School Library Job Interview Tips

I’ve just finished both participating in and conducting interviews for two separate school librarian positions. As I write this post, Edjoin includes 52 listings with “library” in the title. Based on what I’ve been hearing from some of my library colleagues, California may be getting a clue about the importance of the school librarian position.

Some colleagues report they will be receiving funds to update neglected library spaces. Others have said that their hours are being expanded. In some cases, schools are re-hiring full-time qualified Teacher Librarians to renovate and staff libraries. Yay! I’ve been predicting this would happen. It’s too early for stats to prove my prediction, but I am hopeful.

I also know that there are plenty of amazing library people who continue to get rejected. For a long while, that was me because I choked at interviews. So, I went on lots of them. Here are some school library interview tips I picked up along the job-seeking journey.

It’s Not Personal. After reading that job description, you may believe that you’ve found the perfect position. And, you probably are the most awesome librarian in the universe. Just keep in mind that the panelists are trying to find library staff that fits with their community. The interviewers have detailed knowledge about what their school needs… it may not be you. Now that we’ve gotten this painful fact out of the way, let’s plan for a successful interview scenario in which you land the dream library job!

Dress for Success. I didn’t think I had to add this tip, but, sadly, I must. Whenever possible, wear a suit of some sort. It may be summer when you interview, but jeans, even with a dressy blouse and/or button-down shirt are NOT an option for an interview!

Start at the Beginning. I’ve blown several interviews because I assumed that everyone on the committee had read my cover letter or resume. This is RARELY the case. Be sure to print out and review both the job description AND your own resume beforehand. Then, toot your horn. Start with your education and include, chronologically if you can, every meaningful work experience you’ve had since, pointing out how they coincide with the job description. During the interview, be orderly and factually boastful.

Be Optimistic. However crummy your current bosses may be, someone on the interview panel may know them or some of their friends. Don’t over-share negative stuff of past positions because there will never be a perfect working environment. Politics and personalities prevail. Your future employers are much more interested in how you overcame obstacles, than what the obstacles actually were. If you must reveal something bad to demonstrate your brilliance in handling it, be discreet. You want your new employers to trust you. If you blather on about how bad your ex-bosses have been, any future employers will wonder how you will be portraying them down the line. An interview is never the place to tell tales of woe.

Review the website! Modern school library peeps are visionary tech-heads. So, for the love of Pete, look at what already exists on the employer’s website. It will give you a taste of what you’re walking into and generate ideas for what you’ll want to do in the future, should you get hired. I actually got a job after sharing with my potential employer that the current image on their school’s website looked like a prison library.  (Not kidding.) While I don’t advise such brutal honesty during a first interview, that single line revealed a lot about the direction I’d like to take their school library. Thankfully, the employer at the time agreed with my assessment.

Be specific. I’ve also blown my share of interviews because my answers were too vague. Even if the panelist doesn’t expressly state, “Share an example,” you must SHARE AN EXAMPLE! It’s not enough to list the names of all the software you’ve used. What did you use the software for? What did you create with it? What was the end product? No one will remember the names of the apps you’re “familiar with.” They might remember that you used Google Forms to create an online registration system for students to sign into the library by simply scanning their student ID cards. If you don’t have specific details of what you’ve already done, share some ideas of products you’d like to create on the job.

Remember the Students! The panelists have been given the task of finding school library staff that will not only manage the library, but make their school shine. To do that, you must collaborate well with teachers, staff, admin, and the world beyond the campus walls. More importantly, you must continuously strive to support and advocate for your students. Does every student on campus have wifi at home to complete their web-based homework? Do all students understand what digital citizenship is? Will every graduate be ready for the online research rigors of the next level, for college and after that? If not, you have your work cut out for you… and that’s the point.

The school library position you’ve applied for exists to serve the students. Keep that in mind during the interview and after you get the job. If you do, you’ll have a bright future as an awesome school librarian or stellar library staff member!

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