Career Strategies for Librarians
The Interviewing Process Broken Down
by Suzan Lee
People loathe the job searching process. Interviewing is on the top of the list of reasons why people are
reluctant to initiate a job search. Once you have made a decision to move on to a new and better job, you
will need to draft a resume and a cover letter. But what happens once you have been invited to an
interview? Here are some steps you can depend on to get through a job interview.
1-LOOK YOUR BEST. Wear a newly dry-cleaned suit or pressed casual corporate outfit. Can't decide
between casual or formal corporate or a skirt or a pair of pants? Err on the side of conservative. SMILE,
MAKE EYE CONTACT AND SHAKE HANDS FIRMLY. It displays confidence and friendliness, even though
you may not feel it at the time.
2-BE ON TIME. Better yet, arrive 15 to 30 minutes early. Why? Security may be tight and you may be
delayed or you may be asked to complete an application form. Besides, arriving a bit early will give you
the time to freshen up or simply to look around and get a feel for a potential work environment.
3-BRING DOCUMENTS to help you speed up the interview process. You may be asked to complete a job
application document PRIOR to the actual interview. Compile a cheat sheet on your employment history
complete with name of supervisor, full address, telephone number, start and end salaries and even
provide yourself with a reason why you left or are leaving the employer. How historical should your
employment history be? Some employers may ask you for the last 10 years or since your bachelor's
degree. The cheat sheet will indeed reduce paper time. Bring several copies of your resume. The
interviewers may have misplaced your resume temporarily or the faxed copy is illegible or the interviewer
simply didn't make enough copies for everyone. Providing them with fresh copies will give you the
opportunity to present an updated resume as well.
4-LISTEN AND TAKE NOTES. I've been in an interview where a candidate was so eager to prove her
worth that she would interrupt to interject that "she can do that". If this is the first interview, listen to your
interviewer. Ask if it's okay to take notes. During the first interview, the interviewer is undoubtedly giving
you some background information on the library, librarians, and the open position itself. DO NOT talk
about money related topics such as salary and compensation at this time.
5-BE PREPARED TO ANSWER TOUGH QUESTIONS. You will be asked to explain gaps in your work
history, so come prepared with ready answers. (A. You decided to stay home to take care of your family,
a.k.a. Motherhood, Inc. or a very ill family member. B. You took time off to travel, something you've always
wanted to do. C. You needed to re-focus on your career and took time off to attend school or to obtain a
certificate. D. You started your own business or helped with your family business.) This is just one of
many tough questions that will be asked based on your resume.
6-ASK QUESTIONS. Now that you have some knowledge of the library the job itself, review your notes
and ask questions that relate to topics the interviewer has discussed. DO NOT ask about salary or
compensation. It is much too early. DO ask if you can call or email to follow up with a status check.
Your resume gets you the first interview based on your skill set and work experience. The first interview
determines whether you are a potential "right fit" in skill set and personality for the library. If you are
asked back for a second interview, be assured that they like you and you are nearing the end of their
candidate search process. Some interviewing process requires 3 or more interviews, so do not be
alarmed. Multiple interviews are held so that your potential colleagues have the chance to meet you.
7-FOLLOW UP with a handwritten thank you note within 48 hours of the first interview. Keep it simple.
Buy a plain, blank card. It will serve as a reminder to your interviewer of who you are ... a confident,
friendly and a well-mannered candidate. Include in your note one or two topics that you found of
8-STATUS CHECK should be done NO EARLIER than 2 to 2 1/2 weeks after your interview. When you do
call, ask about the status of the interviewing process for the open position; absolutely NOT "did I get the
job?" or "has the position been filled?" Be considerate of your potential future boss. It may take several
weeks alone just to schedule and meet the first round of candidates. Email if you know that it's all right
with the interviewer.
Job searching is a skill and the more you use it, the better you become. Job searching is one of the few
things that DOES revolve around you. So look your best, do your best and be you at your best.
About the Author:
Suzan Lee is a Senior Researcher at UBS Warburg LLC. Prior to UBS Warburg, she has worked for
JPMorgan and Credit Suisse First Boston. She conducts workshops relating to Job Searching for MLS
students and new members for Special Libraries Association-NY Chapter where she has served as the
Outreach Chair for 4 years.
Article submitted Apr 2002
Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective authors and do not
necessarily represent the views of the LIScareer editors.