Q: Is there a bias against local candidates? Do you know why libraries would always bring in people from outside rather than hire locally?

Q: I’ve worked in academic libraries for many years and I completed my MLIS (distance) in 2010.  I have applied for every job that I’m qualified for in my state.  While I get interviews and am invited to campus, the offers always seem to go to out of state candidates.  Is there a bias against local candidates?  Do you know why libraries would always bring in people from outside rather than hire locally?

TA: Well, there’s definitely no simple answer to why libraries hire other candidates.  There are so many factors that contribute to hiring decisions.  The most basic reason is that libraries like to hire the best qualified candidate for the position, and with a national search (that draws candidates from all over the country) that can mean a pretty competitive pool.  It’s good to hear that you stand out among the applicants and continue to get invitations for on campus interviews—that can build confidence in your application materials and your ability to identify positions that are a good fit for your interest and experience.  If you’re not making is beyond the in-person interview, it may be time to break down those experiences, and your performance, to see if there’s something you can improve upon.

Right after you complete an in-person interview, it’s okay to be completely exhausted.  Even if it was a wonderful experience (yes that can actually happen) you’ve been “on” all day long, and that can take a lot out of a person.  But it is also one of the best times to reflect on how things went throughout the day, while memories and experiences are still fresh in your mind.  You should use this time immediately following the interview to process and record your thoughts about the experience.  Did you enjoy the day?  Was the job what you expected?  Were people nice?  Is this an environment you could work in?  Additionally, take some time to reflect on your performance.  Were there any questions that surprised you?  Did you have everything you needed?  Could you have been more prepared?  How was your presentation?  Did people seem to enjoy spending time with you?  Each interview should be preparation for the next.  Although this can be a little tricky, you can always ask why the offer went to another candidate.  You may not get many specifics, but it’s okay to ask “Is there anything I can do in the future to be a more successful candidate?”  And if you have a professional contact at the hiring institution, you can also seek their input regarding your performance as a candidate.  It is absolutely essential, however, that you keep it positive and keep the questions about you, not the other candidates.  Asking for constructive advice on your interview is okay; asking why the other candidate was better or why the offer went to someone out of state is not okay.

Here’s the simple answer to a very complex question: We don’t know that libraries “always bring in people from outside.”  What we do know is that, to date, you’ve made it as far as the on campus interview, without receiving an offer.  Take some time to gather your own thoughts and feedback from others to analyze your on campus interviews and learn from those experiences in order to perfect your future performance.

Here are some resources about interview prep that might help:

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