New Library Directors Handbook

Interviewing

From the written applications, the top three to five applicants can be chosen to interview. The interview should help you explore the applicants' qualifications further. You do not have to hire the person who gets the highest score on the written application; the interview can be used as a separate test of an applicant's suitability for the job. As with the written evaluations, an objective way of scoring these interviews should be worked out before the interviews take place. Each applicant should be asked the same basic set of questions during the interview process. A written evaluation of each interview should be made immediately after the interview is completed.

Here are some general guidelines for interviewing:

  • Supply the applicant with a job description.
  • Set aside a period of time for the interview either in your office or at a neutral site. Make sure you will not be disturbed.
  • Put the applicant at ease. Remember how nervous you were when you last interviewed.
  • Ask questions that cannot be answered "yes" or "no". The applicant should do most of the talking.
  • Have a general "game" plan for the interview. Concentrate on the qualities of the applicant and her/his suitability for the position. Then provide details of the position, the conditions of employment and information about the library itself. If you do the opposite, the applicant can slant his answers to fill your needs. Others contend that the applicant should be given a brief overview of the library and the position, and then asked what s/he could bring to this position. Do what feels right to you. Just be consistent for each applicant.
  • What is the applicant's perception of library work? If it's not realistic, can this person handle what library workers really must do? Does the candidate want to work and learn, or is he merely looking for a paycheck? Will this person be positive, productive and part of the team, or negative, unproductive, and difficult to work with? Is the candidate willing to work the schedule at this location? If the first group of candidates doesn't produce anyone you are satisfied with, don't be afraid to start over.

Sample Interview Questions: Make sure you are only asking questions related to the person's ability to meet the job requirements. Here are examples of questions you can ask and questions you should avoid. This is not an exhaustive list.

Can ask:

Why do you want this job?

  • What qualities do you have that you feel would help you in this position?
  • What skills or talents do you possess that you feel qualify you for this position?
  • If I asked former employers (or teachers) about you, what would they say? Why?
  • What part of your last job did you enjoy the most? (Or for those with limited work experience, what was your favorite class or teacher?) Why?
  • What part of your last job did you enjoy the least? (Or for those with limited work experience, what was your least favorite class or teacher?) Why?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What would you do if a patron came into the library angry? How would you handle the situation?

Never ask questions which have nothing to do with the job, such as:

  • Are you married? (Or variations, such as what does your husband do?)
  • Do you have any children? (Or variations, such as who will stay with your children while you work?)
  • Will you be driving to work?
  • What church or social groups do you belong to? (Or variations designed to ascertain membership in controversial or questionable organizations, political preferences, etc.)
  • Are you taking any medications? (Or variations designed to ascertain the physical and mental health of the individual.)
  • Do you need the family plan insurance? Do you live alone? (Or variations designed to ascertain the individual's lifestyle.)

When the decision has been made and the person you have chosen has accepted the position, it is a matter of courtesy to inform other applicants of the decision. This is usually done with a short note through the mail.

Such a note should simply state that the position has been filled, and it should wish them luck in their future job search. You should not explain your decision in the note. All applications and evaluation materials should be kept on file.