it or are already using it. The demand on the librarian instructor to establish procedural protocols and etiquette is reduced so that students immediately focus on content and task.

Customize or Personalize
Twitter accounts are free. Profiles can be personalized with specific names, avatars, colours, images, and following choices. During an instructional session tweets are unique and differentiated from others by the use of #hashtags that are assignment or topic specific.

Twitter accounts are open and digital. Old tweets fall off after a period of time so librarian instructors archive a session’s #hashtag in a blog or Word document for review and referencing by the subject instructor and other students. While respecting privacy and some degree of anonymity, it is important to plan for the archiving of tweets. It is important to establish foundational in-class etiquette. For example, tweets must have a positive message and tone. Tweets may contain links to appropriate class materials and resources. Tweets cannot share personal and private information of any peer or instructor.

Digital Connectivity
Twitter is digitally connected to various other platforms. Learners can tweet an Instagram photo of their search results or keyword search string, or link a tutorial video to Facebook or a WordPress blog. This kind of connectivity allows more than one platform to be used simultaneously, encouraging higher-level critical thinking skills such as analysis, evaluation, synthesis, and creation. Transliteracy skills.

Instant Audience
Using Twitter in an instruction session provides an instant audience for the librarian instructor and the learners. Using @ messaging, #hashtags, and direct access to experts, mentors, associations, and institutions can provide instant visibility for a student’s work.

Flexible Actuation
Posting short messages hourly, daily, or even weekly is not necessary or even advised to use Twitter. Using Twitter as an observation tool, with categories of trending topics, #hashtags, and lists, is valuable.

There is some recent research published in support of using Twitter in education and instruction. The following are practical guides for using Twitter in instruction.

Twitter for Academics: An Introduction, by Katherine Linzy, University of Evansville.

Engaging Higher Education Students Using Twitter by Amanda J. Rockinson-Szapkiw, Liberty University

Twitter in the Classroom: A manual for Teachers produced by the University of Pittsburg

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Interviewing Revisited

I have been rather busy in recent weeks interviewing for positions of great interest to me. I am aware that selection committees convening to review CV’s and interview short-listed candidates are committing themselves to promote the university where they work, work collegially with their peers, and recommend the best possible candidate meeting the established requirements. I believe that anyone on such a committee takes his or her task seriously. I consider my participation in the interview process quite seriously, too.

Last April I posted an entry about interviewing that outlined some of the steps I take to prepare and provided a list of 30 questions I had compiled over a period of time. Today, I want to reiterate some of those steps.

From the very moment that you submit an application, you are embarking on a professional adventure, a serious adventure because you are exposing yourself to your professional peers and future colleagues. Once you have depressed the enter button or clicked the submit tab, you are agreeing to engage in a professional process that involves many people and various resources, including financial. I take this process very seriously.

I’ve created a flexible process through which I hope to maximize my own resources, respect those with whom I am communicating, and reduce the inevitable physical, mental, and emotional stresses. Here are a few of the things I consider when preparing for an interview:

  1. Tailor existing cover letter and CV to job posting – check spelling and grammar.
  2. Submit application in accordance with posting specification – check spelling and grammar.
  3. When contacted to arrange an interview, consult personal calendar before committing and if there is a conflict, offer several alternative times.
  4. Contact supervisor with details of my interview schedule, arrange shift coverage, and notify colleagues where appropriate.
    Contact referees, sending posting details and an updated CV and cover letter.
  5. Arrange transportation and lodging where necessary.
  6. Arrange dog kennel /daycare services.
  7. Choose appropriate clothing, cleaned and pressed, polish shoes / boots, and select backup clothing and footwear – perhaps a perfect time to shop for those few new pieces.
  8. Research interviewing university library, university, and members of selection committee. Research should include strategic plan, mission statements, faculty collective agreements, resources, services provided, upcoming conference participation by library staff, research focus, and instruction model.
  9. Prepare responses to possible questions.
  10. Research and prepare presentation.
  11. Rehearse presentation in front of others – family, colleagues, and friends.
  12. Reach out to colleagues and peers who you feel will help you develop your interview strategy, presentation, and follow-up.
  13. Develop a follow-up package that includes a PDF of the presentation with speaker notes sent with an email note, and a handwritten letter sent through the post office.

For recent interviews, I had taken all questions collected from previous interview sessions and organized them under specific headings. I found this to be tremendously helpful when responding to questions. Here are some of the headings I use:

• Prioritizing workload
• Prioritizing resources
• Knowledge of resources
• Working under pressure
• Managing a budget
• Creative problem solving
• Handling a difficult situation
• Effective written communication
• Effective oral communication
• Information Literacy pedagogy
• Technological tools
• Emerging trends
• Recording and analyzing user feedback
• Working well in a team
• Something outside of work that might help me in the role
• Short-term plans / goals – how I establish goals
• Medium-term plans / goals – how I establish goals
• Questions to ask the panel / director
• Why I want the position
• Why I’d be good at it
• Strengths and weaknesses

Two recent interview experiences I had were incredibly rewarding. During most interviews, I feel glared upon, in a spotlight; no matter how many times the panel tells me to relax or presents the interview as a casual series of questions. However, I had a most refreshing experience during a face-to-face interviewing process a few weeks ago. The panel members were truly relaxed and well-practiced for delivering interview questions. At periods throughout the interview, cross-table conversations occurred where other panel members contributed to clarify a point or ask a tangential question. I was encouraged by this posturing for I believe that a selection committee will learn more about candidates when interviews are conversational and engaging more of a candidate’s personality.

Another interview I had recently was conducted with a conference call because members of the selection committee were distributed across other campuses. Telephone interviews are often awkward and challenging when there are no visual cues and speaker phones create audio difficulties. This interview might have been additionally confounded because it was a conference call that had members’ entrances and exits notified by an audible ping. Yet, the convener of the interview presented questions with a tone suggesting openness and sincerity that positioned the interview as unscripted, yet covering areas of concern and importance for the committee.

Some might find interviewing exasperating and exhausting; certainly they are that and more. However, I am rejuvenated after an interview. I feel more confident in my areas of expertise, find other issues or topics in which I become interested, identify gaps in my understanding of a concept or as aspect of my professionalism, and learn about my own resilience.

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