Interview Tips -- Do's And Don'ts
Its mid-summer and many people are in the midst of a full-blown job search. And with job searching, comes interviews. Below is a list of different articles, videos, and clips on interview bloopers. So, if you blow an interview (and just about everyone has!), check these out to make yourself feel better because these people did much worse! Or, read ahead to plan for what not to do.
Sarcasm and Joking in the Workplace (or in the Interview - an absolute no-no!)
43 Weird Thins Said in Job Interviews ""I get angry easily and I went to jail for domestic violence. But I won't get mad at you." Weird, definitely!
More about what not to do after you are hired, but check out 30 Ways to Lose a Job on Twitter. This would mean don't post "My boss is an idiot!"
A whole book on the topic: Job Search Bloopers: Every Mistake You Can Make on the Road to Career Suicide...and How to Avoid Them
I'm sure that there are many more out there but this should guide you well. And if you have any doubts, don't hesitate to contact Joanna or me with questions or concerns! --Kelly
What Not to Do When Applying for Library Jobs
A current student sent me the following article and I thought that it would be an interesting one to share to all. Although the article is directed towards library jobs, the information and tips provided are pretty universal! Check out the comments at the link too -- lots more tips to be found! Enjoy!
What Not to Do When Applying for Library Jobs
by Brett Bonfield
June 24, 2009
This week we decided to do a “collective wisdom” post about job hunting mistakes. This is an issue affecting every librarian, whether you’ve got a job, you’re in the market, or you’ll begin looking five years down the road. We’ve all made errors in selecting jobs to apply for, drafting our cover letters and resumes, and during interviews. Once we realize what we’ve done, we promise ourselves never to repeat them again and create strategies that work for us. Many of us have also been on the other side of the table, interviewing great candidates who are amazingly well prepared, and also some applicants who fail to put their best foot forward. This group post is our way of pulling together our collective experiences as both interviewees and interviewers and offering up some practical advice to our readers. We welcome your thoughts, advice, and questions.
Before you look for a job, while you’re still in school or if you’re getting curious about another facet of the library profession, it is most advantageous to you to schedule informational interviews. Ask engaging and meaningful questions to show your curiosity about the institution/organization. Ask about work duties, ask about the organizational culture. Really get a feel for the place and decide if it’s something to keep on your list for a place of employ in the future. When it’s all said and done, write thank you notes to the people who took the time to speak with you. They will remember you when you return for an interview and in the future you can talk about this experience in your cover letter. If it’s not some place you want to work, you can still occasionally email these people and “update” them on your professional life. You never know, they might have some inside skinny about jobs in that area. Currently, I am employed in a library where I conducted an informational interview two years before I eventually landed an actual interview at the institution. Colleagues with whom I work everyday are people who received thank you notes from me while I was still in graduate school. -Emily
As You Consider Applying
Don’t worry about your inexperience. While many hiring employers look for applicants with experience in the job for which they’re hiring, some don’t. I, for one, would rather hire someone who demonstrates the desire and capacity to take on a new job. They bring a fresh perspective and an eagerness to learn that those hired laterally often don’t. -Joan Bernstein
Don’t apply for a job for which you have no qualifications. You are wasting the time of the people reviewing resumes and your own! They may remember you, and when they do it might be a time when you are qualified. Sadly, by then you may have annoyed the wrong people. -Derik
Along those same lines, think hard before applying for a job for which you are extremely overqualified. Many libraries won’t hire someone with an MLS for a non-Librarian position. There’s less of a danger of inciting quite as much ire, but it’s still a waste of their time and yours. -Ellie
Don’t go out for jobs without learning about the organization first. For the most part, the people who have hired me, and, to some extent, the people I’ve hired, are people I know. It isn’t that I’ve ever benefited from nepotism, at least not that I know of, or hired folks because I knew them, but the dynamics of filling open positions, even in the best of times, encourages employers to be risk averse. There’s usually high demand (many current and potential applicants) and low supply (usually just one or two open positions), and there are significant opportunity costs associated with making the wrong decision. The way to reduce a potential employer’s sense of risk is to get to know them in advance, or, at the very least, make sure mutual acquaintances advocate in your behalf. I look back at the times I attempted the job application equivalent of cold calling and shudder. -Brett
Don’t forget about your needs. Focus on yourself and your future working life. If you know you don’t want to commute an hour and half in the car each way to work every day, don’t apply for a job that would require this commute. Likewise, if you know you are qualified for a position but it sounds like you’ll hate the work, don’t apply. It’s tempting to make these sacrifices, especially in our current economy and with the seeming scarcity of library jobs in certain markets (like Portland), but it’s just not worth it. You’re better off poor and happy rather than miserable at your job or hating your commute. (I’ve done both and have vowed never to do either again.) -Emily
Don’t develop an emotional attachment to a job listing. This seems to have occurred most often for me when I applied for a job that seemed perfect, usually because I hadn’t done my networking, so I romanticized the position and employer. Emotional attachments also seem to accompany the reach applications, the feeling of, “it would be great if they hired me,” rather than the, “I’m going to be really great at this job the moment I start.” -Brett
Don’t use valuable space in your cover letter to summarize the job description/announcement or rehash facts from your resume. The people reading the letter know what they are looking for, so you should focus on why you are the person that fulfills those qualities. Show them how, with narrative that won’t be found on your resume: details, story, analysis, anything that might be relevant, interesting, and positive. -Derik
