The Academic Interview

Once again, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but for a good reason.  I was in the middle of the interviewing process for one job and had an upcoming interview for another.  And good news……I now have my first official librarian position!!

When I was worrying about the interviewing process, I searched and searched for some guidance on what to expect, what I should wear, etc.  I found some great sources and I picked what I thought was more “me”.  Well, I thought maybe I would add my two cents to the large amount of advice out there.

First, I thought I would show you what my interviewing schedule looked like.  You hear about how long it is, but you don’t really know until you have the proof.  Here it is:

——————————————————————————————————————

Wednesday

5:00 p.m. – 5:45 p.m. Give tour of the Library

6:00 p.m. — Dinner with Search Committee and Dean

Thursday

8:30 a.m. Pick up candidate at hotel

8:45 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Meet with Search Committee

9:30 a.m. – 9:45 a.m. Paperwork with HR Representative

9:45 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Break, prepare for presentation

10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Candidate’s presentation and meeting with Academic Library Services

Topic: Describe your views about how emerging technologies will shape the future of distance learning services in academic libraries

11:00 a.m. -11:30 a.m. Meet with Dean of ALS

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Lunch with members of ALS and Search Committee

1:00 p.m.  – 1:45 p.m. Meet with Research and Instructional Services Department

2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Meet with Head of Research and Instructional Services

2:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Meet with Assistant Director of Public Services

3:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Exit meeting with Search Committee

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Now that’s a long day consisting of being on your A game the whole time, getting to know your potential coworkers and the work environment, and giving a great presentation.

Based on my interview, here is my advice:

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

1. Know the job description

2. Know yourself

2a. Why you want the job

This is part of knowing the job description.  This is one of the questions you will be asked multiple times.

2b. Your qualifications and experience and how they will help you with the position

You will be asked things like why you feel you are qualified for the job or what jobs or experiences have you had that will help you succeed in this one.  Be familiar with your own resume and your related experiences

HEALTH

I sometimes tend to overwork myself and push my body to the limit because I think I’m invincible.  I’m working on that.  This is a disclaimer to say that my wonderful search committee and everyone I met kept tabs and asked me if I needed a break periodically.  I didn’t.  I should have.  It is a long day of talking and sitting up straight and being alert and standing and walking….etc, etc.  So:

1. Hydrate!

I got offered water constantly.  Take it and drink it.

2. Be well rested

I stayed up late the night before preparing for my presentation and I regretted it near the end of the interview.  You want your mind sharp, so get some sleep

PREPARATION

1. Practice, Practice, Practice!

I was required to present on the topic mentioned above.  From what I’ve read, they purposely leave it pretty open to see in what direction you take it and what you can do given little direction.  DO NOT ask for more specific instructions.  That will make you look incompetent.  If you aren’t comfortable with taking the vague instructions and running with it, this is the time to start.

1a.  NO NOTECARDS

I read this somewhere and now after going through it, I heartily agree.  The presentations aren’t that long.  Mine was 15 minutes, so take the time to memorize what you’d like to say.  Know what you will be presenting about backwards and forwards.  If you do that, then you won’t have a problem if you veer off of your practiced script.

1b. DO NOT READ WORD FOR WORD FROM YOUR SLIDES

I honestly believe that this doesn’t need to be said.  I thought this was common knowledge by now, but I’ve seen even veteran librarians committing this faux pas. You should only include one sentence if that on the slide and what you say should expand on that.

That leads into my…

BONUS TIDBITS

1. Bring handouts or takeaways for your presentation

There were some who weren’t able to attend my presentation, but I met and spoke with them later in the day.  It looked and felt great that I could give them a handout that told them the gist of what I presented on.  So going off of the ‘Don’t read straight from your slides’ rule, make sure that if you only read your handout/printed slides, you can still understand what the presentation was about.

Also, be sure you spend the time and be proud of what you hand out.  In the next coming weeks after your interview when they are filling out their evaluations, they may only have the handout to remember you and what you talked about.  This could be your way of leaving a lasting impression.

2. Obsess over what you will wear

Even if you’re not into fashion and such, this helped me figure out my identity as a professional.  I’m not really into blazers.  They look cute on a lot of people, but with my wide shoulders and tiny waist, I can’t find ones in stores that look good on me.  Cardigans are my thing.  Bright accent colors, cute dresses and skirts are my thing.  And that’s ok.  I obsessed over whether it will look bad that I’m not wearing a pant or skirt suit, but I realized that it’s just not me and I need to own it.  That being said, do dress professionally.  I’m just saying that professional doesn’t always mean pant suits and a little personality goes a long way.

3. Wear comfortable shoes!!

I LOVE wearing heels.  They make me feel more powerful and confident.  For the interview, at the last minute, I chose to wear flats and my feet still thank me!  You will be walking and standing a lot.  Even if you are in a chair talking with people in the department all day, your feet are still in those shoes and you shouldn’t have to worry about your aching feet when trying to concentrate on the future of your career.

4. The Dinner

If you are interviewing for a good organization with great people, you should feel a little like I did.  I felt that they were all friends who saw each other daily and had their own things that they did and talked about and they knew about each other.  Then here I was, the newcomer, feeling a little awkward.  My advice?  Jump in and ask questions about anything that’s related.  If they are saying something like “So Karen, how’s Abraham doing?”  After she’s done, ask her who Abraham is.  It will get the conversation flowing and you will be in it.  Don’t be afraid because you don’t know what’s what because this is your chance to see how they react to you and how they would let you in if you chose to work there.

Have I written enough for you??  🙂  I hope this is helpful and if you are interviewing, good luck and be strong!!

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2 thoughts on “The Academic Interview

  1. This is great info, Tamara! I’ve been looking at some academic positions and was wondering how the application process would differ from public library jobs. The difference is significant. What you’ve described here would be reserved for a very high level administrative job at a public library. Thanks for taking the time to detail the process.

    • I’m glad it was helpful to someone! Yeah, it was a big switch from the public library interview. It also solidified the fact that in academic libraries, you’re making a real commitment to librarianship rather than it just being a job. That was sort of humbling and symbolic to me.

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