Interviewing Suggestions

No other single factor is as important to successful library management as finding and retaining the right people. A good, sound (and legal) process for interviewing applicants is essential for identifying who will best serve the library’s mission and who will function well on an interpersonal level with colleagues and patrons. Competency and chemistry are what we look for in all applicants. Employers can predict future performance of job candidates more accurately if they use well-structured and deliberately targeted interviews.

Check your local personnel office’s hiring regulations before beginning the interviewing and hiring process.

Use a Structured Interview:

A structured interview means a standard set of questions is prepared and asked of each applicant. The interview and the time for it is kept under control by the interviewer with time for the interviewee’s questions at the end.

Break the Interview into Parts

(1)  Introduction: Begin with casual talk to put the applicant at ease, introduce all of the members of the interview committee, and tell the applicant approximately how long the interview will last – if you haven’t already done so when the interview was arranged.

(2)  General Information: Share information about the library, its goals, and how the position fits into the overall framework of the library.

(3)  Ask Prepared Questions: As interview questions are formulated, try to create open-ended questions that will encourage conversation about the interviewee’s experience, skills, knowledge, and abilities. It may be necessary to develop more specific questions based on the job requirements, but general interview questions might include some of the following:

  • Tell us about your past work experiences.
  • Why are you interested in this job?
  • What do you consider some of your most important accomplishments?
  • What are the key elements you looking for in your next job?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • What kind of people do you find difficult to work with?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Do you prefer to work alone or in groups?
  • Describe how you decide how to prioritize your work.
  • How would your past coworkers and/or supervisors describe you?
  • Describe a difficult situation you have had to overcome in one of your last jobs.

(4)  Be sure to ask the applicant if they have questions for the interview committee.


Examples of interview questions suitable for librarians can be found at:

Summarize: Recap the important issues addressed during the interview, and clarify any lingering issues. Explain what comes next in the interviewing and hiring process and when the applicant can expect to hear from you.

Keep it Legal

Ask each interviewee the same set of questions.

To ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the best and safest approach when interviewing a disabled applicant is to start with the assumption that the person can do the job with reasonable accommodation. ADA calls upon employers to list the essential functions of a position and the law allows the job interviewer to ask if the applicant can perform those essential duties. If the applicant can perform them, all is fine. If the applicant could perform the duties, but would need some accommodation in the form of workplace changes, the employer is obliged to make “reasonable” workplace changes to accommodate the employee. The definition of “reasonable accommodation” under ADA remains fuzzy, but means the accommodations cannot cause the employer “undue hardship.”

For more information on Employment and the ADA, visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website.

Avoid Questions About The Following Subjects:

  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Maiden name
  • National origin or place of birth
  • Children, number of children, child care, plans to have children
  • Health history
  • Political or religious affiliations
  • Disabilities
  • Arrest/Criminal records
  • Drug addiction
  • Psychiatric treatment
  • Sick leave used at previous jobs
  • Injuries on the job, or filed Workers Compensation