I agree with Derik that it’s a bad idea to summarize the job description in the cover letter, but on the other hand if you don’t address every job requirement listed in that description and explain how you meet it, you’re also missing out. Your search committee members may be reviewing one hundred or more applications, so you can imagine how tempting it is to look for excuses to eliminate candidates from the pool. The cover letter can easily be a make or break element in that initial application review. If you don’t manage in the first page of the cover letter to make it clear how well you fit (and hopefully, exceed) all the requirements of the job in question, your application may get tossed into the backup pile pretty quickly. -Kim
But don’t bank on your cover letter either. Personally, I read every cover letter that comes in and place an extreme amount of importance on applicants’ writing skills. I barely skim the resumes. But I know others who do the opposite. Make sure your resume is just as perfect and tailored to the specific opening. Don’t bank on your beautiful resume formatting either. Chances are you’ll have to put it through some terrible online form that will destroy it. When that happens to me I always clean it up as much as humanly possible for the form, which usually means removing all of the formatting, and then email a PDF. Speaking from the hiring side, I’ve only ever received the ugly forms, so either no one else is sending a follow up email or HR isn’t forwarding them. Take the time to make the online submission look as nice as you can. -Ellie
Don’t pretend it’s all about you. The “cold call” application also seems to lead to other mistakes I’ve made myself and see all the time in others: telling employers why you want a job or how it will benefit you rather than demonstrating how well you understand the organization and how useful you’ll be in helping the organization achieve its aims. If they don’t know you already, it’s natural to try to introduce yourself (see also: the only thing I’ve ever learned from Seth Godin). In my opinion, introducing yourself is almost always a mistake. Don’t say anything about yourself until you’re asked, in person, and you’re sure they’re really interested. And then keep it brief, something I’m not good at, especially when I’m nervous or eager. -Brett
Don’t overestimate your qualifications. One of the strangest resumes I ever received came from a plumber who applied for the Head of Reference position. I guess “MLS degree” didn’t mean anything to him, so he thought it couldn’t be important. While this is an extreme example, I think it’s important to not over-analyze your qualifications. Obviously, you should be in the right ballpark, but even if you’re not sure you’re the perfect applicant, go ahead and give it a shot. It’s the employer’s decision who to interview; don’t do that job for him by ruling yourself out. -Joan Bernstein
Don’t lie or exaggerate (excessively) in your cover letter. You may get called on it and look the worse for it. If you claim something is your research interest, be ready to answer questions about that interest with some modicum of intelligence and enthusiasm. -Derik
Don’t write application materials in times of emotional duress. This might seem pretty simple to most people, but I recently had the experience of submitting a job application at a very emotional time. In my case a family member had just passed away and the application deadline, which I had been keeping in the back of my mind, got completely forgotten. I awoke one morning (the day before the deadline) and gasped as soon as I had opened my eyes remembering in shock that I hadn’t yet drafted a cover letter for the position. Hurriedly I pieced together a draft over my lunch break and spent my evening hours “refining” the cover letter before I printed the application then drove it to the institution in order to get the application in on time. Two days later I revisited the materials out of curiosity and was ashamed to see what I had written. Sentences in my letter were missing prepositions, sentences were incomplete. To make a long story short, I should have passed on this job application opportunity and taken care of my emotional self over hurriedly applying for a job. At the very least, I should have had someone else read the cover letter before I pressed “print.” -Emily
Don’t use the same resume without revisions. Your resume should be tailored to the job that you’re applying for. It’s critical to take the extra time and attention to showcase how your skills and experience meet the job requirements as described in the position description. And remember that the job requirements are usually ordered from most critical to least critical in terms of reviewing applicants as a good fit for a position. So, if strong communications skills is a requirement that is listed first, make sure you pay particular attention to showcasing what you can bring to the position in terms of your ability to communicate effectively orally, in writing, and in interpersonal communications. If the position description requires experience or expertise with certain programming languages or software and you have that experience, be sure it makes it onto your resume. If your qualifications match the position requirements, then you’ve made it that much easier for the search committee to identify you as a qualified candidate. Make sure that there are no spelling errors, that you’ve elucidated each acronym (where appropriate), and if you have gaps in your work history, be sure to clarify why they exist in the cover letter. -Hilary
Don’t experiment with unusual organizational schemas in your curriculum vitae or resume. The search committee is going to be reviewing a whole lot of resumes and it helps them to be able to easily identify your educational background, work history, and other qualifications. If you decide that, say, grouping your past jobs by state sounds like a good idea, you’re going to drive them nuts unless there’s a really good reason to do so. And that’s just not a good foot to start out on. -Kim
But don’t be scared to try something different if it really makes sense in your particular situation. I came to librarianship from another career and with no library experience. I included a paragraph towards the end of my resume highlighting how my prior experiences explicitly related to the current position’s requirements, then briefly listed the job titles and dates. As I gather more library experience, that will come off, but at the time it showed that I was an experienced professional already and eager to apply those skills to a new field. -Ellie
Once you’ve decided to apply, here are my tips, based on my experiences from the other side of the table:
* Don’t get the name of the library wrong. Hint: use the name as shown in the job posting.
* Don’t be late! Apply on time—by posted end date.
