Thursday, June 3, 2010

Interviews are just another kind of story

This should be the season in which eager library school grads hop happily from interview to interview. Unfortunately, while a few libraries are hiring, many are frozen solid and have been for a year or more, with no thaw in sight.

Although jobs are scarce, folks will want to keep their interviewing skills honed. The New York Public Library's blog has a post by Amy Armstrong on Five Questions to Get You Through Any Interview.

And for those potential children's librarians out there, remember that interviewing is like learning and telling a wonderful story. The main points are the same:

1. Decide on the story you will tell!

Is this a story about your flexibility and enthusiasm? Is it about your experience working with children? Is it about your customer service skills? Is it about your knowledge of cutting-edge technological issues? The story you tell depends both on your own talents and experience and on the position for which you are interviewing.

Remember - YOU know this is a story worth telling, full of interest and value, and your job is to figure out how best to convey it to your audience (otherwise known as the Interview Panel).

2. Don't memorize! But - be very familiar with your theme and major plot points and refrains. Don't digress.

All storytellers know that rote memorization of stories can really trip you up. However, knowing the basic plot of your story and all the important points to emphasize will ensure that you communicate effectively and confidently. Prepare by writing down your story theme (flexibility and enthusiasm) and then list bullet points, making sure that each one backs up your theme. Keep your outline brief - you want to sound confident and relaxed, not rehearsed.

3. Practice your story!

The more you practice getting your story across, the better you'll feel during the real interview. Write down practice questions, figure out the responses that will tell your story, and then have someone play the part of interviewer. If you're really brave, have someone video you so that you can check to make sure you are smiling, making eye contact, and not fidgeting, over-gesticulating, or talking too fast - all common errors for beginning storytellers.

4. Make sure the beginning and ending of your story are amazing!

The best thing about interviews? No matter what questions are in the middle, there is usually a question at the beginning that goes something like "Tell us why you are a good candidate for this position?" or "What experience or skills have prepared you for this position?" There's also always a question at the end along the lines of "Do you have anything else you'd like to add?" Make sure you've prepared a wonderful opening and closing, both of which should express and enhance your chosen theme.

5. Have fun!

The story you will tell during your interview is a story you know better than anyone. It's the story of why YOU are the best person for this job! So take a deep breath, relax, and smile as you tell your story. Storytellers know that if they are enjoying themselves, their audience probably will, too!

Good luck, grads! If my library system wasn't in a hiring freeze, I'd snap all of you up in a heartbeat!


  1. Great tips, Eva and I love the way you weave it into telling "your story"! There have been a couple of posts lately that really are helpful for folks interviewing. Wish I had the kind of instant help we can generate now 34 years ago when I was looking at going into my first interviews.

  2. Great tips! One of the things I need to learn to do was breathe, silly though that must sound.