Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What was the most difficult course you've taken?

This is a good question for a person who is fresh out of school, usually asked if the employer expects the candidate to apply their classroom knowledge to the real world.

You have to pay attention to the question though: this class was difficult, meaning that it was a hardship in some way. You can answer it by saying the subject matter didn't interest you--but if you mention your cataloging course and you're interviewing to become a cataloger, you're could be in trouble. Some people are a bit too forthcoming and describe their clashes with their prof (too difficult/obscure/hidebound/whatever), which could be a legitimate reason, but makes you seem like a maverick--great on film, but we don't want to work with you. So here's a strategy: tell the truth.

We don't always like all of the stuff that we have to do, but we persevere or we find a part of the task that we like and we do it well. You persevere because you have to pass the class to become a librarian. To pass, you need to find some aspect of the dreaded class that you can understand so you can either crack the code of the rest of the subject matter, or to finish enough components of the class well enough to pass.

For example, the research methods class that we had to take included statistics which are not my favorite subject--there are stronger words I normally use for statistics but I won't use them here. But students could focus on qualitative methods and that is what I used to pass the class--and do pretty well. It also helped that I had a kick ass prof who wanted everyone to do well in the class. I'm still not happy with statistics, but because I took the class and did extra reading, I was able to pass (better than pass) and I can still deal with them now. I have to: they're part of my job.

So pick the class that you found difficult--and hope it isn't 90% of the duties of the job that you are interviewing for--and describe what you found difficult, why and how you dealt with it. Stay focused on your difficulties--not problems real or imagined caused by others (difficult professor, dog ate my homework)--and how you manage yourself and your resources to overcome obstacles.

Follow-ups to this question could include what do you like least or best about your current job? or what do you do to overcome obstacles?

No comments: