On Being a Librarian

Trends, Achievements, and Perspectives

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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