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Career Strategies for Librarians
Preparing for an Interview for a School Library Media Specialist Position
by Roger Podell, Ed.D, J.D., M.L.S.

You’re close to reaching your goal of becoming a School Library Media Specialist. That’s great! It can be
a very rewarding job in which you educate students and play an important role in the overall learning
environment of a school. Once you have your degree and state certification, there’s only one hurdle to
overcome: passing the interviews! This article will provide some tips for successfully navigating the
interview process.

1. Prepare and Practice. An important concept to remember about interviews is that you can anticipate
many of the questions that you will be asked. There are common questions that are asked at most
interviews, including “Tell me about yourself,” “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and “What
would your colleagues say about you?” You should be prepared for these and other common questions,
with concise, practiced answers that demonstrate your strengths, provide specific examples of
successes, and demonstrate how you will be a valuable addition to the organization. Lists of common
questions and suggested answers can be easily found online.

You can also anticipate questions specific to the position of SLMS. Questions might involve your
knowledge of literature and students: “What graphic novel would you recommend for an 8th grade girl?”
or “How would you reach reluctant readers?” Other questions might focus on technology: “What library
automation systems are you familiar with?” or “How would you explain the difference between Google
and online databases to elementary school students?”

You should also expect questions that focus on school related topics including: behavior management,
time management, your educational philosophy, educational concepts, collaborating with teachers,
working with the PTA, supervising staff, and teaching special education students. Prepare answers to
these questions that emphasize your key skills.

2. Stand Out. An interviewer might see five or six candidates in a day, and they tend to blur together. Your
job is to stand out and be memorable. How do you do this? First, show energy during your interview.
This demonstrates the enthusiasm you will bring to the job, and will improve your overall interview
performance. Second, use specific examples in your answers. Specific examples are memorable,
vague answers are easily forgotten. Also, although you will have practiced your answers, maintain a
conversational flow during the interview so the answers don’t sound rehearsed.

3. Do Your Research. Part of your preparation should include thorough research about the school district
you are interviewing with. At the interview, work your knowledge of the district into your answers. This not
only demonstrates that you took the time to do the research, but also makes the interviewers feel that
you are excited about working in their school district, not just any school district. Information about the
district can be found on their website, state education department websites, in local newspapers, or by
speaking to community members or district employees.

4. Demo Lessons. If you are called back to do a demo lesson, be excited, because this is your chance to
show off your skills! Follow the same rules as you did for the interview: prepare and practice. Create an
interesting lesson that incorporates technology and connects to state and national standards. If you can
rehearse in front of a group of students, do that. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the lesson
and make adjustments. Get feedback from observers about how your lesson could be improved.

Prior to the demo lesson, provide a lesson plan to the interviewers. Be sure all necessary materials and
technology are accessible and working. During the lesson, get the students involved quickly. Use a
hook, something that will get their attention, then explain the context, teach the topic, and have the
students get involved in an interesting activity related to the topic. Assess the students’ understanding
while they are involved in the activity, and make any necessary clarifications. Finally, at the end of the
lesson, quickly review the key concepts. Always interact positively with the students.

5. Skill Sets. Think about what skills districts are looking for in their SLMS, and how you can convince the
interviews, through your answers, that you have those skills. Here are some examples:
•        Multi-task and prioritize
•        Behavior and time management
•        Comfortable, innovative, and adaptable with new technology
•        Effective communication
•        Collection management and development
•        Scheduling, budgeting, management of staff
•        Knowledge of curriculum/standards/reading levels
•        Hard working, organized, self-motivated
•        Open to new ideas
•        Collaborative attitude, ability to build relationships
•        Well read

6. Remember Interview Basics. Here’s a quick reminder of basic interviewing skills:
•        Be on time
•        Don’t leave anything to the last minute
•        Dress and act professionally
•        Always be polite and courteous
•        Give a firm handshake and make eye contact
•        Look your best
•        Stay confident and relaxed
•        Lean forward to show interest
•        Don’t slouch, sit rigidly, lean back, or fold hands
•        Don’t discuss money too early in the process
•        Don’t criticize past employers
•        Use confident words “My goal is…” rather than “Hopefully I will…”
•        Eliminate slang and fillers (“Um,” “You know”)
•        Have 5 success stories prepared that convey your key skills. Work these into your answers.

Your main goal is to convince the interviewer that you are the right person for the job, based on your
skills, past experiences, education, and accomplishments

About the Author

Dr. Roger Podell is the Director of the Western Suffolk BOCES School Library System in New York. He
has graduate degrees in educational administration, law, and human resource management.

Article published  Sept 2012

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represent the views of the LIScareer editors.