Interview the interviewer

Review by Gary George

To my surprise, as a non ‘librarian’ unexpectedly attending a SALIN event, ‘Interviewing the Interviewer’ turned out to be an informative and enjoyable evening. In a clever upending of the usual interview situation, a panel of three highly experienced interviewers were questioned at length by an information hungry audience of up and coming library professionals.

The panel featured Helen Livingston, Director Library Services at the University of South Australia; Helen Kwaka, Team Manager of Library Services for the City of Tea Tree Gully Library Service; and Sue Rockliff, Senior Librarian from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Each had a wealth of advice and numerous anecdotes that gave a very clear idea of the pitfalls and strategies to presenting well at job interviews.

The evening’s Q&As were divided into several sections – preparation, dealing with nerves, answering questions well, answering curly and unusual questions, dealing with the unexpected and following up after the nightmare is over. Several key points were touched on by all three panel members that seemed to me to be particularly important for any interview, whether library related or not.

Most important in preparation was research – finding out all you can about the institution or company to which you are applying, and if possible visiting the place before the interview. While many suggestions were put forward to dealing with nerves, top of the list was practise – running potential questions over and over with friends or family standing in as interviewers. In the interview good eye contact and body language were stressed, and the importance of having two or three relevant questions ready to ask the interviewers was another essential strategy to remember. Something the panel raised that I had not thought of before was seeing an interview as a two way process. While the employer is finding out if you are the right person for the job, equally you are there to discover if that job is right for you.

This is only a tiny smattering of the helpful and valuable information provided by the interviewers.

After the Q&A food and drink was provided to give attendees the opportunity to chat informally with the panel and each other. Chocolate prizes were given to audience members who had asked particularly good questions and the evening wound to a successful close. I got a lot from the evening despite not working in the industry so, for all the SALIN members and young librarians, ‘Interviewing the Interviewer’ must have been an even more enlightening and motivating experience.

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