With the increase in colleges and companies using software like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, online interviews have become more common. In my role as Circulation Manager at an academic library, I’m often on the employer side of the interview process, but I have also been on the job seeker side, too! Either way, using technology in an interview can be nerve-wracking, but if you take the time to prepare yourself, you can succeed! Here are 5 tips that I’ve learned from my experience with library-related online interviews.
- Give yourself plenty of time to set up your station. You’ll want to pick a room that is quiet and well-lit for your interview. Natural light from windows facing you usually works well on camera. If you’ll be conducting your interview in a busy household, communicate with the other people in your space beforehand and ask for their patience (and lower volume!) during your interview time block. If having the interview at home isn’t an option, check around your area for your local public or university libraries, which might have available study rooms for you.
- If you are using a laptop, make sure it is fully charged and at eye level to you. You can prop it up on sturdy books if needed. Check your laptop’s camera and sound equipment before the interview and make sure they are working properly. This is also a great time to review how you and your background look on camera. If your messy bed or laundry hamper is showing, pick a different location. A blank wall or one with a few tasteful decorations makes a good backdrop.
- Dress to impress. Even though you won’t be meeting your potential employers face-to-face, you still need to dress your best. Clothing like blazers, button-down shirts, blouses, and slacks in neutral colors are usually a safe bet for an interview. This article explains more about interview and professional attire.
- Research the company and the role that you are applying for. Read over the company’s website and take note of their mission and ideals. Review the position description and prepare questions that you might want to ask the employer. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with popular industry terms and expectations. Depending on the library position you’ve applied for, this might include knowing terms like “metadata” “ILS,” or “Reader’s Advisory.”
- Practice questions and answers beforehand. Research common interview questions (example: “Tell me about yourself”) and recommended answers (example: “I have 3 years of experience as a Library Assistant at _____ employer and am excited to apply for this role because _____”). You’ll also want to research library-specific interview questions; the list of resources compiled by the Mr. Library Dude blog is a great place to start. While all libraries are certainly not the same, there will likely be some similarities in the interview questions asked. For example, if you’re applying for a Library Assistant position that requires general reference and customer service skills, be prepared to answer questions like: “Can you tell me about a time when you had to help a difficult patron?” and “Are you comfortable with troubleshooting problems with desktop computers, laptops, and printers?” Write down and rehearse your answers to various interview questions before the interview. You don’t need to memorize everything, but have some examples from your past work or volunteer experiences in mind that you will be comfortable sharing. You can even have a friend or mentor ask you questions and listen to your answers.
The more prepared you are, the more comfortable you’ll be when you log in to your online interview. For more help, browse the “Interviews” topic right here on HLS!
Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Olivia Chin. Hailing from West Tennessee, Olivia Chin is an online graduate student at Texas Woman’s University SLIS. She works in Circulation full-time at an academic library. Connect with her on LinkedIn!