What to ask in an outreach-related job interview

NYSSCPA-Mock-Interviews-300x213Job seekers might notice a surge in outreach-specific jobs and jobs with an outreach component in recent years. While outreach-specific jobs might not stay on the radar, you can be fairly certain that outreach as a job component will only increase. Which has led to folks asking their LibraryLand peers: what questions do I need to ask in such an interview?

The phone interview: the phone interview is designed to be short, sweet, and determine if chemistry exists between you and your perspective colleagues. It’s a bit like the coffee date: lower stakes than something more formal, low investment. You want to stick with 2-3 questions here. Some suggestions:

  • What do you like most about working here? (Hint: do they mention the people they serve? You can learn A LOT about potential colleagues, work environment, etc. from this seemingly innocuous question!)
  • What kind of support exists for outreach services? (If they do not mention a budget, I might wait until an in-person interview to tackle that, see below. But you can get a sense of how broad and deep support is. Will you be fighting a losing battle because only a few people deem outreach as important?)
  • What current outreach activities exist?
  • If it’s a new position: what prompted the creation of an outreach position, or position with outreach components? (You can learn A LOT from this one about challenges you might face in your new work environment, and if you think you are a good fit.)
  • What qualities would a person need to provide successful outreach to your patrons? (Again, are you a good fit?)

I would choose the 2-3 most important questions from this list and save the others if you are invited to an in-person interview. And do ask them in order of your importance, in case time runs short and you can only ask 1-2 questions.

ikea-job-interview1The in-person interview: It’s like you’ve got a real date (job-hunting is so much like dating that it’s near depressing.) Like the kind you read about in Sweet Valley High or 1950s young adult novels: you dress up and put on your best company manners. It’s a chance for you to shine and determine if you and your perspective employers have a future.  This is a chance to ask A LOT of questions (makes you look interested, smart, and serious about the job.)

  • How does the position support the mission of the institution?
  • How will you measure success in this position?
  • Do you have an outreach mission,  and goals, and objectives? If they do not have these, is there a need for them?
  • If budget was not mentioned when you ask about support, you can ask if there is a dedicated budget for outreach. No need to ask how much, but it’s good to know if money for outreach exists and from what source.
  • If the position supports specific existing outreach activities or plans, ask about the origins of these activities or plans.
    Hopefully they’ll mention who supports them, but you can ask if they do not. I.e. it’s good to know if the provost stands behind a plan to bring other academic services into the library with you leading the helm.
  • What potential partnerships exist, i.e. with student groups or non-profit orgs or homeschooling parents? Are there partnerships which they hope you will facilitate?
  • Do you have a research passion or programming passion? Bring it up! Found out how you can put these passions to use in order to meet the institution’s mission. Convey that you bring unique skills and interests to the position and that you believe these will benefit your potential employer.
  • What professional development opportunities exist within the institution and what support is there for outside prof dev.
  • Ask them to describe their patron base and what they know about their needs. Is there anything they want to know about their needs?

Please share any other questions you think are missing from this list and do share your thoughts on what makes for a successful outreach interview! Email us at lizz.zitron@gmail.com

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