Earlier this semester, one of my students was going on her first ever interview for an academic librarian position, and asked for advice. She found it useful, so I thought I’d make it available here (and for future students who ask).
Most interviews for academic librarian positions are all day (and sometimes include dinner the night beforehand). They’re purposefully grueling — they want to see if you hold composure even if tired. In most interviews I’ve been on, I’ve met with different groups both within the library and sometimes on-campus. Sometimes that means repeating answers to questions. There’s also usually a presentation topic that you’ll have beforehand. Even at meals, remember… you’re interviewing, so don’t let your guard down.
Tips: WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES. I wore uncomfy shoes once and ended up taking a walking tour of campus. I nearly died (and I did lose a toenail) and I’m sure it showed because I did not get a job offer. (I also recommend wearing something on the conservative side if you’re not familiar with the campus culture, but take note of weather — and wear layers because I’ve never in my life seen a library that was a comfortable temperature consistently). Take breaks when they are offered, even if it’s just to breathe or psych yourself up. Take a pad of paper and a pen and write down notes — note things to ask, impressions, memory clues when you’re asked a question with more than one part, etc. Take copies of your cv & cover letter. They will have copies, but it’s really impressive to be able to hand one to someone who doesn’t if that happens. Have a list of questions to ask. It’s appropriate to ask about the job, the university, the town, anything. Remember to smile, breathe.
If they don’t set up a tour of town for you, and you have the time, call a realtor to ask for a tour (tell them you are interviewing and would like the lay of the land).
I’ve found these to be useful resources:
If you google “academic library job interview” there’s a ton of other resources, but don’t obsess. (It’s so easy to obsess. You are going to do great).
Remember you’re interviewing them too — look out for red flags (people looking at each other and pausing before answering a question, answers to questions that seem odd or strangely vague, etc). http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/04/opinion/backtalk/youre-interviewing-them-too-finding-the-academic-library-job-of-your-dreams-backtalk/#_
Make notes to yourself — could you see yourself working here? Is there anything that gives you concern? Is that a deal-breaker? If not, how would you handle it?
Make notes of names, and send thank yous to the people who spend the most time with you. Emails are fine, but handwritten notes are better. Send it immediately when you get home so it arrives in a timely manner.
P.S. Once you’ve gotten a job, look for a mentor or two. Someone who has been a librarian and willing to help you learn the ropes. Some places have a formal mentorship program (you can ask if they have one during your interview) and some places don’t. Find someone you don’t directly report to too.