Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Article Note: On good practices for phone interviews in academic libraries

Citation for the article:

Engel, Debra and Sarah Robbins, "Telephone Interviewing Practices Within Academic Libraries." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 35.2 (March 2009): 143-151.

Read via ScienceDirect.

As soon as I saw this article, I went back and reread what I wrote a while back about job interviews. By the way, for reference purposes, here is a list of some phone interview questions we have used recently in my workplace. Also for reference, some quick notes on academic job search.

This article goes pretty well with what I wrote, and it reinforces some of the lessons I tried to share with my three readers. Engel and Robbins basically look at the mechanics of phone interviews for academic library job openings and provide some suggestions for good practices. Much of what is presented is common sense; well, I think it is common sense. This was a brief article, so I will just make some notes with comments. This is an article to keep in your files, and I will be adding it to my professional readings folder.


  • The basics, as identified by IUPFW and quoted by the authors: ". . .that search committees conduct the telephone interview as a committee, prepare standard questions, test the telephone conference equipment in advance, introduce the participants in the telephone interview, inform the applicant how the interview will be conducted, and invite questions from the interview at the conclusion of the phone interview" (144). I have said it before that having good, well prepared questions is crucial. From my experience, the best places at interviewing will have a good set of questions, which the committee will have before hand, and which they will ask of all candidates consistently. Anything less opens your institution to possible criticism, and in some cases it will give the candidate the impression that you are "just winging it." Yes, the committee should do the interview. No, the committee should not be all the librarians, unless your library is so small you only have one to three librarians at the most. Anything larger than that, and you are stretching things. If it is a reference position, you don't really need to bring in other departments at this early stage. Better to have a small cadre of people knowledgeable and connected to the opening to do the interview.
  • Something I rarely saw when I was in the market. The authors are citing Vicker and Royer who "recommend identifying complete information for each candidate and tailoring the interview questions for the telephone interview to the individual candidate" (145). As I look at the questions we used recently, I do wonder if we could have done a bit more work to tailor those questions to individual candidates better. Not all of them. Either that, or add some questions that were more tailored to a particular candidate to the common question set.
  • Reminder: ". . .a candidate should not criticize the department or institution where he or she is interviewing" (Bridges, qtd. in 145). Do people really need to be told this? Then again, would you interview at a place where you had issues or felt the need to criticize them? I probably would not, but then again, in this economy, I am willing to bet some job seekers would take that chance. Is this then a message to those folks to lie if necessary? One of those philosophical questions I suppose.
The article has a specific list of best practices created by the authors based on their research. This is worth a look.

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