This week I have an interview for a part-time Library Assistant job in a university library. I’m more nervous than usual about it because this is a job that would be enjoyable, great for my career, and good for my studies. In other words, it is a job that I actually want. Past experience of interviews for library positions gives me some idea of what to expect.
There are usually a few generic interview questions: the kind one would get asked for any customer service or administrative position:
- Why do you feel you would be suited for this job? This is an opportunity to mention your skills, training, background in the relevant sector, and general passion for the work.
- Give an example of your work with customers. Example questions call for specific anecdotal accounts. One can mention helpfulness, experience dealing with a range of people, and ability to work under pressure. Can be further specialised as Give an example of handling a difficult customer.
- Give an example of your work within a team. This can be a struggle: I struggle to simultaneously show that I can work with people and maintain independent initiative. As above, it’s good to give specific examples and definitive teamwork results.
Then there are the library/information profession specific questions:
- Why do you want to work in libraries? Nowadays it isn’t enough to like books and not be completely repugnant: libraries are often looking for people who aren't stereotypical hair-in-a-bun shushy librarians. It can also be good for males since the profession is currently dominated by females.
- What developments will affect libraries in the near future? In the past I have tried to field this question by mumbling something about the Internet and using the phrase ‘digital revolution’ a lot. It’s better to have specific knowledge of current developments. Check out CILIP’s Library and Information Gazette.
- What will happen to the library profession in the future? This question refers to the long-term future of libraries and the changing role of information professionals? Public librarians often tell me that they are expected to be all things to all people: to answer any question and provide any service. This is due to the growth of information as a societal commodity and librarians’ role as custodians and facilitators of that commodity.
- How would you improve libraries in the [insert sector here] sector? This requires some prior consideration – I’ve discovered from experience that plans dreamt up on the spot are rarely feasible or coherent.
- Where do you see your career in [X amount of years]? This is personal although it helps if you can show how the job you are interviewing for fits into your future plans.
Finally I was taught to always ask questions at the end of an interview – it shows your interest in the position and opens up a topic to talk about if you’re given a tour of the building or walked to the door. This is a good article about attitude and general interview tips. And though I’m sure it’s not required to memorise sections of the Dewey Decimal Classification, I found the time to do so anyway.