* Don’t ignore instructions. If asked to apply by e-mail, don’t show up in person with your resume.
* Don’t omit a cover letter. Cover letters are important. Include one. It shows that you are literate (hopefully) and it spotlights the strengths that make you suited for job. You, not the hiring manager, have a stake in identifying what sets you apart from other applicants.
* Don’t generalize. Make the cover letter, and resume, position-specific. Generic applications don’t show much commitment on your part, and they communicate laziness.
* Don’t randomize your resume. List most recent experience first. The hiring manager wants to know what you’ve done recently, as well as seeing a pattern of career progression.
* Don’t be vague. Be specific about your past responsibilities and accomplishments. Don’t exaggerate, but don’t be too modest, either.
Screening Phone Call with HR
Don’t ignore HR. This is where you have an opportunity to ask questions about the position and the timeline of the search committee process. And this is where you show who you are and your enthusiasm for the job. The people who call you are typically going to be very skilled in listening for how easy you are to talk to, how forthcoming you are with answers to questions, if you’re nervous or if you’re holding back. They bring this information along with your expressed level of interest back to the search committee. If you’re in a hurry to get the phone call over, it will be noticed. Be genuine, be honest, be open, and be cheerful. -Hilary
Don’t be concise! If your phone interview runs less than a half hour, chances are you didn’t give your interviewers a good flavor for who you are. It’s incredibly difficult to make conversation with invisible people you’ve never met, and it’s doubly difficulty to put the required energy into selling yourself to them on top of it all, but if you don’t you’re going to find yourself back at square one. Think of the phone interview less as an interview where you get grilled by the search committee and more as an opportunity to state your case. Prepare your message in advance: identify two or three main points you want your interviewers to remember about you and fit those points into whatever questions you get. Make the phone interview do what you want while still answering the questions. It’s extremely challenging, yes, but if you can pull it off you’re likely to stand out. -Kim
Don’t freak out. When the people interviewing you on the other end are all in a room together with a speaker-phone, its downright freaky. There are awkward pauses and sometimes you can’t tell whether you’ve lost the phone connection. And you wonder to yourself if they are making faces at each other based on your responses. In my dark, dark past, I royally screwed up a phone interview and I will probably never apply to work at that organization again because of it. I under-prepared and got lost in my responses. However, I learned from it and modified my approach. First, don’t plan on conducting the phone interview in a setting where you’re worried that you’ll be disturbed (is someone likely to knock on your office door?, is it possible that the fire alarm will go off?). Stay home or go someplace where you are sure you’ll be left alone. If you’re using your cell phone, make sure you’ve got solid battery life. Second, take the advice in the section on “Interview Preparation” below and practice responding to interview questions. Write out your responses and practice them out loud and get them so well-ingrained that you can spout them out at a moment’s notice. I was so scarred from my previous horrible phone interview experience that I wrote my responses on single sheets of paper and color coded them based on the topic so that I couldn’t lose track of what I wanted to say. I practiced these backward and forwards, and on the morning of my next phone interview I taped them up on the walls of my apartment and practiced them again. This phone interview went super—I had a new method that worked and I had regained my confidence in being able to conduct a great phone interview. Bottom line: over-prepare for phone interviews. And remember, the people on the other end of the line also probably hate phone interviews too and those awkward silences are because they are writing notes to themselves or are trying to negotiate who responds next without talking over each other. -Hilary
Don’t be a generalist. Look up the mission statement of the library and/or institution of which it is a part. Be prepared to answer why you want to work in that particular type of environment specifically (e.g. academic, public, community college, etc.), not just libraries in general. Ask for the names of the hiring committee, find out what you can about them, and whenever possible apply what you’ve learned. Some academic hiring committees will have non-librarian faculty on the hiring committee. A particularly impressive applicant tailored her information literacy presentation to a specific assignment on that faculty member’s syllabus. Even if you aren’t able to get that specific, be sure to tailor your presentation to the appropriate audience. A presentation on advanced search techniques in a mostly graduate level science database is not going to score you many points with a community college committee. I also have to agree with the others who have mentioned preparing questions for the committee, and not just logistical questions about benefits or when you’ll hear back. You want to know if you’re going to like it here, too. Ask them what they enjoy most about coming to work each day at this particular institution or what they think the biggest challenges facing them are in the next year or so. -Ellie
Don’t interview cold. This is important: you must, absolutely must, review the materials that you sent in with your application (resume, cover letter, references, etc.) and make sure that you have the key points about each experience or qualification ready to leverage to answer the interview questions. Just as it is vital that you know your own resume and cover letter forwards and backwards, it’s also critical that you know the job requirements and that you have prepared key talking points about how you meet each of the requirements. There are tons of librarian interview question sets on the web (Google “librarian interview questions“): use them to prep yourself. Write out your responses to the questions, then say your answers out loud. Practice with a trusted friend or relative. Be prepared to use examples from your past work/classroom experiences to help illustrate what you can bring to the position or to help you answer a question. If you’ve got a list of the people you’ll be meeting on your interview, do a little investigative work on the web and see what projects and initiatives they’re involved with both at the organization that is interviewing you and in the profession as a whole (e.g., are they active in LITA, ALA, Code4Lib, SLA?). Knowing a little bit about each person will give you some insight into what is compelling to them and that will give you an edge in how you respond to interview questions and what kinds of things to chat about when you are walking with a search committee member between sessions or over lunch. And, by all means, prepare questions to ask—write them down and take them with you (Google “questions to ask in an interview” if you need ideas). You will be asked if you have any questions during your interview and if you don’t have any questions for them, then it tells your potential employer that you’re really not that interested. -Hilary
