Moving forward into Librarianship… with The Hyperlinked Interview!

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As I reflected upon what I learned in The Hyperlinked Library course, I realized that the applications of our assignments in the real world would be very useful. From learning presentation software (and giving presentations), to writing detailed plans for technologies, I have more confidence in myself.

One thing that I feel I am lacking though is experience working in a library. Although I volunteer, I do not have the necessary minimum experience to always qualify for a position. I’ll need all the help I can get, obviously, in my interview.

The good news is that I was a recruiter for 7 years, interviewed thousands of candidates and helped hundreds find new careers. I thought many of the ideals of The Hyperlinked Library fit with the philosophies about interviewing that I would impart upon job seekers. I sat down to write out the similarities, and a story emerged. A story about a young librarian named Jill, and her interview experience.

The story is one that we might all understand and sympathize with, and I hope you find it useful in your job search, no matter your career level. Interview aces may already employ the techniques below, but those who are looking for a more confident strategy of interviewing are welcome to try out:

The Hyperlinked Interview

Jill the librarian is interviewing with her dream library, dressed to the nines in a business suit she hand-selected for this special day. She prepared by reading the most popular interviewing how-to’s and wrote her answers down to the most common interviewing questions … and memorized them. She put on her brightest smile and wore her most daring perfume. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

Or so she thought. The dream library asked Jill a question she never saw coming, and her confidence quickly deflated following a flurry of stuttering and starting. “How do you handle conflict?”

How many of us have experienced this same situation before? Most interviews can often go without a hitch, but more often than not a library director throws us that one curve ball … and, like Jill, the pre-planned answers we memorized don’t always to fit. We can read articles and blogs and Interviews For Dummies on how to answer certain types of interview questions, but the true answer can elude us in the interview because library directors are always one step ahead of the interviewing experts. Acing the interview is less in knowing the answers than it is in self-confidence, and self-confidence results simply by knowing your own strengths and weaknesses. The Hyperlinked Interview approach to interviewing is different from most as it allows you to focus less on the answers, and more on your experience. With the Hyperlinked Interview approach, Jill’s confidence would not have deflated so embarrassingly during her interview.

In my 7 years as a recruiter, I’ve always advised that confidence derives from simply knowing your strengths and weaknesses when you walk into an interview. If you know your strengths, then you understand what you can bring to the team and to the organization overall. If you identify your weaknesses, it shows that you recognize your own workstyle and areas of improvement. Anyone can memorize an answer to a question, but only someone with confidence can perform the true job responsibilities adequately.

Memorizing answers for an interview can be a failed approach for two reasons.

Answers can’t predict the questions.

Jill could memorize every answer in an interview-training manual, but managers are always looking for new and attention-grabbing ways to see if interviewers can solve problems. Questions can be direct, such as, “Tell me what your strengths are.” Often times, a manager will ask the same question in a different way: “Tell me what your supervisor would say about your work ethics.” Same question, but potentially a land mine.

Memorized answers sound different than speaking from the heart.

This is an important aspect of The Hyperlinked Interview. A canned answer may sound either obtuse or long-winded. If Jill had written answers down prior to the interview, she may have written several paragraphs and memorized those as her answers. In most cases, that’s too long.

Instead, the clear winning approach to any interview is The Hyperlinked Interview. Like plugging two or three words into an Internet search engine or database to deliver dozens of results, keeping a few good keywords in mind about your strengths and weaknesses can result in a boon of relevant answers. And, like hyperlinks, they don’t apply to only one question, but can be linked to different types of questions in an unknown web of possibilities.

But keywords are only half of The Hyperlinked Interview. There is always a story or two behind a keyword, and those stories should be told to showcase your experience.

In Jill’s second interview with her dream company, the same difficult question came up again, but asked in a different way. “Tell me about a time you handled a fight with a co-worker.”

This time The Hyperlinked Interview prepared her for the question. One of her keywords for her strengths was “communication.” She knew immediately upon hearing this question that “communication” could be woven into the answer, and she responded, remembering a useful story from her experience:

“I find that communication can solve all conflicts in the workplace. Once I had a disagreement with a co-worker regarding an error in an assessment that he believed he never made. I asked him to communicate with me how he obtained his results and he detailed everything step-by-step. In the end, we discovered the error together. As long as we keep the lines of communication open in the workplace, fights or conflicts can be resolved efficiently.”

The Hyperlinked Interview can also help Jill create new keywords on the fly during the interview. It only takes a moment to think of a keyword and then think of past stories that support the keyword. This is helpful for those “gotcha” moments.

Keywords are easy to remember and will help jog Jill’s memory for those past situations that showcase her talent and demonstrate how she solved difficult problems. By knowing the keywords related to her strengths and weaknesses, she can focus on the real red meat in her interview answers: her experience. Keywords place the interviewer into Jill’s shoes during her answers, and allow her personality to shine through. The stories she tells create real and true conversations with the interviewers. The dream library realizes that they have met with a true problem-solver, and Jill leaves the interview with confidence and peace of mind knowing that she gave a stellar performance.



Mickel is an MLIS and the creator of Library Currents. His inspiration for the blog was the SJSU course "The Hyperlinked Library" taught by Dr. Michael Stephens, a course that is also a worldwide MOOC. If you wish to contact him, feel free to write to Mickel Paris at


  1. Pamela Hawks

    December 2, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    What a great reflection! I really feel that so much of what I learned in my library school studies has prepared me to be a better interviewee (even if it wasn’t for a library job!) In my library management class, for example, I spent a good part of one semester studying workplace conflict — and so I feel that I could pass that question with flying colors. But, as you point out, what if the curveball question was different for me? Knowing yourself, speaking from the heart, and developing good keywords that can trigger a story about ourselves, are all great interview strategies. Thanks for making that so clear!

  2. Beth Morrill

    December 3, 2012 at 1:16 am

    Thank you for some great advice and insight into the interview process. Interviews always raise my anxiety level but I could feel myself becoming more confident as I read your post. I liked that you boiled it down to knowing your strengths and weaknesses and having a few keywords. I will definitely remeber this.

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