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Archivist Interview
Questions

25 Questions and Answers by Rachelle Enns

Updated August 17th, 2018 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
Job Interviews     Careers     Education    
Question 1 of 25
What eras of history do you enjoy studying the most?
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How to Answer
The interviewer would like to get to know you, and your interests, on a different level. Tell the interviewer the eras of history you enjoy studying the most. Always do your due diligence before an interview to review the company's website and social media pages. This way you can gear your answer towards the areas this company focus' on.
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Answer Examples
1.
What eras of history do you enjoy studying the most?
The interviewer would like to get to know you, and your interests, on a different level. Tell the interviewer the eras of history you enjoy studying the most. Always do your due diligence before an interview to review the company's website and social media pages. This way you can gear your answer towards the areas this company focus' on.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I love studying artifacts and records from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Your expertise in this industry is what led me to apply here."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Since I am newer to my career as an archivist, I have yet to find a significant niche. With that said, my exposure to government records has been fascinating. I look forward to doing that type of work here."
2.
Would you say you are a better verbal or written communicator? v) films; and vi) electronic data.
Archivists should be strong communicators in all ways. In which manner do you prefer to communicate - written or verbal? Discuss your preference with the interviewer. Regardless of your choice, ensure the interviewer that you have strengths in both written and verbal communication.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I do not lean one way or another when it comes to verbal or written communication. Both are equally important to me. If I have to choose just one, I will choose written communication as one can always look back on written communication for reference."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I like to leverage both methods of communication. Sometimes, situations call for verbal communications and other times, written. As a rule of thumb, I tend to practice verbal communications, with written follow up or vice versa. Utilizing multiple methods creates repetition and therefore, change."
3.
When you suffer a setback, how does that emotionally affect you and your work?
Everyone handles the stress and disappointment of setbacks differently. Discuss with the interviewer how you typically cope with setbacks in the workplace.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"Experiencing a setback is always disappointing, and can be a bit disheartening, but I understand that it happens from time to time. If I experience a major setback I will take a few moments to debrief with my manager and discuss what I could have done differently. Then, I move on!"
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Setbacks can be trying, but I find that you have to learn how to lose before you learn how to win. While I never enjoy a setback, I use them as a stepping off point to something even better."
4.
How do you handle a larger than average workload?
The interviewer wants to know that you can handle the workload required of you in this position and that you will not become overwhelmed if/when workloads unexpectedly increase. When workloads increase, stress levels do too. How do you react?

Rachelle's Answer #1
"When I have a large workload on my plate, I do not stress over the tasks that are in front of me. Rather, I make a simple plan of which tasks are a high priority and which tasks are a lower priority. The higher priority tasks, I complete first. Through this system, I can focus on my tasks individually, rather than stress out by the multitude of tasks ahead of me."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Here are some suggestions on how to handle a large workload:

- List your tasks and prioritize them
- Think of which functions add to the company's bottom line, and start there (Closest to the money!)
- Exhale. Relax for a minute and collect yourself
- Organize your tasks by which ones you can complete independently and which ones you need help with
- Take sufficient breaks, so you do not exhaust yourself
- Communicate your struggles with your leadership or team"
5.
Would you consider yourself a creative person?
Talk to the interviewer about any interest that you have in creativity and how you have implemented that desire in the workplace. Even if you do not consider yourself to be a 'creative person,' there is a chance that you have made creative minded decisions in your career.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I do consider myself to be a creative individual. One example of this would be the scripts that I crafted for our marketing team. They were lively and effective, and museum visits increased by 23% in the first 90 days of implementation."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Having been a musician all my life, I do believe that I am a creative person. I like to exercise my creative side on the weekends when practicing with my band."
6.
What type of archival work are you most familiar with?
Break down for the interviewer your span of archival experience. If you do not yet have any professional experience, tell the interviewer about the archival work you performed in a volunteer capacity or through your internship. You can also mention the archival work that interests you the most, just be sure that it suits the type of work they do in the role for which you are interviewing.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"The archival work I am the most familiar with is historical and museum-related work. I became familiar with this work while volunteering as a student archivist with the National Museum of Natural History. I found my passion there."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I recently completed my internship with the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I would say that I am most familiar with archiving in the field of art; however, I am interested in other areas such as government documentation and artifacts."
7.
Have you ever misplaced documents? If so, what did you do?
The interviewer is looking for some indication that you are responsible and careful with your work. Tell the interviewer whether you ever misplaced documents, and how resolved the situation. If you have never lost a record, that's great news! Be sure to reinforce this by discussing how you keep yourself organized.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"Fortunately, I have never misplaced documents. I am extremely organized and always keep track of all duties and documents. Rest assured, I would exercise the same diligence while working for your facility."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I am new to my career and extra diligent in the workplace. I think that misplacing a document would be a terrible feeling. I have helped other co-workers when they have misplaced a document and would not want to be in that situation."
8.
Have you progressed in your career as you have expected?
Career progression can be a touchy subject, especially if you feel that your career hasn't progressed as well as you would have liked. Talk to the interviewer about your career progression and what you would like to see in the future.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"Overall, my career has progressed a touch slower than I would have liked. I have held a couple of positions that didn't offer the growth and learning that I was expecting; however, I have bounced back nicely. I feel that this particular position would take my career exactly where it should be."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I am pleased with the progress of my career. I am proud of my accomplishments and the path my career has taken so far."
9.
What about being an archivist excites you, and what originally attracted you to this career?
The interviewer would like to know that you are interested in this position as a long-term career opportunity. Tell the interviewer what excites you about this job and why you decided to pursue this career. Demonstrate your passion for the field and enthusiasm for this opportunity.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I came into this career path while working on my Bachelor's Degree in American History. I was not interested in pursuing a role in the education industry, and so I decided to explore other career paths that suited my educational background. I am passionate about history and the discovery of new documents and artifacts that can open our eyes to periods of history. For that reason, I knew that a career as an archivist would be a great fit for me."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I was meeting with my academic advisor last year, during my final year of university. After some career discovery exercises, it was apparent that I had a strong penchant for history, artifacts, and education. I decided to complete my internship at our local museum so that I could learn more about the industry and career path. I loved every day of it and am confident in my pursuit of this industry."
10.
How well are you able to write descriptions on records? Do you enjoy doing this, and if so why?
Tell the interviewer about your writing skills by providing an example of your writing experience. If possible, bring a particular sample with you to the interview.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I pride myself on my excellent writing skills and was fortunate to use the skills in my last position of archivist when working for the Society of American Archivists. I enjoyed this task because I love writing and providing clear descriptions of artifacts and records that the world will have access to for generations to come."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Although I do not have direct experience writing for archives and samples, I do have a great deal of writing experience from my projects and papers in university. This is a skill I would be happy to learn."
11.
Tell me about your organizational skills in a work environment.
As an archivist, you must be organized with your work at all times. Talk to the interviewer about your organizational skills in a work environment by providing an example of your capabilities.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I believe excellent organizational skills are essential to perform the duties of an archivist successfully. If I have to archive numerous documents in a short period, I prioritize in order of their respective deadlines. I will use lists to keep track of upcoming duties and a calendar to keep track of deadlines. Regarding the records, I will ensure to keep different records in their respective places to facilitate the organizational process."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I understand that organization is a high priority in this industry. While obtaining my bachelor's degree in library science, we learned a great deal about the importance of a well-organized project. Do you use any particular software to keep your projects organized here? I was trained on LOCKSS and am confident that I will be able to learn any software programs quickly."
12.
Describe a time when you motivated yourself to complete an assignment or task that you did not feel like doing.
Show the interviewer that you will still get the job done even when you aren't excited about the task at hand. Think about a time when there was a work-related task that you did not want to do. Perhaps the dreaded file room needed to be purged of outdated files to make room for new data.