Seconding Hilary here, in particular—have answers prepared for all the standard questions along with an example from a real life situation. There are a chunk of questions you are almost guaranteed to be asked, don’t let them be the ones that stump you. -Ellie
Don’t treat every library as if it were the same. Do your research about each place you interview, and know at least a few unique projects or initiatives that characterize them. If you can drop specific references during your interview you’re going to impress the heck out of them. Wow, they’ll think, this person really wants to work here. And that’s what your interviewers want to find—the person who fits their position and their organization. -Kim
Don’t wing it. Look sharp—business casual or suit attire are expected. Iron your clothes or get them pressed. Wear kick-ass shoes. Get a fresh hair cut. You need to feel good about how you look and on an interview day, this is absolutely critical. Get sleep so that you have energy. There’s nothing worse than having to interview a candidate who looks tired, acts tired, and is slumping in their chair. Shake people’s hands and be confident when you do so. You want these people to like you so you need to offer them a genuine, welcoming, warm handshake. Shake everyone’s hand in the room, or at the very least, give recognition to everyone in the room. Have a pencil and notepad ready if you feel you need it, but don’t write in it excessively while you’re being interviewed. And don’t write down everyone’s name when you’re introduced to them during an interview session. You can always request a list of the people that you met with from your HR contact at the end of the day if you really need to have an inventory of the folks who interviewed you. If someone asks you a question, look them in the eyes when you respond. If your gaze is all over the place or is focused on the paper in front of you, that tells the people who are interviewing you that you either aren’t confident in your response or that you have poor interpersonal skills. If you’ve practiced what you’re going to say and how you’re going to present yourself, then you should be able to look each person in the eye and express your genuine self. Never, never denigrate or complain about someone at your current or former place of employment. Seriously, this is a red flag to your potential employer that you have no tact, no professionalism, and no respect. Thank each interview group for meeting with you and smile at them! It’s surprising how often nervousness will cause a candidate to keep their face unwelcoming and “frowny”—if you smile, they will smile back at you and you will feel good. Simple as that. -Hilary
If you are doing a presentation as part of your interview, don’t make boring slides: lots of text, lots of bullet points, ugly pre-made templates. Often, a presentation is a time during your interview when you will be seeing the largest number of people at once. Catching their attention is important and that won’t happen if you are reading bullet points off a long sequence of slides. Show creativity, if not originality, or at least steal from someone who shows creativity or originality. -Derik
Don’t be shy! The interview is the only chance your interviewers get to see you in action, so pull together all your reserves of extroverted energy and make the most of the opportunity. Be prepared with a list of questions and topics for small-talk to ensure that there is no dead air during your meetings. And for goodness sake, show interest in your interviewers! The easiest way to fill up awkward pauses is by asking them about their jobs and projects. -Kim
Don’t tell the committee you’re nervous. Of course you are, everyone is, you don’t need to draw attention to it. If your nerves are acting up so badly that you’re stumbling over the questions excessively, ask to take a moment to collect your thoughts, take a deep breath, a sip of water and continue. -Ellie
Don’t be late. If you are chronic late-runner, the interview is not the time to let that quality shine through. -Emily
Here are my tips for when you are called for an interview:
* Don’t come in unprepared. Study the institution’s Website. Google the institution and the person who’s interviewing you. This will demonstrate that you prepared for the interview and will distinguish you from other applicants.
* Don’t act disinterested. Be ready with good questions. You are a better candidate if you are able to engage the hiring manager in discussion. I always appreciated questions that I had to think about before I answered. This showed interest in the position and depth of thought—two definite pluses in a candidate.
* Don’t ever badmouth past employers in an interview. I always thought that if I hired that person, maybe someday he’d be saying that about me!
* Don’t forget to follow up with a thank you note. It’s common courtesy, and also an opportunity to reemphasize your skills and interest in the position.
Don’t only keep in touch with your references when you need their help. Your references will be more willing and able to provide good information about your work if they have a personal stake in your well being. Send them an e-mail at least a few times a year to let them know how you’re doing, what projects you’re working on, etc. even when you’re not looking for a job. -Emily
Don’t leave your references unprepared. Obviously, you want to ask people who you trust will say good things about you to be your references. When you apply for a job and you send your references’ names and contact info as part of your application, make sure to tell your references that you’ve just applied for this job. Better yet, tell them before you send in your application materials. Maybe they have colleagues at the organization to which you’re applying and can give you some insight to help you better craft your resume and cover letter. By all means give your references the heads up and make sure they have the resume (and maybe even the cover letter) for the job that you’re applying to as well as the job description. Tell them why you’re interested in this particular position. You want to prepare your references for being interviewed about you! Don’t leave them empty-handed or surprised when they get a call from an interviewer. Imagine the kinds of questions that they could be asked (Google “references interview questions” if you can’t imagine what these would be) and feed them potential responses by telling them about how you qualify for the job, what you like about the job, and what you like about the organization to which you’re applying. -Hilary
Don’t give lame references. If the people you list on that page are not past supervisors, professors, or other professionals who can really speak intelligently about your strengths and skills, you’re only hurting yourself. The people on your references list should easily match up with your education and work experience listed on your CV or resume. -Kim
Don’t underestimate your value. That’s one error I hope never to make or have to deal with again: not knowing your price. Knowing an organization and its expectations doesn’t just mean knowing that you’re going to be an asset, it means knowing how much of an asset you’re going to be. It means getting a starting offer for what you’re worth (and accepting it happily) or being willing to walk away if you don’t get an offer that meets your demands. There’s nothing worse than colleagues who whine about their salaries except, perhaps, being the one who’s doing the whining. -Brett
After You Land the Job
You’ve just landed a plum job. A nice little bump in pay, something more aligned with your interests, a city you’ve always wanted to live in. Time to file the resume away and unsubscribe from all of those pesky jobs RSS feeds that were taking up all of your time?
