Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dear Annoyed Librarian #11: Job Interview Tips

Dear Annoyed Librarian,

You have been an inspiration to me, as you have been to tens of others over the years, which is why I am asking for your help. Thanks to your advice on how to sound like a librarian and your advice on spicing up my resume for maximum competitiveness, and thanks to my willingness to finally leave Wyoming, I now have an interview at a great library. I'm excited! But I'm also a bit nervous, and I was wondering if you had any advice for me about the actual job interview.


Soon to be Interviewed


Dear Soon,

Thank you for your kind words of praise. I do indeed have some advice for you about how to act, and just as importantly how not to act, during the job interview. I personally have been interview for 87 library jobs, all of which I have been offered, so I know whereof I speak. Here is some advice to remember for that fateful day.
  • Do say how much you admire the wonderful library and glorious institution you're visiting. Frequently comment on how fortunate the librarians must feel to work there. They will appreciate the genuine compliment and definitely not think you're just buttering them up.
  • Do comment several times during the day about what an exciting, fast-paced career librarianship is these days. The jaded librarians interviewing you will smile fondly and remember the days when they were naive and happy like you rather than just think you're an idiot.
  • Remember, you're interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. A good question to ask is, which of your colleagues would you never hire again. If they won't respond to that, then just ask which of their colleagues are complete bastards.
  • Interviewers like happy, cheerful candidates. The best way to show you are happy and cheerful is occasionally to break out into song. A good Gilbert and Sullivan tune always lightens the mood. My favorite is "I am the Very Model of a Major Modern General" but I haven't taken the time to adapt it for librarians, and "I am the Very Model of a Major Modern Librarian" doesn't scan. Not that anyone cares about that anymore.
  • If asked why you want to leave your current job, just explain that it had to do with "creative differences."
  • If asked why you want to leave your current job, don't say, "Because my boss is evil and my colleagues are all idiots." There's always a danger that the interviewer will conclude that you'd find life no different in the new job and so not hire you.
  • When job ads say they want "enthusiastic" candidates, they really mean "young," so be sure to maintain the fresh looks and fake smiles of young people like these.
  • Learn something about the library so it'll look like you're really interested. Then make insightful comments like, "Oh, I see you still use LC classification" and "That sure is a clunky home page you've got! What baboon with ADHD designed that?"
  • Remember, excitement sells! Speak in a loud, hyperbolic voice at all times. "So how did you like working in X Library?" "IT WAS THE GREATEST EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE!!! EVERYTHING SINCE HAS BEEN A COMPLETE DISAPPOINTMENT!!!" "Oh, and what about your next job?" "SAME THING!!!"
  • Get to the interview early, to make sure you're prepared. If the interview begins over breakfast at 8am, then starting with coffee at 5am should give you plenty of time to get in the mood.
  • However, don't drink a lot of coffee just before the job talk. No matter how clever your mock-BI or your BS projection of the future of whatever, everyone will be unpleasantly distracted by you doing the pee-pee dance.
  • Unless of course you're required or are boring enough to do a Powerpoint presentation, in which case you doing the pee-pee dance will be a welcome diversion.
  • Expect to have to answer lots of questions about your strengths and weaknesses. It doesn't really matter what you say, just as long as you answer smoothly. "What is your greatest strength?" "I suppose it's seeming like I'm incredibly busy and competent when all I really do is sit reading blogs." "Oh! Then what is your greatest weakness?" "An inability to lie when the occasion calls for it."
  • When asked what you thought of your library school classes, do not say you thought they were complete crap, even if they were.
  • When asked what kind of car you think you'd be, resist the urge to strangle the idiot who asked the question.
  • When asked why you want to be a librarian, do not say it's because you've already failed at everything else. Say it's because you just left the pea farm and you want to be nice and warm. Oh, and it pays the bills. And there are worse jobs. Etc.
  • Employers always claim they want people to be able to work independently and also as part of a team. Assure them you'll work so independently they may never see you for weeks at a time, and that you'll be happy to work on a team as long as there are no idiots on it.
  • You might be asked about what you want to be doing in five years. "Your job!" makes a good answer, because it shows you're ambitious. "Retirement" is a safe long-term objective.
  • Perhaps you've had some trouble in the past with a problematic supervisor. This is not the time to tell how you paid some teamsters to teach your supervisor a lesson. That time will come soon enough.
  • Don't walk through the staff areas and say, "My God, how can you live like this?"
  • And most important, don't start swearing, at least until you've concluded that you'd never, ever be willing to work in this dump.
There, that should be enough to get you through the day. I wouldn't want to overwhelm you. Good luck with your chosen career!


The Annoyed Librarian


Cincinnati NAMjA said...

Great tips....I am impressed. Do you mind if I use them on my next interview?

Bunny Watson said...

When asked what kind of car you think you'd be, resist the urge to strangle the idiot who asked the question.
Before I got the marvelous job I have now, I interviewed for a job at a very large law firm working in the law library. One of the questions they asked me was "How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?" I was struck speechless for several seconds and then asked, "Do you mean how does one make a PB&J, or how do I personally make one?" I thought the interview went horribly, but they offered me the job anyway. Fortunately I then got a call offering me a real library job where I wasn't asked how to make a PB&J.