Surviving and thriving and getting that professional archives position.

Welcome. If you're here, you're probably wondering how to get some job--maybe the perfect professional archives position or maybe just something you can use as a springboard--and you're seeking advice on how to do that. From searching for advertisements to writing a resume or cover letter to making it through the interview. And hopefully even beyond.

No guarantees, you probably already know a lot of this, but maybe some help from a lot of people who want to make sure that good candidates get good jobs. If you've got better advice? or need further explanation? Please share in the comments.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Interview part 8: turnabout is fair play

And now, the classic question. Do you have any questions for us?

First piece of advice? There's a wrong answer to this one and that's No. You need to come up with something. At the heart of it, it shows you're engaged in the process, you're interested in the position enough that you want to really get a good feel for it, and at best? You get really solid information about the institution and the people that will help you make some of your decisions about how attractive the position is to you and in your career path.

The thing is, I get it. By this point in the interview, this is usually the last question or close to it, you're drained. Your brain has decided you need a vacation in the south of France, has left the building, and is refusing to respond to summons. But it's a really important question to answer.

But if you're just exhausted or you don't think you can come up with anything important enough to ask, there's a few ways around this. The first autopilot route is the pre-programmed questions. Those that the job ad didn't quite answer. These are the ones you write before you answer the phone for the interview or walk in the door. If it's a ref position: what's the actual workload? How many ref questions do they handle? How long does an average ref transaction take? How much research will they do for clientele? Who are their primarily clientele? For processing, what's the assumed rate? How big is the backlog? Maybe you even paraphrase the job duties as listed in the description and ask if that's right or what the priorities are. And so forth. You may find they answer some/all of these over the course of the interview. But maybe they don't or not completely. You can always ask for a repeat or clarification.

Then there's the standards about the recruitment process itself. When do you anticipate the successful candidate will start? What's the next step in the process? When is the next step in the process? All fair questions, sometimes with not so fair answers. As some of our respondents have noted, sometimes recruiters simply don't have any control over the time frame--or even knowledge of it.

Auto-pilot route 2 is a little tougher and is dependent on that piece of paper you have sitting next to you where you jotted down all the other interview questions they asked. Have you noticed that though it's a reference job, the preponderance of questions were on your description skills? Maybe it's time to get some clarification as to their priorities. Again, this is a little tougher because you're doing this on the fly during the interview, but it's still doable. Are all their questions about difficult patrons or co-workers? First, ow, think hard about this job, but maybe this is time to ask them what their dream candidate would have in terms of networking, collaboration, or teamwork skills. (That's a nice one because when they tell you, you might even be able to sell yourself in response a little further.)

Consider asking something--especially if there's non-archivists on the search committee--about how the department interacts with the larger institution or what their priorities are for the archives. That's a great one, and speaking as the sole archivist on the search committee (usually) this gives me a chance to pass it off to the other search committee members to answer.  And most likely the subtleties of the answer have not been provided to you in the job description itself. I've been asked this a lot lately and I even find it useful as chair: eventually one of the non-archivists will say something that will bring to my attention a concern or potential concern that wasn't on my radar. You can even adapt this to specific search committee members and ask it of them directly.

If you've got a favorite question, one that has provided good responses or allowed you to talk about some strengths or skills that didn't come up elsewhere in the interview, let's hear it! If you're a recruiter and you can share a question you've got that you thought was effective (or the opposite), what is it? And why did it work or fall flat?

Next up, hopefully a single posting on what makes an interview good, what makes one bad.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's useful to ask questions of your potential future employer about the work environment. Generally the person who would become your immediate supervisor is present at the interview. Why not ask what his/her management style is? How about the level of collegiality and commaraderie among the staff? In order to be happy in your job, it's important to find a good fit. Asking questions of this type can help you to judge whether the job would be a good fit for you.