Tell the interviewer what your task was, and explain why you were not excited about it. Be sure to tell the interviewer that even though you were not enthusiastic about the job, you made it happen promptly knowing that it would help the organization as a whole.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I like to set rewards for myself when there are undesirable tasks at hand. For instance, a large part of what I do is review all electronic documents that come into our portal on a weekly basis. Sometimes there will be up to 200 documents to review. They all begin to look the same after awhile, so I have set a goal to look at 20 at a time, give myself a quick break, then return to the task."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I was once handed the task of cleaning out a huge amount of data. It had become a mashup of random documents that we no longer needed. I did not want to do it, but I found the motivation to complete the task by focusing on how a more organized system would make everyone's life easier."

13.
Give me an example of a time when you went above and beyond.
As an archivist, you will often need to deliver more than the bare minimum on a project. Surprises may come up, and the interviewer wants to see that your dedication to your craft. Show that you can react appropriately when you know that your employer has a need that goes beyond your usual day-to-day expectations.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"Last week I noticed that my manager was running behind on an important project for one of our most significant clients. I offered to take on some of her workload so that she would have the time to complete the schedule. We worked together for a couple of overtime hours that day and were able to catch her up on everything. It felt good to help."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I enjoy going above and beyond in my work. One example would be the overtime hours that I put in while completing my practicum. I wanted to leave a good impression on the hiring manager so that there would be a potential opportunity for he and I to work together in the future."

14.
If you could not be an archivist, what other career path would you choose?
The interviewer wants to know if there are any other areas of interest, aside from archiving, that excite and motivate you. If the interviewer sees your choice differs significantly from this position, they may worry you will not commit long-term should an opportunity in a different career path present itself. Talk about any other areas of interest but be sure to bring the conversation back around to this role, and your excitement for the opportunity.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"If I could choose another career path, I would go into an education-related field such as becoming a history teacher. With that said, I am passionate about archival work. Hence I see myself staying in this field for the long term."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"If I could not be an archivist, I would likely have become a librarian. The fields are closely related and, as a librarian, I would be able to use my skills in organization and interest in literature."
15.
Why is this profession important for society?
Tell the interviewer the reasons why you believe this profession is essential for society by looking at the big picture and the impact of the work involved. Do not hesitate to demonstrate passion and enthusiasm for this trade.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"This profession is essential for society because we are working with documents and artifacts that relate to pieces of history. These will be passed on from generations to generations and will contribute to the collective knowledge of past decades and centuries."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I believe that being an archivist is an important job because we are preserving important parts of history. Everyone likes to go to museums and explore. Without us, that may not be an activity we could do."
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25 Archivist Interview Questions
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Interview Questions
  1. What eras of history do you enjoy studying the most?
  2. Would you say you are a better verbal or written communicator? v) films; and vi) electronic data.
  3. When you suffer a setback, how does that emotionally affect you and your work?
  4. How do you handle a larger than average workload?
  5. Would you consider yourself a creative person?
  6. What type of archival work are you most familiar with?
  7. Have you ever misplaced documents? If so, what did you do?
  8. Have you progressed in your career as you have expected?
  9. What about being an archivist excites you, and what originally attracted you to this career?
  10. How well are you able to write descriptions on records? Do you enjoy doing this, and if so why?
  11. Tell me about your organizational skills in a work environment.
  12. Describe a time when you motivated yourself to complete an assignment or task that you did not feel like doing.
  13. Give me an example of a time when you went above and beyond.
  14. If you could not be an archivist, what other career path would you choose?
  15. Why is this profession important for society?
  16. How often do you take work home with you?
  17. What would your previous supervisor say about your archival skills?
  18. What do you know about our company culture?
  19. Are you interested in obtaining a Masters' degree in Archival Sciences?
  20. Tell me about your post-secondary education and how you feel it prepared you for this position.
  21. As part of your duties, you may be required to lift heavy objects. Do you have any physical restrictions?
  22. How do you get along with others at work?
  23. Tell me about a time when you incorrectly appraised a document. How did this come to your attention and how were you able to correct this?
  24. Why did you apply to our job posting and why do you wish to work for us?
  25. How well do you understand, or have knowledge of, the artifacts and records that our institution collects?
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