Odds are, this isn’t the last job you’ll ever have. And if you wait until two weeks before the application is due to get yourself ready for the next job, you’ll find you’ve got a lot of last minute scrambling to do.
Many library job applications include essays and a brief window of time in which to apply. Prepare the basics in advance, and when you’re ready to apply you can focus on customizing your application. Have a master resume on hand, something that you update every few months with new accomplishments (while you still remember them). Rather than including a general summary of duties, pull highlights from your monthly reports that reference specific projects.
It’s a good idea to keep an eye on job postings, even if you’re not on the market. You’ll be in a better position to identify trends, compare salaries, and track which skills potential employers are seeking. You’ll also have a better sense of what you’re getting yourself into. A month or three of scanning the want ads when you’re searching for a new job gives you a snapshot of the current atmosphere. With a year or two of trend watching under your belt, you’ll spot signals that are more subtle or nuanced. Why does McLargeHuge Library repost the same position every eight months? Why does TinyTown Library have such high turnover?
By keeping your ear to the ground, you’ll be in a position to act on a good opportunity when it catches your attention, rather than settling for the best you can get when you’ve realized it’s time to move on. -Heidi Dolamore
Guest contributor bios
Heidi Dolamore lives in San Francisco with her cat, bicycle, and unpaid library fines.
Joan Bernstein recently retired as director of the Mount Laurel Library (NJ). She has spoken, written, and consulted nationally on subjects including the merchandising of public libraries and privacy protection in the library. She served as the president of the New Jersey Library Association from 2006–2007. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Love KSA's? Hate KSA's? Either way, they are about to change
I had heard rumors that this was about to happen, but I finally found an article that confirmed it. KSA's -- or otherwise know as the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities section of any federal job application -- are about to be phased out. See below for an article that explains the pending change.
You can also read a formal statement from the government here.
Hiring reform: KSAs to be phased out within a year
By STEPHEN LOSEY
June 29, 2009
They’re known by many as the point where dreams of finding a federal job die: The dreaded knowledge, skills and abilities questionnaires.
Now the oft-despised KSAs could be headed for the trash bin. The Office of Personnel Management plans to ask agencies in September to stop requiring job seekers to fill out the time-consuming questionnaires.
Agencies instead should rely on applicant résumés to decide if someone is qualified and warrants a second look, OPM Director John Berry said last week.
“Our society operates on a résumé-based approach, and for years, the government has had its own approach separate from that,” Berry said. “What I’m hoping we can accomplish is a culture shift to have the federal government rely upon what the societal norm is.”
Berry said scrapping KSAs would be part of a broader government attempt to overhaul its hiring process. The effort started June 11, when Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag told agencies to start mapping each step of the hiring process, involve managers more, keep applicants notified of their status throughout the hiring process, and to write position descriptions in plain English.
“We’re going to dog this and resolve it and try to produce fruit in one year,” Berry said.
But it remains to be seen what kind of evaluation system will
replace KSAs and allow agencies to sift through dozens, hundreds or sometimes thousands of applications for a single job.
OPM hiring experts and the Chief Human Capital Officers Council are developing strategies and advice on how the hiring process can be fixed, Berry said. Those strategies will be released later this summer, he said.
The government started using KSAs to weed out unqualified applicants as it moved away from civil service exams in the 1980s, said John Palguta of the Partnership for Public Service.
KSA questionnaires sometime contain dozens of questions requiring applicants to write essays describing their work experience or qualifications. HR specialists and subject matter experts then read through those responses — or use software to search for key words — and assign point values to KSA responses that help determine which applications will be reviewed further.
But KSA questions are sometimes repetitive and require lengthy responses, and critics say they discourage some people from applying for federal jobs.
“It’s like we’re putting out job announcements that should read, ‘We don’t want you, and the following will prove it,’ ” said Joe Maas, a former personnel director at the Small Business Administration and member of the Council of Former Federal Executives, who has helped walk several job applicants through the KSA process.
The Army earlier this decade stopped using KSAs and now relies only on applicants’ résumés, said Robert Schanke, an engineer at the Army Corps of Engineers in Pueblo, Colo. He said it’s much easier to apply for other jobs within the Army Corps of Engineers — where he only has to click his mouse to submit a résumé — than answer dozens of KSA questions for jobs at other agencies, such as the Energy Department. Schanke said he keeps dozens of pages of his old KSA essays on his computer so he doesn’t have to rewrite them if he applies for a job outside of the Army.
