We are in the midst of interviewing for several professional positions lately (check the Stanford Jobs site, with location = University Libraries for our current openings). Having seen literally dozens of applicants interview for several different positions, I’ve developed a few bits of advice for librarians for in-person interviews. These tidbits of advice are based on my experiences in a large academic library, and may not apply in other settings. Also, this is free advice and is probably worth what you pay for it.
- Suit up. Wear a suit. Period. I cannot imagine a situation where overdressing will cost you any points on a job interview, but underdressing can and will. I know that very few librarians wear suits to work, but the job applicant should always be the best dressed person in the room anyway. Buy an interview suit, and wear it for your interview.
- Do your homework, and do it well. Recognize that the library website is a decent place to start, but is likely to be out of date. You need to know what innovations the organization is currently working on and what they are especially proud of — which is usually the stuff they present on. So use your librarian skills and find recent presentations by members of the staff at that library.
- Talk to people before your interview. If you know anyone who works there, or know anyone who knows anyone, contact them before your interview and ask lots of questions. This is part of doing your homework. It will also mean that when the time comes for the organization to make a hiring decision, you are slightly less of a stranger than the other applicants.
- If your interview involves a presentation or job talk, get very clear information on the expectations. We usually expect an actual presentation (complete with slide deck) rather than a talk. At the start of your presentation, tell the audience what you were asked to do (topic, time limit, kind of presentation), so that they can assess you on the actual task, because some of them may not know what you were asked to do; and you want to be judged on the task assigned.
- Send a thank-you email. Trust me, it is a nice touch. It won’t seal the deal for you, but it won’t hurt. And even if you don’t get the job, the people who interviewed you will be left with a good feeling about it. It is a small community, and you might run into some of them again — it is to your advantage that they remember you as the nice person who almost got the job, rather than simply one of the people who we didn’t hire.