A Library Interviewee’s Bill of Rights

Let’s face it: Job hunting is a grind. Oftentimes a soul-sucking grind. But once you get that invitation to interview, you feel great. Here is where the library, as the hiring organization, needs to put its best foot forward and make the experience for job candidates a positive one.

I’m not mollycoddling here. This isn’t about bringing your mom or dad to an interview (please don’t!) or sending the interview questions to the interviewee in advance (umm, no…I want to see how you think on your feet!). This is about having a set of protocols, a little common sense, and some human decency.

Below are ten tips that I’m calling the Library Interviewee’s Bill of Rights that should be afforded to all job candidates.

1. The library will give you lead time in preparing a presentation
Many job candidates are required to give a presentation (short lecture, teaching demo, storytime, etc.) at an interview. When the offer to interview is extended, please provide the topic (or if it’s “open-ended” then say so) and the time limit of the presentation. A couple of times when interviewing, I was given a topic only 2-3 days in advance. Give people time to prepare!

2. The library will give you a schedule
When inviting a job candidate to interview, send them the schedule in advance (even if it’s a draft schedule at first). Include the names (or groups) of the people they will be meeting with and the length of time for each meeting.

3. The library will plan a humane schedule
This relates to #1 and #2. Can we not schedule a presentation immediately after lunch? There’s nothing like trying to eat a meal knowing that you’re going to have to give the “show of your life” immediately thereafter. I know it’s hard to get people together to watch a presentation, but I always appreciated it when these things are scheduled before lunch.

4. The library will provide reimbursements
What is reimbursable? Be upfront with job candidates. For overnight stays, is the library booking the hotel? For long distance visits, is the library booking transportation? Or is this the responsibility of the job candidate? What about things like gas mileage or airport parking? Provide a list of what will be covered. Remind the job candidate to bring along (or send) any applicable receipts.

5. The library will provide info on hotels/dining
Related to #4. If it’s an overnight visit, where is the job candidate staying? I remember being dropped off at a hotel by a potential future co-worker in the middle of nowhere. I was on my own for dinner. No car. Nothing walkable. The only thing I could get was a pizza delivered. Some welcome! Invite the job candidate out to dinner. Beforehand, give job candidates a few options for dinner (may have dietary restrictions) and let them pick.

6. The library will give you salary info
I know many institutions (or more likely the library’s parent organization) do not post salaries in job ads, but please provide this info during the interview day whether it’s the minimum salary, a salary range, etc. I know there will be some that will say, “well then the job candidate can’t negotiate if the salary is on the table!” Well…this isn’t the business world and the ability to negotiate for several thousands of dollars generally does not apply to most library positions. So be upfront!

7. The library will be prepared
The job candidate is prepared for the interview day. The library staff should be prepared to interview the job candidate. Have notes in order and questions to ask. Also KNOW which person is being interviewed and don’t call the person by another job candidate’s name.

8. The library will have a good attitude
Yes, the library might be interviewing 3 or 4 people in a row. At least act like this is a fresh and new experience and not a chore to get through.

9. The library will keep matters confidential
Example: If the job candidate marked “you may not contact my current supervisor” on HR forms, then the library needs to follow it! This happened to me. After marking the form to not contact my current supervisor, the library director then asked to contact my supervisor. I had 3 good references (my immediate former supervisor at my workplace, a current co-worker, and a former co-worker). I said no. I didn’t want my supervisor to know I was looking for greener pastures. It was an awkward situation.

10. The library will provide a follow-up in a timely manner
Make sure candidates know the length for the decision-making process. Also ask job candidates how they prefer to be notified (phone, email). I know from an HR standpoint, many things cannot be disclosed. However, you can still say “the library is in the decision-making stage and you can expect to hear from us within the month” or whatever. Once I didn’t receive a “this position has been filled” letter until 6 months after the interview! We can do better.

What else would you add? Leave a comment!

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8 thoughts on “A Library Interviewee’s Bill of Rights

  1. Yes, yes, oh my goodness YES! I can’t tell you how many library interviews I’ve been on recently where this all rang true. Mind you, most of the libraries that met with me upheld the Library Interviewee’s Bill of Rights (and a big thank you to them for making this nerving process a bit easier), but there were some that did not. I guess I would, as a potential employer, look at this interview process and the candidates as if I was in their place. How would I like to be treated? How would I like things to be conducted?

  2. I recently attended one of the best interviews I’ve ever experienced. Although I did not get the offer I was hoping for (just a few credits short of the required education), the experience was very positive. More importantly, it left me with a great impression of the library and the organizational culture. I will be watching them closely for future opportunities. Great post!

  3. I had an interview where they flew me in, put me in a hotel, etc and they already knew who they were hiring, I felt so defeated and I had to make an excuse why I needed the day off, etc. Very cruel. Also, if a library doesn’t list at least a MINIMUM, it means it’s embarrassingly low. Don’t make me take a day off work and go through a day of Hell only to find out that you pay less than what I’m already making. (I am NOT saying that money is everything, but I live in a very expensive place and a living wage is a requirement!)

  4. #8 and #10 ring true for me. My weirdest interview ever happened with three librarians from different parts of a fairly big university campus.
    The interview happened in a conference room right next to a loud construction site. As the interview wore on, I got the idea that the three people never talked before hand.

    They had different ideas of what I’d be doing and how I’d approach my work. So I’d try my best to lip read the person who was speaking, confirm what I *thought* I heard, and listen to three people give me three opinions.

  5. I would further say that salary ranges should be posted in the initial ad. I can’t know if I can afford to come work for you if you don’t tell me what you pay, particularly if that amount is not very negotiable. If I spend a day with you and go through several stages of interview process only to find out that your maximum pay is $10,000 a year less than I need to make to support my house, then we have both wasted our time. Give candidates at least a rough idea.

  6. What a great idea! Rights for interviewees. I once flew across the country for an interview. I was treated well, but at the meet and greet, someone said, “Why are we doing this? We already decided on the other guy.” The rest of the trip didn’t go so well.

  7. Agree! I also had one let me know I didn’t get the job six months later. I was like “I had basically forgotten I applied to that job, but thanks I guess?” Luckily, after going through a lot of those types of situations I recently got an awesome library job at the University of Arizona, hooray!

  8. Good info! Thanks!

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