“I [think] these guys [human resources specialists] don’t read them,” Schanke said. “I’m kind of torn as to how much effort to put into them.”
The Army isn’t the only agency that stopped using KSAs years ago. A 2004 report from the Partnership for Public Service said that the former U.S. Customs Service in 1988 began requiring applicants to take reasoning and integrity tests. Another screening method Customs adopted required applicants to watch a video showing a situation they might encounter on the job, and then act out how they might respond. Internal Customs surveys found that managers felt the new evaluation method resulted in higher-quality candidates, the Partnership said.
Palguta said agencies will have to think up new ways to evaluate employees after getting rid of KSAs.
“Some HR offices and reviewers who have been relying on KSAs, they’ll have to step up their game and be more creative in terms of how they evaluate people,” he said.
But some HR specialists argue that KSAs play an important role that résumés can’t always fill.
“I don’t love them, but it really shows you what a person is about,” said Stephanie Hamilton, an HR specialist at the Veterans Affairs Department medical center in Syracuse, N.Y. “You’ve got to write today, and sometimes in high school, kids are coming out and they can’t even spell. They say they’re an expert in communicating, and then they have run-on sentences [in their KSA answers] or have improper grammar. I think it’s a very good mechanism for screening out people.”
Some HR officials feel that if someone can’t be bothered to put time and effort into answering KSA questions, they may not be that interested in the job after all.
“If you can’t address these KSAs, how thorough are you going to be on the job?” asked one HR director at a small agency, who asked not to be identified. “If we do away with KSAs, we’ll be moving away from information we need to properly evaluate people. I’m not sure this is going to work.”
Linda Rix of Avue Technologies said switching to a pure résumé system isn’t the right idea. Without KSAs, she said HR offices will have to ask job seekers more follow-up questions, which will just end up slowing the hiring process further.
“Let’s not create the illusion that because the process will be easier on the front end, it will also be easier on the back end,” Brooks said. “If this bogs down the hiring process, then we won’t achieve the result we’re looking for.”
Federal Managers Association President Darryl Perkinson said he thinks it’s important to have job applicants fill out questionnaires, but they should come later in the hiring process after clearly unqualified candidates are rooted out.
“It’s very cumbersome for anybody to qualify” now, Perkinson said.
OPM’s Berry said agencies are expected to map out their hiring processes by Dec. 15. Once that’s done, he said, they can start weeding out unnecessary and slow steps.
Berry would not say how fast the hiring process should be. Some agencies have unique challenges and hard-to-fill jobs, and forcing all agencies into one model would not work, he said.
“I don’t think you ever want to put an artificial timeline,” Berry said. “If you say you must find someone in 60 or 40 days, that would be silly because it would force you to hire someone who’s not qualified. That is not the objective we want to accomplish.”
Great LIS Blog on Inteviewing (& More!)
A fellow SI colleague brought to attention a blog that is written by the librarians at the Salem-South Lyon Public Library: The Practical Librarian.
One of the blog posts is about a conversation that the librarians had with one of SI's own recent graduates and its a very interesting and insightful statement about interviewing and networking. Check out the post, linked here at Library Interviewing Ideas.
Sweet New Job Search Tool
I just learned about a neat new online tool -- Change Detection.
They explain it so well on the site:
"ChangeDetection.com provides page change monitoring and notification services to internet users worldwide. Anyone can use our service to monitor any website page for changes. Just fill in the form below, we will create a change log for the page and alert you by email when we detect a change in the page text. We've been doing it since 1999. It's free."
So, instead of bookmarking and checking all your job sites every few days or so, let this tool email you to let you know that a new job has been posted. Neat, huh?
Tooting Our Own Horn!
We just received news that the SI Career Development Blog was listed as a valuable resource on CollegeRecruiter.com (which in itself has many great articles and information for the job seeker!).
Check out the article link here.
Maybe not the Best Job Search Plan, but an Interesting One...
From the Chronicle of Higher Education...(I recommend checking out the comments in the link).
Student Uses eBay and Twitter to Find a Job
It was a week before his graduation from Pennsylvania State University, and John Pereca was getting anxious that he didn’t have any prospective jobs lined up.
That’s when he decided to auction off an interview with himself on eBay. He promoted his auction on Twitter, in an effort to increase Web traffic.
“The career services [at Penn State] were helpful,” Mr. Pereca said, “but they were a lot more helpful for someone looking for a job in Pittsburgh or a job in Philadelphia, but not for someone who’s looking for work in New York City,” closer to his home on Long Island, N.Y.
As a finance major, Mr. Pereca had taken a course in marketing and knew that if he wanted to stand out to a potential employer, he would need to differentiate himself from the crowd. So he took out a $60 ad on eBay, starting at a 99-cent bid for “the right to interview and potentially hire” him.
“Things like this get noticed all the time,” he said. “I thought, ‘Hey, this could work.’”
He posted pictures of himself and of his résumé on the Web site and included a link on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. Realizing that celebrities often have hundreds, if not thousands, of fans checking their Twitter pages, Mr. Pereca started to post on the walls of Oprah Winfrey, Jimmy Fallon, and Shaquille O’Neal, among dozens of others.
“I graduate in 3 days from PENN STATE! My Auction ends on Friday!,” he wrote on several celebrities’ home pages, with a link to the eBay listing. “Help me out!” Kevin Spacey’s account responded, encouraging Mr. Pereca and his unique idea.
