Ten Tips for Nailing your Academic Library Interview

Ah, the academic interview: a grueling day-long marathon of showcasing yourself and your accomplishments to people you've likely never met before. I've had three academic interviews in the past five years, two of them successful, so I like to think I know what I'm talking about here. These Top Ten Tips are things that I've done or see others do that have made a positive impact. If you're prepared, the interview process can be an enjoyable, rather than nerve-racking, experience. Even if you're not offered the job, this is your chance to make a lasting impression on a group of your peers.

1. Prepare answers to questions that you know you'll get asked. Some important ones include, "What are your strengths relative to this job?" "What are your weaknesses relative to this job?" "Why do you want this job?" and "Give an example of how you've handled a challenging situation." Write out and rehearse the answers so that you'll be able to answer questions quickly and confidently.

2. Don't worry about describing your weaknesses in front of search committee members. Employers will want to see not only how you fit the job, but how the job fits you. Demonstrate how the position will help you overcome weaknesses and advance your career. Be open and honest about what you would do, if you were hired, to meet the challenge.

3. Prepare a Power Point presentation, reason 1: You are likely one of three (or sometimes more) candidates presenting on the same topic. A visual presentation will help create a more lasting impression. Also, here at Auraria, we post the candidates' presentations to our staff-only intranet so that anyone who couldn't attend the live presentations can get a taste of each candidate's experience and ideas.

4. Prepare a Power Point presentation, reason 2: The library-wide presentation is the way for you to get a lot of bang for your buck, so to speak. Search committees rely heavily on input from all areas of the library, and while it's crucial for you to make a good impression on the people that you spend the most time with, the "popular vote" is important as well. If you don't prepare a slide show, or even a handout, it may make people question if you're taking the interview seriously.

5. Prepare a Power Point presentation, reason 3: Even if you're a confident public speaker presenting on something that you've had a lot of experience with, you may choke in a new environment in front of new faces. Your slides will be familiar to you, though, and keep you moving forward.

6. Prepare questions for your interviewers. What are the most important initiatives in the library currently? When you meet with smaller groups, ask individuals what research interests are. Are they people that you could see yourself collaborating with?

7. Research your interviewers. You'll likely get a list of names of people who are on your search committee; Google them or conduct author searches in library science databases, if you have access to those resources. If you don't have a list of names, visit the library's staff directory on their web page and Google/database search the names of the people you'd be working with.

8. Research the library itself. Where is it located--in a big city, or on a suburban campus, etc.? Whom does it serve? What are the patrons like? Visit the building if you can. Can you see yourself working there? If you're coming in from out of town, try to sneak over to building the day before to look around. You won't be experiencing it for the first time on the morning of your interview that way.

9. Create a personal/professional web page before the interview. This doesn't need to be anything fancy, just a bit about yourself and your professional interests so that people can get a sense of who you are. Include a fun (but appropriate) picture so that folks can put a face to a name and get a sense of your personality. Members of the search committee may Google your name; give them something great to find. Link to important projects you've done.

10. Send thank you notes. One job candidate on whose search committee I served sent everyone that she'd talked to over the course of the day a personalized thank you note. She got the job. Academic libraries spend a considerable amount on drawing qualified candidates in; this shows how much you appreciate the opportunity you've been given, especially if they're flying you in.