The Interview – A Constant Work in Progress

Once upon a time, there were those who came out with their bachelor’s degree/master’s degree/doctorate/etc, got that interview, got that job, and stuck with it until their eventual, on time retirement. These days, the sense I get from both recent articles and my own experience is that interviews are an inevitable intermission in one’s working life, especially for librarians constantly balancing that next job opportunity with their current, perhaps not so secure, position. This is perhaps where this piece of advice stems from, given to me by multiple staff members during my last internship stint at a public library: actively seek out interview opportunities. One, my internship supervisor, cited the benefit of increasing familiarity with potential interview questions, a subject which at least one research article has been written on. The other commented that, with library work opportunities notoriously few and far between, one cannot afford to wait until one is less than satisfied with one’s current position to start exploring one’s options. As result of this, I, someone who has had a less than satisfactory history with interviews (I literally rejected at least one of my own college applications by refusing to agree to an interview), had no sooner finished my last week of my internship before I applied for a reference desk position at a small college, seeing an opportunity to combine my newly acquired library experience with my current work with students. A few days later, I received an invitation to an interview, and within five days of sending my application, I had a meeting scheduled with three of the library’s reference staff. 

In terms of my experience, this would be my fourth interview for a library-related position, my third for a position that explicitly incorporated reference work, and my second for a non-internship, W-2 and all, job. I have been accepted more than I have been rejected, and so I had confidence in my standard preparation for a library position interview: contact my references; brush off my blazer; and research, research, research about the library, its events, its staff, and whatever goals it has revealed to the public. In comparison to previous interviews, I was not able to find much about both events and goals, which was perhaps a side effect of the library being part of a larger, non-library focused institution that had separate venues for hosting events. However, this was the first interview I was going into as someone who has legitimate experience in library work. Previously, I had hoped that cobbling together my current work in tutoring K-12 students with past work in the bowels of library grunt work would be sufficient to show both sustained interest and relevant experience on my part. Now, if the interview explicitly asked about my experience in creating programs and other related library matters, I would be prepared.

During the interview itself, I was confronted with questions that, while not being explicitly expected, made sense in conjunction with the job’s responsibilities. I talked about my own skill set; how I had performed in the face of both unexpected issues and sustained conflicts; and the good, the bad, and the complications that came with the specific examples I chose to answer interview questions. Perhaps as a side effect of previous interviews, I still felt the need to draw from more than just my most recent positions, but being able to refer to actual library reference work for the first time in the interview was a great boon. After the interview was done, I found myself appreciating the advice garnered from my internship, as the feeling that I had already gained a great deal of experience lessened my usual overwhelming focus on getting the job itself.

All in all, I imagine I am not the only one who has feared being interviewed, or has worried about that one has an insufficient level of experience, or has only delved into the job search when absolutely necessary, preferring ignorance to awareness for the majority of the year. Hopefully, my detailing of my own experiences has resonated with some readers, to the point of perhaps encouraging them to take on the next step in their library journey; whether it be submitting that internship application, sending that interview follow up email, or starting that scouring of job sites, listservs, and Twitter feeds. Oftentimes, the hardest thing is simply starting up again after having rested in place for a length of time, and what with library school being busier than ever, it is easy to get caught up in everything and leave the job hunt to an ever farther into the future point. With that, do any of you have any advice or experiences you would like to share about anything library interview related? Despite all that I have up there, I know for a fact that I will always have a lot to learn.

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