He received three job offers: a position as a photographer in Ocean City, Md. (“I wasn’t really looking for that”); a sales job in Atlanta (“I could get a few sales jobs here in New York, and I wasn’t looking to go to Atlanta”); and an offer to be in an adult film (“I appreciate it, but I gotta decline,” he responded).
But on the morning his auction was to end, eBay notified Mr. Pereca via e-mail that his site was removed, since it violated their terms of service.
So far, his job search hasn’t gone well. Two of the interviews he found through Monster.com turned out to be pyramid schemes, and he is still waiting to hear back from some other applications. For now, he is working part time at a local GNC store.
“My biggest issue is that I don’t know specifically what I want to do, and I think that scares people away more than anything,” Mr. Pereca says. “I’m open to a lot of things. I just want to get my foot in the door somewhere, and see what I like and what I don’t like.” —Marc Beja
Ann Arbor New Tech Meetup
I recently learned of a new group in Ann Arbor... the Ann Arbor New Tech Group.
You can join this group at http://www.a2newtech.org/
Their July meeting is on Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 6:00 PM at
Chesebrough Auditorium at UM Chrysler Center
2121 Bonisteel Blvd
Ann Arbor MI 48105
The agenda includes...
5 presenters this month take the stage for 10 minutes each, 5 minutes to demo and 5 minutes to answer questions, followed by a brief travelogue from Dug Song, community announcements and networking.
Deryl Seale, Intel-Assess
Steve Schwartz, RateMyStudentRental
John Umbaugh, Noteworks
Greg Schwartz, Mobatech
Tom Meloche, Procuit
We'll follow up with a quick discussion with Dug Song about his recent trips to Tokyo, Beijing, and Shanghai with 25 other investors and entrepreneurs, Silicon Valley, and Grand Rapids (!) and what lessons Ann Arbor might take from entrepreneurial communities elsewhere.
See the Meetup post for more information.
Federal Library Advice & Tips
Recently, a federal librarian from the National Park Service provided us with some insight and advice for those that are seeking library careers in the federal government. See below for some relevant information for our readers....
"I'm sorry to inform you that the National Park Service (NPS) is losing, not gaining, professional librarian positions (which are already few and far between), as incumbents retire or vacate the position for other reasons.
Occasionally, a park will get funding for a temporary or term librarian, but our staff is often not made aware of these opportunities until after the fact. The same situation exists regarding work-study positions/paid internships and volunteer positions for library school students or recent grads.
These positions would be posted on the USAJobs (federal government jobs) or the NPS Volunteer website, respectively. The links to those websites are provided on the Opportunities page of the NPS Library Program website. I include the links here for your convenience -- please feel free to post them on your job board:
Once in a blue moon, a park will get money to hire a library cataloging contractor to do backlog cataloging and/or retrospective conversion (aka 'recon,' which involves automating the card catalog or upgrading legacy electronic records to MARC records). As with all federal contract job opportunities, these must be posted in the federal register and the jobs must be bid for.
Recent library school grads would probably not be able to compete successfully for these jobs on their own, but would have the skills to subcontract with a library contract cataloging organization having experience submitting bids for federal jobs -- new librarians are often hired to do copy cataloging on recon projects by such companies, as I'm sure you're aware.
Best of luck to your grads -- it's a challenge these days for the library profession; I am encourage all recent grads to get a post-grad credential in image management/digital libraries, as that's the future. The other track is end-user interface design.
Key areas (in my opinion) for library school grads to research re leveraging their library science degrees and getting input on what other skills or certification would be good to acquire (there are blogs aplenty as well as electronic journals on the Web to get people immersed in these subject areas quickly -- I've provided a few links below), particularly with respect to careers involving management and dissemination of government information, are:
preservation of digital resources
enterprise image management systems
enterprise document management systems
enterprise knowledge management systems
enterprise metadata management systems
end-user interface design
project management (PM is really picking up speed in federal agencies now -- anybody working with any sort of information management application would do well to bone up on PM basics).
There are a handful of universities offering certification in digital libraries but I've been most impressed with Syracuse University's program
-- I think some or all of it might be available through distance learning:
Here's a good website I recently discovered that you may already know about
> http://liscareer.com/ -- there's a book called 'a day in the life...'
advertised on their website that looks great -- offers bird's eye view of 95 different jobs performed by librarians, some of which are quite surprising!
Here's a blog called 'cataloging futures' with IT competencies for metadata librarians > http://www.catalogingfutures.com/catalogingfutures/2008/07/it-competencies-for-metadata-librarians.html
And here's a listserv for metadata librarians and digital librarians:
And here's a blog for metadata librarians > http://metadatalibrarian.blogspot.com/
Another MI institution wins grant money
job and internship potential... from the A&A listserv...
The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections has received a federal grant to support a two-year project to improve the description of its historical collections and share more of this information across the web. The grant has been awarded by the National Historical Records and Publications Commission (NHPRC), the grantmaking arm of the National Archives. The outright grant of $116,500 is for 47 percent of the budgeted project cost of $250,342.
“This is a huge step forward for our program,” said Erik Nordberg, University Archivist at Michigan Tech. “Monies from this federal grant program are intended to “reveal hidden collections” at mid-sized institutions, particularly those which are geographically remote like ours here in Houghton. Because we’re a bit farther off the beaten path, we need to find ways to reach potential researchers.”
