Whew! You've written an outstanding cover letter and
resume. A search committee has read hundreds of resumes, debated
countless hours, and the librarians have now narrowed the pool to their
top three picks. Congratulations! You're one of them. What happens now,
when you've survived the first severe cut and are one of the few
candidates invited for a personal interview? Face-to-face or telephone
interviews can be the most intimidating part of the job search process.
You are no longer just a piece of paper; you must impress your
interviewers, and potential co-workers, with your competence and
personality. Here are a few suggestions for surviving, and perhaps even
enjoying, your next job interview:
DO YOUR RESEARCH.
- Of course, it's best if you've done brief
research on the library and institution before writing your cover
letter. The American Library Directory and any guide to higher
education can give you a brief overview of the organization.
- For an academic position, request a college
catalog and information from the Admissions office. You should
familiarize yourself with their college's focus. Look for librarians
listed in the faculty/staff directory. Memorize the names of the
librarians you will meet.
- Do they have a web site? If so, this is often
full of information about the library's services and staff.
- Request tourist or relocation information from
the Chamber of Commerce.
- Search your local libraries for books or
journal articles that either mention the organization or that have
been written by librarians there.
- Read all the articles you can find that were
written by librarians at the institution. This will not only
familiarize you with their work, it may show you the publication
expectations at their library.
- Some libraries will send you an introductory
packet including information about the library and institution, and
vitas of each librarian. If so, study this information carefully.
Knowing as much as you can about the people you will meet will not
only relax you, but will impress your interviewers with your research
ability and interest in their organization.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.
- Read books on interviewing to find common
interview questions. Think about (and maybe write out) your answers to
- Ask librarians what questions they've been
asked, or would ask a candidate, in job interviews.
- Review the job ad for clues about what's
important in this position or library.
- Practice "interviewing" with a friend.
- If you have to give a presentation at your
interview, practice it thoroughly. Time yourself to make sure you
don't talk too long. Practice with any equipment, handouts or visual
tools so that you're comfortable using them in front of a group.
GUARD YOUR HEALTH.
- Get a good night's sleep the night before your
interview. You need to be refreshed, alert and cheerful when meeting
your interviewers. You'll often need to have good stamina to endure a
day or two of extended interviewing.
- Eat a healthy breakfast (or meal) before your
- Carry some pain reliever in your briefcase or
purse, just in case.
DRESS THE PART.
- Dress professionally in order to be taken more
- You're safest in subdued colors, styles and
patterns of clothing. Don't let your clothes distract from your
- Navy blue is still the most popular color for
interview outfits. However, don't feel compelled to wear navy. Choose
a color that flatters your skin and hair color.
- Men should wear a suit and tie. Women should
wear a simple suit or dress.
- Don't buy a "power suit" that doesn't fit your
style. Wear clothing that you are comfortable in and that looks good
on you. You'll be more confident if you don't have to think about your
- Don't wear gaudy jewelry, heavy
perfume/cologne, ruffled clothing, or anything that makes you look
less professional or might "turn off" some of your interviewers.
- Women might tuck a small wallet or purse inside
a briefcase to avoid carrying two bags.
FOCUS ON OTHERS.
- Focusing on the people you're meeting and
talking with can help relieve your nervousness.
- Treat your interviewers like "real" people.
Concentrate on getting to know them as individuals, instead of a
faceless mass of interviewers.
- Try to "connect" with them. Focus on getting
your message across to them, on how they are responding.
- Listen. Tune in to what issues or questions are
important to your interviewers. Listening carefully is especially
important on a telephone interview, where you can't rely on visual
clues from the interviewers.
INTERVIEW YOUR INTERVIEWERS.
- Most interviewers encourage you to ask
questions. Ask them. Have questions prepared in advance. This shows an
active interest in how you'll fit into the organization, instead of a
desperate plea for "a job."
- Ask questions that deal with the job duties,
expectations, management or communication styles of the library. Save
questions about salary and benefits until late in the interview or
until you are actually offered the job. Most interviewers will tell
you that information before you leave the interview.
- Listen carefully. Watch the librarians'
interactions with each other. Would you like to work with these people
at this library? Would you fit in with their expectations? Will the
job challenge you? Use this meeting to evaluate whether you would like
the job, should they offer it to you.
- Don't put on a facade. Be as much "yourself" as
you can be. It's important that your interviewers know what they're
getting and that you know that you'll work well together.
- Answer their questions honestly. Guarding your
answers, or answering only what you think they want to hear, will make
you appear dishonest.
- Phrase your answers in a positive light. If you
are asked about an unpleasant previous job, or your weakest
characteristic, be honest, leave your interviewers with a positive
impression of your attitude. For example, you might say that speaking
to groups is the area in which you need the most improvement, but that
you have improved greatly since high school.
- Let your personality shine through. Try not to
let nervousness block any signs of life. Your interviewers will
remember someone who shows enthusiasm and warmth.
- In a telephone interview, make your voice sound
as energetic, warm, cheerful and clear as possible. Your interviewers
are listening for signs of enthusiasm and interest in the job.
THANK EVERYONE IMMEDIATELY.
- If possible, thank your interviewers
individually before leaving the interview.
- As soon as you get home, write thank-you
letters to each person who interviewed you. If possible, thank each
person individually, either by writing separate letters or by
mentioning each person's name in one letter.
- Recap any major assets you'd like to remind
them of. Correct any issues that you feel might have been
misunderstood. However, keep the letter short.
- Tell them why (and if) you are still interested
in the job. Keep the letter brief and positive.
- Thank you letters are surprisingly rare and
incredibly effective. Treat your interviewers as you would any host.
- McKay, Beatrice and Clare Dunkle.
"Top of the Heap or Bottom of the (Trash) Barrel? Tips for Job
Footnotes, v. 22 n. 2, January 1993.
About the Author:
When she wrote this
article, Priscilla R. Klob was Head of Access Services at Trinity
University, San Antonio, TX. She is now
Shontz, a web designer and freelance writer
who has worked in university, community college,
medical and public libraries. She is author of Jump Start Your
Career in Library & Information Science and is a past president of
the ALA New Members Round Table. She is currently working on a
for Scarecrow Press.
Article added Apr 2003
ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective
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