Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why do you want this job?

When I moved to Portland with my family in late August, I had to leave my former job as well. It wasn't a surprise for me or my employer, so I had already been job-hunting, but I really kicked up the pace when I was officially unemployed. Which I still am.

This post is not a complaint about the dire state of the economy or the fiercely competitive library job market. These things are real, but they are rarely the fault of the people making hiring decisions, and they are never the fault of the other folks out there in the candidate pools.

This post is an opinion about a specific dynamic that I have observed during interviews. I admit I am not the most objective observer here; I could easily be projecting my own insecurities and anxieties onto these interactions or exaggerating what is actually happening. Still, it seems worth discussing.

First, some basic data. Here is a breakdown of interviews I have had in the past two and a half months or have scheduled to happen in the near future:

Academic libraries10
Public libraries22
Higher ed - administrative11
Non-profit - administrative10
Temporary - miscellaneous12

It adds up to fourteen interviews for nine positions, five of which are still live possibilities. (Comparing anecdata with people, I have been very fortunate.) Almost every interview has included some variant on the question, "Why do you want this job?" or "What is your dream job?" The clear sense I have usually gotten is that I will be shooting myself in the foot if I don't present myself as treasuring the position at hand over all other possibilities. Just by the range of positions I am interviewing for, one can see how I would have difficulty doing so without a lot of contrivance.

Here is the thing: I do have a dream job. Two of them, actually. Neither requires an MLS, though an MLS is a great asset for either, in my opinion. Neither is feasible for me at this point in my life, because each requires yet more graduate school and some serious geographic flexibility. Am I therefore a reluctant or less-qualified candidate for the positions I am interviewing for? No, and, I don't think so, respectively.

My profession is connecting people with resources. I enjoy it immensely and find it personally fulfilling and professionally interesting. My career so far suggests that I am good at it. I just hope that being open to and excited by diverse opportunities within my profession will not, in the end, close off opportunities for me.


  1. Mark, my take on it is that yes, you may be interested in doing and capable of doing many jobs, but all you have to do is sell me on why the job I have is an interesting one that you think you could do well. It doesn't have to be your dream job, or perfect for you... but you have to convince me you're actively interested in doing it, for good reasons. That's all.

  2. Jenica, yes, the "excited by" part is at least as important as the "open to" part. And the thing is, I am a naturally enthusiastic person. Will I have the chance to learn stuff, be useful, and contribute to something good? Woo hoo! Count me in! Perhaps those reasons are not universally persuasive as good ones.