A network for new and aspiring library professionals

The Trials and Tribulations of Interviews!

Since finishing the taught part of my MA in May 2012 my life has been a mixture of dissertation work, working part time in my office (non library) job, applying for jobs, attending interviews and mini breaks. This will probably sound familiar to you! I can not recall how many jobs I have applied for but I was averaging at least one job application per week. The total number of interviews I have been invited to attend is eleven, of which I have attended nine; two, I had to decline due to illness and inability to get time off from my current employment. The interviews have been for universities, higher education colleges, public libraries and an NHS library. Out of these nine interviews I have managed to gain employment as a part time Library Assistant in a public library (1/9).

I am beginning to feel like the Bridget Jones of the library world- given my poor job conversion rate! I have received feedback for all and they have been positive so I am left a bit confused as to how I can improve in order to gain employment. The feedback I received from one interview was that the interviews were too close to make a decision so it then came down to a test that was carried out on the day (replying to a user by email) and my reply was more concise than others so unfortunately I did not make it, however, if there was another post I would have got it. I have been told I have made it down to the last two but have always been pipped to the post. Another example of feedback is: “Helen gave a strong, confident, interview.  She was clear and concise in her answers to all of the questions and she met the criteria and key competencies, the panel were particularly impressed with her examples of team working, and customer service skills.  Helen also demonstrated that she had a good understanding of the differences between Library Assistant and Leading Library Assistant roles. I would like to advise Helen that her interview score was very good; it was simply that we had limited Alternative Working Pattern posts available; this meant that she was unsuccessful on this occasion.”


The epitome of an intimidating interview!

The feedback from the last few interviews I have attended has provided me with the most constructive feedback. One stated that although I gave a good interview the successful candidate elaborated more about their qualities and experience. In this interview, I feel I held myself back and didn’t tell them everything about myself as the questions they asked didn’t specifically allow me to. Finally, the feedback from my last interview was that the decision was between myself and the successful candidate, and although I gave a good interview and my presentation was good with a solid content, the successful candidate’s presentation skills were slightly better. I will endeavour to improve my presentation skills and will endeavour to convey my qualities and experience to the fullest to demonstrate that I am the best candidate.

My feedback from my NHS interview was that my volunteering carried a lot of weight; which echoes Amy’s sentiments in her post on the merits of volunteering. I was one of five people to be invited to interview and my lack of experience within the NHS contributed to me being unsuccessful.

As you may expect, the number of rejections, including the applications I have completed and never heard back from again have started to get me down and left me disillusioned. At these times, I have to remember why I wanted to be involved in the library and information profession and remain focused on my career goal. I know it is possible to gain a professional post as many others have been successful and I am not inept as the feedback shows. For now I will concentrate on my Library Assistant post and gaining the most I can from this position, improving my presenting skills and contributing to this network in the form of blogs and event planning with the rest of the network.

Here are some of the questions I have been asked at interviews; hopefully they will be of some use to you if you are at the stage of attending interviews:

  • What would you do if a student asked for help on e-journals and hating using them?
  • Tell us about any mentoring experience you have had and what you gained from it?
  • What would your current manager say about you?
  • In terms of today’s environment, what information IT skills are necessary when working on the help desk?
  • How do you organise your time/priorities?
  • If there was to be some disruption to library services how would you alert people?
  • What is necessary to deliver good customer service?
  • What do you think is necessary of universities to do in the current climate to ensure they provide an adequate service?
  • What attributes are necessary to delivery good customer service?
  • Can you give an example of where you have delivered excellent customer service?
  • Can you give an example of when you have worked in a team?
  • Scenario: it is approaching 12pm and you need to head over to another site, to begin working there at 12pm, but you are dealing with a customer enquiry- what would you do?
  • Scenario: you are dealing with an anxious student whose request needs to be handled by a subject specific librarian. The student is not happy you can’t help- what would you do?
  • Scenario: another anxious student wants to borrow a reference text as they have an exam tomorrow; as it is a reference text they can no remove it from the library. The student is very angry- what would you do?
  • What IT applications have you used and in what context?
  • Are there any aspects of the job specification that you would need further training on?
  • The library has many different teams- what are the potential challenges of this and how can they be resolved?
  • Can you give an example of where you have worked accurately with attention to detail?
  • What would you do if people are causing a disruption to others in the library?
  • What would you do if a customer asked you a question and you did not know the answer?
  • What do you think is meant by the term safeguarding and what responsibility does the library have for this?
  • How should a library provide for all members of the populace?
  • What experience do you have in delivering training to users?

I wish those who are in the process of applying for jobs the best of luck and those who have gained employment good luck in their new posts.



2 comments on “The Trials and Tribulations of Interviews!

  1. Pingback: Interview presentations | ManchesterNLPN

  2. Pingback: Interview: Laura Green – Research and Knowledge Systems Administrator at Addleshaw Goddard LLP | NLPN

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This entry was posted on January 29, 2013 by in Professional experience and tagged , , , .

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