The project, entitled “Coming to the Surface: Revealing Hidden Collections in Michigan’s Copper Country,” will include a shelf survey of the collections, assessment of basic conservation needs, review of donor case files, the migration of existing collection-level data, and the output of MARC catalog records to the university’s online public access catalog and also to Worldcat, the international bibliographic catalog of the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC).
Grant-funded activities will help to reveal these otherwise hidden collections to potential researchers worldwide. Although the project will not undertake any significant arrangement or processing of collections, the grant-funded creation of collection-level entries in a new collection management system will be a critical step in allowing Michigan Tech to improve its future capacities for the arrangement and description of its manuscript resources.
As part of the project, the Archives will be hiring two fixed-term positions. A full-time, two year project cataloging archivist will create collection-level catalog records for over 900 manuscript collections, following minimal processing practice and applying professional descriptive standards. This person will work with the MTU catalog librarian to output data in standard MARC format, insert these records into MTU’s existing OPAC, and share these records to Worldcat. In addition, the project cataloging archivist will document production output, workflows and production rates; assist with the development of a brief preservation planning report; prepare project reports and final cataloging report; and assist with promotion of project, including project updates on department website, postings to professional lists, and presentations.
A six month, full-time, graduate student intern will participate in the initial physical collection survey in preparation for the cataloging project. Survey goals include shelf reading, assessing preservation needs at the box level, reviewing case files and finding aids, and completing survey forms to be used as sources of metadata for the project.
Grant dollars will allow Michigan Tech to purchase and implement Proficio, a specialized collection management software program created for archives and museums by Re:discovery Software, Inc. Proficio is the commercial version of software used by the National Park Service and other federal agencies under the name ANCS+. Proficio’s archives module provides a framework to catalog and manage archival materials, and will allow the Michigan Tech Archives to create and export standard MARC records as part of the project’s goals.
“Not only will this push information out about our collections to researchers around the world,” Nordberg said, “but it will also lay a foundation to gather and organize even more detail about our collections after the grant project is completed. Proficio supports a wide range of collection management activities, including export of EAD finding aids in XML format.”
A regional history manuscript collection, the Michigan Tech Archives collects information on the history of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula, including its historic copper mining industry. The collections to be described include a wide variety of format and content, including personal papers and diaries, business and industrial records, photographs, maps, and wide format items.
As part of the project, updates and progress reports will be posted to the Michigan Tech Archives blog at http://blogs.mtu.edu/library/category/archives-blog/
For further information contact the MTU Archives at (906) 487-2505 or via e-mail at email@example.com The Archives reading room is located on the ground floor of the Van Pelt and Opie Library, in the heart of the Michigan Tech Campus.
Michigan Tech Archives
NHPRC Grant Announcement
Proficio by Re:discovery
New ALA Web site helps library job seekers succeed
From the NEWLIB listserv...
A new American Library Association (ALA) Web site -- Get a Job!, http://getajob.ala.org -- offers library-job seekers advice, resources, links, best practices and real-life examples. Full of advice for finding a job in the current tough economy, it features information from a range of ALA divisions and units, as well as links to information about general best practices in job seeking.
"New graduates and members looking for jobs in a tough employment market have asked what the association can do to help them; the Get a Job! Web Site was developed with the help of members to do just that," said ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels. “From JobLIST to mentoring opportunities, the new Web site brings together ALA resources as well as true life success stories and advice from HR directors and library staff to provide a one-stop resource for job seekers."
The ALA accelerated the Web site launch in response to the current urgency of many members’ and other library professionals’ job searches. The site is a work-in-progress, where library professionals and support staff will find advice on how to use social networking tools in a job search, what to do if you’re laid off, budgeting assistance, networking techniques and strategies for researching the economy and jobs in various parts of the United States.
As it evolves, the site will include information specific to people seeking their first job, mid-career staff and people changing professions. New material and updates will be added regularly, including podcasts. Site users are encouraged to subscribe to the Get a Job! RSS feed to take full advantage of the updates. We welcome your suggestions and experiences for the site; please e-mail information that you’d like to share to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get a Job! is being developed by nine ALA units in collaboration with the American Library Association-Allied Professional Association.
2009 Job Fair for Librarians and Information Professionals
From the FEDLIB discussion list...
Please join us in August as the FLICC Human Resources Working Group hosts the 2009 Job Fair for Librarians and Information Professionals.
Job Fair for Info Professionals: Wednesday, August 26, 2009; 9:00am - 2:00 pm; Library of Congress - Madison Building (Mumford, West Dining Room) Washington, DC
Presentation Topics will include:
- Resume Writing and Interview Techniques
- Federal Librarianship/Careers
- USAJobs Application Process
- Resume FAQ*
More than 15 exhibitors will be available from 9:00am - 2pm.
- Defense Technical Information Center
- TRAK Records and Libraries
- National Library of Medicine
- National Archives and Records Administration
- And many more...
*Due to high interest in the program, one-on-one resume assistance will not be available.
Instead, we are offering a Resume FAQ session with a panel of federal librarians and HR specialists who will answer pre-submitted questions.
Although the Job Fair is free, registration is REQUIRED. Contact email@example.com for a registration form or any other questions.
Please complete the registration form and fax to 202-707-4825.
Please direct any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org